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The ‘M’ Word: The Taboo Around Menstruation

Throughout generations, taboos have crippled individuals and led to detrimental effects on all of society. Menstruation is one of these taboos, one so stigmatized it might be better known as a “period” or “that time of the month.” People have come up with many different names to avoid calling it what it is: menstruation. This natural monthly event has been a source of embarrassment for women for generations: the whispering to the teacher that you have “lady problems” when asked why you took so long in the bathroom, the constant checking if you bled through your pants, being questioned if it’s your time of the month when you are mad. The taboo around menstruation can cause more than embarrassment and discomfort; it can also have more damaging impacts on individuals.

The effect of the taboo against menstruation affects many young women all around the world. Many women are ashamed to be on their period and try to be as discreet as possible to make it seem as if they are not. This especially affects women in low-income families or single-parent households according to BBC writer, Ali Gordon, who writes that “137,000 girls in the UK miss school each year because of a lack of access to sanitary products.” Girls in a single-family household with only a father can be too ashamed to ask him to get them the products they need, which can lead to the individual not having the proper channels to ask someone how to use certain products—or any other questions they have. Additionally, there is a financial aspect to consider; there are many girls who simply cannot afford sanitary products, and do not want to ask their parents for products. 

In Gordon’s article, one of the interviewees recounts a story of a woman being arrested. This woman “wanted money for tampons but was too embarrassed to ask, so this led to her stealing tampons and getting arrested.” The interviewee posed the question, “What is less dignified, ‘stealing tampons or not having any at all?’

These financial struggles are only exacerbated through the pink tax. Carolyn B. Maloney, the U.S. representative for New York’s 12th congressional district, defines the Pink Tax as a term coined to explain a “markup on goods and services marketed to women” and the special tax placed on them. According to Samantha Anthony, a writer for the UMKC Women’s Center, this tax heavily affects menstruation products. There is a nine percent sales tax on feminine hygiene products, referred to as the tampon tax, as a subset of the Pink tax. The tampon tax proves disadvantageous for women all over the United States but can be seen globally as well. Due to many women bringing this gender discrimination into light, many states are getting rid of this unfair tax.

If we really want to destigmatize menstruation, the change must start in the individual. People need to change their perspective of menstruation from something that they shy away from to something that empowers them instead.

Amreen is a sophomore on the Pre-Law track with a major in Political Science and Economics. Amreen was born in Dallas, Texas but calls Kansas her home. She loves to write about her life and her personal view of the world around her!
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