Meeting needs of menstruation

The Tower Editorial Board

For a planet that is 49.6 percent female, there is an overwhelming level of contention regarding the natural process of menstruation. Many people have periods, yet everyone has access to period products, nor are they all comfortable addressing and discussing period problems.

We at The Tower believe in striving for menstrual equity by increasing access to menstrual hygiene products and erasing the shame and embarrassment associated with periods. Although this conversation typically revolves around women, we acknowledge this issue also affects members of the transgender and nonbinary community. That said, with periods extending to multiple gender identities, resolving these problems should be prioritized.

According to State of the Period, a survey from Harris Poll of 1,000 US teens aged 13-19 who menstruate, 1 in 5 teens have struggled to afford period products or were not able to purchase them at all. This socioeconomic inequality intensifies the burden of menstruation, especially when inaccessibility diverts girls’ focus from class.

Illinois is one of three states, alongside California and New York, that require schools to provide menstrual hygiene products in womens’ restrooms. Illinois’ Public Act 100–0163 states that students who have access to quality menstrual products have the ability to continue through their school day with minimal interruption. It is important that girls have access to these essential products, and particularly in schools where they are expected to perform equivalently to those who are not menstruating.

More than 4 in 5 students have either missed class time or know someone who missed class time due to their period, according to State of the Period. With a maximum of ten absences per semester, this places girls at an even further disadvantage to their non-menstruating peers. When these accessibility issues exist in addition to psychological and physical pains such as menstrual cramps, periods negatively affect female students’ attendance and therefore their education.

We at the Tower recognize South’s stride to end period poverty, a term which refers to the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, by providing feminine products in one of the womens’ bathrooms. However, further steps could be made by placing these products in more bathrooms around the school and encouraging females to not be embarrassed of having a period.

Health education class is one avenue to achieve the goal of empowering women. Beginning in fourth grade health education class, curriculum should not portray periods as nasty or shameful.

From a young age, many girls are inherently ashamed to menstruate. Early discomfort develops to cause girls to feel uncomfortable purchasing sanitary products at stores or even handing a tampon or pad to a friend in public. 69 percent of teen girls feel embarrassed when they have to bring period products to the bathroom and 71 percent feel self-conscious on their period, according to feminine hygiene company Thinx. Empowering women is a crucial step to dismantling the negative connotation of periods and recognizing menstruation as a natural process that occurs in all women.

We believe changing the culture surrounding menstruation requires effort from both men and women. The solution to period poverty can simply be found in expanding accessibility to period products. As we work toward menstrual equity, having access to readily available products should be a fundamental right. By challenging the stigma and creating open conversations about periods, we can ensure women feel confident and comfortable in their body for every week of the year.