The painters are in this week, the blob, time of the month, on the rag, the red tide, a woman’s curse and my personal favourite from Germany ‘strawberry week’. Internationally there are thousands of slang phrases and words used to discretely or not describe the days each month when women menstruate.
However, set aside the rest of the world for a moment and look to the wave of ‘period poverty’ in England. I suppose I expect that international aid agencies give out sanitary products but I’m surprised to hear this phrase so close to home. And then I can see why, a non-branded supermarket pack of pantyliners or tampons will set you back around £1. However a quick dash to the corner shop when you’re out or caught short will set you back £2-£3 or more for branded products. That’s quite a lot of money when you’re waiting for your next student loan to come through or if you add it up throughout the year.
The tampon tax is infuriating enough. The value added tax (VAT) placed on these luxury items that women will need to purchase every month for roughly 30 years. Because feminine hygiene is optional, and pink razors are more expensive than blues ones but I digress. Tesco to the rescue however, they are currently shouldering the 5% tax on their feminine hygiene products. Come 2018 it should have vanished completely, but that’s not much help to the women struggling this month.
Several stories have recently come to light in the popular press, women waiting for their Universal Credit payments to come through having to use rags, toilet paper and socks as protection or simply not going out at all. Schoolgirls in Leeds giving interviews to the BBC about the time they take off school on the heavier days of their cycle. Its only when you consider stories like these that suddenly period poverty isn’t just an inconvenient mess, a monthly cost that many can ill afford. It is social isolation, detrimental to a woman’s education and publicly humiliating.
Sadly, in response to girls missing school, the Education Secretary Justine Greening suggested that hard up schools could choose to support their students and that parents had a responsibility to ensure they complied with the law in sending their girls to school. So much for the sisterhood.
So what is to be done? I would suggest on your next shopping trip to pop sanitary products in the food bank collection for a change. Or check out the good ladies (and gents) of Bloody Good Period. Bloody Good Period, a movement started by Gabby Edlin aims to provide sanitary products for women who can’t afford them. They distribute sanitary products at food banks and drop in centres for asylum seekers. They have opportunities for volunteering and collection event packs as well as a just giving page.