Problem. Period.

Problem. Period. Part 1 of 2 

Written by: Vicki Roberts-Gassler | Advocates for Women, News Group

Menstruation – It affects half the world: How can it be a problem? And yet – even in liberal countries of the developed world menstruation is a taboo subject. The taboo can be broken to comic effect: the movie scene where a husband buying pads or tampons for his wife wilts in embarrassment as the cashier asks for a price check over the loudspeaker, letting the whole store know what he’s buying. We laugh, but the taboo remains. A friend’s son does not want to know that his daughter is beginning to menstruate. If taught in school, the subject is sometimes taught only to separate sex groups.

Some families do celebrate their girls becoming women with private ceremonies, but we’ve lost the rituals of our distant past which might have welcomed girls into womanhood. Instead, there is shame. I remember my mother teaching me to dispose of used pads privately, because heaven forbid my brothers should realize I was menstruating. White clothing was out – what if a period started, stained your clothing, and the whole world found out? Such an accident could ruin a girl socially; we might have known that girl, or even been her.

In Washington State comprehensive sex education in the schools starts with consent at an early age. Middle school and high school courses cover menstruation in mixed sex groups.

The expense

Let’s think about the supplies involved. Tampons and pads are used once and then become waste. If we consider the supplies used over a few days a month by each woman for up to 40 years, that is quite a lot of resources and quite a lot of – garbage generated. Reusable menstrual cups – new to some of us older women – cut down on waste, but they would not work under some conditions, because they require careful washing and drying, and therefore privacy. Reusable pads are sustainable, as long as one has access to laundry facilities.

And then there’s the cost of these supplies. In order to carry on their daily lives, girls and women from their teen years into middle age must buy pads or tampons, and in 30 states they are even taxed, as if they were luxury goods. It’s a non-negligible expense. When Washington State eliminated this sales tax on menstrual products last year, it was estimated that it would save $3 million dollars a year for the women and girls who must purchase these items. That’s just the sales tax.

Now imagine what a homeless girl or woman goes through, with limited access to toilets and to waste disposal. Poor women cannot afford the products, tax or no tax; are they to decide between menstrual products and food? As this informative article points out ‘It cannot be this way’: What is period poverty and how to solve it ( there’s period poverty in our own country; girls actually stay home from school because they cannot afford to buy menstrual supplies. For Washington State this problem should be eliminated for school kids in 2022-23 when schools will be required to supply pads and tampons in all gender-neutral and female restrooms Washington school to provide free menstrual products by 2022 | but only a handful of states have such laws.

Part 2 of Problem. Period. coming soon…