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I recently celebrated my one year anniversary living in LA. As ya’ll know, I will always be a Texas girl at heart but I’ve got to give credit where it’s due and California definitely understood the assignment. The current political climate is, as I’d call it, fragile. Women’s bodies have been under attack since the dawn of time, but my home state was one of the most recent to try us (but that is a discussion for another day.) That’s why this month, I was especially proud to be a newly transplanted California girl.
Just a few weeks ago on October 9th, 2021 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into effect a bill mandating all California public schools, both high school and CSU campuses, be required by law to provide free menstrual products to all students taking effect at the start of the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.
This is not the first step my new home state of California has taken in attempting to close an unfair gender gap. (Background: In 2020 California eliminated the tax on menstrual products for residents; however, it was only signed into effect for two years and is up for re-evaluation pending budgets next year), but it is by far the most powerful. Let me explain. Period products are EXPENSIVE, please take it from someone with a uterus. A box of approximately 48 tampons costs $10. Depending on who you are, you’ll need more (or less) than one box every month. Quick math, it costs, at bare minimum $120 a year JUST to be a woman.
Side note: this is one of the many reasons it really irks me when you hear people say “if they just gave up coffee, or avocado toast…” how about if we weren’t charged for uncontrollably bleeding every month… but… I digress...
A recent study found that a quarter of teens struggled to afford period products in the US alone. And, you guessed it, the lack of access to these products, which can only be described as a very basic human right, particularly affects students of color.
Lower-income students and students of color (particularly Latinx students) are more impacted by lack of access than white and middle-income students. Nearly half of Latinx students (46%) say returning to school made it easier for them to access period products, and 23% say they have had to choose between buying period products and food/ clothing. Almost half of Black and Latinx students feel they are not able to do their best school work because of lack of access to period products, compared to 28% among white students. Source: period.org
Period poverty, as it’s called, extends far beyond what is happening in California and the country. This is a global issue. Girls and women around the world are consistently being forced to choose between food or feminine hygiene. Girls miss school, they miss out on opportunities, they miss out on life. Not only is the cost a factor, but access to these products in general can be few and far between and the stigma and taboo surrounding women's periods in the workplace and in school prevent us all from feeling comfortable enough to #live our best lives.
We’ve all heard it... “She’s moody, is she on her period?” No, it’s just another day of being fed up with the patriarchy, thank you very much!
My hope is that more states and countries can learn from California and see that this small law, giving girls free access to personal care products in schools, a place where they should feel safe and protected, is one of the most impressive steps you can take to acknowledging that women don’t deserve to have to choose between their next meal or their personal hygiene.