“The Cycle.” “Moon days.” “Shark week.” Even “Satan’s waterfall.” I’m sure everyone is used to people using a whole slew of different names for the dreaded period.
With almost 5,000 slang words and phrases in 10 different languages, periods have long been viewed as something that must be kept private and to oneself. But why is it? After all, roughly 26% of the global population has them. Society has been taught that periods are a disgusting work of nature that shouldn’t be publicized.
Kaylee Gibson ’23 has very different views of that though. “I think of awesomeness,” she says. “This might seem odd, but periods are so cool, like, your body just knows what to do when an egg is not fertilized, and I think that is pretty awesome.” What puzzles many is why views like Gibson’s aren’t more common.
“People are often “scared” and want to stay away from the “unknown” and since they don’t know much or enough about them, they choose to do so and create this stigma,” said Andrei Cherascu, ’23. “I think that they should normalize periods by educating more people and getting rid of all, or at least trying, myths and misconceptions.”
“I am very uncomfortable when talking about periods, as a girl, I feel as if I should be ashamed of myself for even talking about periods,” said Helelia Wakalala ’23. “It’s being shown in movies and shows as something women should be ashamed of and should not wear white or all those stereotypes.” Many students believe it’s safe to say that traditional views play a large part in why periods are thought of the way they are today. “Traditionally in the past, [females] were and still are expected to be perfect and pretty, so if there’s blood comming out of not so pretty places, we have to be punished with shame and taxes,” Wakalala adds. And she’s not wrong.
The so-called “Tampon Tax” is about taxing menstruation products, which are currently considered “luxury items.” While items such as Viagra are considered medically essential, along with bandages and gauze to keep blood from flowing outside the body, menstruation products such as pads and tampons are not considered medically essential, and have a tax hanging over them. “The tampon tax is something that shouldn’t be there. Menstrual products are necessities and it’s disrespectful knowing that there is a tax on these products,” said Waad Ibrahim ’23. “Some people aren’t able to afford these needed products and the fact that there is a tax on this but not other products like Viagra, condoms, or candy, shows how periods are viewed.”
Now, there are 33 states, including Iowa, that still have the tax. There are protests in every state to eliminate the tax. “What’s the point in taxing it if it’s something that needs to be used more than half of the world? I see why it might be convenient because so many use it but it’s exactly fair that women have to be taxed for something that they need,” Julianna Mascardo ’23 said.
“The protests are a great idea. It’s letting the government know that taxing necessities is absurd,” Ibrahim said. Ibrahim also mentioned how there are people who struggle to afford menstrual products. More than 1 in 10 girls have had to improvise and make their own menstrual wear because they didn’t have adequate access to the proper products. At West, that’s still a reality for some students. Globally, only about 12 percent of girls have adequate access to the menstrual products they need. A thought many kids have concerns having pads and tampons available for free in the high school bathroom. And not even that, but in other public facilities as well.
“This would be a great thing to have at West! Many people have troubles affording pads and tampons, but with them being provided it can release some stress off of that family,” Gibson said. Although there are some students who don’t fully agree with Gibon’s idea of fully free products for everyone, it seems clear that they agree with the overall idea of free menstrual products. “I think they should have some just in case, although I don’t think they should be given to every female unless they can’t afford it,” Wakalala said.
Another rather common idea is just making more of an effort to normalize periods, and educate people to prove that they’re a normal thing and that there’s no need to be so ashamed of them. “I feel like I’m pretty comfortable talking about periods because I have 3 sisters,” said Carlo Tran ’23. “We should make an effort to normalize periods because if we do, then men will actually know what’s going on every month and everybody can be more educated about female anatomy in general.”
“Spreading awareness and educating current society about periods should let people know that periods are a natural thing that not everyone can just make go away,” Ibrahim adds.