In a landmark legislative action, Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 379 this last spring, effectively removing the “Pink tax” or the tax on period products, infant and adult diapers and other maternity items like baby bottles, maternity clothes and breast pumping products as of Sept. 1. The bill received bipartisan support, with many similar and some identical bills authored on either side of the aisle.
This legislation has been pushed in large part by legislators like State Rep. Donna Howard from Austin, who has championed this cause for years alongside grassroots organizers all across Texas. While people like Rep. Howard were hard at work in the Capitol, Crimson Cause and its founder Ashley Arevalo have been blazing the trail here in the Coastal Bend.
“Working in menstrual equity, I’ve always wanted to testify for one of the bills,” Arevalo said. This dream became a reality for her and other members of Crimson Cause in April 2021, when they traveled to Austin to testify for a ban on taxes for all period products. “There were girls there as young as 15 who showed up to testify. It was very emotional.” This feeling of common experience and struggle is what Arevalo cites as her motivation to contribute to this work.
Crimson Cause began in 2016 with a GoFundMe started by Arevalo, who carried a vested interest in menstrual equity and wanted to find a way to contribute to her community. Since then, it has achieved full non-profit status, and its network of support has expanded throughout the community. Crimson Cause collaborates often with local organizations and institutions, like Islander Feminists at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the Del Mar College School of Nursing.
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, while many organizations found themselves at a screeching halt, Arevalo sought a new route to keep supporting the cause and helped found the Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition, composed of activists all across Texas.
“We met with legislators twice a week through Zoom, that was what we spent our time on in 2020,” Arevalo said. “All that work really helped us in 2021 and even in 2023 when the bill was passed because by then we had built so much support. We worked so hard in those three years, and legislators were really receptive.”
By 2020, Crimson Cause had distributed upwards of 70,000 free period products in and around the Coastal Bend, and its work continues to grow. In coalition with Islander Feminists, it succeeded in petitioning for free period products on campus and hopes to expand this movement to other major institutions throughout the city. In the long term, Arevalo sets her hopes and efforts on a future for our country where period products are completely free of charge.
“Now that people are comfortable talking about periods, let’s try to get products in schools, let’s get them in prisons,” Arevalo thought on the road ahead. “This isn’t the end all be all; the tampon tax is just the beginning.”