Blood money – Deborah May

Imagine a world covered in blood – menstrual blood 
Don’t think of something like The Shining with a bright red tidal wave washing over everything. This is much more subtle. Think of the accumulation of years of dark red-brown patches appearing on seat cushions across the land. Stain upon stain upon stain, each it’s own unique shape, each almost disappearing in the centre but with a dark ring around its edge. The same bloody pattern would be on clothes, on carpets and on bed sheets. 
Welcome to a world where tampons and towels are “non-essential.”

This world is inhabited by people like Nigel Huddleston MP,who just voted against a bill to remove the VAT on the products most women use every month.

Perhaps Mr Huddleston thinks menstrual blood is a translucent blue liquid that magically vanishes away and doesn’t stain. TV adverts can be misleading but you’d hope an MP was getting his information from a more reliable source. 

In real life women actually bleed and need to use something to absorb the blood flow to keep from ruining their clothes and losing all their friends. It’s estimated that the average woman, whoever she is, uses 11,000 tampons or towels in her lifetime, which makes being a woman an expensive business. It also makes for a lot of waste to landfill which is why eco menstrual products including re-usable pads and cups are really important options. But, even those don’t escape the “luxury” tax. 

I wonder if it’s fair that male MPs got to vote on a bill that only affects women. It’s certainly fair to say none of them have ever had to choose between tampons or baked beans when the food money’s running out. 

There’s no VAT on books, which is great. Women can use books to learn about feminism and help us stand up for our rights. Perhaps the Tampon Tax is a secret ploy to force us to rip out the pages of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, stuff them in our pants and bleed on them instead of reading them. Bad plan, if it came to it I’d start with a charity shop copy of True Blood (don’t get me wrong, I loved the books, I just think bleeding on a vampire story feels right).

Joking aside, menstrual hygiene is a serious issue. In other parts of the world women’s health is at risk because of poor sanitation and lack of access to clean, safe towels. Girls have to miss out on school when they have their periods because they have no facilities. In the UK we have toilets, we have clean running water and we have a whole range of sanitary products to choose from. Sadly we have to pay a “luxury” tax because, well, we’re women and we bleed and wherever you are in the world there are still some (powerful) men who don’t get it. 

If men menstruated would it be different? Of course. But they don’t so I guess the only option we have is to free-bleed all over the place just to prove that tampons and towels are essential and are not a luxury. When the world is covered in menstrual blood maybe Nigel Huddleston and the other MPs who voted against this bill will wish they’d done the right thing.

3 thoughts on “Blood money – Deborah May

  1. Thanks Deborah, really appreciate you taking this on for us!

    Cracking article! Ridiculous that they aren’t 0% rated and actually considered a ‘luxury’ item.

    I find it ironic that Cameron says he doesn’t want a sugar tax as it would hurt the poorest the hardest as their diet has a larger proportion of sugar (yet inversely it would therefore benefit the health of the poorest the most if it caused a reduction in sugar, surely?); yet this would be the opposite of that, in that, the poorest households would benefit most financially from sanitary products having there VAT reduced?

    The poorest dying earlier seems to trump raising more tax from them… “it’s the Tory way”.


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