Jennifer Weiss-Wolf; activist and lawyer, focuses her efforts on what she calls “menstrual equity.” This idea stems from the notion that “in order to have a fully equitable and participatory society, we must have laws and policies that ensure period products are safe and affordable and available for those who need them.” (Weiss, Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand For Menstrual Equity). Advocating for policy change, Weiss highlights nine sectors in which we are failing:
- Poverty – The FDA classifies period products as “medical products.” Yet, period products are excluded from American programs, such as SNAP and WIC, that benefit those in poverty. If people who menstruate do not have access to quality period products, then they are increasing their risk of contracting infection, such as UTI’s.
- Note: As of 2020, period products are reimbursable expenses when purchased with FSAs and HSAs.
- Homelessness – People who are homeless face the same challenges as low-income menstruators. They may resort to unsanitary methods to manage their periods, such as using newspapers, socks, and rags to soak up the blood. Weiss is pushing for a change in the current legislature that stocks all public restrooms and shelters with products so that these people have access to clean products when menstruating.
- In Correctional Facilities – Because prisons were designed with non-menstruators, typically men, in mind, there is poor access to period products. In the past, menstruators in prisons have been denied period products and told to show their dirty pads as proof that they need a new period product.
- In The Workplace – Dysmenorrhea, or severe period pain, occurs in one in five women. Employers can support menstruators by advocating for paid period leave and providing free period products in the workplace.
- In Schools – Low-income girls feel shame when it comes to their periods. Period stigma can be curbed by allowing for open conversations. Period education should be taught to everyone and incorporated into the school’s curriculums. All schools should provide free period products to students in bathrooms, as well.
- For All People Who Menstruate – Talks around menstruation is often non-inclusive to all people who menstruate. When discussing period health and making policy decisions, everyone who menstruates should be included in the discussion.
- For Menstruating Bodies and The Environment – Affordable and widespread period products often contain synthetic materials that are harmful to the environment. By advocating for “greener” pads and tampons to be marketed, we can also encourage the use of existing sustainable options, such as the menstrual cup and period underwear.
- In Healthcare and Legislation – Segmenting periods out of the ‘basic bodily function’ category of healthcare and policy is hurting any progress we make towards helping people who menstruate. Tampon Tax, the sales tax imposed on period products, is a popular example of something that can be changed with the help of bipartisan support.
- In Philanthropy – As charitable as we are as a country, the money that we raise is scarcely allocated to menstruation. Working to get more support from everyone is important in fighting this battle.
At Mission Menstruation, we are focused on menstrual equity and making products accessible for all by starting with higher education. Join our mission today and begin making change at your college or university through our advocacy program. Want to read more about Jennifer’s mission? Check out her website here!