How to win the women’s vote – Deborah May

A few months ago I wrote a piece about the ‘tampon tax’ – the UK’s 5% tax on sanitary products  – in summary I said it’s an unfair tax and it should go because it’s massively disrespectful to women.

Now it seems like everyone agrees – everyone wants to abolish the tampon tax. But am I happy? Hell no! My current rage is because if there’s something I hate more than a tax on my vagina, it’s politicians using my vagina to win an argument.

Some people are pretending to give a shit about a woman’s right to tax-free essential sanitary wear when clearly all they’re doing is trying to convince women to leave or not leave the EU. I can’t decide what’s more insulting – that people are using my vagina to try to convince me how to vote, or that they think it will work!

It’s no coincidence that all this tampon talk has come at a time when it’s been suggested there are more women undecided on the EU than men. So now there’s this amazing idea – let’s all talk about vaginas because that’s what women are interested in. Really?

I’m not going to cast my vote on something massively complex on the basis of one unfair tax on women.  Like men, what  I’m going to do is try to get the facts (wish me luck with that) and as much information as possible and weigh things up.

The EU does affect the tampon tax. At the moment the UK government can’t zero rate sanitary wear because under the EU rules they can’t zero rate anything that isn’t already tax free. For a long time people have been hiding behind that as a way to avoid getting it done. Some people are still sticking with that and using it to argue for leaving the EU. Others have changed their tune and realised that it’s possible to negotiate about something that’s not working to see if you can reach a new agreement. These people are saying we should stay in the EU because we’re close to reaching a new agreement about zero ratings.

What seems to be missing is the recognition that whether we stay in the EU or leave the EU, the tampon tax can go. Let’s be honest, it’s not still in existence because of EU rules but because no one with the power to change those rules has cared enough to try. I’m glad it’s in the news again and people are talking about it. But I want it to be a hot topic because it matters and not because some people think it will ‘appeal to women’ as an argument to stay in or leave the EU.

It’s like when someone knows I’m a feminist and uses that to chat me up. They pretend to give a shit about what they think is important to me and totally miss the point.

The point of being a liberated woman is that I get to make my own choices and I get to choose what matters in that process. If a guy isn’t a feminist but is pretending to be because he wants to sleep with me, then clearly he’s not looking for a politically matched bed mate, so why does he assume I am? Like choosing how to vote on the EU, being a woman and even being a feminist doesn’t mean my decision process is all about ‘women’s issues’.

My decision process isn’t all about me, either.  It feels like there’s an assumption that we’re all totally selfish – that women only care about how the EU affects their monthly tampon bill; that we all need to know how the new budget affects us personally. I might benefit from a lower tax threshold in the budget but thousands of disabled people are getting screwed over so why should I be pleased? I hate the idea that self interest wins all the time. It’s bullshit.

Going back to being chatted up  – when  deciding how to respond we don’t just ask ourselves what we want, we ask ourselves how it affects others – like making sure our potential mate is single and able to consent. Because human beings respect each other and care for each other. So regardless of whether or not Britain is in the EU I’d like to see the EU enforce zero ratings on sanitary wear – because women of all nationalities bleed.  And let’s not stop there, let’s look further afield to where girls can’t even go to school because they’ve no sanitary wear and no toilets.

So come on all you politicians who suddenly care about women and our vaginas. If you really care let’s put things in place to work towards sorting this out for all women, everywhere.

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