Ah, the patriarchy; a lot to answer for: not least the “tampon tax”, which in short, is the revenue earned from the VAT charge applied to the sale of sanitary products—which are still, bafflingly, deemed a “luxury” product.
Stuttgart-based startup The Female Company, founded by Ann-Sophie Claus und Sinja Stadelmaie, is making a stand against it in a cute, playful way with its new publication The Tampon Book.
"Periods are no luxury," they quite rightly point out. "Why tax them as if they were? Caviar, Truffles and even oil paintings – in Germany many luxury goods are taxed with the reduced rate of only 7%, while tampons and other female sanitary products attract the top value-added tax rate of 19%."
The book solution was deliberate: "Books are taxed at the reduced rate of just 7%." So, they sell their organic tampons hidden inside a book, "thus avoiding the sexist tampon tax".
The group says the stunt aims to create awareness for structural discrimination against women. “But the book is more than a smart way to save women and girls some money,” they add—the brand simultaneously supports a petition for the German parliament to abolish the tampon tax once and for all.
“With The Tampon Book we want to set an example for the whole industry,” says The Female Company. “We promise that we will lower the prices of our products without any deductions as soon as a reduction of the tax on tampons is in place. And we sincerely hope that many brands will follow our lead.”
The book’s 45 chapters are packed with “surprising and often humorous stories around menstruation from biblical times until today,” say the authors. “The aim is to show how interesting and culturally relevant menstruation actually is—a topic that is still not spoken about openly.”
London-based illustrator Ana Curbelo was commissioned to create the images for The Tampon Book, adding a sense of playfulness and fun through uncompromising characters that show that periods aren't something to be shy about, but something that's real, universal to most women and something that calls for open and honest conversation, whatever your gender.
The group points out that the issue has provoked international protests over recent years, and has already been abolished in countries like Canada and Kenya and even some US-States like New York and Minnesota.
However, in 2018 California rejected a proposal to eliminate the tampon tax. The status of the taxation of sanitary products in the UK is undecided. In June last year, Victoria Atkins MP stated that the VAT would be removed when – and if – Britain leaves the EU. So who knows what’s going to happen.