Periods Are Normal. Why Don’t We Treat Them as Such?
Picture this; you’re a fifth-grader who is mentally preparing for a highly anticipated end-of-the-year field trip with your class. The feelings range from nervousness to uncontrollable happiness. Though, the week before this trip, you have had this gut-wrenching feeling that you couldn’t seem to get rid of. You ignore this feeling, just brushing it off. As the day gets closer to the trip, the feeling persists. Still, you ignore it; it must be nerves or just a weird feeling.
This was an eleven-year-old me.
I had this constant feeling of pain on the bus ride to the waterpark, during the water activities, and on the way back to the school. It wasn’t until I got home that I recognized that I was bleeding. I was confused and scared; all I knew was that I was bleeding, which wasn’t normal.
By having a conversation with my mother, I realized that this was a normal bodily function that would now be happening monthly.
This was news to me; I had never heard of it.
There’s no way for young people to fully know about menstruation if there’s no education about it. Knowledge of your bodily functions should include the whole reproductive system, not just the 10-minute presentation of abstinence. Moreover, the little to no education on menstruation showcases the lack of consideration, plus the unwillingness to provide opportunities for accessibility and affordability.
“Around the world, 800 million people are on their periods at any given moment and it’s estimated that 500 million people live without access to adequate menstrual hygiene,” which is not only is harmful in creating inequities, but also in adding barriers for young women of color in particular.
It doesn’t help that the minimum wage in the U.S. has stagnated at a mere $7.25. The average cost of one box of 36 tampons is $7. This means it costs one full hour of labor for a pack of tampons, which is needed monthly. As it adds up, so does the cost of ensuring the safety of people with periods.
The question we should all be asking is, why are we not doing enough to provide people with the necessities for a normal bodily function?
Menstrual products should be free. It’s a straightforward, yet somehow controversial statement.
The ability to access menstrual products has been deemed a privilege, not a right, even though no one has control over this natural fact of life. I certainly didn’t when I spent the day of my field trip in pain and confusion.
Why is it that people in homeless shelters, poverty, and prisons suffer the consequences of being additionally vulnerable due to the lack of resources given? Everyone deserves access to the basic necessities to take care of themselves.
The importance of menstrual equity requires acknowledging that reproductive rights are human rights.
Thus a guarantee to access should be provided, not just tax-free.
So how can you help guarantee that menstrual equity is accessible and affordable? The Legislative Toolkit provided by the American Civil Liberties Union presents “a template for legislative action, response to common arguments, talking points, and an interview with an on-ground advocate.”
Taking steps towards menstrual equity will create greater accessibility, affordability, and awareness. When we face barriers to taking care of our body’s basic functions, this is detrimental to reproductive rights overall. Let’s all be reminded that we must push to ensure equity is a fundamental human right, because our voices create opportunities that have a ripple effect for future eleven-year-olds who will be in similar situations as I was.