Let's Talk About Periods: An In-Depth Look at Menstrual Equality

During this year’s Oscars, the best documentary short went to Period. End of Sentence. The all-women masterminds behind the documentary exclaimed on national TV, “A movie about menstrual equality just won an Oscar.” Period follows a small village in India as women and girls join together to fight the taboo of menstruation. For me, I was so ecstatic that such a progressive movie had won an Oscar. However, my roommate was confused, as she did not know what menstrual equality was. It was in that moment I realized that many people are unaware of what menstrual equality is and how it affects nearly 25 million women who live below the poverty line in the U.S.—this is not just a problem that affects women in countries like India.

According to the New York Times, Menstrual Equality refers to the equal access to hygiene products, but also to education about reproductive health. Most of the time we do not realize that we take for granted every time we go into our bathroom to grab a pad or tampon. Many of us remember when we were in middle school getting sex education lessons during health class. However, that is not the case for most women. A lot of families have to decide between getting food for their family or buying feminine hygiene goods for the women in their families. We already know what they choose each and every time. What makes it harder for families and women in the U.S. is that 35 states in the U.S. have a tax on period solutions products (pads, tampons, etc.) because they are considered “non-essential goods”. However, products like Rogaine and Viagra are not taxed. We see the issue here. If you got your period in high school and none of your friends had extra pads or tampons with them, you would have to pay 50 cents for a feminine product. It blows my mind how I didn’t realize what the purpose was of charging me for a pad.

The sad outcome of this issue is that nearly one in five American girls have left school early or missed school completely due to the fact that they didn’t have access to period products. Young girls missing school can lead to missed opportunities and a drop in confidence. When watching Period, one of the girls was describing how she was missing so much school that she ultimately withdrew from school all together. I couldn’t imagine missing school due to my period. I have learned to come to terms with the fact that I am a privileged female when it comes to buying feminine goods.

There have been strides in the fight for equal access to menstrual products. Many states have laws that mandate access to menstrual products in correctional facilities, shelters, and schools. There are bills being created to fight menstrual equality, such as requiring companies with more than 100 employees to provide feminine goods. New York, Illinois, Florida and Connecticut have abolished sales tax on menstrual products. Two dozen state lawmakers have introduced bills to abolish the tax too.  Companies like Always are jumping on the cause too and have started a campaign that focuses on ending period poverty by dontating feminine goods. So far, they have donated over 100 million pads.

Menstrual equality isn’t going to end overnight. This is just the start of the battle. It is up to us to stay aware and stay informed. You never know the next time you give somebody a feminine good that you may be helping them out in the long run.

Period. End of Sentence can be found on Netflix.

To learn more check out: https://www.periodequity.org/