sanitary products

Period pains: wider issues in the sanitary products story

It’s been great to see huge public support for increasing access to sanitary items over the last couple of days. I believe we need to improve access to a range of sanitary products for people who can’t afford them. We know girls are missing school, women are missing work and social events, using paper and other uncomfortable substitutes because they can’t afford sanitary products. This is horrible.

I’m also in two minds about the discussion. I LOVE that there is so much public discussion of periods and bleeding. They are a normal part of life yet many people are still embarrassed by buying sanitary products, let alone saying they’ve got their period in a public setting. We don’t have the same shame about getting our haircut. This embarrassment is connected to a wider embarrassment or taboo about women’s bodies and sexuality brought to us by the missionary settlers. As a generalisation, that hasn’t served us very well.

I also like that there’s a discussion of the profits being made off menstruation; how our bodily functions generate money for big companies and the inherent financial disadvantage to people who menstruate.

But part of me is horrified that this conversation might demonstrate a profound acceptance of poverty. I do not accept that as a country with so much anyone should be in such poverty that they have to choose between food and power, a school trip or the doctors, rent or shoes for the kids, petrol or the bus fare to work or sanitary products. We can’t keep dealing with the individual items. There comes a point when we need to be honest. We are not looking after each other.

I support any initiative to lower the cost of and improve access to sanitary products, including moon cups, sanitary pads (especially the reusable ones) and tampons, but I don’t want to make this the answer to poverty. That is a much bigger question.