Period Poverty and the Effects of COVID-19
Throughout history, the topic of menstruation has been notorious for being a source of secret shame for women, transgender, and nonbinary individuals. It is the longest standing taboo! Although it is a natural process that the body goes through once a month, the period has been stigmatized as something that is “disgusting” and should be hidden at all times. To add to this, menstrual hygiene and care products often come with high prices and a “Pink Tax” in the United States. With our government system being primarily run by non-menstruating members of our society, period products have been deemed non-essential. As a result, we now have millions of women, transgender, and nonbinary individuals who are unable to care for themselves due to an unfortunate phenomenon called period poverty.
Period Poverty occurs when a large part of the population is unable to access menstrual products. What does this look like? Some people are unable to travel to locations that offer period products while others are at the mercy of other people to decide if they deserve menstrual hygiene products. An even larger number of people simply do not have the funds to purchase period products that have been slapped with high prices and taxes. On top of all of that, the COVID-19 pandemic has made affordable access to period products even tougher for a large portion of the American population.
So, what can be done to help eliminate Period Poverty (especially during a global pandemic)? Well, keep reading because we have the answers for you! Here at Oluna, we believe it is first important to understand who is impacted by this circumstance and how it affects them; this will help us to break down and take the necessary steps to effectively eliminate Period Poverty.
Table of Contents:
The Homeless and Displaced
Low Income Individuals
School-Aged Children and Teens
Transgender and Non-Binary
The Homeless and Displaced
Compared to many countries, the United States does have quite a few initiatives in place to try and help our homeless or displaced population. These initiatives range from homeless shelters offering resources and a warm place to live to organizations providing funds to help the homeless get back on their feet. Although these resources are helpful in some ways, they are just a first step in tackling the many obstacles that the homeless and displaced face on a daily basis. Lack of money, healthcare, and transportation are all hurdles that homeless women, transgender individuals, and nonbinary individuals face suffering from Period Poverty. In addition, the widespread COVID-19 pandemic has made already-scarce hygiene items more difficult to obtain.
Shelters sometimes offer period hygiene products, but resources are often low and limited. In addition, with COVID-19 deeply impacting our economy, menstruation items are low on the priority list for shelters. In many cases, the homeless or displaced individuals must choose between using their money to purchase food or to purchase hygiene products. And, I bet you can guess which one gets priority! To best support these individuals, we can put our time and resources into organizations dedicated to eliminating the period stigma and the view of menstruation products being “non-essential”.
Low Income Individuals
For people who experience it, menstruation happens on average about once a month. Women, transgender individuals, and nonbinary individuals are in need of monthly resources for their periods. This isn’t brand new information, so why are period products deemed non-essential by our government? Menstrual products are taxed as non-essential items while men’s hygiene products are not taxed in this manner. This additional tax has been unofficially deemed the “Tampon Tax” or the “Pink Tax'' by those of us who see the unfairness in this situation. For those of us not sure what constitutes as a period hygiene product, here is a list of items slapped with the “Pink Tax'' in many states:
Sanitary Napkins (pads)
To make the situation more frustrating, government programs such as food stamps do not cover or allow the purchase of period hygiene products. This fact combined with the additional Pink Tax make menstrual products very hard to purchase for individuals in low income households. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in period product prices rising, which makes it all the more difficult for low income individuals to purchase the essentials. We can advocate for period products to be deemed essential by educating our political officials and pushing for them to be fairly taxed and represented as purchasable products with food stamps!
School-Aged Children and Teens
Last year, when the pandemic hit the United States, millions of children and teens were asked to continue their education from home for an extended amount of time. On the surface, this was a well-informed decision for the safety of children, teachers, and parents. However, most school districts did not acknowledge or think about all of the children and teens who regularly rely on school nurses to provide them with the main menstruation hygiene necessities. Therefore, many children and teens from low income households are currently suffering from the lack of period hygiene products such as pads, tampons, and wipes.
As a child or teenager, getting your period for the first time is already stressful enough! At such a formable age, this can be traumatizing for children and teens who feel society’s pressure to hide their period but are not given the necessities to take care of themselves. Making menstruation necessities more cost-effective, or even free and accessible to the masses, is something we can press our government leaders to consider.
As mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the rise of prices on many necessities including the already-expensive and heavily-taxed period products. The unattainability of menstruation products is not limited to just the homeless, low income individuals, or even children and teens. Women, transgender individuals, and non-binary individuals who are imprisoned also suffer from the lack of resources needed to effectively take care of themselves during their “time of the month.”
Individuals who are incarcerated are at the mercy of guards who have the authority to provide them with period products (usually pads). More often than not, these guards are male and do not understand or respect the need for these essential products. In many cases, women are limited to 2-3 pads a day and, for heavy periods, that doesn’t cut it! There are even reports of women resorting to making their own tampons, which is a dangerous health concern. Educating people of authority, including male guards, and normalizing periods is essential to ending the Period Poverty.
Transgender and Nonbinary Individuals:
The worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 has made hospitals and doctor’s offices packed and busy with patients, which makes it difficult for anyone to get an appointment for gynecological reasons. This unfortunate fact contributes as a non-financial aspect of Period Poverty. It causes a lack of access to necessary healthcare and mental healthcare. Transgender and Nonbinary individuals who do not receive proper healthcare and mental healthcare can also suffer from body dysmorphia due to their monthly menstraution.
The lack of healthcare, mental healthcare and, in some cases, hormone treatments are all contributing factors to those who may suffer from body dysmorphia. In addition, transgender and nonbinary individuals may find it difficult to dispose of period products in restrooms designed for males or people who do not menstrate. Although these factors are not monetarily related, the fact that they contribute to the lack of necessary healthcare and accessible amenities in restrooms for transgender and non-binary individuals makes them relevant to Period Poverty.
How Can We Help?
Period Poverty is not a new phenomenon to our society. What is a new phenomenon, however, are the many public advocates for women’s health coming forward and bringing period poverty to the forefront of public attention. They are highlighting the inadequacy of our past approaches to policy, research, and education. At Oluna, we are dedicated to restoring pride around women, transgender, and non-binary menstrual health! We have always been advocates for gender equality, and we are fueled by the fact that COVID-19 has provided a huge setback in the mission to end Period Poverty.
With the purchase of one pair of Oluna pants, a low income American will be provided with an entire year’s worth of essential menstruation products! In addition, we ensure each of these individuals are equipped with knowledge about their own period health and the ability to properly use the products they are supplied with. Not only do we want to provide the necessities for our low income Americans to feel comfortable during their menstrual cycle, but we also want them to go forth feeling confident about their period.
We are proud to run a business that supplies fashionable items to our customers while also having the ability to provide low income Americans with period hygiene essentials. Throughout our journey we will continue to update you on how you may help us with our mission to end the negative effects of Period Poverty! You can join us in our mission by checking out our Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest boards. In addition, you can signup at Oluna.co for our regular newsletters and reminders about our new product releases. Thank you for being a part of our Oluna family and for joining us in our mission to end Period Poverty!