Actually, I should say California Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia and Ling Ling Chang. They are the united (and delightfully multi-ethnic) front in bringing attention to basic female needs which have certain outdated barriers to accessing them. Uh . . .that pretty much sums up a whole lot of things that have to do with women’s bodies. But access to pads, tampons, and the newer (and awesome) cups is not a given for a startlingly large number of women you may never think about. These wonderful ladies did think about them.
Families and women in poverty have to make some rough choices. The women in the household have to use hygiene products as long as possible to conserve them. This leads to leaks, odors, and infections. That is even if they can afford them in the first place. Homeless women resort to newspaper and random absorbent materials which are not effective or clean. I have been in several drug stores and seen opened boxes of feminine products. Maybe someone had an emergency and no money, but probably the implication is sadder. (I’ve also seen opened and empty pregnancy tests. Did I mention my town has no low-cost women’s services?)
Schoolgirls have a wicked embarrassing time getting to the bathroom when they need to. If their teachers let them leave class with no explanation (and what pubescent girl is going to announce to the class that she needs to change a leaky pad?), the machines in the bathrooms require money. (In my time as a student teacher in an inner-city middle and high school, we were cautious about letting kids go to the bathroom too much for some understandable reasons. Yet most of the requests, to my memory, came from the fidgety boys who were sick to death of class.) Or girls have to go to the school nurse which is stressful and mortifying to many of them.
The part about an actual tax on tampons, whereas items of medical necessity are not taxed, was news to me. I never even knew that was how things were set up! So menstrual products are taxed as luxury items in 40 states. How much do you wanna bet that a man set up that distinction? As women know, your period (and it’s subsequent absence) is a lifelong responsibility, and in our stilted culture it is viewed as a horrifying and abnormal condition. We already have terribly mixed emotions about our bodies since men and media put so much emphasis on us as objects. I won’t even go into the fact that men discredit women all the time because “she was on her period.”
This bill is a beginning to legitimizing our personal needs and allowing women to have more dignity. It would be foolish to assume that every state is going to adopt and pass this kind of legislation. Other states (especially the red ones) are, as I type, in the midst of a backlash against all the renewed pushes for women’s health rights. Few legislators are women, and frequently they are not the helpful kind.
Ways You Can Help!
- Write letters ladies!!! To your state lawmakers! School teachers – tell about classroom incidents. Women’s health providers – provide evidence of the infections underserved women and girls get. Be heard and make them accountable for female dignity!
- Contact the nurse’s office at your child’s school and ask if they provide free products where girls don’t have to ask for them. If they don’t, complain about it in PTA meetings!
- Most importantly, donate good pads and tampons to local shelters, jails, and schools!