In the spirit of #InternationalDayofTheGirl, great strides are being made in the “mother nature” department. Aunt Flo, your monthly gift, your cycle, your period, or whatever else you may call it to appease the squeamish men (or women) in your life, your menstrual cycle is NO secret in women federal prisons.
Older white men on capital hill have been overly fascinated with the ovaries of women for decades, tying red tape around our fallopian tubes all the way to our cervixes (as if there wasn’t enough chaos there already). However, a new memo was passed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons that requires all federal facilities that house female inmates to make two sizes of tampons, two sizes of maxi pads, and panty liners available, free of charge.
“Wardens have the responsibility to ensure female hygiene products such as tampons or pads are made available for free in sufficient frequency and number”
-Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman, Justin Long
For some background, imagine this. It is fall 2017 at James Madison University, you walk into a bathroom on main campus after class and you see a large silver box….. you squint, bat your eyes and yes, you’re seeing correctly; It is a free maxi pad and tampon dispenser. In the 109 years of James Madison University, this has never been done before. Providing women with free hygiene products on campus, was revolutionary, sparking attention on social media and print articles alike. Meanwhile, the health center offers fifty odd condoms in their assortment of flavors, textures, and sizes for free and has been doing so since about 1995. Now imagine being in a female prison, where you must relieve yourself in front of your counterparts, being on your menstrual cycle, and having to choose between pads and calling your children.
Well for former inmate ‘James’ that was her reality for the 18 months that she served in a federal prison in Connecticut. Only one kind of pad was offered to female inmates, and a small selection was offered at the commissary for additional money. With a wage of 12 cents an hour as James notes, female inmates were forced to make a choice.
James’ reality is still very unique, in some cases, tampons were not even offered in fear that the women would use the string for other purposes, forcing women to make their own tampons out of pads and other materials.
This memo sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee has made a great change already but will make more impact accompanying the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, as a law. This law, if passed, includes “an overhaul of visitation policies, a ban on shackling pregnant inmates or keeping them in solitary confinement, and a ban on charging inmates for phone calls.”
This mandate though not complete justice in the world of female equality in health, it is a great big step in the right direction. And in the essence of #InternationalDayofTheGirl, write your representative and tell them to get rid of the luxury tax on tampons. Because hygiene is not a luxury, and making legislation that helps serve women is the only kind of infatuation that we need from capital hill.
featured photo courtesy of Flickr.com