Alissa Portillo

Opinions Editor

Let’s talk period talk. A major part of having a menstrual cycle is obtaining menstrual hygienic products and the proper education on how to use them. When someone has their period, they are in need of products like tampons, pads, and wipes to maintain a healthy and clean flow, as well as vaginal cleanliness. Not just this, but when someone starts their menstrual cycle, they should also already have the educational information needed to understand what occurs within the body and how it impacts them. This is important; what must be done to support people who have periods is to have these hygienic products and education accessible to everyone. Educational institutions and workplaces should not charge anything in order to have access to their products in case of a menstrual emergency. School districts should plan to incorporate a class or program for girls to learn about their periods and how it will impact their bodies and development. There should be no surprise for these girls the day that they start their menstrual cycles because they should be adequately prepared. 

However, some of these systems are failing the people of today. Period poverty is defined as inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including but not limited to, sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management. As mentioned before, some institutions are charging access to these products. These institutions are forgetful that at times women endure a period emergency, or they also may lack access to these products. Elementary and middle schools do not implement enough strategies to teach adolescents the importance of their periods and how to go along with the processes and development once they start their cycle for the first time. But most importantly, many may fall prey to the capitalistic tendencies of the economy by needing to purchase these necessities concerning their menstrual cycles. They should not be charged for these products if our menstrual cycles are unavoidable. 

Firstly, educational classes for children that elaborate on the natural processes of their menstrual cycle should be implemented within the middle childhood to adolescent years. Elementary and middle schools should provide their young students with the opportunity to learn more about their periods and what is to come. According to Nemours Kids Health, it was stated that “[m]ost girls get their first period when they’re between 10 and 15 years old. The average age is 12, but every girl’s body has its own schedule.” This is why it is important to teach these young children the importance of their cycles since it is during middle childhood and adolescence that most will typically get their first period. Although, it could be sooner than 10 years, which still highlights the need to elaborate on the development in puberty. 

If an adolescent should get their very first period with very little knowledge, then the child could possibly become confused and fearful that something wrong is happening to them. The significance of teachers implementing this knowledge in the classroom is beneficial. The UNICEF expressed, “As a teacher, you have a wonderful opportunity to prepare the girls in your class for their monthly period. Teaching a girl about menstruation before she has her first period is the best way to make sure she knows what will happen, explain why she should not be scared, and ensure she can keep coming to class. It’s also a great time to combat social taboos and false information about menstruation that can hurt a girl’s well-being.”

Unfortunately, the hygienic products needed to maintain a healthy living are being highly charged and taxed, sometimes making it difficult to have access to purchasing what should be given for free. As Clare Pfeiffer, a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the tampon tax, stated, “Period products are not a luxury item!”

The tampon tax phenomenon emphasizes that monthly essentials are contributing millions of dollars from the taxed rates, while some are struggling to afford these products in the first place. It was stated, “[t]he average person who menstruates spends about $1,773 on period products in their lifetime. But a portion of that spending on menstrual products could be avoided if governments recognized sanitary pads and tampons as necessary items instead of classing them as luxury goods.” Not just this, but the tampon tax “places an additional burden on people who menstruate and discriminates against them by making items crucial for everyday life unaffordable for some.” This means that families experiencing low economic standing are primarily affected by the tampon tax. Considering further, should a family have multiple daughters then the financial burden will rise if they cannot afford these mandatory products for their children. 

Furthermore, it was also stated that “[t]here are currently 30 states in which period products are subject to a sales tax. States collectively make over $150 million annually from taxing menstrual products.” These statistics show the harm that is made to individuals who fall prey to economic welfare as a result of their natural processes of the menstrual cycle. 

Many institutions and workplaces are charging people for access to these products. Global Citizen explains that “[a]round the world, 800 million people are on their periods at any given moment and it’s estimated that 500 million people live without access to adequate menstrual hygiene. Many of them end up resorting to unsafe materials to manage their periods because their schools or workplaces don’t yet provide free menstrual products.” This knowledge shows the importance of providing free products in schools and the workplace because these institutions do not help the individuals in their space, but rather cause further harm. This can lead to these people depending on unsanitary and unsafe products to use during their menstrual cycles. The female community is being put into difficult situations when they should be supported instead. 

Some states and countries have heard voices rallying against the tampon tax. It was said, “[w]ith female political leaders putting a spotlight on women’s health needs, countries around the globe are devising policies to make these products more accessible…Last November, Scotland became the first country to make period products free for all, meaning local authorities are mandated to ensure anyone who needs them can access them.” 

Luckily, Whittier College has put an end to charging women for access to use hygienic products when it comes to their menstrual cycle. Initially, there was a cost of 25 cents to obtain tampons or pads in the restrooms around campus, which were found in the machines in the college’s restrooms. Now, when you walk into a women’s restroom, there are tampons and pads provided for free. With this, students have easy and ready access to period products. There are also hygienic products available in gender-neutral restrooms, which is another valuable thing for the campus.

There have been steps made to ensure individuals are heard and seen concerning this matter, but the United States still has a long way to go. Until there is free access to hygienic products for periods and more educational opportunities, then many will continue to be preyed upon because of their menstrual cycle, earning the government extra tax dollars. If there is no change now, our future community will continue to be impacted by the tampon tax and be forced to endure period poverty. 

Photo Courtesy Of Sage Amdahl

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