Have you ever thought about the fact that doughnuts aren’t taxed in Michigan but periods are? That sounds like a rhetorical question, but Jordana Kier, founder of organic feminine care brand LOLA, actually wants to know. Also on her list of grievances: While tampons and pads are the most commonly requested items at homeless shelters, they’re donated the least. And they can’t even be purchased with food stamps.
But here’s the good news: Kier is doing something about it — and she’s inviting other women to join her (hundreds of thousands already have). Alongside Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Laura Strausfeld, cofounders of Period Equity — the country’s first law and policy organization created to fight for menstrual equity — Kier, her cofounder Alex Friedman, and their team at LOLA are pushing to end the period tax, and not just out of moral obligation, but because they firmly believe it’s unconstitutional.
“It’s first and foremost about lifting the financial burden off of people with periods; calling out laws that are archaic, unfair, and discriminatory; and helping us move toward a better model of economic parity and gender equity,” Kier says. “It’s also a gateway to get people talking and thinking about the wider socioeconomic implications of menstruation.”
The Tax Free. Period. campaign was directly born out of Period Equity’s fight for menstrual equity and, thus, gender parity. Weiss-Wolf has a proven track record for funneling people’s anger into social change — she’s been an attorney and advocate for social justice her entire life and has worked on behalf of greater menstrual equity and access for about five years. As with any other case, Weiss-Wolf started by asking the questions that felt obvious but unaddressed.
“When I became aware of what it meant to not have access to menstrual products, my immediate reaction was to look at it as a systemic issue. While lots of folks are doing collection drives, I started questioning our laws straight away,” she says. “Why don’t our laws address this? And what can we do to ensure that policy does acknowledge and accommodate menstruation?”
Principally speaking, Tax Free. Period. is about a long-overdue acknowledgement that women’s bodies deserve to be seen and considered. Practically speaking, it’s about eliminating the tampon tax, and then, in Kier’s words, “the sky’s the limit” — LOLA’s ambitions reach from sexual wellness and gender equity to pre- and postnatal care and paid family leave (just to name a few).
“We’re half the population, yet our experiences are not reflected in our public narrative and, even worse, in our public systems that are designed to serve all of us,” Kier says. “That’s the radical change that we seek: We’re looking to dismantle and rebuild those systems and demanding that they be looked at in another way, with our reality front and center.”
Right now, 33 states have yet to eliminate the tampon tax, while items like doughnuts, gun-club memberships, amusement-park rides, and Viagra are exempt from sales tax — which begs the question: Why aren’t women’s health products deemed necessities and, instead, still subject to a sales tax? And why do women have to bear the burden of cost alone?
In much the same way Kier elicited anger when she began to investigate what was in our tampons — which served as the launchpad for LOLA — Tax Free. Period. aims to shed light on similar legal absurdities. Back then, the LOLA team was incredulous that the FDA isn’t required to disclose what’s in our tampons; now, they’re equally frustrated that our tampons are still being taxed.
“People have to take a step back and say, Oh my god, I’ve never thought about this, and yeah, that seems pretty unfair and discriminatory. It’s an awakening,” Kier says. “This is about leveraging tools of law and policy to drive change; not just saying, ‘We’re angry,’ and leaving it at that. Offering our community a chance to be a part of that is extremely special and something we don’t take lightly.”
Both of these cofounders are women of their words. After fighting for menstrual equity for over five years, Weiss-Wolf says the legal case that Period Equity is building in partnership with LOLA stands to “bring the most unique and distinct legal argument to bear to change the law,” with a deadline of tax day 2020. And while you can sign the petition online, there’s also the opportunity to experience the Tax Free. Period. campaign in person at 29Rooms Los Angeles. The hope? To inspire, to evoke a response, and ultimately, to take action.
“What I hope to spark in women [who visit 29Rooms] is this same level of outrage and inspiration that I feel,” Weiss-Wolf says. “That’s what I hope women walk away feeling. What I hope they walk away knowing is that their voice matters in this fight and that we — our campaign — are offering them the opportunity to make their voice heard in a really impactful way.”