JANICE RAGE: A 4th of July Without Tampons!

On top of everything else going on to restrict, control, and subvert the rights of American women (I’m looking at you, SCOTUS), there’s also an ongoing and troubling shortage of period supplies. As if times weren’t tough enough for anyone with a uterus, it’s actually harder and more expensive to purchase menstrual hygiene products than ever these days.

But before I continue, I have just one small housekeeping item to address here. For the sake of inclusion and fairness, I’m going to use the term “people who menstruate” rather than the gender-specific terms of “girls” and “women”. I want to include trans boys and men here because many of them menstruate. If the term “people who menstruate” bothers you, too bad. We’re LGBTQIA+ allies here at SuzyKnew! So, get over yourself and join us in the 21st century. Of age trans boys and men do menstruate.

tampons and pads, istock photo

Experts cite issues relating to the global supply chain problems which result in shortages of many everyday items, including menstrual hygiene products. Obviously, the supply-chain chokeholds that began with the COVID pandemic haven’t really subsided. Also, the Russian invasion of Ukraine exacerbated things, as well, especially as it relates to increased fuel costs.

But there’s also a shortage of the raw materials used in period products, like cotton, rayon, and plastic. These are the same raw materials used for personal protection equipment (PPE), the need for which has increased astronomically since the start of the pandemic.

I guess it makes sense, given these circumstances that menstrual hygiene products are harder to find and more expensive. But there’s just something about this whole thing just doesn’t sit right with me. People who menstruate make up more than half the population here in the U.S. And yet, these basic necessities are lacking in what’s arguably one of the wealthiest, most “developed” countries in the world? Make it make sense!

It’s bad enough that we have to actually pay cash money for the very things that sustain life like water, food and shelter. But I get it. Capitalism, or whatever. It is after all, the “American Way.”

But period products aren’t optional for people who menstruate! They’re not luxury items like perfume, or shoes. Like food, water, and shelter, these products are NECESSARY! And they already cost too damn much before the pandemic.

While access to these products has worsened for everyone, the people most affected by these shortages are on the lower end of the economic scale: low wage earners, people living below the poverty line, and the unhoused. According to the Period Project, an organization that provides menstrual hygiene products to people in need, the recent shortages and price hikes have devasted their efforts. Last August, the cost of a “period pack,” which consists of tampons, pads, liners, and wipes to cover one menstrual cycle was $5.86. Less than a year later it costs $10 per pack! And the price is still rising.

This is crazy! Without period products, people who menstruate can’t go to school or work outside their home for several days EVERY MONTH! Just thinking about the economic impact that has on the lives of girls, women, and others is overwhelming. Never mind the social and psychological impact. Until our country prioritizes menstrual equity, reproductive freedom, and economic parity for all citizens, things are only going to get worse.

This weekend, Americans across the nation will celebrate almost two and a half centuries of our “Independence” from tyranny with family gatherings, barbecues, cookouts (yes, there’s a difference), and fireworks.

Oh, the irony!

We’re supposed to be the world’s beacon of freedom and democracy, but we seem to be moving backwards. Our daughters and granddaughters have fewer freedoms today than we had. Fewer people who menstruate have access to affordable hygiene products, which will further impede their ability to go to school, work, or pursue the happiness to which we’re all, according to the laws of this land, entitled.

Happy 4th of July, folks.