We have all experienced it before. Whether it is a comment made by a male co-worker, a boyfriend, a peer, a friend, a family member… the slight change in a mood, irritability, or any sign of emotion apparently only means one thing to men: you are on your period.
Now just for fun, let’s say in this hypothetical situation, an insensitive man does say a rude comment, and he is correct, you are on your period. Do not get me wrong, no one is debating that when it is your time of the month we are more “in tune” with our emotions, to put it lightly. Perhaps that is due to the varying levels of hormones and estrogen pulsating throughout our bodies that have psychological effects on our moods. Perhaps it is due to the physical symptoms such as cramping, bloating, nausea or dizziness that leave us in a constant state of discomfort. Or perhaps, it’s because while we’re combatting these physical and mental effects, and possibly even being subjected to demeaning comments for being unhappy with said effects, we are also frustrated by the lack of health care surrounding menstrual care.
Trust me, no one asked for an uncomfortable week-long monthly reminder that we are women. Regardless, we have to deal with it, in part by purchasing pricy feminine hygiene products, an economic effect that is only felt by women. Across the country food, prescription medications and other basic necessities are free from sales tax, but according to the Global Citizen, of the 45 states that impish sales tax a mere 7 — Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania — except pads and tampons. For lowest income Americans, that is a big deal. For reference, in Virginia, public assistance recipients receive as little as $175 a month, or just 2,100 a year. At the same time, jezebel.com estimates that women spend about $61 a year on items to prevent free-bleeding. If you do that math, that means women who receive public assistance in Virginia might have to devote roughly 3% of their annual income to purchase feminine hygiene products.
Further, birth control is oftentimes marketed as a way to combat and help regulate some of the negative effects imposed by periods, but access to birth control can depend on your socioeconomic status. For reference, the birth control pill, a common use of birth control, is estimated by the American Pregnancy Association to cost anywhere from $20 – $800 annually, depending on medical coverage and pill costs, which factors in the monthly 28-pill package and the initial physical exam with a physician to start the pill.
And this is far from a U.S. issue, but is instead a worldwide problem, as an estimated 1.2 billion women lack basic menstrual sanitation and hygiene, which in turn risks their physical health as well as their futures when they are absent from school or work opportunities. This epidemic is so concerning, in fact, that the United Nations recognized menstrual hygiene, or the lack thereof, as a public health and human rights issue, and is set to be put on the 2030 agenda.
So, fellas, the next time you are thinking about making a snide remark about a period to your sister, girlfriend, or female co-worker, think again. Think about the possible mental and physical effects she might already be going through. Think about the money she has had to allocate to this cause— money that you will never have to think about simply by being a man. Finally, think about the women, both nationwide and internationally battling all of this oftentimes in silence, only to be met with the ignorance you choose to vocalize.