Women’s health is growing more political

The fight to ensure that all can afford menstrual products


Cameron Bessette, Reporter

According to Dr. Kristen Mattheson, of the University of Arizona, the average woman has her period from three to seven days per month from age thirteen to age fifty-one. That means that the average woman will have 456 periods over 38 years. That is an average of 2,535 days of her life, or 6.25 years spent menstruating. Nearly seven years’ time of making sure they have a pad or tampon, finding a makeshift solution if they don’t, and managing pain and discomfort.

For many years, menstruation was considered to be taboo. Women and girls lacked formal education on the subject and were often socially shunned for this natural biological process.

After recounting a time when she bled through her shorts at her male friend’s house, senior Maddy Taylor (real name withheld) explained, “Lots of girls seem to think they have to treat their period like some sort of Mission Impossible thing. We sneak around, whisper for tampons and cry when our guy friends find out. Even though we get to do things while we’re on them when other women were banned from that before, it’s still kind of a subject no one wants to talk about.”

However, women (as well as transgender and nonbinary individuals who menstruate) have been starting to talk about their periods in public. There are new products and services on the market, from menstrual cups to period underwear and ‘period coaches’ who are experts that educate and guide women towards individualized ways to endure their period better, particularly if it is irregular or complicated.

Advocates worldwide are clamoring that women should be allowed to manage this piece of their life with dignity.

A member of Britain’s Parliament announced in the House of Commons that she was menstruating, to make a point about ‘period poverty’, which she defined as “poor menstrual knowledge and access to sanitary products.”

A New York congressman recently got into a spat with House administrators over whether he could expense $37.16 worth of tampons for his staff and visitors.

India eliminated a controversial 12 percent tax on sanitary pads after a campaign by advocacy groups and celebrities. Canada also abolished a sales tax on such products in 2015.

Despite all of this progress, many people are ignorant of what women’s health advocates are fighting for.

“Period Equity” is a United States organization fighting for menstrual equity. Period Equity’s purpose statement is “In order to have a fully equitable society, we must have laws and policies that take into account the reality that half the population menstruates. Menstrual products should be tax-exempt. They should be affordable and available for all, safe for our bodies and the planet. Periods should not hold anyone back, period.”

Despite the enormous improvements made by advocates such as the two prison reform bills that passed the Senate and led to the Justice Department directing federal prisons to provide inmates with free menstrual products in 2017 or the abolishment of the luxury tax on hygiene products in 15 states, not including Utah, the world  still has a long way to come in terms of women’s health.

Many women worldwide either lack access or the ability to pay for hygiene products. Periods are expensive, costing the average US woman $18,171 in their lifetime according to Jessica Kane of the Huffington Post and the longstanding historical stigma against them is still present and active.