Stigmas of menstruation are harmful to women

by Catherine Van Weele, Staff Writer

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While the stigmas surrounding menstruation are not as severe as other parts of the world, it still remains a pervasive taboo in American culture.

 The sense of shame that so often comes along with menstruating prevents authentic discussion on how periods impact women financially and socially.

The statistics found in a survey conducted by Thinx, a period panty company, shows how prevalent the stigma of menstruation is for women. It found that the majority of women have felt a sense of shame or embarrassment just for being on their period.  

Almost half of women opt for euphemisms when talking about their period, using phrases like “my monthly friend” or “Aunt Flo.”

Seventy-one percent of women have concealed their pad or tampon in their pocket or sleeve when going to the bathroom. Two-thirds of women say they have experienced others not taking their period pain seriously.  

About one in five women have faced period shaming comments made by a male friend. And over half of women feel uncomfortable with period sex because of concerns over how their partner will act.

Women will continue facing such situations throughout her life.

The idea that periods are something dirty is continually perpetuated in our social interactions and in the media.  

It formulates a sense of shame around menstruation making open conversation difficult and it hindering the normalization of periods.

Many girls are not fully educated in school on what menstruation is and the products used to manage their periods.

 Education on periods is often nonexistent or incomplete.

When sex education is provided, it is usually taught with discomfort or awkwardness and students often feel reluctant or afraid to ask any questions.

 So, if something is not fully understood about this natural process, then girls will not receive this information.

Most students only learn about menstruation once, so if they get their first period a few years later, most of the information will have been forgotten.

Some girls will get their periods before any form of education, which is certainly not ideal.  

Seeing blood down there without knowing why would be very concerning and confusing for a young girl.

Much of the information regarding menstruation comes from big tampon and pad companies in the form of advertisements.  

The language used in these advertisements continues to promote the idea that periods are to be kept a secret by describing their products as “discreet” and “undetectable.”

Ads are also troubling because these private companies are trying to sell a product, which quite frankly is not cheap.

On average women will spend $7 per month on menstrual care products like pads and tampons.

They are left uninformed of any alternative, eco-friendly and cost-effective methods like menstrual cups, period panties or sea sponge tampons.

The inability to have an intellectual discussion on the topic of menstruation allows for the continuation of policies that place menstruators in unethical situations.

For one, there is very little research on menstrual health.

Tampons contain dioxins from the bleaching process which is what gets these products so white.

While no studies have linked tampons to any diseases, there has been no research on the long-term effects.

Additionally, in most states, tampons and pads are taxed as luxury items.

These necessity items for the majority of women who choose to use these products to manage their periods.

It is absolutely ridiculous that these items are considered a luxury when Viagra is considered a necessity and is taxed as such.

 While some states have banned taxation on menstrual products, the majority of states continue to allow for menstrual products to be taxed as luxuries with no legislation seeking reform.

The expense of menstrual products along with the luxury tax accumulates over time costing women thousands of dollars throughout her lifetime.

If a woman spends $7 per month on her period, over the course of thirty years she will have spent $2,520 on tampons and pads alone.

This doesn’t even include the cost of the luxury tax, pain medication for cramps, replacement underwear that get stained from leaks, or other related purchases.

For low-income women and women who are homeless, it is very difficult to afford these types of products.

It is not uncommon for women to have to decide between buying menstrual products and food.

Often, they resort to wadding up toilet paper or using any cloth available to them for managing their periods.

A lack of menstrual hygiene can cause health issues like infections and even cervical cancer.

Women in prisons also face an insufficient supply of menstrual products.

As of two years ago, federal prisons provide free tampons, pads and panty liners to female prisoners, however, many state and local prisons have yet to pass such legislation.  

The menstrual products provided for women prisoners are of low quality and limited. These women are then forced to wear pads that are leaked through for hours which creates highly unsanitary conditions.

The current policies must be amended to rid of the luxury tax, to conduct research on the long-term health effects of tampons and to adequately supply menstrual products to prisoners who are menstruating.   

These reforms must begin with fully educating people about menstruation from a young age, so they feel familiar and comfortable about the topic.

This will not only reduce the stigmas of menstruation but also allow for the needed open discussion to make changes in our society to ensure that every woman should have access to proper and affordable menstrual products.  

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