Theory to Praxis: Combatting Period Poverty at Davidson and in Charlotte

One public health issue that falls within the realm of gender and sexuality studies -particularly reproductive justice- is period poverty. Insufficient access to menstrual supplies or environments that allow safe changing of products means that people who experience periods face additional challenges to their everyday hygiene, which has a direct impact on other aspects of their life. For example, a survey of U.S. teens found that 4 out of 5 individuals “either missed or knew someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products” (Capozzi). In addition to encompassing the lack of menstrual products available to people that need them, the term period poverty also references the lack of health education because of stigma around periods, lack of funding and resources, or other reasons.

Period poverty is often cited as an issue for developing nations, and while this is true, it is also a pervasive problem for people in many situations where their needs cannot be met. Not everyone who needs period products is a woman, but since they are marketed towards women, they are unnecessarily expensive (llano). In the United States, this means that people living in poverty or experiencing homelessness are especially susceptible to period poverty. It is important to note that youth experiencing homelessness are disproportionately LGBTQ people of color (Griffith), so period poverty is not just a women’s health issue, but a very intersectional one.

Two ways Davidson can make menstrual care less stigmatized and more accessible for the community are by increasing the availability of period products in public restrooms and providing opportunities to support menstrual justice in the greater community.

  1. Many of the public women’s restrooms on campus have free tampons available in them- Wall, Union, the library, and Chambers are a few examples. However, they are often out of stock, which eliminates any benefit of them being offered there. In addition, they are only ever set out by the sinks in the women’s restrooms, but not the men’s. Increasing options for gender-neutral restrooms is something we have discussed in class and other students have brought up in their proposals, and I would argue that offering free menstrual products in all public campus restrooms would be a small, good first step to implement towards that goal.
  1. Davidson has the wealth to provide widespread access to menstrual products in public restrooms, but this kind of accessibility is unfortunate not the norm. To encourage action on this issue, I propose putting up posters about period poverty in restrooms. These would include a definition of what period poverty is, as well as a QR code that leads you to the links of organizations to support. For example, Flo Charlotte is an organization that collects and distributes menstrual hygiene supplies to those in need around Charlotte. Their mission statement emphasizes that they “focus primarily on families experiencing homeless, but [they] also support domestic violence shelters, schools, and safe havens for LGBTQ+ teens and young adults” (Flo Charlotte). They accept donations of menstrual hygiene supplies, but also monetary donations, so the posters could even have a QR code that links straight to their PayPal. It would be great to have these posters up in the bathrooms of public buildings on campus to inform people of all genders about this issue and what they can do to combat it.

References

Capozzi, Lindsay. “Period Poverty: The Public Health Crisis We Don’t Talk About.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Policy Lab, 6 Apr. 2021, https://policylab.chop.edu/blog/period-poverty-public-health-crisis-we-dont-talk-about.

Flo Charlotte, https://www.flocharlotte.com/.

Griffith, Daiana. “LGBTQ Youth Are at Greater Risk of Homelessness and Incarceration.” Prison Policy Initiative, 22 Jan. 2019, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2019/01/22/lgbtq_youth/.

llano, Alejandra De. “The Pink Tax: Why Are Feminine Products More Expensive?” CavsConnect, 10 Mar. 2021, https://www.cavsconnect.com/opinion/2021/03/10/the-pink-tax-why-are-feminine-products-more-expensive/.