By Lauren Marino and Jacqui McLean
Menstrual equity is a serious issue that does not get the attention that it deserves. Menstrual equity refers to the issue of affordability and inaccessibility of menstrual products. It also refers to the lack of education and normalization of reproductive care. The stigmatization around periods leads to negligence within our country surrounding the very real issue of inaccessible period products.
The Menstrual Equity Act of 2021 recently enacted in California requires all publically funded schools to provide menstrual products in female and gender neutral bathrooms. This act is a huge step forward for all people who menstruate. It demonstrates that the California government is taking action to help its menstruating residents and showing that the state is aware of the problems surrounding menstrual inadequacies. While this is a small step forward, there is still significant change that needs to occur both within our schools and globally to remedy this issue.
1 in 5 menstruating individuals miss school due to a lack of accessible period products. Specifically, at Westmont, accessible period products are still not present on our campus despite the newly enacted Menstrual Equity Act of 2021. While we have seen the improvement of putting in the dispensaries, lack of restocking deems the resource obsolete. Schools should be a place where students feel safe, not a place of worry. By not ensuring that their students have the access that they need, Westmont is letting down around half of the school’s population. In our health office the school provides minimal supplies to those who don’t have the products that they need during school hours. However many people feel embarrassed asking administrators that they are not familiar with because of the stigma created around periods. Menstruating individuals will stain their clothes rather than ask for an essential health product. Westmont needs to uphold their legally binding agreement to students to provide them with easily accessible products.
Globally, there are also many issues that still need to be addressed. For starters, the tampon tax is an outrageous money grab that taxes menstrual products as luxury goods, when I can almost guarantee that no menstruating individual enjoys the process of buying period products. Food, an essential good, is not taxed, but pads and tampons are somehow deemed non essential because not bleeding through your clothes is somehow seen as a luxury.
Overall, there is a dire need to eliminate the stigma surrounding periods and provide greater resources for menstruators globally. Westmont, California, and the United States have taken small steps to improve menstrual inadequacies, but there is still ample room for improvement.