Let’s Talk Period Poverty

I feel like most people remember their first period. I was so excited to get mine when I was younger (..yikes). It was just because I was jealous of my older sister for getting hers, and of course I wanted it to be like her. I remember it being a huge ordeal if you got it at school, and it was embarrassing if you didn’t have any tampons or pads because you would have to go to the nurse to get one, and sometimes they sent people home.

Let’s get one thing straight: periods suck, and most people agree with that after even an hour of cramps. Though I find myself complaining a lot about my period, lately I have been very thankful for the position I’m in and that I have the privilege to reduce the discomfort of menstruating.

I can go to the store and get tampons whenever I’m out. I can get up after two hours and go to a bathroom that has a working toilet, sink, and wastebasket. I can take Midol if my cramps are flaring up. These things are a huge privilege, and unfortunately some people do not have that same privilege.

According to the American Medical Women’s Association, “period poverty refers to the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management. “

Period poverty is a huge issue, and everyone who has a period should have equal access to the appropriate products and washing facilities. What makes me more entitled to the use of tampons than other women who are going through the same thing? 

Periods are normally uncomfortable for me, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like for people who don’t have access to products like tampons or pads. According to Global Citizen, only 12% of people who menstruate in India have access to sanitary products, which results in people using rags and sawdust as an alternative. Sawdust. Literally. They use sawdust to absorb the blood. Oh the privilege we have…

Imagine getting your period and not knowing what it is, all you know is that a puddle of blood is coming out of your vagina.

Imagine using the same rag as a pad for the entire duration of your period.

Imagine missing a whole week of school because you would rather stay home than risk the embarrassment and shame attached to visible bleeding.

While these scenarios might be hard to imagine, they’re a reality for many people. And we need to address this problem.

The lack of access to products and education combined with the cultural stigma attached to periods results in some women being unable to participate in everyday routines like work, school, and everyday life to avoid embarrassment when on their period. 

Women should not have to skip school simply because others feel uncomfortable with the reality of periods. They should not feel this sense of shame attached to having their periods. Most importantly, everyone should have equal access to sanitary products and practices that promote reproductive health and proper hygiene.

If you want to help, you can donate to many organizations that are currently addressing this issue like period, freedom4girls, and dignity period.

JMU does have an organization on campus that addresses this issue. The organization is a local chapter of The Good Girl Movement. Check out their Instagram @GoodGirlsTakeJMU to contact them for more information.

Though JMU’s campus does have free tampons and pads in public restrooms, many public schools do not have the same privilege that we do. You can write to local and state representatives asking them to provide free tampons and pads at all publicly-funded schools. You can donate tampons, pads, medicine, heating pads, and other products to local homeless shelters or other local organizations that are addressing this issue.

You can recognize the privilege you have when on your period and educate others about it. Remember that having your period shouldn’t be shameful: it’s a bodily process that comes with having a uterus!

You should make others more comfortable with the realities of periods so that you do not have to go out of your way to make them more comfortable. So next time, take that tampon or pad out and don’t hide it, because periods are normal and they are NOT something to be ashamed of! It shouldn’t be this taboo topic that results in shaming people who have periods, because they are a normal bodily function.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been somewhere in public and go out of my way to hide the tampon I’m carrying when I get up to go to the bathroom. It’s not a secret that I have a uterus? Why should I hide the fact that I’m on my period as if it’s this mysterious thing that no one knows about?

Let’s work together to provide education and resources to others who may not have the same privilege that we do, and reduce the stigma and shame attached to periods.

Photography credits: This week’s blog post features images from local artist, Jason Starr. Jason is a fine art and fashion photographer based out of Virginia and Pennsylvania. Jason’s work is a reflection of life experiences, observations, and perceptions of the world. For more information, you can check out Jason’s website or Instagram @jasoncstarr. For inquiries, contact Jason at jasonstarr1999@gmail.com.

Resources:

American Medical Women’s Health Association

Global Citizen

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