A group of Michigan lawmakers is trying to repeal the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, introducing legislation that would essentially stop treating tampons and pads like luxury goods.
Michigan is one of a handful of states that levy a tax on the products that women need to manage their periods, but do not tax junk food like candy and soda.
Though making sanitary products more affordable may seem like it’s solely a women’s issue, one of the lawmakers currently spearheading this legislation in Michigan is state Sen. David Knezek, who says he’s encountered the sales tax when purchasing tampons for a girlfriend.
In a Facebook post published on Friday, Knezek wrote that some people have been surprised to see his name attached to the bill to repeal these taxes. They ask him why, as a man, he feels so passionately about supporting this legislative issue.
“I wasn’t elected to represent just the men in my district. I was elected to represent the women, too,” Knezek pointed out. “And in a chamber where women only constitute 4 of the 38 Senators, I believe that obligates me to step up and demonstrate my unwavering support as an ally and as a feminist. I’ll never know what it’s like to have a period, but I listen to the women who do. They tell me this issue of unfair taxation is a problem for them. They tell me it disproportionately affects low income women. So, I try to do something about it. I don’t have to have lived the life of someone else to justify my support for them. If it’s right, it’s right.”
Knezek also called out the stigma that’s so often associated with women’s menstrual products. He noted that, when he started talking about periods on the Senate floor, the words felt a little strange coming out of his month. “I hope, if anything, this might start to remove the taboo that surrounds talking about these things and having these very important conversations,” he wrote.
The so-called “tampon tax” has come under increased scrutiny in recent months as women have started to file lawsuits against state laws that they refer to as “a vestige of another era.” They argue it’s unfair to tax products that aren’t optional for women, particularly because it introduces a financial barrier for low-income women who may struggle to afford the sanitary products they need each month.
The president of the United States is another man who stands in solidarity with women fighting against taxing tampons. “I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items,” President Obama said in a recent interview. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”