By Vivian Nguyen ’21
How entitled are women to feminine hygiene products? Is it a privilege to be clean? And, if Americans are encouraged to maintain basic health standards, are women included in this conversation? All this, and more, The Bamboo examines as this week’s topic of opinion.
Let’s dive into the background of the issue. From data collected in 2015, a box of tampons stands at $7 a box at Walgreens in the United States. About 70 percent of women use tampons, according to The Huffington Post. That’s about twenty cents for one tampon, but usually tampons aren’t available for individual sale. Women are usually instructed to change their tampons every 4 to 8 hours, and so an average use of 4 tampons per day over an average five-day day period would amount to 20 tampons per cycle x 456 periods, or 9,120 tampons. At the Walgreens cost, that would be about 253.3 boxes x $7, amounting to a whopping $1,773.33 over a woman’s lifetime, The Huffington Post reports.
Yet, this cost ignores the fact that tampons are among the many hygiene products available to women. Others include pads, cramp and bloating medication (i.e: Midol and Pamprin), liners, new underwear, heating pads, and possibly some comfort food. Keeping clean during one’s period also requires some amount of privilege. Those who are housed often take for granted such items as a toilet, bidet, and toilet tissues/paper which are especially helpful during period cycles. Women who are homeless do not have these basic necessities.
Perhaps, though, the biggest concern extends to women who are marginalized, poor, homeless, and financially worse-off. Should these very women be afforded free feminine hygiene products? Should the products be provided to all women, without exceptions? The Bamboo reached out to a few young women here at Immaculate Heart in order to hear some opinions.
Freshman Kya Adams voiced her ideas for a possible governmental procedure: “Women of all financial backgrounds should be provided a free amount of five pads and five tampons a month before having to pay for hygiene products — no matter who they are.”
Adams does not stand alone in her beliefs that women are entitled to the items, as ninth grader Hallie Simic also stood up to say, “Every single women should have entitlement. [The products] cost so much, and I don’t understand it at all.”
Ninth grader Shelby O’Connell addressed the issue of feasibility — or how realistic the plan for free products for every woman might look like for the government. “The only issue is that everything costs money. Maybe we should remove the tax on the products in an effort to make them more affordable. I understand why it’s extremely difficult for homeless women to obtain feminine products because they might consider tampons to be a luxury rather than a necessity.”
Sophomore Molly Atkinson considered the price of hygiene products “too high” and that they definitely should not be “taxed, at all, since they are a necessity for women. Women in poverty and incarcerated women should also be entitled to hygiene products, always.”
These young women represent the feelings of a larger movement in America to start pushing women’s issues through the legislation process. Just a little less than a month ago, the #LetItFlow Campaign in Arizona made it all the way to the state representative, Thomas “T.J” Shope, the Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs Committee, and through the Department of Corrections and emerged successful in its efforts to secure female inmates in Arizona free hygiene products. Instead of the former baseline amount of 12 free sanitary pads a month, incarcerated women will now be provided 36 free sanitary pads (“Female inmates in Arizona only got 12 free pads a month. A movement helped triple that.”). This tripled amount is a breakthrough concerning the government’s obligations to regard women’s issues as important.
Are our cleanliness and dignity something to invest in? Raising the topic of feminine hygiene products entitlement creates contentious questions, but all the same, they need to be answered.
photo from TrendHunter