Sunday, January 16, 2022

What is Menstrual Equity and why does it matter?

It's happened to a lot of menstruating women: you're going about your business until you realize you've just gotten your period. You feel scared, vulnerable, and exposed as you race to find a restroom and wish fervently that you packed a menstruation product. This is exacerbated by the fact that our society stigmatizes menstruation — or, for that matter, anything having to do with a uterus — and these discussions are shrouded in secrecy.

Period supplies

If you're one of the almost 22 million women living in poverty in the United States who can't afford menstrual hygiene supplies, you're living in period poverty. According to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 64% of women have ever had trouble purchasing period items like pads, tampons, or reusable goods like menstrual cups. In addition, 21% said they couldn't afford these things on a monthly basis. People who are homeless or incarcerated are more vulnerable to not having enough menstrual hygiene supplies.

Why are period (menstruation) products a luxury?

Menstruation is an unavoidable part of life. Menstrual hygiene items should be considered as essentials rather than luxuries. Unfortunately, menstrual products are not covered by food stamps or the WIC (women, infants, and children) program subsidies for groceries.

Patients have told me that they can't afford menstruation products, so they use toilet paper or paper towels instead of pads or tampons. People who have heavy periods and need to change their pads or tampons frequently experience financial difficulties since they need to buy more pads or tampons than the average menstrual person. They may have vulvar irritation and vaginal discomfort if they try to extend the life of items by using them for many hours at a time. They may also be more susceptible to toxic shock syndrome, a potentially fatal infection.

Why is it vital to talk about period (menstruation) stigma?

To understand and address the issues people confront when it comes to access to menstrual hygiene products, we need to eliminate the stigma around menstruation. Poverty is a reality. Period equity should also be genuine. Embarrassment or taboos may hinder people from speaking up for themselves, but if that stigma is lifted — or even alleviated — we can move forward as a society to fulfil the needs of half of our population. When half of the population suffers financial and physical hardship as a result of the reproductive cycle required to guarantee human survival, there is no equity.

What can we do about period (menstruation) poverty?

Period poverty can be solved with ease. The first is to remove the VAT on menstruation products from the equation. Consider this: just as food is not taxed since it is a necessity for all of us, menstruation products should not be taxed. To reduce waste from individually wrapped pads and tampons, reusable products such as menstruation cups or underwear should be subsidized and their use encouraged. More women may choose these goods if they are known, promoted, and inexpensive. In schools and federal institutions, free pads and tampons should be offered (note: automatic download).

Finally, you have the option to take action by writing or calling your legislators. Representative Grace Meng introduced the Menstrual Equity For All Act of 2019, which was introduced on March 26, 2019, but never received a vote. There is no clear reason why this bill, which would provide free menstrual hygiene supplies to homeless individuals, incarcerated persons, students, and government employees, was never brought up for a vote. America is one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, and a lack of menstrual hygiene supplies should never prevent someone from working or attending school. It's past time for persons with uteruses to be treated as second-class citizens.


Menstrual products

Istock photo and Unsplash photo


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