Should feminine hygiene products be free?

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By: Hannah Knowles

hknowles1@radford.edu

Lets face it, feminine hygiene supplies are marketed to women in pretty pink boxes with flower designs, showing women playing sports or laughing with their friends. What those advertisements don’t show are those women who cannot afford to pay $8-$10 a box for tampons or don’t have access to feminine hygiene products. For a woman that could easily afford tampons it may seem like a silly idea to say that feminine hygiene products should be free. However, to a woman working a minimum wage job, it could be a serious help. For some women, lack of these supplies means that they cannot attend school or work, and can even put them at risk for infection because they do not have hygienic resources.

Did you know that you cannot buy tampons or pads with food stamps? Or that items such as hand sanitizer and sunscreen are exempt from sales tax while feminine hygiene supplies are not? Menstruation is a medical condition and therefore should be treated as such. When feminist columnist for The Guardian Jessica Valenti suggested the idea of free feminine hygiene products she was immediately attacked. However, it seems like RU students take a different approach.

Catherine Baker, junior, agrees that feminine hygiene products should be free or at least tax exempt like other items that are catered to both genders. Baker argued that women already pay more in comparison to men for gendered hygiene supplies like razors and shampoos “for women.” Baker ended our discussion by claiming that if men had periods then these supplies would be free.

Another RU student claims the same argument. Leanne Mullen, sophomore, says that women need tampons or other feminine products. These items are a necessity and they are not optional. She also wondered about women that cannot afford them because of their high cost. Catherine and Leanne are both right, these supplies are expensive and for some, unaffordable.

Every woman I have approached with this argument agrees that tampons and pads should be free for all women. I’m sure there are some women that disagree, but the overwhelming majority of RU students do not.

The bottom line is that women attending Radford, like many college students, may be struggling financially and unable to afford tampons or pads. If a woman can’t afford groceries and can’t even use her food stamps for tampons, what is she supposed to do? Once again, menstruation is a medical condition that we as women cannot stop from happening. Why shouldn’t the government step in and help women who can’t afford supplies for this unavoidable condition? Tampons are treated like something that isn’t necessary to women’s health care, like a tube of lipstick. I believe that Catherine Baker is right when she says that if men had periods, tampons would be free.