Not Free To Be A Girl

Emma O'Dell

The phrase “that time of month” is known nation wide as the time of month when a women starts her menstrual cycle. The word period is a shy word; people edge away from it when it is used to describe a woman in her time of bleeding.  From the average age of 11 to late 50s, a woman will have her period.

On average, a cycle lasts about 28 days; this means that, over her lifetime, a woman will spend about 3,500 days menstruating, according to the Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post then offers this breakdown: One tampon every six hours equals 4 tampons per day. They then multiply this by five days, which is the average length of a period, and this comes out to 20 tampons per cycle. Then that number is multiplied by the 456 periods a woman will experience in her lifetime to yield the number of tampons she’ll need—that’s 9,120 tampons. At 36 tampons per box, that is 253.3 boxes at $7 each, which results in the average of $1,773.33 spent just on tampons. This is not including the cost of underwear, pads, birth control, if desired, and pain medication. Under their Healthy Living section, the Huffington Post published an article on May 18 that stated that the average cost of having your period is $18,171 in your lifetime.

This outrageous number then raises the question of how women in undeveloped nations can afford the cost of their period.  In realistic terms, they can’t.

Many governments do not feel as though a woman’s hygiene is a health issue which results in expenses, days away from school, risks of regular infections, and missing work, which means less days paid—and all because of something a women can’t help doing every month.

This is discrimination against basic human rights. Jyoti Sanghera, chief of the UN Human Rights Office on Economic and Social Issues, called the stigma around menstrual hygiene “a violation of several human rights, most importantly the right to human dignity.”

According to the United Nations Human Rights, only 12 percent of India’s 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins, because they can’t afford the cost of buying the necessary means.

In countries where there might not be easy accessibility for feminine products, a lot of girls miss school. The United Nations Cultural Organization estimated 10 percent of African girls don’t attend school during their periods, which might not seem like a lot, but out of the African girls that actually attend school in Africa, 10 percent is very high. Due to low attendance rates, it increases the likelihood of dropouts.

One study showed that in Bangladesh, 73 percent of female factory workers miss an average of six days – and six days of pay – every month because of their periods. Because of something that is purely natural, they are basically being penalized for being a woman.

And that’s just in other countries; America has its own problems with these “luxuries.”

In the United States, low income women on food stamps have to use actual money to pay for tampons; food stamps do not cover the cost because they are considered a “luxury,” even though it is a necessity item.

This is also the case in most women’s prison; you must purchase feminine products through your commissary, which is like the prison store.  If you do not have commissary because you don’t have an outsider giving you money, then you’re out of luck, no “luxuries” for you. Many women prisoners have to make their own “homemade” pads and tampons out of toilet paper, but even that is limited, and some prisons don’t allow the prisoners to make their own.

Therefore, tampons should be free because, as women, we can’t stop the natural flow of things.

It is literally absurd that women have to pay full price on things that are a necessity to their lives. It is ridiculous that, as women, we can’t even get a tax deduction or even no tax at all—menstrual health is health care, ergo it should be treated as it.