At YWCA Princeton, we seek a world free from inequity. We advance our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women through programs and advocacy that are accessible and affordable to those in need. Our latest Stand Against Racism campaign was themed, “building a safe, economically secure future for women and girls,” with health and safety being one of the pillars of our work.
Menstruation is a natural bodily occurrence for those who are born with a uterus. It comes with immense stigmatization across numerous cultures, and can be embarrassing to talk about for many. It’s perhaps one of the reasons that period poverty and accessibility to menstrual hygiene products have not been mainstream talking points until somewhat recently.
The Price of Menstruation
Menstrual hygiene should not be a thing of privilege. When we think of the expenses associated with menstruation, we might just think of tampons and sanitary napkins. An average box of tampons is about $6 (which is still an expense that might be difficult for people who make minimum wage or are unemployed), and in many states, they are taxed as a luxury item. But many people experience severe cramps, which requires over-the-counter pain relief, an additional expense. And menstrual cycles can be unpredictable, so unexpectedly getting your period can be not only incontinent, painful, and embarrassing—it can also ruin a pair of underwear and pants.
Factors like severity of flow and cramps might lead to additional expenses. Most people who menstruate spend about $120 a year on tampons and pads, according to one Groundswell article. Over the course of a lifetime, that adds up to about $5,600. Again, this estimate doesn’t include things like pain medicine, new underwear, heating pads, and more. Some people experience such severe pain from cramps that they are unable to go to work, which costs productivity and lost wages if the worker has unpaid sick days.
Ending the Stigma and Proving Resources
PERIOD., a nonprofit dedicated to providing women and people who menstruate with hygiene products, was founded in 2014 by Nadya Okamoto. PERIOD. is a largely youth-led organization with chapters across the country. According to their website, “to date, PERIOD has addressed over 700,000 periods through product distribution and registered over 400 campus chapters in all 50 US states and in over 30 countries.”
We’re proud to collaborate with their Princeton chapter on October 19th, National Period Day. Together, we’re working to end the stigmatization around menstruation, and provide menstrual health products in every school and public restroom.