End the stigma (period)

On Oct. 19, we are striking.

Madisonians will take part in the Rally for Menstrual Equity along with people all across the country celebrating National Period Day. Students, health care professionals and legislators alike will rally to fight what is commonly referred to as the “tampon tax,” inaccessibility to menstrual products and the general stigma against periods.

You have probably heard of the tampon — or pink — tax before, referring to how menstrual products and other female hygiene products are taxed as "luxury" items in 35 states. This means that tampons, pads and various menstrual products are not exempt from a sales tax, classifying them as non-necessities like alcohol, hairdryers and cigarettes. When our government refuses to label pads and tampons as necessities, we leave a significant and vulnerable portion of our population with the impossible decision of choosing to put food on their tables or managing their periods healthily.

Such a disregard for menstrual well-being and health leads to period poverty. Due to a lack of income, one in four menstruating people struggles to afford period products. Because young menstruating people are the highest population of impoverished people across the country, they fall victim to period inequities far too often.

Beyond not being able to afford menstrual products, impoverished female-bodied people are often unable to obtain pads or tampons. In the United States, there is no government regulation ensuring that period products are provided in prisons, educational institutions or even public shelters. Not only are we placing financial barriers between people and basic necessities, but we are denying physical access as well.

Because our culture lacks the willingness to discuss periods, vulnerable people are left behind, unable to manage their own menstrual health.

But there are tangible solutions. In Wisconsin, Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, has proposed a bill that requires all restrooms in buildings that are leased, owned or occupied by the state and local governments to have tampons or pads available for free. School districts — including charter and private schools — would be included in the bill.

Menstrual hygiene is a basic human right, not a privilege, and it is up to everyone — menstruator or not — to protest in solidarity. On Oct. 19, from 2-5 p.m., we will rally between State Street and Mifflin Street.

Join the youth, menstruating people and underrepresented groups to take a stand for equitable treatment and laws. Stigmas against periods must end, and it starts with us.

Maggie Di Sanza is a junior at James Madison Memorial High School and is the founder of the social justice campaign Bleed Shamelessly, which works to put an end to the harmful stigmas against menstruation and further gender equity through journalism, education and protest.

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