On Wednesday, as part of the Autumn Statement, George Osborne looked pretty smug as he announced that the £15million per year raised from the tampon tax will be used to fund women's charities. The crowd went wild (some of them did anyway) and on the surface, this might sound like a good thing. After all, who would argue with women's charities, which are notoriously underfunded, getting more donations? And such a massive one at that?
Well, I would, and I'm not the only one. Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley and 10/10 feminist, reportedly shouted "You're not paying for it George, I am!" during his speech, and she's right. I highly doubt that the Chancellor is going to nip to the shops and stock up on some Tampax so that he can donate his share. Women represent 51% of the population, and funding our health and safety should be seen as a national responsibility, not something that is shirked back onto us. As Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party, said "We are not a special interest group. The income tax we pay should be spent on the services we need."
The fact that some of Osborne's selected charities are those that support victims of domestic violence leaves a particularly bad taste in my mouth. In the UK, one in four women will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime, it kills around two women a week, and accounts for 16% of violent crime. It is the single most quoted reason for women becoming homeless. Why is a system being created where women's money is used to pay for the services women need when men put their lives at risk?
It also begs the question of what is going to happen to these charities if the tampon tax is ever abolished. Where will they be left if the tax is removed and they have to deal with a dramatic funding cut as a result? The more likely answer is that this will just be used as a justification to keep the tampon tax alive and well, or even increase it, in order to keep open these services that many women and children desperately need. It's essentially a massive smokescreen, excusing the government from getting their act together and funding women's services properly. Surely if we can find the money to send Commons Speaker John Bercow on a £10,000 trip to Japan, we can find the money to save women's lives.
All this reminds me of that time when the Sun used Page 3 to launch the creepily named "Check 'Em Tuesday" campaign in collaboration with Coppafeel, a breast cancer awareness charity. The Sun heard the voices of hundreds of thousands who said that Page 3 was a misogynistic embarrassment to society, and then turned it into a situation where if you were against Page 3, you were also against raising awareness of breast cancer. What the government has done is hear the voices of the 300,000 people who have signed a petition calling to make sanitary products tax exempt, and created a situation where if you're against the tampon tax, you're against giving millions to women's charities.
My period is not philanthropy. Our wombs shouldn't be used to pay for the safety and health of our mothers, sisters and friends. You might have thought this was going to win us over, George, but I'm not buying it. I'm going to carry on fighting the tampon tax, and I know I won't be the only person to think that your plan to shut us up is a bloody joke.