That time of the month that we all experience is one hell of a ride every time we have it. Our periods, our menstrual cycles, whatever you want to call it are a natural part of how the female reproductive system works. An egg drops into our uterus, it doesn’t get fertilized, and we have a few days of cramps, bloating, and a crimson wave. Not only does this time of the month take us out for a few days, but it also costs quite a bit of money. According to the Huffington Post, your period could cost you upwards of $20,000 over your lifetime. On top of this, these products also have taxed them. But not all of us can even afford period products.
Period poverty, or the limited access to menstrual products because of financial hardship, significantly affects marginalized communities like women, transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, people of color, the homeless, the incarcerated, and people living in shelters. The pandemic has not made it any easier either. In fact, according to Healthy Women, 1 in 3 parents are worried about their ability to afford period products, now and in the future. Not being able to afford period products can affect the ability to go to work. That contributes to a loss of income.
Period poverty is an issue that can affect an entire family. From the parents to their children who have menstrual cycles. Many adolescents do not have access to these products. Because of this, their access to sports, socializing, and spending time outside of the home is limited. This can lead to social isolation, anxiety, and depression. According to the co-founder of Period Equity, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, period poverty also causes stress because there is such a stigma around talking about periods as well. It’s still embarrassing, depressing, and is a cause of anxiety. We need to drastically change how we look at period products. They have taxes on them, they’re too expensive, and an all too necessary form of care. This is a natural process, like everything else in healthcare. We should be able to affordably access the care required for this part of our body.
Why COVID-19 Has Made Period Poverty Worse
Those who are from marginalized communities are being significantly affected by the pandemic. This is happening at higher rates than normal. If we’re struggling to pay rent, food, utilities, how are people able to pay for the menstrual products that are necessary for them? According to Healthy Women, period products are actually classified as luxury products and not essential, so they’re not tax-exempt. Low-income families who qualify for Medicaid and food assistance are not able to buy period products. They’re not covered by this type of government assistance. Only some states like California and New York require schools to provide free products but they’re actually only available in the nurse’s office, and only for emergencies.
The reform needs to happen ASAP. It’s not fair that marginalized communities have to miss school, work, and pay taxes on period products. They are a basic human need, they’re essential, and it’s unbelievable that this is still happening. It’s something that our country continues to ignore.