Home Body Is Making Sanitary Products Free a ‘Key Moment for Gender Equality’?

Is Making Sanitary Products Free a ‘Key Moment for Gender Equality’?

by Matthew
sanitary products

Earlier this year Scottish Parliament passed a bill making products like tampons and pads, collectively referred to as “period products“, free for anyone who needs them. 

The bill, introduced by Labour Member Monica Lennon (who’s been campaigning to end “period poverty” since 2016) mandates that local authorities make free period products available in schools, colleges, universities and other designated public places. 

In reference to her crusade, Lennon once said, “In these dark times, we can bring light and hope to the world.”

Period-Based Activism

Figures suggest the measure will cost taxpayers approximately £24 million (USD 32 million) per year – in a country where according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies public debt is nearly 9% of GDP, or about £11 billion (USD 14 billion). 

Prior to the vote in January, supporters marched outside Edinburgh’s Parliament building waving signs that read – 

Access to Menstrual Products is a Right. Period.

And – 

Wear Your Positive Pants #PeriodDignity

Some even included images of pink panties with blood seeping from the crotch. 

Gruesome images and staggering costs aside, nobody’s arguing against women having access to period products. 

But should they be free, and if they are, is it really a key moment for gender equality as claimed in a recent Newsweek article by Zoe Drewett titled How Making Sanitary Products Free Is ‘Key Moment for Gender Equality’

Tampons, Caviar and Period Poverty 

According to Actionaid UK:

period poverty quote

They also claim that during their periods girls often: 

  • Miss a day or more of school 
  • Experience persistent shame and fear
  • Use dirty rags instead of hygienic period products which can lead to infection

A recent study by The Borgen Project found that – 

“At least 500 million girls and women around the world experience monthly period poverty.”

Ironically, in much of the EU period products have historically been classified as “luxury items” like gold watches, caviar and silk neckties. In countries like Germany, Hungary and Sweden, they’re subject to hefty value-added taxes (VATs), often approaching 30%.

Rose Caldwell, Chief Executive of Plan International UK said:

“In making this world-first commitment, the Scottish government has shown itself to be a pioneer in tackling period poverty, and we hope that nations around the world will follow its lead.”

In fact, many countries like Malaysia, India, Jamaica and Canada have already eliminated or significantly reduced taxes on period products. 

Caldwell added: 

“This new law will help to ensure that no girl or woman in Scotland struggles to afford period products.”

Is “Period Poverty” Even a Real Thing?

But here’s the problem. 

Business Today states that – 

A typical five day period costs the average Scotish woman about £8 (USD 10.75), or about $129 per year. 

That’s right, just $129 per year. 

We’d all like to have an extra 129 bucks in our pockets at the end of the year, but is such an amount really contributing to poverty among women in Scotland?

In March, conservative British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that the aptly named “tampon tax” would be repealed in England by January of 2021. 

Though it’s undoubtedly a big win for “Nanny State” feminists, at least in developed countries the numbers just don’t add up, especially if those presented in the aforementioned Newsweek article by Zoe Drewett are to be believed….

Again, are we expected to believe that in a developed country like England, reducing taxes on period products to save women £40 (USD 54) over their lifetimes will have the slightest impact on the financial situations of even the poorest among them? 

Which Is It, Equality or Period Poverty?  

According to Merriam-Webster – 

But two distinct issues – equality and period poverty – are being used interchangeably by proponents of free period products. 

Perhaps in countries like Scotland with socialized medicine the argument could be made that providing free period products does increase equality. 

After all, menstruation is a biological condition that costs women money, and if men’s healthcare expenses are covered, it’s only fair that women get the same benefit. 

Hence, equality.  

But period poverty and equality aren’t the same, and using the terms as if they are only muddies the waters. 

People like Rose Caldwell, Monica Lennon and Zoe Drewett claim that providing free period products to women and girls around the world will eliminate period poverty and increase equality, but that’s not true. 

Statistics clearly show that in developed countries like Scotland and Britain, period products are so inexpensive that it’s a wonder proponents can even make claims of rampant “period poverty” with straight faces.

But the truth is, it’s probably just another example of politicians – 

These sorts of policies pass more as a form of virtue-signaling for feminists than actually doing anything with any real impact.

But Men Don’t Menstruate!

Of course, men don’t menstruate, but men are prone to other male-only medical and biological issues that women don’t have to worry about – like prostate cancer. 

And in countries where medicine isn’t socialized, treatment costs can be staggering.  

According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology, when diagnosis, surgery, medication and office visits are taken into account, the cost of prostate cancer treatment in the United States is about $2,800 per month. 

According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 41 men in the United States will die of prostate cancer. In fact, thanks to free screenings women receive for breast cancer (and no similar free screenings for prostate cancer), as of 2018 there are more deaths from prostate cancer than breast cancer. Yet, funding for breast cancer research and screenings far exceeds that for prostate cancer.

In 2020 alone, more than: 

  • 190,000 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed
  • 33,000 men died from prostate cancer

Sadly, global prostate cancer statistics are nonexistent. 

Probably because in developing countries it usually goes undiagnosed, and even when it is most men don’t have access to treatment, or the money to pay for it. Because, actual poverty.

But whatever the true numbers are they must be huge. 

Perhaps we should coin a new term – “Prostate Poverty.” 

Maybe supporters of free period products for all would consider tackling this issue next. You know, for the sake of equality? 

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