Is nothing sacred? Actually, don’t answer that.

This one comes to you from the White House’s latest episode of YouTube Stars (yes, they exist) Interviewing President Obama. Ingrid Nilsen of YouTube fame poked the president’s brain on the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time™ — tampon taxes.

Take a look:

Nilsen began, “Now something that’s really important to me and my audience is women’s health and recently I was shocked to learn that pads, tampons, and other menstrual products are taxes as luxury goods in over forty states and I don’t know anyone who has a period that thinks it’s a luxury.”

“Michele would agree with you on that,” laughed President Obama.

“Yes, because it’s something that’s part of our every day lives and is really crucial to our health as women and so I want to know, why do these items continue to be taxed?” asked Nilsen.

“I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I suspect it’s cause men were making the laws when those taxes were passed and I think it’s pretty sensible for women in those states that you just mentioned to work to get those taxes removed.”

The tampon tax was a hot issue in Canada last year and backlash ultimately led to its repeal.

But does the U.S. impose a tax specific to tampons or consider them to be luxury goods?


Samantha Allen at The Daily Beast dismantled the tampon tax hubub in October. Evidently, an op-ed published in Cosmo, favored intellectual journal of American feminists, is to blame for the “Stop Taxing Our Periods” movement.

But the “tampon tax” isn’t really a tampon tax in the United States—it is sales tax that, in most states, applies to tampons. And although the case can certainly be made that feminine hygiene products should be exempt from sales tax, presenting the issue as an obvious and pressing instance of discrimination is a little misleading given the bizarre nuances of state tax codes.

“[A] relief of the tampon tax would send a clear, top-down message that society needs to reevaluate how we treat women,” Gupta writes, as if the “tampon tax” battle should be at the vanguard of feminist activism.

But that “top-down” message might not be so clear in an effort that would realistically require 40 separate statewide campaigns to sort out all of the weird inconsistencies in their respective sales tax codes, motivated by the promise of—as Gupta concedes—“pennies on the dollar.”

In June of this year, Fusion reported on the 40 states that “tax women for having periods,” as the headline pointedly put it. But as Gupta notes partway through her Cosmo op-ed, “in many states, there are even sales taxes on essential items like toilet paper and incontinence pads.” In light of this fact, she acknowledges that there isn’t “some explicit anti-tampon conspiracy” and yet the Cosmo petition, like Fusion’s headline, frames the “tampon tax” issue as if state lawmakers were directly targeting menstruation.

There you have it.

Relatedly, I have a newfound loathe of feminists whose ignorance required me to fact-check tampon taxes on a Friday afternoon.

Vive la Patriarchy!

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye

[Post title updated post-publishing. Previous title: President Obama finally finds something he doesn’t want taxed: Tampons]