Beauty Models

{Why Menstrual Equity}

Menstrual equity is a basic equity issue. Just as we have regulated the provision of toilet paper and paper towels in public restrooms, so too should we do the same for menstrual products. Menstruation is a natural monthly occurrence, experienced by over half the population for much of their lives, and should not be treated differently than any other basic bodily function. It’s unhygienic not to have access to menstrual products, no less so than to lack access to toilet paper.

 

Menstrual equity is a gender equality issue. Lack of access to menstrual products — whether the result of policies that do not consider the needs of people who menstruate in homeless shelters, schools, or carceral facilities or the result of unnecessary sales taxes — is a clear form of gender-based exclusion and oppression. Failure to consider menstrual needs is a form of sexbased discrimination and disproportionately affects women. Furthermore, lack of access can be particularly harmful to nonbinary people and transgender men who have disproportionate rates of poverty and may have high incarceration rates as well.

Menstrual equity is part of reproductive justice. The heart of reproductive justice is the right to “maintain personal bodily autonomy.” Reproductive justice advocates work to “understand and eradicate… gendered, sexualized, and racialized acts of dominance that occur on a daily basis.” People who lack consistent access to menstrual products may be subjected to gendered and sexualized acts of dominance because they may be made to feel embarrassed or told they are unprofessional if they attempt to move through the world with blood-stained clothes. They may be forced to reuse products or use them for too long, resulting in dangerous medical conditions that could impact their reproductive possibilities. Without consistent access to sufficient menstrual products, people who menstruate may ultimately lack the ability to participate fully in civic society.

 

It’s time for New Jersey to be a leader.

It’s time for Equality, Period.

But doesn't it cost too much to provide menstrual products in shelters, schools, and correctional facilities?

The cost of menstrual products is negligible when compared to the cost of actually running the facilities. The government already pays for other necessities, such as toilet paper, and nobody suggests that it stop doing that simply because it would be cheaper not to. People have the right to menstruate in public, and they even have a constitutional right to basic human needs like menstrual products if they are incarcerated, and so the government has an obligation to act even if there is some cost involved.

{In Schools}

Menstrual equity is a serious issue for marginalized populations. People living in poverty are most affected by lack of access to menstrual products. These individuals often cannot afford sufficient menstrual products and so disproportionately suffer the medical and psychological impact of reusing products, using products for longer than indicated, or not using any products at all. These individuals are also more likely to have to suffer the societal effects of lack of access including problems with attendance at work or school and the appearance of being unprofessional or unhygienic. Nobody in this country should have to miss school or work simply because they cannot afford menstrual products.

Home School
Woman in Bed

{In Shelters}

Menstrual equity is a public health concern. The potential medical issues facing individuals without access to menstrual products, including infections that can cause susceptibility to cervical cancer and infertility, are serious. The fact that these issues

primarily affect vulnerable communities, especially along income lines, should move and motivate public health advocates. Greater access to menstrual products through elimination of sales tax and free availability in places accessed by vulnerable communities can have a real impact on the health of these communities for a relatively low investment.

{In Prisons}

Menstrual equity is desperately needed in prisons, jails, juvenile detention centers, and

other detention facilities. Incarcerated people are in the custody of the state and rely entirely on prison/jail staff to meet their medical and hygiene needs. When correctional officers withhold menstrual products, the people in their custody are subject to the humiliation and health concerns caused by lack of access. They may have to beg correctional officers for additional products or risk bleeding through clothes that they must continue to re-wear until laundry day. Additionally, some correctional officers have used access to menstrual products to coerce women in their care into sex. People who are incarcerated should not have to beg for basic hygiene supplies or risk abuse or even rape simply due to menstruation.

Image by Ye Jinghan