WARNING: If you own a vagina, or know someone who does, this post might make you angry AF.
After spending most of my adult life as an uninsured freelancer, and then an ACA-loving Obamacare-carrier, I was recently offered a full time job with an organization that offers health benefits. Naturally I was pumped to learn that my new plan includes a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), which for those of you that don’t know, is a tax-free account that you can use to set aside money for everything from band-aids to prescription drugs. Pretty sweet huh?
FSAs cover all sorts of magical things. You can get glasses, have acupuncture, and even take swim lessons if your doctor deems it medically necessary. You know what you can’t buy though? Tampons.
According to the IRS, who regulates what you can buy with your FSA, feminine hygiene products are officially classified as “luxury personal items.”
That’s right. “Luxury personal items.” Because nothing says luxury like shoving a dry piece of cotton up your coochie while you’re doubled over in excruciating pain once a month.
Are you mad yet?
You’re about to be. According to IRS.gov you can’t use your FSA to buy pads, but you can use your FSA to pay for a Christian Science practitioner. What exactly is a Christian Science Practitioner you ask? According ChristianScience.com, “Christian Science practitioners provide spiritual treatment through prayer that results in healing.” No offense to Christian Scientists— I don’t know how the #Christian part works, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how the #Science part works.
You know what else is covered by an FSA? Viagra. That’s right, pappy can get his penis pills tax-free! How wonderful for us all.
In case you didn’t think that the patriarchy was a thing, just take a minute to process the fact that a man’s ability to get a boner is viewed by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT as a medical necessity, while the ability for 51% of the population to manage their monthly bleeding is not. There is good news though, because you can get fake teeth with your FSA! That means we can all go buy vagina-dentures! Woo Hoo! How does your tax-free 4-hour boner feel about THAT Mr. Patriarchy? Chomp chomp.
I’m not saying that things like artificial teeth, reading glasses, braille magazines, wigs, gauze, band-aids, crutches, lead paint removal, sunscreen, cough syrup, acupuncture, breast reconstruction, swimming lessons, and even viagra shouldn’t be covered by your FSA. I actually think it is great that those things are covered. People who lose their hair during chemo should absolutely be able to get a wig tax-free, and swimming lessons can be really helpful in treating everything from arthritis to autism. I even think that pappy should be able to get his boner pills because a healthy sex life can promote longevity, and I certainly know I plan to be bangin’ well into my 80’s.
I totally think these things should be considered essential medical expenses (though I will admit I’m not super on board with the whole Christian Science practitioner thing), but if 51% of the population menstruates for +/- 40 years of their lives, and managing that menstruation is a major factor in their ability to go to school, get a job, sit on a non-pleather couch or ever wear white pants, then the fact that feminine hygiene products are not covered by FSAs highlights some pretty hefty hypocrisy. We are a developed nation people, and this sort of blatant inequity should make you angry.
I take it for granted that I can afford the 11,000 tampons that I will use in my lifetime with no real problem, but I know that there are women in our country for whom buying her necessary supplies is a real hardship, and we compound that hardship by excluding feminine hygiene products from FSA coverage.
It makes my blood boil (pun very much intended), to think that the government has deemed not bleeding all over ourselves a “luxury.” The word “luxury” connotes something one can do without. Do we really want to live in a world where women go without their feminine hygiene products? Every subway ride would feel like the Red Wedding, and I’m pretty sure a bunch of bloody subway seats would constitute a pretty significant public health threat.
So, if you have a vagina, or you know someone who does, or if you just don’t want your daily commute to feel like a scene from The Shining, you should probs sign this petition and let them feds know you don’t think women should have to pay taxes for their pesky Aunt Flo.