The fight for free feminine products

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A friend walked up to me the other day and complained, as any other teenage girl does, about her period. The dreaded monthly cycle returned but she wasn’t prepared. Even though I always see girls running around the halls asking each other, the nurse’s office is supposed to be a safe haven for when you forget your “lady products” at home. When none of her friends could help, my friend resorted to asking the school nurse. To her surprise, the nurse asked for a dollar for a tampon. Though she kept her cool and paid the fee, she should have been furious.

Recently, the school charged 25 cents for tampons, though pads were free.

“It is not how much it is, it is the principle, the fact that we have to pay at all. For example condoms are supplied at our school for free. It is important to be educated and safe about sex, which is a choice, however we don’t get any help with our period which we have no choice about?” junior Kara Glaser said.

California passed a law on October 12 ruling that Title 1 schools, those with over 40 percent of students who receive free or reduced lunch, will be required to stock at least 50 percent of their bathrooms with free feminine products. Our school is a Title 1 school and should therefore provide menstrual products for free.

When we brought this situation to administration’s attention, they implemented a policy change. Now students will be provided with free feminine products. The school urges students to be prepared and not see the nurse’s office as a store; however, most students see the nurse as a last resort and will not take advantage.

It is clear that girls would rather be prepared; however, when it comes to issues of the body, there are some times when your period takes you by surprise. If your only hope is the nurse’s office, then, you’ll go there, but doesn’t mean you will do it every time.

Regardless of the progress with Title 1 schools, we need to normalize the need for free feminine products as a nation. Menstruation is a naturally occurring bodily function. We can’t help it! It’s not just a problem at our school, it’s a nation-wide issue. Yet people continue to tax tampons and pads as “luxury items.” While Californians are not taxed on things we cannot live without such as food and water, we are taxed on feminine products. However, women need pads and tampons. They are not something we could live without.

In a public restroom, building owners and managers provide toilet paper, but why not feminine products? For hygiene and the sake of sanity, society encourages people to wipe their bottom. It would be ridiculous for anyone to tell you otherwise. Menstruation is the same, it causes an unhygienic mess. The way that our society has structured public restrooms, if a woman doesn’t have money she would have to make her way with rolled up toilet paper, as if we can control a constant blood flow with some 2 ply.

Nancy Kramer is the woman behind “Free the Tampons,” a campaign she started up in Ohio to put free tampons and pads in all public restrooms.

According to Kramer’s research, it costs about $4.67 per female student or employee to provide free sanitary products annually. “In other words, for less than a fancy cup of coffee, you can supply a woman with supplies for a year,” Kramer said.

I would say it’s hard to argue that feminine products are too expensive. But the bottom line is, you can’t put a price on bodily functions. Does a school limit their budget on toilet paper, soap, even paper towels (air drying is always a possibility)?

The state makes about $14 million a year taxing women’s products.

“Justice Scalia once wrote for the Supreme Court that ‘A tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews,’” Kramer wrote. “A tax on tampons and sanitary pads is a tax on women. The Tampon Tax is irrational. It is discrimination. It is wrong,” she continued.  

Comparisons about just how important feminine products can go on forever but it is time we start understanding that it is a necessity that cannot be ignored. In an age of renewed feminism, the next step in full gender equality is ensuring that women do not have to pay for a bodily function that is natural.

 

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