To All The People Telling Women They Don’t Need Free Sanitary Items, Here’s Why You're Wrong
News that the Scottish government will invest £5.2m in providing students at school and university with period products ruffled a few feathers yesterday over on our Facebook page.
It seems that some people believe that period poverty, which is when a woman has to prioritise groceries or rent above buying tampons, is a made up thing.
In our original article we revealed that 45 percent of Scottish girls have experienced period poverty and have had to use alternatives like newspaper and toilet paper to stem their flow.
Underneath the feature, one commenter took exception to the news that women might struggle to pay for their sanitary products.
The man, clearly well informed on menstrual issues, asked: "How on earth is anyone in Period poverty? A tampon is 2.3 pence!!! Making the cost per menstrual cycle roughly 40p less than £5 per year. Hardly unaffordable is it?
This was met with outrage by many, with several women explaining that there isn't an average cost per period as, unsurprisingly, all of them are different.
Others were keen to point out that other essential items like condoms, used by both sexes, were free while the sanitary items, used only by women, are not.
Luckily, most women around the UK can afford a few pounds for a box of tampons every month, but not everyone's flow is the same. Some might have heavier periods than others, and need to buy multiple packets of pads and tampons which, as we all know, can soon add up.
But, even more importantly, there are many reasons why what may seem a small monthly outgoing to some is actually a significant and unaffordable cost for others.
There are plenty of people who are unable to afford to spend money on sanitary products.
In a feature by Amelia Abrahams for Refinery29, one woman had to cut up her baby's nappies and use them for her period when her husband left her after the birth of her third child. She said: "Cutting up the nappies made me feel guilty that I was taking them from my baby daughter. I even looked online to see what women used in the past. I should have used maternity pads but didn't have any, or the money to buy them."
Celia Hodson, talking to the i100, says that she experienced period poverty when her partner left her, leaving her to bring up her kids alone. When she was too poor to buy tampons, she used toilet roll instead. "When you find yourself hard-up, you make do with that you have and you scrape the bottom of the shampoo out, and all those things."
Celia says it means girls are then impacted in different ways. If you have poor period protection: "you probably don't want to take part in school, you absolutely won't want to be taking part it games, you won't be going swimming."
Homeless women may also struggle when they get their periods and would hugely appreciate free sanitary products in public toilets. Homeless shelters get an allowance to buy items like condoms, but nothing for sanitary towels. The Homeless Period is a charity set up by three advertising interns, and documents the life of Patricia, a woman who slept homeless in Brixton for six months. Patricia explains how she used to go into public toilets and find cloths, ripping them up to create makeshift sanitary products. "I was oh so very depressed."
One Facebook user also made the important point that people in abusive relationships do not always have control of money. "Speaking from personal experience of a partner who controlled all the money and left me to beg him for a few pound to go buy sanitary products, most times being denied and having to go without."
There are plenty of reasons why women need free sanitary products. Scotland deciding to provide young women with free products is a great step in the right direction. When we go to the doctors we can get free condoms, but not free tampons. We can choose to have sex, but women can't choose whether to have periods or not.
Featured Image Credit: PA