Menstrual Products should be Free Periodt
By Christina Vo, Youth Advisory Council member
Christina Vo is a 16-year old youth advocate from San Jose, California who is full of curiosity and passion for social justice through amplifying voices, speaking out, and creating change.
School bathrooms stock products, such as toilet paper, soap, and paper towels, but don’t provide another basic necessity: menstrual products. One in every 5 girls in the US have either left school early or missed school entirely due to a lack of access to period products. Period poverty is an issue seen in schools from the lack of menstrual products being provided in girls and gender-neutral bathrooms to how menstrual products are seen as a luxury, not as a necessity. Having the provision of free menstrual products in every K-12 school’s bathrooms will not only ensure that every menstruator gets access to a basic need easily, but an issue of economics, equity, and basic needs are being met.
There are countless stories of high school girls who skipped school in fear of being taunted because they couldn’t afford sanitary products…
Menstrual products is a basic necessity for menstruators but is yet expensive! Assembly Member Cristina Garcia states that women in California pay about $7 per month for tampons and pads up until they are 40 years old. In total, that accounts for about $300! 1 in 5 teens can’t afford menstrual products in the United States. For these teens, this menstrual inequity can result in stress, missed class time, risks of infection, and other devastating repercussions, per the survey. Keeping a pad or tampon on for too long can render people vulnerable to infection and toxic shock syndrome (TSS). The study, commissioned by Thinx, also found that one in four teens has missed part or all of a class because they were unable to access necessary period products. According to the survey from Thinx and PERIOD, a lack of access to period products contributes to increased stigma around menstruation, lower rates of classroom productivity, and increased stress for students who already have so much on their plates. The study also found that despite the pervasiveness of menstrual inequity, 83% of the teens surveyed feel that this lack of access to menstrual hygiene products is not sufficiently discussed or addressed in the classroom. In general, menstruating unexpectedly at work or school is a disruptive, stressful experience that adversely affects productivity due to the anxiety encompassing the lack of necessary menstrual hygiene products. There are countless stories of high school girls who skipped school in fear of being taunted because they couldn’t afford sanitary products or how the girls were scared of what was happening to their bodies.
“Some may have to choose between food and prescription drugs,” Beninato said. “Some, the pads or food. So, which is it today? If I’m very short on money, what should it be? Food? Lunch? Or get the pad?” stated by Chicago native Faustina Beninato, a high schooler from Chicago Public Schools.
“When I went on my period, I started taking time off school because I didn’t know what was actually going on with my body. That made my attendance really low and I was getting in trouble, “stated by Nadya Okamoto, director and co-founder of PERIOD
Stories like these are proof that this problem is more drastic than we think! No student should ever have to choose between food or menstrual products. No student should miss schools because of their period. No student should be denied access to a basic need! The simple problem to this solution is stocking free menstrual products in girls and gender-neutral bathrooms at schools. And this is possible, because it has been implemented in many schools already! According to Vox, New York City passed a law that provides schools, jails, and shelters in the city with free tampons and pads. Schools that participated in a pilot project in 2015-16 that provided menstrual products for free saw a 2.4% increase in attendance. (include source) Several colleges, including Brown University and UCLA, stock their bathrooms with free menstrual products from Newsweek Magazine. Through executing this implementation, it increases productivity in attendance and classes, creates a safe and caring space for all menstruators on school campus, show respect to the LGBTQ+ community by properly filling in the menstrual products in the gender-neutral restrooms every time it runs out too, decreases stigma about menstruation. The fact that easily accessible menstrual products, pads, and tampons, in every girl and gender-neutral bathrooms on campus has not been made into a mandatory law in each and every state is only contributing to the period poverty at schools and creating even more stigma around the idea that people have a monthly period!
No young menstruator should have to face losing class time because she cannot afford or even access feminine hygiene products.
It’s absolutely pathetic how we punish young girls for skipping school solely because they have no access to simple necessities. The way the school and government choose to deal with issues such as these shows how we condemn this type of behavior. No young menstruator should have to face losing class time because she cannot afford or even access feminine hygiene products. Providing menstruators with pads and tampons in schools will help them stay focused on their learning and send a message about how much we truly respect the health of our students. School is a safe space, a place where students should feel comfortable and accepted. For a person that menstruates the act of giving them free and inclusive necessities is very important. All menstruators should have easy access to products such as pads and tampons. By allowing students at schools easy access to menstrual products, the student body is told that their voices are heard. The school Administration shows their students that they care enough about them to provide them with basic necessities in every girl and gender-neutral bathroom. In order for this to happen, we must demand that this is a crucial implementation that needs to be passed which can start by gathering a group of passionate people to advocate this to your school administration, surveying your student body to gather quotes and testimonies, or talking to your school based health center about supporting this implementation and educating yourself on the negative detriments of lack of menstrual products at school. It’s the time of the month for schools to stock menstrual products in all girls and gender-neutral bathrooms. Because periods are not a luxury. Period.