SIU community reacts to lifting of Illinois tampon tax: ‘This is a proper step’



Bruce Rauner is sworn into office at the Prairie Capital Convention Center on Jan. 12, 2015 in Springfield. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

By Marnie Leonard

Illinois women will no longer be taxed for feminine hygiene products beginning in 2017, a decision many said was long overdue.

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday approved a bill repealing the state’s sales tax on tampons and pads, which were previously classified as “luxury goods.” The change will go into effect Jan. 1. 

This will make Illinois at least the eighth state to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales taxation, according to news reports. 


The tax has been a hot topic in recent months, with activists across the country saying the feminine products are necessities rather than luxuries, and therefore should be taxed as such.

“The idea of taxing tampons and other feminine hygiene products belies an underlying sexism and inherently discriminates against women because men don’t really have anything like that that they have to pay for,” said Aaron Diehr, an SIU professor in health education and recreation and women, gender and sexuality studies.

Diana Tigerlily, a professor in SIU’s women, gender and sexuality studies department, said she considers the tax elimination a positive step toward gender equality from Illinois lawmakers.

Just recognizing that tampons are not a luxury, but a necessity so that women are not unfairly taxed is an important step in creating a society in which women have less hurdles in our way of advancement,” Tigerlily said.

She said this change is linked to an increased number of women involved in politics.

“A man didn’t say, ‘Hey, women are paying this tampon tax and that’s not right’, it was women,” she said. “Women are coming into positions of power where they have a voice, where they can advocate for change on behalf of everyone, and historically this hasn’t been the case.”

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Sarah Martin, a freshman from Valparaiso, Ind., studying zoology, said the reason more people don’t think about issues like the tampon tax is because society sees them as taboo.

“People are very uncomfortable with talking about vaginas,” Martin said. “It’s one thing if it’s something that is inherently sexual. But [menstruation] is just a regular process that happens naturally. Just because it comes out of the same place where sex happens doesn’t make it sexual.”

Diehr said he’s noticed American society’s hesitation to discuss women’s reproductive abilities.

“There’s always been a taboo about menstruation,” he said. “[Americans] are so sex-forward and so open in our views and our media, but when it comes to having frank discussions about necessities in sex, whether it be safe sex, periods or other things, we’re really afraid to talk about those. If you don’t discuss these topics, you never get action on them.”

The absence of the tax will reduce the state’s revenue by an estimated $14.7 million a year, according to reporting by the Chicago Tribune.

Though this financial decision was made during Illinois’ budget crisis and a multibillion-dollar state deficit, Tigerlily said she doesn’t consider this a valid reason to oppose the change.

“The state of Illinois is in a crisis, but women who bleed monthly should not be responsible for digging the state out of a mess of their own making,” Tigerlily said. “The revenues lost on this are not as significant as the decrease in hardships that this tax is causing on women.”

Diehr acknowledged the state deficit is an issue, but said taxing female hygiene products is not the way to fix it.

“This is a proper step — women still hit glass ceilings in industries and get paid less than their male counterparts for the same job,” he said. “There are a lot of discriminatory issues that women face that men just don’t.”

Diehr said he believes lifting the tampon tax will be particularly beneficial to low-income women in the state’s most populated areas.

“It’s so great that Illinois is doing this, because larger cities like Chicago hold the lion’s share of the poverty,” Diehr said. “Having a larger sale’s tax on top of that — you’re talking about some of the poorest women in Illinois who were paying even more for essential items for things that are natural to their lives.”

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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