Period Poverty in the United States of America

Not many know what period poverty is or about its widespread impacts. However, this unfortunate reality is not exclusive to the 99 percent—women, non-binary, and trans individuals face period poverty here in the US and in other developed nations. Read on to learn more about period poverty in the United States of America and discover the true prevalence of this inequality.

What Is Period Poverty?

Period poverty refers to a lack of access to menstrual products, education, and hygiene facilities, often due to financial constraints. This issue affects menstruating individuals who are unable to afford necessary items such as pads, tampons, or menstrual cups, leading to significant health, educational, and social consequences. Without proper menstrual care, individuals may suffer from infections, miss school or work, and face stigma and embarrassment. Period poverty is not just a financial issue but a human rights concern that highlights the importance of ensuring everyone has the means to manage their menstruation with dignity and safety.

Period Poverty in North America

Despite the United States being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, period poverty is a stark reality for many. The high cost of menstrual products is a significant barrier, particularly for low-income families. The fact that many states often tax menstrual products as luxury items only exacerbates the issue, adding an extra financial burden. Public assistance programs such as SNAP and WIC do not cover these essential items, leaving many to resort to unsafe and unsanitary alternatives.

The lack of affordable menstrual products can lead to missed school days for students, decreased productivity at work, and severe health risks, underlining the disparity between the nation’s wealth and the accessibility of necessities. Period poverty disproportionately affects marginalized communities, including people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and homeless populations, further entrenching existing social inequalities. Additionally, many homeless shelters and prisons do not provide free or sufficient access to menstrual items, leaving the most vulnerable citizens without basic hygiene products.

Breaking the Stigma Through Normalization and Education

The impact of period poverty on average North Americans extends beyond physical health. It affects emotional and mental well-being, contributing to a sense of shame and embarrassment. The stigma surrounding menstruation prevents individuals from seeking help or discussing their needs openly. This silence perpetuates the cycle of period poverty, making it harder to address and resolve the issue. We must normalize menstruation and prioritize education on menstrual health and hygiene to break the stigma. Discuss periods and the menstrual cycle openly and implement comprehensive sex education in schools, covering topics such as menstruation, reproductive health, and consent. Even businesses and public spaces providing free menstrual products through innovative tampon dispensers normalize menstruation in society. By educating the public and destigmatizing periods, we can work toward a society where everyone can access menstrual products without feeling shame or embarrassment.

Addressing period poverty in the United States of America requires a multi-faceted approach that includes policy changes, public awareness campaigns, and community support networks. Ultimately, ensuring equitable access to menstrual products is not just a matter of convenience but a critical step toward achieving gender equality and upholding the dignity and health of all individuals who menstruate.

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Written by Logan Voss

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