MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – If you’re a man whose hair is thinning, you can go out and buy some Rogaine or something of the sort. It’s not a necessity that you replenish your hair but that product will not be taxed as a luxury item.
For West Virginia University junior, Brianna Herscher, that is unacceptable because women have to pay a luxury tax on products for menstruation, something she sees as being more substantive than hair loss. That is why she said she was taking part in the first-ever Period Day.
“We’re fighting against ‘period poverty.’ There is still a tampon tax in 34 states and we are one of those states actually,” Herscher said.
She is the president of WVU’s NAACP chapter and she mobilized her organization to stand in solidarity with rallies and speeches going on in all 49 other states. Her chapter was joined by a representative from Planned Parenthood and a local nurse, all trying to voice their opinions on what is known as the pink tax.
With handmade signs in tow and free t-shirts to offer, she and her fellow chapter members stood in an open area on the WVU campus, with many passersby, and tried to gain traction for their movement.
“We’re just basically fighting for equal access and saying it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity that we need these things,” she said.
Some laws beyond the pink tax need to change in order to grant women better access to products she said, namely within the government. Women using government benefits, like SNAP or WIC, cannot use that money to buy feminine hygiene products due to their luxury status.
Herscher said this disproportionally impacts impoverished areas because products are, in general, excessively expensive. She said there are often times when women have to choose between meals and having period products.
“It’s either eating or free bleeding,” Herscher said.
She said she felt like their rally had gained some traction despite being on a college campus, where sometimes students may not take such a sensitive topic seriously. Herscher said as long as they are getting the message across and people are hearing her, then she felt like she had accomplished something.
In order, to truly feel accomplished, however, she said people would have to do more than just listen.
“Everyone needs to get behind this movement, we need to ax the tampon tax, call your representatives and let them know that this is not okay, this is not a luxury, it’s a necessity and we need to keep the movement flowing,” she said.