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  • #3 Menstrual Equality

    Posted on February 15th, 2020 amturne3 No comments

    I apologize ahead of time if this post gets a bit gross but I think this is a very important topic that doesn’t get talked about enough.   Period shaming is real, harmful, and exists in every part of the world!  A few days ago I came across this news article in my news feed: https://www.vox.com/2020/2/13/21136212/tampon-tax-tennessee-period-menstrual-equity-menstruation in which a male lawmaker in Tennessee was worried that women would “stock pile tampons” during a proposed 3 day tax-free holiday on women’s hygiene products.

    https://ufvcascade.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/menstrual-products.png

    https://ufvcascade.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/menstrual-products.png

    Let’s take a step back and understand some of the fundamental issues regarding “periods”.  The average woman spends nearly 2,535 days (a total of seven years’ time) of her life dealing with periods.  In some states, women’s hygiene products are considered “luxury items” and are taxed higher than any other product.  These products can be taxed as high as 7.5% in some states!  Even when you look at things like razors in which both men and women use, you will notice there’s a HUGE price difference.  They are the same razors but one happens to be “pink” and marketed to women while the other is probably “blue” and marketed to men but in the end, they are the EXACT same razor with different colors, packaging, and prices!  Going back to taxes, I was shocked when doing an internet search that Viagra is not taxed in Wisconsin.  https://www.npr.org/2016/03/06/467377295/citing-gender-bias-state-lawmakers-move-to-eliminate-tampon-tax  I am not saying Viagra should not be considered a “luxury” item, but when comparing gender “needs” the biasness of it all is glaring!

    https://marquettewire.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Screen-Shot-2018-02-12-at-8.28.55-PM-900x453.png

    This leads into an argument that isn’t talked about much which is menstrual equity.  This term refers to the affordability, accessibility, and safety of menstrual products.   It not only refers to feminine products but also education and reproductive care.   Most women’s bathrooms (though not all!) will have a machine installed in which you can “buy” feminine products.  More often than not the machine is never stocked.  If it’s a gender-neutral bathroom you can almost always forget about having a machine available.    We stock all bathrooms (men’s and women’s) with toilet paper for free yet, for women’s hygiene we have to pay an additional price for access to what is still necessary for proper hygiene!  Going back to the news article, I’ve never seen anyone “stock pile” the free toilet paper in the bathrooms!  Much less, buy out the entire store during tax free days for school supplies!   It also makes me mad that instead of making tampons/pads tax free year-round like Viagra or at least have it taxed at the same % as other products this lawmaker is literally worried about a 3-day tax free event that happens once a year! That in itself would certainly encourage women to stock pile these products if we can only be guaranteed a fair price on them 3 days out of the year when our periods are 2,535 days out of our average lives!

    Sadly, it goes beyond what adult women must endure!  Nearly every girl in America gets the “sex ed” talk starting around 3rd-5th grade.   I can remember my own experience in 5th grade in which I was shown a video, probably made in 1970, about a girl named “Julie” who got the dreaded period (while the boys did something else in another room).  Julie talked about how awful it was and about learning to use a period belt which confused the hell out of me!  (For those of you who are male in this class, that practice hasn’t been used since my parents/grandparent’s time!  We’ve progressed past “period belts” long ago!)   Additionally, my only other exposure was from the book “Are you there, God? It’s me Margaret?”  Which also confused the hell out of me with its vague references and encouragement of the period stigma!  So, imagine when mine showed up for the first time how horrified I was having been educated with extremely outdated information!  Not to mention the taboo that surrounded the experience where you just don’t talk about it!  Also horrifying is the fact that many school bathrooms do not have products available to girls should they have their periods at school!  And even if they do, how many 12 year old girls have a dollar in quarters with them to throw into a machine that’s never stocked in the first place?   To further my point about schools being inadequately prepared to deal with menstruating girls, just recently my middle daughter asked if she could use the bathroom to deal with her “female issue” in which her male teacher knowing what she meant told her she could “hold it until after class”.   I KID YOU NOT!   This lack of male education makes it extremely difficult for young girls!  (Fun fact for males:  We cannot stop the flow of our periods or hold them like urine! It is not even remotely the same process!)

    This is especially troubling for girls in less affluent parts of the world.  https://www.unfpa.org/news/menstruation-not-girls-or-womens-issue-%E2%80%93-its-human-rights-issue The taboo in some countries is often that girls are “unclean” or should be separate from everyone until they stop bleeding.  For other girls, it can become a curse because it means they may be forced to marry at a younger age now that they are a “woman”.

    https://www.femmeinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/worldwidemenstrualtaboo-1.png

    Image from: https://www.femmeinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/worldwidemenstrualtaboo-1.png

    As the UNFPA article mentions, menstruation is a natural and essential part of reproduction that nearly half of the human population experiences, yet most males have no clue about what it really is because like females, they are not properly educated which then leads to exclusion and discrimination.   Even our own president Trump has been recorded making fun of women’s menstruation which has encouraged some in society to continue to use it as a form of discrimination and the mock of jokes.

    But wait! It gets worse!  If you are an incarcerated woman with a period you can be sure to experience even more setbacks!  As the woman in this article describes her experience,  she couldn’t afford the $6.99 that a box of jail issued tampons cost which are often charged at a higher market rate.   How could she? She’s in jail!   Furthermore, the free pad she did receive was low quality and not adequate for what she needed causing undo embarrassment!  In some jails, women are given only 1 pad PER DAY.   If you need more than that, better use wadded up toilet paper or rags (assuming you have access to either) and hope for the best! In some instances, the article talks about women being punished if they accidentally bleed through their uniforms (like women can control that!)  If you are detained as an illegal immigrant you are twice as likely to suffer menstrual cruelty here in America.  https://www.newsweek.com/forcing-immigrant-girls-bleed-through-their-underwear-cruel-degrading-dangerous-opinion-1457040 There have been several news stories about young girls and women being detained in inhumane conditions near the border.   Most have been denied any menstrual hygiene products much less showers as they are detained.  This in itself is a human rights violation! Everyone, despite gender or origin should have the right to basic hygiene needs whether that be tampons/pads, showers, condoms, or toilet paper!  By denying women of these basic needs, we expose them to some potentially harmful and possibly fatal health risks!

    https://news.jrn.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Tampon-Chart-JRN400.png

    Image from: https://news.jrn.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Tampon-Chart-JRN400.png

    As horrifying as all of this is, we can make changes to improve women’s hygiene!  We can encourage our lawmakers to stop labeling tampons/pads as “luxury items”.  We can also encourage employers, schools, prisons, and other businesses to stock bathrooms with QUALITY menstrual hygiene products alongside toilet paper (arguably in BOTH men and women’s bathrooms).   We can ask our schools to educate the boys along with the girls during the “menstruation talk”.  And finally, we can stop acting like it’s taboo to talk about and be more open about talking about it like we’re starting to do with mental health.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D5ysY3aXkAAi9TK.jpg

    Image from: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D5ysY3aXkAAi9TK.jpg

     

     

    11 responses to “#3 Menstrual Equality” RSS icon

    • It is astounding to me how men react when you start talking about periods. My best friend and I in high school used to just say “period” to get her brothers to leave us alone. I am pretty sure we would do the same thing to our male co-workers at a job I had a few years ago in manufacturing! My favorite line from them is that we brought it on ourselves by eating the apple. Literally, these comments make me want to become violent. You never realize these things are going on because you just grow up dealing with it. You buy the tampons for whatever they cost. You skip class because your period is too heavy the first day. I know I’ve done it and I’m sure I’ll facilitate my own daughters doing it. I even read the title of this post aloud to my husband and he rolled his eyes and said “oh gawd” and walked out of the room. A father of two daughters! Of course he got marched right back in the room and lectured at length, but they have to learn somehow right? With more women in the legislature we need to normalize these things and bring around laws that protect the stability of these products and the availability for everyone. You can walk into a waiting room at Schiffert now and get free condoms, can’t you? I’ve heard it said “if men could conceive, abortions would be available in a drive-through at the gas station”. Men make it so simple for themselves and don’t want to be inconvenienced with the dealings of women, although they all go home to wives and daughters every night. Thank you for covering this topic! This was a really well done post!

      • I laughed when I read your comment about your husband’s reaction since my husband had the exact same reaction when I told him about the topic I had chosen to write about over the weekend. My 13 and 16 year old daughters also love making their dad uncomfortable by saying the word “period” in front of him. He will almost always walk out of the room or ask them to stop, claiming the 8 year old shouldn’t be hearing this yet. But I disagree! Why is it taboo to talk about periods until the 8 year old is at a certain age? I wish I had been told earlier so it wasn’t this shocking secret that I was suddenly being let in on at 10! I remember feeling horrified and ashamed of being a girl when I learned about periods and my mom was even more uncomfortable talking to me about them which just reinforced my own discomfort. When it came to my own girls, I talked about it with my oldest before she got the “school talk” and gave her some books to read about it and we walked through the stores pointing out products and how they were used. When my middle child got to that age I did the same process and thought I had done a good enough job (certainly better than my mom had done with me) but after she got the “school talk” I remember her coming home and declaring that periods came from the same place you peed from. I was floored! Thankfully my oldest laughed and corrected her but it made me wonder how I had somehow failed my middle child? How had the school failed her as well? The whole incident made me realize I need to do an even better job with the 8 year old!

    • *Sigh*, the period talk! I could go on for hours talking about how I never understood why something so natural about a woman (YET AGAIN) is considered uncouth by society. Growing up, I was a late bloomer. I didn’t get my period until I was 15 and already in high school. The school talks never made sense to me like most females. (I too was told we bleed and pee out of the same hole) My parents handed me a book and said, “you don’t need to talk about it with everyone” and “it’s a natural process”. No one explained to me if you have a heavy flow vs. a lighter flow which products you should buy or how you might have a week-long period but your friend might have a 4 day period. No one ever explained how to properly insert a tampon. Nor was I told that your body might crave things one day and the next day you might not want to eat. Or even how severe bloating and cramping could be. These are just a few things I wish I could have learned back then which would have saved me A LOT of embarrassment.

      I also feel these are things females should have the ability to learn about because everyone’s body is different and reacts differently during this hormonal point in time. It isn’t fair to tell females, “this naturally happens” but then tell me it is a “luxury” for me to have pads/tampons. It is just another way to judge/shame the female body. We could go on and on about how men will never understand what it feels like because they’ve never experienced it. Therefore, since they cannot relate they chalk it up to “Oh, it can’t be that bad” and brush us off. Unfortunately, this is also all too common.
      My suggestion is of course to educate, but not just educate with the same gym/health teachers. Instead, introduce females to OBGYN doctors at a young age to better understand their body and what is actually going on. Having this as an open discussion might help alleviate the pressure off of young women that go through this and may not know what to ask their parents when menstruating arises.

    • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Awesome post that interprets my emotions. In my family, I have a sister and my dad is the only male in the household. In Eastern culture it is way worse than here. Sex is taboo, period is taboo. You do not even talk to your siblings about it. I was on 7th grade English class when I had my first period. I knew that was going to happen to me sooner or later but I was not prepared for that. Only thing I knew was my mom was fainting from the pain and cramps she was having. My dad was heating towels to put on her stomach and she was suffering to go to work. She was not allowed to take days off for that and it was hurting my heart to see her like that. When I had my first period I was feeling lucky that my English teacher was female so I went to her desk and whispered her what is going on and she sent me home. I do not know what I would do if it happened while I was with a male teacher. Definitely, I would have to sit and wait until the break time. And then from the day one I was always like my mom. My dad started to heat two towels since then, one for me one for my mom. LOL!!. I was frustrated with that. There were a lot of social and cultural pressure. For instance, in Turkey, if you have your period most women use pads. Tampons are not even affordable for people. It is not even a common thing in our culture. I have never use tampons until I moved here. The reason for e again cultural pressure. Since sex is taboo, you do not share about your sexual experiences with anyone and it is culturally not appreciated if you had sex before marriage. So if the person uses tampon before marriage, they will know that you are not virgin and you might be questioned for that. Imagine that during summer you are by the beach ad you can go in water because you cant use tampons. “Sigh!” There are many things like that I can tell. You go to see a doctor, they ask your martial status and if you say you are single, they start to examine you in a different way than they could examine the person who is not virgin. Even the well educated specialist acting in this way just frustrates me. These stories could go on and on. So what I am doing now as a woman? I am not hesitated to tell people I am having my period and I am not feeling well. I am not hesitated to take out my tampons or pads when I take them out from my drawer in the office. I am in Mechanical Engineering and you all know how the gender demographic is. They can have their men’s locker room talks next to me so why would not carry my pad on my hand without trying to hide it. After reading your post I just realized how much I am spending on feminine hygiene products. Geez, girl!! thats a lot of money. They definitely should not tax it or consider it a luxury product. This pain and blood aint make me rich. 🙂 Overall, great post. You have beautiful daughters and they are the future and I am happy that they have such a mindful mother like you!!!

      • aw thank you! that’s very sweet. Also, I hadn’t even thought about how other countries feel about tampons! Oh dear!

    • Those dreaded sex-ed talks in elementary school where like you said the boys and the girls were separated. The little boys learned that it was natural and okay that they were reaching puberty and that they would need to make sure to shower regularly and that boners were okay and indeed natural just a part of life while I felt like our talk was much more like the impending doom that would inevitable reach all of us young girls. The very way these talks were approached was just saddening and it’s not even usually just up to the nurse and teacher about what they can show or do but I found out at least in my elementary school that they had to stick pretty strictly to a script. I definitely agree with you that education is imperative for this topic and to right the injustices being done. With half the population (that is often the ones politically in charge) not being educated on women’s health, there is a huge problem socially, politically, legislatively, really in all aspects. The fact that a male teacher denied your daughter the right to go to the bathroom makes me want to…deep breath…makes me want to educate him. Since we are taught since little girls to be afraid and embarrassed of our periods I feel bad that your daughter had to go through that potentially embarrassing moment that I am sure happens all the time all over the world. This highlights the need for males to learn about periods as well because most likely at some point in a male’s life they will come into contact with a female who most likely has had a period either as a colleague, teacher, father, anything and everything. I actually wrote on someone else’s blog about the fact that I was proud of my dad for never being embarrassed about talking to me about my period or buying me products compared to other fathers who get ‘grossed’ out about it. It can only make guys a bit more sympatric or understanding of women so instances like your daughter went through can hopefully be avoided. Also I had to look up what a period belt is and wowza seems uncomfortable.
      I asked my high school Latin teacher what women had to do in Ancient Rome when they got their periods, and she said that there is very little written on the subject matter (most females and plebeians were not literate so it is understandable that in the topic of periods is nonexistent in most ancient texts written by men) however my teacher said she did extensive research and basically ancient roman women would have to sit on essentially hay bale like structures and just stop their lives for 1-5 days while on their period…like your calculations is a lot of time out of someone’s life. What saddens me is the fact that in other countries in this day and age essentially the same happens where young women cannot go to school because they cannot afford period supplies. The fact that women miss school because of the ridiculous stigma against periods is sickening and only furthers the gap academically for women.

    • Thanks for sharing this. It is unbelievable to see how unfairly women are treated because of menstruation. I like the fact that you talked about affordability and accessibility of menstrual product. These are things we barely think about as men and I totally agree that men should be educated about this topic. It is amazing to know that one in four teens have skipped class because they do not have access to menstrual product.
      I really like that you talked about how the situation is more troubling in poorer regions of the world. It reminds me of a recent story I read on BBC about how 68 female students in an Indian College were forced to strip to underwear because they were menstruating https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-51504992. The female students were forced to strip and reveal their underwear to female teachers to prove that they were not menstruating. The reason given by the college for doing this was that female students were disobeying rules that women menstruating are meant to follow. The rules were simply unbelievable. They include sitting away from other students in classrooms and dining halls, in addition to staying away from the religious temples. This is not the first time this is happening in India. Three years ago, a similar situation occurred in which female students were stripped naked to see if they were menstruating. Recently, I read about another disturbing news story about how thousands of young women in a certain part of India have undergone surgery to remove their womb so they can secure job and not miss time out of work https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48836690. This is really sad! I think other countries should follow the example of Indonesia, Japan and South Korea where women are given a day off work during their period. And like you said, education is the key to end the taboo associated with menstruation.

    • Blog #3 Response #4
      THANK YOU! I loved your blog and it was so eye opening because honestly, I don’t pay attention to the price when I am buying pads because I need them so even if they are expensive, I still need to buy them. I totally agree that they don’t educate students well enough at all. I got my period when I was 9, which was before we ever had the talk in school. Thankfully, my mom had already properly educated me and made my dad buy us pads so he wasn’t too awkward about it. It was really hard though because it is hard for a 4th grader to properly control it, especially during the first few days. My mom did let me wear tampons pretty soon after I got it because I couldn’t go swimming with my friends and it was just really hard to manage with only pads when I was at school 8 hours a day with only certain times for bathroom breaks. I have had to miss school on multiple occasions because of this and the school nurse never really had anything to ever help me. In elementary school there were no pads available anywhere so if I forgot to put them in my backpack I was out of luck. Now I use a menstrual cup and boy when people find that out, they get so freaked out. It is so funny because I am like this thing is not harmful to me and will not give me toxic shock syndrome and I don’t have to repurchase it every month and kill the environment, but it’s more gross somehow. I think it should really be advertised more because if used properly, it is safer than tampons and can help to alleviate a lot of stress that comes along with getting your period due to its long lasting and reliable results. I think educating girls and boys at a young age and punishing rude behavior such as sexist comments about periods or making fun of them because we literally cannot control it so we shouldn’t be punished even more for having to endure it. Also, every single person on earth was born because their mother was able to have a period and remain reproductively sound so they should be happy that we don’t just take out our uterus and say heck with this period thing.

    • savannahspeckhart

      Blog #3; Comment #4

      Wow. I didn’t think I could hate periods any more than I already do….and then I read your blog haha. I did not know we spend 7 years menstruating on average. Whatsmore, I definitely did not know that women hygiene products are considered LUXURY items and are taxed higher compared to other products. As you and other women know, there is nothing luxurious about a period. If anything, we should get a tax break, am I right?! Think about how much more money we spend during our lifetime compared to men because of having to buy women hygiene products.

      Menstrual equity. Thank you for talking about this! During my master’s degree, all animal science reproduction people worked in a specific building a little off campus (basically we were separated by a bridge). It had designated bathrooms for both men and women. However, in the women’s bathroom, there were no women hygiene waste containers in the bathroom stalls! I literally had to wrap my used products up in toilet paper and try to sneakily make it to where there was a garbage can located near the sinks.

      Reading the section about women’s experiences having periods in prison is outrageous. Like you said, how can women afford to buy tampons?? They have no job, they are literally stuck in jail. The 1 pad a day is sick and disgusting. These regulations had to be made by a man (or men) because there is no way another woman who has been through that experience would ever make that the rule. I was so infuriated when I read that if women bled through their uniforms that they could be punished. No woman would ever want another human-being to see that they bled through an article of clothing; having done it myself, I know how embarrassing and humiliating it feels.

      I feel like if men could ever experience a period themselves, that they would never have these rules or regulations. I used to quite frequently watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians (I know, not my proudest moment). But it was funny because in one of the episodes, Rob was making fun of one of his sisters who was on her period. She was having cramps so she didn’t really feel like doing much, and Rob thought she was being a cry baby. Well it turns out that the sister got a physical therapist to come over to the house and bring a machine which simulates contractions like those of cramps. They hooked the machine up near Rob’s inner thighs and once it started, his smile quickly faded and instead you could see a tense, painful expression across his face. Once it ended, he admitted that cramps are no joke and that he now respected females and could feel and sympathize for women who are on their periods.

    • Blog #3, Comment #5
      Thanks for your thoughtful post, I really enjoyed reading it. This is the first time I know about this, our menstrual hygiene products considered as “luxury” items and taxed higher than others WOW!!.
      You are right about religious taboos in Islam. Muslim women and girls don’t have to participate in prayers, touching a Quran, and fasting during Ramadan which is the holy month of the year in the Islamic faith while on their periods because they are considered less “pure” while menstruating. However, the notion of cleanliness does not mean a woman is spiritually impure when we have period. I just want to mention there is no stigma surrounding our periods to make us as Muslim women feel dirty and ashamed. The rules surrounding periods are not intended to make us spiritually unequal or marginalized. Making female feel ashamed and bad is wrong and has no place in Islam. This is a natural bodily function during the holy month and other months.
      Also, we are not the only group to abstain from fasting. There are other groups such as pregnant, physical, mental illness or sick people, elderly, travelers, and anyone their lives are threatened if they don’t break the fast.
      To be honest, my mum has taught me how to use pads and dealing with the blood, but she did not tell me it is ok to talk about my period or even to eat and drink during the Ramadan fast when my father and brothers are present.
      Finally, menstruating is a totally natural human process in all female lives in my religion and others. Also, I think the social stigma surrounding periods is a lack of access to safe and affordable menstrual hygiene management resources.


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