People with periods, how many times have you been caught in a bathroom stall with no other option but to line your underwear with toilet paper and pray you’ll make it through the rest of the day without a leak?
We’ve all been there. But thankfully, change is coming.
A few months ago, news broke that the Canadian government plans to make menstrual products free for federal workers. This move will affect over 480,000 workers and positively contributes to a larger conversation around the cost and accessibility of menstrual products.
About time, right?
But when Blume, the sister-founded clean skin, body and period care brand, really looked into the availability of menstrual products in public bathrooms, it made us wonder why this hasn’t been done before. Why aren’t period products like these ones readily available everywhere we go already? If 50% of the population has periods, this should be a no-brainer.
So, we made a list (as if we even need one!).
Here are 3 reasons why menstrual products should be made free and accessible in public restrooms:
1. It’s stressful and distracting to get caught without them
“The stress of being caught without [a pad or tampon] is overwhelming! There is nothing quite like that feeling of panic.” - Katie O., Toronto
We have all been there: stuck in a bathroom stall with no pad, no tampon, and no one around to ask. And when it’s 10am and you still have an entire day of school or work to get through, panic is bound to set in.
From that point on, you’ll dedicate your morning to asking everyone you can find if they have a tampon. And if you’re the shy type, you may just scurry out on your lunch break to the closest convenience store to buy yourself a fresh pack of the cotton goods.
For teens, it’s even more stressful. Adolescents aren’t as comfortable talking about their periods and may not have the freedom (or the cash) to leave school to buy supplies and may have to go to the front office throughout the day to get what they need. This can be very embarrassing, and it’s one more thing that may distract them from class.
What’s worse? In a recent survey from Plan Canada International, almost 75% of the women they spoke to reported missing work for reasons related to their periods, such as not having the supplies they needed.
Not cool. How are we supposed to take over the world if we’re distracted from stressing about tampons all day long?
2. Menstrual products are very expensive
According to that same survey from Plan Canada International, a third of Canadian women under 25 found it difficult to afford menstrual products. That’s so not okay!
In Canada, the government thankfully eradicated the “tampon tax” in 2015, but the average woman still spends around $65 per year on menstrual products.
As for our American friends? Well, a recent survey in the St. Louis area discovered that almost two-thirds of low-income women in that major city were unable to afford menstrual hygiene products.
“I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had to pester my colleagues looking for an extra tampon.” - Lisa D., Ottawa
For many people living paycheque-to-paycheque, an unexpected leak can make or break their budget. And for those living in poverty, it can become a serious health issue. According to Dr. Sheila Wijayasinghe, who is a family doctor and health expert on CTV’s The Social, “Period poverty is a real thing in which everyone who has a period—women, trans, and intersex individuals—all suffer stigma of menstruation. The inability to afford sanitary products is more common than we realize and affects people’s health.”
Free access to tampons and pads in public washrooms would alleviate this problem and allow all women easy access to the products they need.
3. It saves on waste
While we’re on the subject of the cost of our periods, can we have a moment of silence for all of the panties we’ve had to throw away over the years?
An estimate from HuffPost stated that women spend over $2,000 in their lifetime on replacing underwear that has been ruined by leaks. (And if you have this problem, you know you have a special selection of stained undies just for the occasion.)
If we’re going to save the world from climate change, we’ve really got to think about where our used underwear goes. Did you know that “20% of industrial water pollution is estimated to come from garment manufacturing, while the global apparel and footwear industries account for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions”?
“It’s incredibly important for these products to be available for free.” - Dr. Sheila W., Toronto
By making period products free and accessible in all public washrooms, not only are we saving money on the cost of pads and tampons, but we are saving on the cost of potentially ruined underwear — and the waste that goes along with it.
If we don’t have to pay for toilet paper and paper towels in public washrooms, then we shouldn’t have to pay for menstrual products either. Offering free and accessible period products can help people who menstruate save upwards of $5,000 in their lifetimes, reduces stress on women’s shelters, and reduces waste — especially if the products provided are eco-friendly! Plus, by setting those of us in Western countries up for success, we can better support developing countries in the quest for period equity.