OPINION: The true cost of menstrual products


Bella Watson

Having a menstrual cycle should not be expensive. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Prior to reading this article, it is important to note that not everyone who has a period is a woman, and that there are also many women who do not have menstrual cycles. Transgender men and nonbinary individuals can still have periods, especially if they are not on testosterone.

A person’s menstrual cycle has become a sort of marketing ploy for many companies in America. Collectively, women spend approximately $5.9 billion on feminine hygiene products in the U.S. alone. We are taught not how to nurture our bodies during this time, but instead to spend copious amounts of money on dangerous products and to be as silent as possible about it.

A study done by Duquesne University found that at least 50% of women have had to choose between groceries for the week or period products. Another study found that one in five girls miss school due to not having access to period products. Period poverty, or the epidemic of women not having access to affordable feminine hygiene care, has become one of our nation’s largest public health crises.

In place of sanitary products, women are forced to use things like rags and toilet paper to keep themselves clean. These products are not made to withstand period blood, so they often put the female at higher risk of contracting a urinary tract infection or bacterial vaginosis. It is also worth mentioning that many states consider period products as luxury items, so it is rare that there are community resources where women and girls can have access to free or low-cost period products. Luxury taxes are still applied to period products in 30 out of the 50 states.

Society has ostracized those who have periods and have pushed the narrative that having a menstrual cycle is unsanitary. The truth is that it is a completely normal bodily function that a person has zero control over. It is not something to be ashamed of, nor is it something that finances should play a part in.

All women, trans men, nonbinary individuals and all those who have periods should have access to affordable sanitary products. Period products are labeled as a luxury, yet many insurance companies in America are happy to cover erectile dysfunction medications. Access to period products should be a right, not a privilege.

To help you can always donate sanitary products to your local homeless shelters, halfway houses or women’s shelters. Many food banks will also take sanitary product donations so that they can offer them to the community.