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Let's stop feeling uncomfortable about periods and make menstrual products free for all in the US

March 4, 2020

A stunning statistic that some might not know is that 100% percent of women will have a period at some point over there lifetimes, and more likely than not they will experience over one hundred. Women make up 49% of the entire world population and yet a woman’s period is something that is considered taboo by many cultures. 

As a young woman, I’ve experienced people’s uncomfortable responses to periods for a good portion of my life. I’ve also suffered from the stigma that surrounds them. From it’s male classmates asking me if I’m in a bad mood because of my period, to my fear of asking my teacher to go to the bathroom to change my pad periods have been an inescapable and sometimes embarrassing fact of my life. The most striking memory, however, is the time two boys in my gym class played catch with my unopened pad, while the rest of my class watched in horror; not at what they were doing but at what was in their hands. I wonder if these views are because of the lack of education that both boys and girls get on menstrual cycles or the attitudes that men are taught from childhood to have towards periods. To think of women who have them as gross, or weird or angry for no other reason than a hormonal imbalance. Today, I am angry not because I am on my period but because the stigma around periods has real consequences for real women. It’s time that we pay attention to this issue. 

Access to a tampon or other hygiene product means the difference between being able to go to school or go to work for women and girls. Partially due to the stigma put on periods by society, simply asking for a tampon is not an option for these women and girls who don't have them readily available to them at home. According to a recent study cited by CNN, in the United States, one-in-four teen girls are unable to attend classes due to a lack of access to menstrual products while one-in-five struggled to afford to purchase products or are unable to at all. 

The reason why they cannot access these products is simply that they are too expensive. In thirty-five states tampons are seen as “luxury items,” meaning they are not basic necessities and are therefore taxed the same amount of sales tax as a normal item. Some examples of things that are exempt from sales taxes are toilet paper, prescription drugs, and groceries.  If states exempt items that people cannot live without on a daily basis, then why aren’t tampons included? Women cannot control their periods, prevent them from happening or do anything that would make it so that they do not need a supply of tampons every single month. Not taxing products like Viagra, which is exclusively used by men, but taxing tampons is clearly a sexist action on behalf of the states and needs to be ended immediately. 

Over the course of there reproductive lifetimes, women will spend an estimated extra 1,700 dollars on tampon products alone. This number is only a baseline, as the price can go higher depending on the brand, and the local prices in the area where the woman lives. When women in the United States make 82 cents to every dollar that a man makes, sometimes less, this is not a price that some women can afford to pay. Taxing tampons increases the price and prevents women from accessing the products they truly cannot live without. 

But getting rid of the taxes is only the first step. 

To allow all women the products they deserve, menstrual hygiene products need to be for every woman in the united states. As Scotland becomes poised to be the first country in the world to offer free menstrual products to every one of its female citizens it’s time to take a serious look at implementing that here in the United States. While women in prison have access to menstrual products and have since 2018 they are limited to only a certain amount, women in public colleges and schools in the U.S do not have access to free products, which they would if they lived in Scotland or England. Why is it that countries in Europe are able to provide free tampons when the United States can’t even remove the tax on these essential items? 

In order to remove the tampon tax and transition to free tampons for all the first thing we need is to educate everyone about a women’s menstrual cycle. So many people are grossly uneducated, and fail to understand basic facts about how the cycle works that it’s impossible to have a conversation about it. Once we’ve educated the male population we can open up a discussion about a women’s right to have access to the products she can’t live without. Maybe this conversation can lead to the passage of bills like the Menstrual Equity for All Act which would allow states to use federal grants to provide free products in schools and require government health insurance through Medicaid to cover period products. 

Through conversations and legislation, we can begin to pull away from the curtain of stigma surrounding a women’s period. It is time for the voices of women to be heard instead of shut down by the sexist standards that society has placed on us. This will prevent millions of young girls from having to feel embarrassed about peropds to be able to be comfortbale and have pride in there bodes. 
Okamoto, Nadya. “Opinion: The Cost of Tampons Is Hurting Low-Income Girls. Let's Fix That.” CNN. Cable News Network, October 21, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/21/perspectives/period-poverty-menstrual-products/index.html.

Kane, Jessica. “This Is The Price Of Your Period.” HuffPost. HuffPost, December 7, 2017. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/period-cost-lifetime_n_7258780.

Zraick, Karen. “22 States Considered Eliminating the 'Tampon Tax' This Year. Here's What Happened.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 12, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/12/us/tampon-tax.html.

Wamsley, Laurel. “Scotland Poised To Become 1st Country To Make Period Products Free.” NPR. NPR, February 27, 2020. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/27/809990550/scotland-poised-to-become-1st-country-to-make-period-products-free.

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1 Comment
  • luluwrites111

    SOMEONE SAID IT! No actually, this is very important, thank you. I see a lot of essays focusing on feminism which is PERFECT but you can write whole essays on different aspects of feminism as well (sex ed, periods, abortion, catcalling, harassment, rape, societal roles, representation, etc) as you have so nicely done here.


    about 1 year ago