When I began to menstruate it was awkward to have to talk to my parents about finding a surprise that morning; I hid it from them as long as I could. I experienced excruciating aches and pains that at times forced me to stay home from school or ride them out because my parents had to go to work and couldn’t stay with me.
I developed Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) about a year ago. PCOS is a condition that causes hormonal deficiencies leading to prolonged or infrequent menstrual cycles or excess male hormone levels. PCOS is common among young menstruators, and it can be difficult to diagnose due to access to health services. Additionally, patients face challenges due to not being taken seriously at the doctor’s office and difficulty handling high treatment expenses. A common form of treating PCOS is to use an oral contraceptive, but birth control is not accessible to everyone due to treatment prices, lack of health insurance and inability to seek out a specialist such an OBGYN (obstetrician gynecologist). Much more needs to be done to ensure equitable access to menstrual products and to health-care services for menstruation-related conditions like PCOS. This is just what the PERIOD organization is striving to do.
On October 19, 2019, the first National Period Day was celebrated. The PERIOD organization held sixty rallies in all U.S. states and in four countries calling for an end to the tampon tax, to celebrate menstruation, reduce stigma, and to advocate for menstrual equity by making menstrual products more affordable. The DotOrg, an organization on our U-M campus, hosted an event on the Diag Saturday as well.
In thirty-five states, menstrual products are not labeled as essential products thus adding a sales tax on them (called a pink tax). Concerningly, women who face certain socioeconomic obstacles must choose between their next meal or buying period products in some instances. In a womens’ studies class I took, many students in the class expressed that they had to plan out when to buy period products because they are so expensive and that they had to mediate menstrual product prices with the need to buy groceries. The PERIOD organization also publicized that some have to use cardboard when menstruating because they cannot afford to purchase necessary products. The Menstrual Equity for All Act, proposed by Congresswoman Grace Meng in March, would require Medicaid to cover all costs for menstrual products while also mandating employers with 100 or more employees and all federal buildings to supply menstrual products. There is also an additional push to have these products free in schools, shelters and prisons.
“If faces were bleeding, someone would do something” the PERIOD organization tweeted to promte National Period Day. While all menstruators are affected by this stigma, holding different identities cause menstruators to experience this stigma differently. Ending the stigma of menstruation must include all voices, especially those from Black, Brown, nonbinary, transgender and other marginalized voices. The language around menstruation has to change to be more inclusive of all genders and identities because not every person who menstruates is a woman.
Donate to menstrual product drives. Laugh it off if a pad falls out of your backpack. Include others in this conversation about menstruation that are usually forgotten about. Uplift others, and make them feel good about menstruating (even though it can suck).