Feminine Hygiene is Just as Necessary for Survival as Food

Periods. While people tend to imagine blubbering women, bottles of wine, and pints of ice cream, a period is much more than just a crying fest and sugar load. For homeless women across the country, their period is the difference between a healthy body and a meal.

Almost a year ago Bustle posted a video on YouTube depicting, as the title suggest, how homeless women deal with their periods. The answer? Repurposing all kinds of good from cotton balls to socks to plastic bags. In short, each month homeless women must choose whether or not to spend a large sum of their earnings on a box of tampons or on food.

Many of the women in Bustle’s video remarked that the cost of pads and tampons are extortionate in proportion to other goods, averaging at about $5.84 for a pack of pads and $7.62 for a package of tampons. As a middle-class young adult, that price already seems too high to me, but for a woman with no means or resources, purchasing one pack of feminine hygiene products every month or so is almost impossible. This price is directly related to the long debated “luxury tax” that most of the United States imposes on pads and tampons. On a country that, according to The Washington Post, spends $41.6 billion on Viagra for the military each year, the fact that pads and tampons are still considered “luxury” items is completely absurd.

While I find it frustrating to cough up additional money for items that are necessary for my health, I struggle to even begin to imagine the emotional and physical trauma homeless women face every month. Understandably, rather than choosing to spend a large amount of their money on a box of tampons or pads, homeless women tend to use much riskier alternatives to feminine hygiene products, which can result in serious health problems.

Some states, such as New York, have made attempts to extend the accessibility of feminine products to homeless women by requiring pads and tampons be free in homeless shelters. However, shelters, for both men and women, tend to carry dangerous and negative connotations, so most homeless women tend to avoid them.

We need to be more proactive in providing women with products that are necessary for our health and safety while we are on our periods. Just like many churches and other volunteer organizations provide the homeless with food and clothing, they should provide “period packages” that include some essential products for a woman’s menstruation. Homeless women should not be forced to resort to unsafe methods of feminine care, especially since a woman’s period a natural process, signifying fertility and a healthy body.

In a time where women’s reproductive rights are at stake, as well as access to affordable medication, support is needed now more than ever. By taking just five minutes to research organizations that donate new tampons and pads to homeless women, you can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Homeless women should never have to choose between feminine hygiene products and a substantial meal, both are necessary for survival and health.