On New Year’s day of 2015, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, vice president for development of NYU Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, saw a posting for a local homeless shelter’s tampon and pad drive. That posting inspired her to investigate the issue of menstrual equity and to begin to advocate for the more than 40 million American women who are living in poverty and for whom it is a financial burden to buy tampons and other feminine hygiene products. In a conversation with Newsweek senior writer Abigail Jones (who earlier this year authored a cover story on the movement to end menstrual shame), Weiss-Wolf discussed her new book, Periods Gone Public, and the progress of menstrual equity advocacy in the United States.

Select remarks:

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf: “In terms of legislative progress, we started 2016 with 40 of the 50 states not exempting menstrual products from sales tax. Five states just had no sales tax at all, so they didn’t tax them, and five, they just fell into some sort of category that caused them to be tax exempt. But 40 still had the tax. Since then, 24 states have introduced legislation to eliminate this tax, and four have gotten it done. Of the four that have gotten it done, two have been signed by Republican governors in Florida and Illinois, and New York is the third state (although it was the first state to introduce it) and Connecticut is the fourth state.”

Abigail Jones: “The tampon tax has gotten bipartisan support and a time when the battle over women’s bodies is so notoriously divided by a really hard, clear line. How can that be? How do you make sense of that?”

Weiss-Wolf: “It’s not red or blue, it’s not Democrat or Republican, it’s just part of our lives. And in this environment now where women’s bodies and women’s experiences are so undermined, and we’re so aware of that, especially through all of the discussions over the past few weeks and #MeToo and the awareness of sexual assault in the work place and on the streets and people being surprised when women say, ‘This is daily life, this isn’t something exceptional, this is just what we cope with;’ well, so is menstruation…. This agenda and this issue, the fact that we made that happen, I’m less concerned actually about why this is the thing that stuck, and more focused on how to ensure that this is the thing that propels us forward.”

Watch the full video of the event (1 hr, 23 min):

Posted December 12, 2017