Sarah Grace Goolden
In a landmark decision, Scotland is now close to being the first to make pads and tampons free and accessible. The Period Products (Free Provisions) Bill has passed through the first stage of three with no objections. If passed, menstrual products will be free to those who need them. While it is not often discussed, accessibility to period products is a huge problem for people all over the world. This is a long overdue decision that will hopefully wake up the rest of the world.
It’s not a secret that society wants to keep periods a secret. Although the world is comprised of billions of menstruating people, it is often a very taboo subject. Tampons are hidden discreetly in pockets. It is socially unacceptable to talk about cramps in public, lest someone hears and is disgusted by your normal body functions. Menstruating people have taught to suffer silently through the discomfort and awkwardness of monthly periods for the sake of others, usually men. Worse than this, many women don’t even have the privilege of having menstrual products at their disposal. This is a whole other layer of issues that stems from the stigma of periods.
For many homeless or impoverished women the decision to buy period products is a complicated one. If funds are tight, they may be spending all of their money on food, bills or items for their children. If funds are non-existent, period products can’t be a priority at all. How is this fair? Women and menstruating people cannot choose if they want to bleed or not. Otherwise, periods wouldn’t exist. No one chooses to menstruate and yet expensive products make it difficult to manage. Free condoms are available at college campuses, community centers and health centers. While this is also important, it begs the question: why not pads and tampons? People can choose to have sex; no one choose to menstruate.
It all boils down to the stigma around periods. Legislation has not been passed because “period” is a dirty word to a lot of people who would rather not think about the women struggling every month. Pads and tampons are not a luxury item. They are a basic hygiene necessity. The fact that this issue is not already resolved is sexist. If all men menstruated, this would have been nipped in the bud. But it’s primarily a women’s issue, which means it will go unaddressed for probably a very long time.
Period products should be free because no one can help bleeding every month. Eliminating the stigma against periods is a great start that we are currently very far away from. However, legislation is the only way we can truly remedy this great disservice to menstruating people. The rest of the world should follow in Scotland’s footsteps.