'Broad City' Just Made an Incredibly Important Point About the Tampon Tax
Broad City has a knack for capturing the often uncomfortable reality of what it's like to have a vagina. (Remember when Ilana introduced the term "nature's pocket," or that time Abbi peed out a used condom?) So it came as no surprise in the season three finale when the comedy duo portrayed a moment that anyone who's ever had a period can relate to.
While en route to Israel on a Birthright trip, Abbi unexpectedly gets her period in the middle of the flight — and she doesn't have a tampon. With her tampons packed in a checked bag, Abbi finds herself "sitting in a pool of her own uterine lining" as she and Ilana try to come up with a game plan.
As the pair assesses Abbi's options (basically, asking the other passengers or using a wad of toilet paper), both women realize just how much it would suck not to have easy or reliable access to menstrual products.
"This must be how homeless women feel," Ilana says. "If you get a couple of bucks, do you buy food, or do you buy tampons?"
That sort of hypothetical situation has been raised quite often in recent months, as lawmakers and activists join a growing movement to make tampons and other menstrual products more accessible to people who menstruate.
This year, lawmakers in states like California and New York have proposed eliminating the sales tax on menstrual products, which is often known as the "tampon tax." Noting that products from Viagra to barbecued sunflower seeds are often exempt from sales tax, opponents of the tampon tax say the added fee unduly burdens those who menstruate and especially affects low-income families.
For a great number of people, spending a few extra dollars a year on tampons can and does add up, leading them to resort to desperate measures. The options considered by the airplane-bound Abbi, such as sticking a homemade pita bread tampon up her vag, are at the extreme end of the spectrum. But it's not unheard of for women in Africa to use such items as grass and mud for makeshift tampons due to a lack of access to feminine hygiene products.
Fortunately, just moments after Abbi rejects Ilana's scavenged DIY offering, the two catch sight of a box of tampons in first class, which seems entirely out of reach from their position in coach. It's an excellent metaphor for the link between class, cost and access to menstrual products — something male politicians who support the tax apparently don't understand.
Of course, #NotAllMen are clueless as to why menstrual products aren't more widely available; even President Obama seems to understand they should be. As he explained earlier this year, the reason tampons are taxed at all is likely "because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed."
The ladies of Broad City, however, have a much more concise, on-the-nose explanation for why everyone doesn't have access to tampons on-demand. "Tampons should be free. Every woman should have access to tampons — all different sizes," Abbi says.
"The only reason it's not that way is because the government hates women," Ilana tells Abbi, who immediately agrees — because, well, like every other joke in Broad City, it's meant to be funny, but it's also not entirely wrong.