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Stop Taxing Essentials at Essentials. Period.

Stop Taxing Essentials at Essentials. Period.

In many ancient cultures, it was common practice for women to come together during their periods, or their ‘moon time’ to sit down in ‘moon huts’ or ‘red tents’ in order to share stories and build an active female community. This time was considered sacred; women would birth here, counsel and support one another, and have a place to rest and recoup.

As someone who opts for the ‘curling into a foetal position and eating dry uncooked crumpets for four days’ route, I applaud their social stamina and their capacity to support one another during those times of great flow.

Photo by The Tab York

To allow for our 21st-century periods, we don’t have these moon huts any more. Despite there being such a thing as The Red Tent movement, inspired by the practices of our ancestors, gone is the emphasis on the vaginal bleeding, for better or for worse. In fact, nobody mentions it. You would be hard-pressed to stumble upon it in a book or on-screen, despite it being experienced regularly by nearly all women for the majority of their life.

As for students? We don’t really talk about periods unless it’s to tell that story about the Jenny Barlington debacle of year 8. And why would we? In our culture, they are still a source of embarrassment and a source of shame. At best, a period is just one more thing to worry about, one more thing to remember. From our mid-teens, we have had to use these alien instruments of torture known as ‘tampons’ and ‘pads’, which sound damp even in word form. Having our period is apparently even justification to have our behaviour re-analysed — see the all-time no.1 feminist fave, for an example.

As for providing for them, gone are the days of old where ladies would sit on hay bales and exchange tips on how to grow the best turnip (if that ever even happened). We need to get on with our lives; we’ve got shit to do, careers to forge. We use on-the-go products.

Historically, our on-campus shop, Essentials, has stocked these products with VAT applied and sold them at a healthy profit. This year, however, a campaign has been organised to change this, with the projected changes aimed to be implemented in April. The Kent Union Women’s Officer reported that:

‘We’re getting sanitary products sold in Essentials without VAT and profit (essentially at the cost of production). We’ve been working on it since just before Christmas and should be definitely confirmed next week at some point. We’re also working on getting Mooncups sold in Essentials’.

This is great news — for if there’s one thing that’s essential, it’s sanitary products.

The question still remains though, why is there a 5% tax on sanitary products due to their ‘luxury’ status? This isn’t just a campus issue, but a national issue.

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Why are men’s razorblades or crocodile steak not taxed by the government, but my ‘always activefit’ are?

I don’t enjoy them. I don’t feel luxurious. I feel queasy and I have a tummy ache.

The answer is obvious: there are 32.2 million women in the country, and most of those women aged 14-50 are going to be buying them. It generates a lot of money for the government and they’re products that aren’t seen as a priority, partially because no one actually talks about them. Ghost products.

But the thing is, they’re anything but. We need to make providing sanitary products for women cheap and affordable, because they are visibly expensive.

Tampax Compak Super (32) tampons are £3.99 in Tesco, which works out at 12.5p per tampon. If you’re having to change a tampon every 2 hours for 3-5 days, the pennies add up (especially if you also happen to be in London and are having to also pay 30p for the unprecedented pleasure of using a train station toilet). And this is nothing compared to the struggle that it becomes for homeless people, who are likely struggling to feed themselves, let alone purchase sanitary care.

In the advent of the petition, a discussion on the ‘women’s tax’ has been born, and more people than ever seem to be talking about periods. By the end of 2015, I really hope to see a box of tampons on the list of essential, tax exempt products, which include “edible sugar flowers”, “alcoholic jellies” and “exotic meats including crocodile and kangaroo”.

Failing that, who’s up for building a moon hut in Parkwood?

If you would like to join the campaign, please sign the petition above and look out for the Women’s Campaign events on campus in order to support the on-campus changes that are not yet in effect.

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