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Defining Period Poverty
Lyric Menges (she/her)
|
7.15.2021

If you’re unfamiliar with the terms “period poverty,” you’ve come to the right place. Let’s break this down! In simple terms, period poverty refers to the condition in which a person who menstruates does not have access to the resources, education, or supplies to adequately manage their period. These resources include, but are not limited, to sanitary products such as pads and tampons, adequate waste management such as sanitary boxes and bathrooms with toilet paper and a plumbing system, education on menstruation processes and symptoms, and resources to seek help and guidance relating to menstruation.

A simple google search of “period poverty” results in articles discussing “women’s health” or “women’s periods” or “stigma of women’s periods,” yet what all these articles are (presumably) unintentionally doing, is furthering period poverty by not being fully inclusive of the notion that not all women menstruate, and not all people who menstruate are women. So, let this article serve the purpose to clear up a few things.

Firstly, and arguably most importantly, you do not have to be a woman to face period poverty. Any person who menstruates can be affected by period poverty and it is not simply “stigma facing women”, it is a global narrative that erases transgender and intersex experiences. While the intent to educate people on periods and period poverty is well-intentioned, the rhetoric is non-inclusive and misguided.

Secondly, when you enter a public bathroom, you have the privilege to use toilet paper. A person in period poverty sometimes doesn’t even have access to that, and is forced to use whatever they can find to manage their period. This can include: paper bags, socks, gloves, scraps of newspapers, and other items that are discarded.

Let’s unpack this part a little more. Paper bags and other paper product scraps usually have other materials inside them and are rough which can cause irritation and inflammation. Socks and gloves, while softer, aren’t accommodating either because sometimes the material includes latex (which is a common allergy), and other irritable fabrics. If you have the privilege to afford pads, tampons, and have access to toilet paper, you don’t have to think about whether the product you’re using is going to worsen your symptoms and period experience or give you a life-threatening allergic reaction. Period poverty doesn’t just mean not having access to pads and tampons, it also encompasses people who aren’t educated about menstruation who as a result miss school, work, and other daily life activities.

Finally, period poverty is not a concentrated, contained problem. Period poverty affects around 500 million people who menstruate every month on a global scale (as reported by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics). Period poverty systematically excludes people who menstruate from advancement and “life-changing opportunities” such as education (Figo.org).

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