But, Menstrual Pads Are For Women! …Aren’t They? (Part 3 —REAL Problems, REAL Feminism)
True Feminism is NOT about transphobic dog whistles. It’s about removing body shame, and abundant access to menstrual care. #ME4All
This is a three-part article, and it’ll make more sense if you read the previous two parts. [Read Part 1: “The War of the Sexes”] [Read Part 2: “Moving Away from Gender Stereotypes”]
Now, Let’s Focus on REAL Feminist Issues & Solutions
Instead of getting into petty battles or distributing the oppression (oppressing smaller minorities to feel better about our own), let’s look at REAL problems, and let’s look for REAL solutions.
Shrouded In Shame and Secrecy
There is one very tangible problem when it comes to periods. They’re meant to be invisible. They’re shrouded in body shame.
Among women, the topic of menstruation is candidly out in the open. “I’m about to get my period;” “I’m bleeding so much today!” “I have such bad cramps right now.” It’s a natural part of conversation. When men are around, this topic is never brought to the surface.
The euphemisms indicate the sense of secrecy and shame. “Your friend’s here, right?” “Aunt Flo is visiting,” “Checking into the Red Roof Inn.” And of course the old standard, “lady business.” Girls are taught that their menses is something embarrassing, taboo — something not to be talked about. This has got to stop.
Carmen Esposito brings this shame to light, and pokes fun at it, in this bit:
And this shame translates into actual financial costs.
The Effects of Patriarchy-Driven Body Shame
This shame translates into a ‘hush-hush’ culture that fails to acknowledge menstruation as a natural bodily function. In places where menstruating folk don’t have full agency, this can become traumatic. Some examples are: Puberty-age girls, enbies and trans boys in school; menstruating military personnel; women, enbies and trans men in shelters (gender non-conforming youth are at much higher risk of being homeless); women, enbies and trans men in prison (again, gender non-conforming youth are at much higher risk of incarceration); and the great American shame of our generation — women, enbies and trans men in border detention facilities.
The Financial Costs of Hush-Hush Culture
Each state in the United States decides what items should be exempt from sales tax. It’s usually food and medication. Tampons and pads are usually not tax-exempt. This is egregious in the face of some tax exemptions currently in place — such as potato chips, or gun club memberships in Wisconsin or Mardi Gras beads in New Orleans.
Tampons and pads are NOT considered to be a qualified medical expense by most healthcare plans; they’re not provided for free in schools, shelters or workplaces.
Imagine if toilet paper was not freely provided in public restrooms — if you had to purchase it with quarters (who carries quarters anymore??).
Incidentally, not long ago Always rallied with a campaign around this very topic.
The Menstrual Equity for All Act
Written in non-gendered language (the Bill refers to individuals, and does not limit the language to women), this House Resolution would make it mandatory that menstruation needs are provided for in Federal buildings, schools and shelters, that menstrual hygiene products are covered by Medicaid, and that workplaces with 100 employees or more provide these products free of charge to their employees.
National Period Day
This past Saturday Non-Profit PERIOD launched the first National Period Day to promote menstrual equity. There were rallies across the 50 states, with a special push toward the 35 states that still do not deem period products essential items. According to PERIOD’s founder and executive director Nadya Okamoto, four countries participated.
What You Can Do to Support Menstrual Equity
Here are some options for anyone wanting to support menstrual equity:
- Post a selfie or video of yourself explaining why you personally care about Menstrual Equity for All, and use the hashtag #ME4ALL. Tag @delunecare and @platformwomen on Instagram and they’ll make sure your voice is amplified.
- Write a letter to your own representative, asking them to vote yes on ME4All. You do not need to be an expert in politics to change policy or an expert in lobbying to change minds. You are an expert in you: the opportunities you’ve had, the struggles you’ve overcome and the barriers you still face. A handwritten note can go a long way with lawmakers. The letter is a chance for lawmakers to learn from you, their constituent, in your own words. *
- Sign up here to be notified by Platform of future lobby and advocacy days.
“Think of what we’d gain as a society if half of us no longer had to expend valuable energy on privately worrying about monthly menstrual health needs,” says Mimi Mallard, founder of De Lune period care products and period advocate. “More time spent focusing on education, self-determination, progress, and livelihood. Bleeding or not, let’s all come together to make menstrual equity the law of the land.”
* Some pro tips from Platform:
- Let your representative know they need to listen to you. Are you a voter and/or student in their district? Do you have other connections to the district?
- Next, tell them why you care — that’s your story. Why do you show up and speak out on menstrual health policy? Why are you taking the time to write this letter? Ask them to vote yes on ME4All.
- Close by letting them know you plan to stay active on this issue until change is realized.
- Finally, when addressing the envelope, refer to the lawmaker as “The Honorable (name).”