Opinion: Period poverty needs to end, and Boise State facilities can help

period products, Boise State
Photos by Paige Wirta

Growing up, I was always painfully aware of my period. It seemed too taboo to actually discuss; I found myself confused, yet scared to ask questions. The education I received surrounding menstruation was more than lacking, and when I found myself at school, starting my first period, I had nothing — no tampons, no pads and worst of all, no quarters.

In the bathrooms of my middle school, tampons and pads cost 50 cents each. So, on the first day of my period, I had to wad up a pile of toilet paper and pray that was enough to get me through the day.

With time, I grew more comfortable with menstruating. However, I couldn’t help but notice that almost every time I went into a public bathroom, tampons and pads were locked up in a box for anywhere from 25 to 75 cents.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law mandating that all public schools containing grades 6-12 supply free menstrual products to students. 

“California recognizes that access to menstrual products is a basic human right and is vital for ensuring the health, dignity, and full participation of all Californians in public life,” the law says.

period products, Boise State
[Photos of menstrual product dispensers on Boise State campus; on the left are free period products, the right is a paid dispenser]
Outer photos by Paige Wirta | The Arbiter; Center photo courtesy of Polina Zimmerman

This is something that should have been implemented years ago nationwide. Period products should always be accessible and available to menstruators in any public bathroom, not limited to schools. This should be done not only to avoid creating more situations like the one I face in middle school (and many times since), but also because menstruating should not be near as expensive as it is.

A study from 2019 found that half of menstruators have or are experiencing period poverty, which is defined as inadequate or lack of access to period products. Further, the study found that the average menstruator will spend around $14 a month on period products, which adds up to around $6400 in their lifetime. 

Simply put, a bodily function as normal as going to the bathroom should not be something so inaccessible or expensive.

To non-menstruators, this may be confusing. But periods are a natural part of our lives, an occurrence that most of us will be going through for the majority of our lives. When we find ourselves in a public restroom without the products we need or some spare quarters, we are left to fend for ourselves. 

Thankfully, most public bathrooms on the Boise State campus offer free period products — however, over here in the Student Media office, tampons and pads still cost a quarter to access. As I’ve expressed, this shouldn’t be the case in any bathroom. 

If I can walk into a health clinic and take away a pack of condoms for free, why can’t I do the same with tampons or pads? Why are all period products still classified as ‘non-essential’ goods, taxed at 6%? What is non-essential about something that keeps me and menstruators worldwide from bleeding all over ourselves? 

The ‘pink tax’ that applies to period products in a number of states is just another result of the misogyny that is deeply embedded in our society. Suffice to say, if everyone in the world had a period, the products wouldn’t be near as expensive, the topic wouldn’t be near as taboo to discuss.

The time has come for all menstruators to be able to access safe period products without having to worry about cost or bleeding through their favorite pair of jeans.

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