Across The Country, Tampons Are Taxed As A Luxury. Here’s How To Fix It.

October 19th is National Period Day, which aims to bring awareness to the issue of period poverty (meaning, lack of access to hygiene products because of financial constraints) and make period products more affordable for people who menstruate everywhere. One main way we’re trying to do that is by ending the Tampon Tax—a sales tax placed on hygiene products like pads and tampons, that other items, like Viagra, do not have. We tapped Nadya Okamoto, the founder of PERIOD, to tell her story on how she found out about period poverty, why she’s so passionate to end it, and what we can all do to help.

It’s 2019. People have been menstruating since the beginning of humankind. Periods make human life possible. And yet, still today, 34 states have a sales tax on period products, basically considering them luxury items. WTF?

When I was 16-years-old, I discovered an unaddressed natural need I’d never thought about before: periods. At the time, my own family was living without a home of our own, and I was facing a two-hour commute to school on public transportation. I became friendly with homeless women who I saw at my bus stop every day. In asking them, “what do you find most challenging about your living situation?” I collected an accidental anthology of women using toilet paper, socks, brown paper grocery bags, and even cardboard to take care of their periods. I distinctly remember one woman showing me how she would take a small piece of cardboard, rip off the outer layer from each side, and then rub the middle section in between her hands to make it a more flexible homemade version of a pad. 

Privilege check: Even when my family was experiencing housing instability, I always had access to menstrual products, and had never even thought about using trash to take care of my period. In fact, I had never even thought about what it would be like to menstruate without access to period products. Hearing these first-hand stories of period poverty ignited anger and curiosity within me. I kept thinking: How is it that menstruation makes human life possible and we haven’t figured out a solution for all people to have period products?! While simultaneously wondering, how far does the issue go? Who else can’t afford access to period products? 

So naturally, I took my questions to Google. In my free time, I would search keywords about menstruation, poverty, and different geographical regions, just trying to learn more.

Through my research, I learned that periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries, and often times a girl’s first period is the single event that leads to her dropping out of school, getting married early, or undergoing female genital mutilation or social isolation. It was actually easier to find information about period poverty in other countries than it was about the United States. I learned that at the time, in 2014, 40 states in the US had a sales tax on period products, considering them “non-essential goods”—so, basically luxury items. 

Meanwhile, products like Rogaine and Viagra were considered essential and didn’t have this tax. I remember reading this and refreshing the page a few times to make sure I was reading it correctly before thinking: Are you f*cking kidding me?! Old man hair growth and erections are considered more of a necessity than over half of our population feeling clean, confident, and capable 100 percent of the time, regardless of something so natural like a period? What?! 

These exact thoughts and emotions have not left my mind since I discovered the “tampon tax,” the term used to describe the taxation of menstrual hygiene products. 

Since 2014, when I started my activism in the #MenstrualMovement, we’ve seen incredible progress: countries like India and Australia have nationally axed their tampon tax, the UK has repurposed the revenue from their version of the tax to directly provide period products to girls in secondary schools, and the US is down to 34 states (still an overwhelming majority) that still have the tampon tax. 

Eliminating the tampon tax is not going to be a blanket solution to period poverty—I mean, realistically, the tax is not impacting the menstruators who have the least access to tampons. It’s affecting the people who are already purchasing the product, making the cost a burden for primarily low-income consumers. That being said, the reason period poverty persists is because menstrual hygiene is not treated like a right, it’s treated as a privilege.

Here’s an example: Just earlier this year, a GOP Representative in Maine voted against a bill to make period products accessible in prisons, saying that “the jail system and the correctional system was never meant to be a country club.” As if we can opt out of periods like they’re a Netflix subscription.

The #tampontax frames menstrual hygiene as a LUXURY—an inaccurate assumption we need to deconstruct once in for all in the movement against period poverty. At the end of the day, this fight isn’t just about periods, this is about the fundamental human right to be able to discover and reach one’s full potential regardless of a natural need. And what could be more natural than menstruation? 

Join us this Saturday for the first-ever National Period Day. On October 19, my organization PERIOD will be mobilizing rallies in all 50 states and major cities, demanding action and an end to the #tampontax. Join us at one of our rallies in-person, or share why you’re joining the #menstrualmovement on social media by using #nationalperiodday and tagging @periodmovement. There are so many ways to get involved both nationally and statewide—check out Utah’s legislative campaign and help us keep putting pressure on Ohio lawmakers to end their “pink tax”! I truly believe that if we unite and we refuse to shut up about periods, we can take down the tampon tax in the new few years. Just 34 more states to go. 

Let’s do this.

Image: Noah Shaub

What Are Kegel Exercises & Why You Should Do Them To Strengthen Your Vagina

What if I told you that you could strengthen your vajayjay, allowing you to have better sex (for you AND your partner), and more orgasms with minimal effort? I know, it sounds too good to be true, but I promise you it isn’t. One word: Kegels. I know what you’re thinking—no, Kegels aren’t a new food trend or that noodle dish your aunt makes on Rosh Hashana. Kegels are an exercise, more formally called Kegel exercises. Even though sex can sometimes feel like an Olympic event, Kegel exercises are not done in the gym. Thank god for small miracles. We’re going to do a deep dive into what Kegel exercises are and why you should be doing them, so get ready to get a lil uncomfortable.

So WTF Are Kegel Exercises?

Basically, like 70 years ago, some bro gynecologist named Arnold Kegel noticed that his patients had weak bladders after giving birth. (How he noticed that, I don’t wanna know.) He did extensive research (again, don’t wanna know) and found that by strengthening their pelvic floor muscles, these women would like, pee better. Flash forward, your Kegel muscles are basically the Commander-in-Chief of your nether regions.

To better explain this, let’s brush up on our basic anatomy, or at least, what we learned on Grey’s Anatomy. There is a “sling” of muscles (think a giant-ass maxi pad, *shudders*) lining the inside of your pelvis going from your pubic bone to your anus (SORRY). This muscle “pad” surrounds your vagina, urethra, and rectum and plays a vital role in their functions. OK, I promise you can un-clench every muscle in your body now; it gets less cringeworthy from here on out if you can handle it.

The reason these muscles are important, and why I probably made you crawl into a hole of discomfort above, is because these muscles are basically responsible for how you go to the bathroom. When these muscles are relaxed, you do your business. When they’re contracted, no soup for you. If you’re getting older or getting pregnant, these muscles are likely to weaken, which limits the control you have over your bladder and potentially resulting in more issues than Rob and Chyna’s custody battle.

But don’t freak! The Kegel muscles are relatively easy to work out, and doing so has proven to be super effective, as long as you don’t have any serious underlying medical issues. If you’ve ever peed a little from laughing too hard, coughing, or sneezing, then that sucks read on.

What Are The Benefits Of Strengthening Your Kegels?

Before we get into how you can strengthen your Kegel muscles, it’s important to understand why you should. Remember the episode of Keeping up With The Kardashians where the girls make fun of Kris’ frequent runs to the washroom, and the few times she doesn’t make it on time? After going to the doctor, Kris learns she suffers from stress incontinence, a condition where you pee a little from sneezing, laughing, or coughing, and is super common in women who’ve popped out an entire business so many children. Her doctor recommended Kegel exercises in order to strengthen her muscles and increase bladder control.  don’t know about you, but if Kegel exercises are good enough for Kris, they’re good enough for me. According to Kris: “The family that Kegels together, stays together.” An odd way to phrase it, but hey, I’m not going to argue. Any way I can get invited to that dinner party?

Kris: I have to do the Kegel exercises. Kourt: We should do them together. Kris: The family that Kegels together, stays together. – S6 E7

— Kardashian Quotes (@KardashianQuots) June 10, 2012

But Kegels aren’t just for menopausal women in Detrol commercials—they can also be good for your sex life. In addition to better bladder control, Kegel exercises have all kinds of ancillary benefits. These include more frequent orgasms (increasing your odds for vaginal penetrative orgasms in particular), increased blood flow to your vagina (which increases arousal and lubrication), and improved sex for both you and your partner—either by making your area tighter, or by decreasing pain you experience during sex due to your new control and ability to relax your vagina.

What Exercises Do You Do For Your Kegels?

First, you need to know how to activate your Kegels. Next time you go to pee, stop yourself mid-stream. The muscles you squeeze to do this are your Kegel muscles. You found them! (Warning: don’t try this experiment too often or for too long because it can increase your chances of developing UTIs. Isn’t having a vagina so fun?)

Now that you know what muscles you’re working with, all you need to do is contract and relax your Kegel muscles as often as you remember. The Mayo Clinic suggests contracting for five seconds and then releasing for five seconds, repeating several reps of these daily. Slowly, as these muscles become stronger, you can work up to a 10:10 second ratio instead. There are also physiotherapists that focus solely on your pelvic floor muscles to help strengthen them.

The great thing about working out your Kegel muscles is that you can pretty much do these exercises anywhere. In the car, at work, while eating. I’m working out mine right now and you would have never known.

Moral of the story: do your Kegels now and thank me later.

Women’s March Sign Ideas That Are Both Woke And Hilarious

The 2018 Women’s March is Saturday, January 20th, and while I totally understand that January is a hibernation month, it’s kind of important that you make it out of bed for this. Given the year we’ve had, I really hope I don’t need to explain why, so I’ll just jump straight into how. The main three events are in NYC, DC, and Vegas (that one’s January 21), but there are 700 similar events across the country (search by zip code here), so once again, you literally have no excuse. Find your event, gather a small group (the crowds are no joke and you don’t want to be chasing down 20+ “friends”), and then get to work making your signs ASAP. Let’s be real, most a tiny bit of the reason you’re there is to get the Insta proving how witty and superior your sign was (y’know, right after the whole fighting for equality and basic human rights etc.). To help you rack up the most possible likes really effectively contribute to this movement, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite signs for #WomensMarch2018.

1. Beyoncé Options

Because you can’t go wrong with Bey, obviously some of the best signs will be song lyrics from the queen herself. A few favorites include: “Okay Ladies Now Let’s Get in Formation” and “Who Run the World?” “GIRLS” (preferably held by you and a friend, but front/back could work too). 

2. ‘Mean Girls’ Options

Again, hard to go wrong with Mean Girls quotes, and there are plenty to choose from. Regina George’s “why are you so obsessed with me?” is applicable to so very many aspects of women’s lives that men take it upon themselves to police, but I’m particularly partial to her face/quote being plastered on an image of a uterus (see above). Very succinct. Another good one is the Donald Trump Burn Book entry (correctly) labeling him as both a fugly slut and the nastiest skank bitch you’ve ever met.

3. Deeply Relatable Options

Finally, if the idea of referencing pop culture seems like too much, there’s plenty of material related to our fave activities: brunch, napping, and the overall predisposition not to GAF.

Remember to stay warm out there (whether it’s with your best puffer or the flask you bring, IDC) and let’s go show our dried-up Cheez-It of a president that we’re not going anywhere. That just like, the rules of feminism.

Fight Back Against Sexism With NOW Foundation & Our Rules Of Feminism Tee

It’s a pretty bad week/month/year for women. Trump and Republicans in Congress want to hike up the price of our birth control and outlaw abortions. One of the most powerful men in Hollywood has been assaulting and harassing women for YEARS and nobody did anything about it. Your favorite Hollywood hottie, Ben Affleck, gropes women on the regular (allegedly…). Oh, and women are still earning less than men even when performing the same jobs *screams into the void*. 

When women’s rights are under attack, you gotta step up and help. That’s just like, the rules of feminism. We’re partnering with the National Organization For Women on a new “Rules Of Feminism” T-shirt. 20% of the proceeds from this shirt will be donated to the NOW Foundation, and 100% of you will look both amazing and very woke wearing it. 

Rules Of Feminism Tee

What is the NOW Foundation? They’re a nonprofit “devoted to achieving full equality for women through education and litigation,” according to their website. Basically, they do a little bit of everything, from the Love Your Body campaign aimed at promoting better body image among young women to voter mobilization efforts to preparing and submitting reports to the UN about global feminist issues, and much more. They are also affiliated with the National Organization for Women, the biggest feminist grassroots campaign in the United States. Buy this tee for yourself, for your friends, for your woke bae—whoever. It’s for a great cause.

Order Now On Shop Betches!
4 Ways To Strike On “A Day Without A Woman” Because That’s Just Like, The Rules Of Feminism
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Today is the Day Without A Woman strike! It is my sincere hope that you are reading this under a thousand covers, eye mask half on, after having left a 20 minute long voicemail for your boss explaining how the patriarchy hurts all of us—but if randomly not showing up to work isn’t something you can do right now (fair), here are four other ways you can participate in the Women’s Strike today:

1. Don’t Buy Anything, With Your Money Or Your Dad’s

This does not include minority- or women-owned businesses, so if you absolutely must shop today might I direct you to

Dave Chappelle Money

2. Wear Red

Not that you need an excuse to wear a bold lip, but lipstick totally counts here.

Red Lipstick

3. Refuse To Do Work, Paid Or Unpaid

You probably know what paid work is (if not idk what to tell you), but if you’re confused about “unpaid” labor, it’s basically all the shit that you do for other people (men) all day that you don’t get any money for. So like, when you do your boyfriend’s dishes because he seems to be confused about how dishes go from being dirty to clean, that’s unpaid labor. When you help your best guy friend write his dating profile because when left to his own devices he’ll include stuff like “looking for a quick beej,” that’s unpaid labor. If you can’t take off paid work today, you can at least take the day off from helping men figure out how to be functioning humans, even though they might like…die.

Not My Problem

4. Donate To Charities That Support Women

It’s not technically an official part of the Day Without A Woman strike, but we’re taking some liberties here. We’re gonna go out on a limb and say that the “don’t spend money” clause does not apply to charitable organizations whose purpose is to help women. So use the money that you would have spent on a green juice today and divert it to a cause you care about. Reminder that your personal Ben & Jerry’s fund does not actually count as a charity, no matter what its GoFundMe says.

Supporting Women

Pro-Women Nonprofits You Can Donate To Like, Now:

The Movement Foundation: If body positivity is your cause, send your cash to The Movement Foundation, which empowers women to feel confident in their bodies by equipping them with the tools to be active. It was started by former SoulCycle instructor Jenny Gaither, so you know it’s legit.

Lady Parts Justice: As a Betches reader, it’s probably safe to say that you have a healthy interest in both women’s rights and comedy (also that you’re smart AF). LPJ uses comedy, culture, and digital media to “sound an alarm” about the erosion of reproductive rights in the U.S. They were the women behind the nationally trending #PaulRyanSoScared, and what could be more worthy of your support than trolling Paul Ryan on Twitter?

Girls Who Code: Girls Who Code helps to empower girls with the computer science skills they need to pursue 21st century opportunities. Think about how much money you’d pay to not have to ask your guy friends or some sweaty fuckboy at the genius bar for help with your electronics. Then donate that much.

The Malala Fund: The Malala Fund is a group started by Malala Yousafzai (duh) and provides girls around the world with 12 years of education to achieve their potential and create positive change within their families. If you’re feeling on the fence about whether or not your can really spare another $10, calmly remind yourself that the Taliban straight-up shot Malala in the face and then donate an extra $10 for being petty.

Planned Parenthood: You know ‘em, you love ‘em, it’s Planned Parenthood! With the GOP replacement threatening to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s funding, your donations are more important than ever. Do your nails at home this week and donate your manicure money to PP so that your next pregnancy scare doesn’t result in you being tied to Brad from Ultra for the rest of your goddamn life.

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The Demand For IUDs Increased A Fuckton Lately & You Already Know Why

On Monday, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPFA) said that the demand for IUDs has increased by 900 percent since Donald Trump was elected to office, and normally, I would normally call bullshit on a statistic that high. But honestly, that sounds about right because Trump’s presidency is fucking terrifying for anyone with a vagina.

PPFA president Cecile Richards went on CNN on Monday to talk about the upcoming Women’s March on Washington (chill) and the recent attempts by Paul Ryan to defund Planned Parenthood (super not chill). She had a bunch of awesome stuff to say about Planned Parenthood, most of which was directed at the haters trying to shut down federal funding for one of the most extensive providers of betches’ healthcare in the nation. You’d think that the debate over abortion would have been over a long time ago, but this is America. Why resolve something quickly when you can tell women what to do instead?

Haha Die

While she was on CNN, Richards said Planned Parenthood has seen a 900 percent increase in women trying to get IUDs through the organization after the Great Cheeto was elected president. According to Jezebel, she said that most of these IUD-seekers are “desperately concerned that they might lose their access to healthcare” once the Legion of Doom Trump & Co. take office.

She also pointed out that legally, Planned Parenthood isn’t allowed to use federal funding for abortion, so the whole defunding thing makes zero sense even if you’re super anti-abortion for some reason. Instead, the money is legally required to go toward procedures like Pap smears, contraception, STI testing, and other procedures every betch should get regularly. 

Cecily Strong

ICYMI, people have been hating on Planned Parenthood for a while now—since at least 2007, when Vice President-elect Mike Pence started leading the charge against its funding—and PP could use all the help it can get right now.

If you want to support Planned Parenthood (which you should, because bodily autonomy and all that good shit), there are a few options. The most hilarious is donating to PP in Mike Pence’s honor—just make a regular donation and fill out his name in the “in memory” option. You could also become a clinic escort, which takes some training, or do the whole calling local representatives thing. Even lazy/busy betches can contribute by just reading up on abortion and calling out assholes who don’t know what they’re talking about. (Fact #1: Abortions don’t cause depression, are you kidding me with this shit?)

Are You Stupid

So it’s no wonder women are getting long-acting BC while they can. If you’re one of the women considering an IUD before Trump takes office, hit up Planned Parenthood while you still can (aka while it still exists). Even if you already have one or don’t need one, support them before we all start living in a real-life version of The Handmaid’s Tale.  

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