Last time I checked you can’t opt out of your period. I mean it’s not like you lie there at night with a selection of fine cheeses and the good wine (the one that wasn’t in the £5 deal and that you had to use a bottle opener for because it came with a damn cork) and think – you know what would top this evening off? Like, really make it magical. My fucking period. And yet menstruation products are still treated (and taxed) like a luxury product. It’s all fine and well having a mad cackle of “lol tampons as a luxury product, it’s like a monthly spa gift from me to my fanny” but period poverty is a very real thing. And the fact 1 in 10 women In the U.K can’t afford menstruation products stop it from being a bad punchline in taxation and instead make it a very real and tragic epidemic.
We’re talking girls missing school because they cannot afford proper menstrual care. Women having to chose between groceries and pads. No one should have to make a choice like that and thanks to some incredible women – hopefully in the future they won’t have to. Last year 18 year old student Amika George started a petition for #FreePeriods for girls who receive free school meals – targeting those most in need. Since then she’s went to write for The Guardian, been featured on The Guilty Feminist podcast as well as Vogue, Elle and generally being a leading voice in the mission to end period shame. Then you’ve got the Pink Protest which took London’s streets by storm last December. Headed by Scarlett Curtis, Grace Campbell and Alice Skinner – the Pink Protest teamed up with Amika to march on Westminster and say enough is enough. Periods aren’t a luxury and they aren’t something we sign up for. They donned red, painted their placards, and recruited some incredible speakers talking about why it’s so important that menstrual products are accessible. Because bleeding isn’t a privilege that you should have to pay for.
Image: @pinkprotest instagram
Now protesting is all well and good, but what changes are actually happening? Like, right now? Well the Scottish government funded a six month pilot for women on low incomes in Aberdeen to have access to free sanitary products. There’s charities like Bloody Good Period who work to make sure refugees, asylum seekers and those who can’t afford products have access to them and most recently we’ve seen the launch of Scottish based brand “Hey Girls” which employs a buy one, get one ethos to their brand. For every pack of towels you buy, one goes to a woman in need. Alongside this you’ve got large global brands like bodyform who have pledged to donate over 200,000 packs of sanitary protection products by 2020. All of this is brilliant, better than brilliant, but all a drop in the bucket if we don’t work together to end the stigma around period shame.
Image: @mama_lou_bones instagram
So that means challenging the taxation on products that 50% of the population need. It means supporting brands that are making a concerted effort to support those most vulnerable (I’m not saying death to capitalism* and free periods for all, I’ll settle for 0% tax thank you and easy access products in work/school et al) and making small changes in our own day to day lives. Whether that’s donating menstrual care products to food banks to speaking more freely, it’s together that we can put an end to period poverty.
*Jks. We revolt at dawn.