tax on tampons, tampons, Australian Tax, sanitary items, women's health, feminism

Australia’s states and territories have decided not to remove an unpopular tax on female sanitary products.

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Australian sanitary products attract the 10 per cent goods and services tax (GST) because they are deemed non-essential. Condoms and sunscreen, however, are tax-free as they are more essential to a person’s well-being. Should Australian women challenge the government’s decision by holding a public demonstration, boycotting sanitary items and letting the blood run free?

Hundreds of women bleeding through their pants and on the backs of their dresses would change the government’s decision in the length of time it took them to run back to their parliamentary offices in horror.  Very few women are that brave and it’s a shame, because bleeding into our underpants is something we do every month, unless you are a perfect person who would never let that kind of thing happen.

When I was at high school, we had a standard ritual among the girls. One friend would stand up, turn around and say, “Check me” and we would check the back of their dress for blood. Having an accidental bleed was the worst thing that could happen to a person and the “Check me” ritual was constant. We were vigilant. I didn’t get my period until year twelve and I still demanded a check in case it accidentally burst forth during math.

One of the great horrors of my teenage years was watching my sister walk down the aisle of a crowded bus with the tell-tale circular red blotch on the back of her school dress. In my mind, I raced slow-motion through that aisle in order to throw myself over that public disgrace. I once saw a girl at school with this blotch, a girl who never seemed to have any friends and hence roamed ‘unchecked’ down a hall. I grabbed her and explained she had a blood stain. She laughed and said, “You’re lying.” I had to secure both her arms and plead my seriousness, “There really is a stain.” Her face froze when she realized she had passed to the other side. She had become The One Who Bled.

I haven’t really loosened up about this. Where did we get the idea a sign of our fertility was public death? We all have our accidents. I once met a boyfriend’s parents for the first time and then promptly bled onto their kitchen chair. I did what anyone facing imminent disgrace would do and flipped the cushion when no one was looking. Not every woman is quite so paranoid. I shared a house with a woman who regularly hung her permanently-stained white undies up on the hills hoist, for all and sundry to see. I was mortified someone might think they were mine. I was also impressed she didn’t care.

In April, Harvard grad and drummer for M.I.A, Kiran Gandhi, ran the London Marathon while menstruating. Before the race, she got her period and not wanting to run twenty six miles with a tampon inside her, she decided to skip it. The period blood ran down her legs and as she crossed the line with her friends, her arms held high in the air to celebrate their achievement, the world’s media collectively wretched. She broke the unwritten rule and it launched a new movement: the Free Bleeding movement.

I suppose it is the equivalent of our mothers burning their bras, only less hygienic. She made a wonderful point, though. What we can’t see, can’t be discussed and therefore, the Australian legislative authorities can tax what they consider an optional item. Who wants to go first and bleed on the steps of parliament? It would rather stand there naked with a tampon string tucked neatly inside of me. That is how confronting the idea is. But should it be?