The Daily Bork

August 03, 2005

I really can't think of a title for this one.

A representative of the youth wing of the ruling Social Democrats (SSU) in Sweden has come out with a motion to impose price cuts on "feminine products"...
Åsa Hammarström, SSU representative has proposed a motion for cheaper menstrual protection for women.

"Yes, that's right, there are a number of us behind the motion."

Why is it an important question?

"Because menstruation is not something that we women have chosen to have. And so it shouldn't cost so much each month. Today it costs up to 75 kronor every month."

What should it cost?

"It shouldn't be totally free, but 20 kronor maybe or something like that."

Most men shave, should they have cheaper razors?

"That isn't something we are taking up now. But they need no shave, most do it to be more attractive. But who knows, it will maybe be proposed sometime as well."
You see this from time to time in all sorts of places. It is of course a load of crap, at least the way she has argued it.

Women have not chosen to menstruate, granted. How that logically leads to a product being arbitrarily priced is a bit more difficult to ascertain. After all, she does not propose it being free... but why not? How does one arrive at an arbitrary cost of 20 kronor and not at free?

The fact that men do not menstruate is a complete red herring. Her rationale for the price cut is that there is no choice in menstruating. Assuming that to be so, the entire population has no choice in the need to eat either, so why does she not call for the cutting of all food costs by, say, 50%? It would certainly benefit a lot of people, at least that is until food production crashed.

Now we can see that there would be a problem if there was price fixing going on, with a cartel of tampon makers jacking up the costs. But that isn't the case here, normal marketing and competition seems to be keeping the price at a reasonable level.

It's also not as if there aren't cheaper alternatives. What happened before you could by tampons and liners? Not exactly convenient I guess, but still, there are options. Don't even get me started on toilet paper!

The only semi-reasonable proposition is that it is an unavoidable cost with no benefit. However, that is also plainly untrue. Women have no choice in menstruating and men don't at all, but women get the benefit of being able to bear children whereas men never can. The Swedish government even goes so far as providing assistance in fertility treatments. Of course if you don't count child bearing as some sort of benefit you could always go out and get a hysterectomy to solve the problem (note, I'm not being entirely serious now). Otherwise I guess you could make the concession that if you get to menopause without bearing children you can get a rebate or something extra in your pension to cover the cost since you didn't benefit from the kids.

(You could also say that in a sense, humans have "chosen" to menstruate since if they didn't none of us would be here talking about the price of fish. So really, we can blame all those ancestors who didn't break the mold when they had the chance.)

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