New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled a “2018 Women’s Agenda for New York,” which is assigning six million dollars a year to targeted empowerment initiatives for young women and school-aged girls. This sentence has a lot of red flags for some -- the word “Cuomo” and phrase “women’s agenda” is enough to make Republicans just say no without knowing anything more. But it’s a brilliant move and one that should be bipartisan, one that all governors across the country should look into for their state.
This agenda addresses a rights disparity as well as dignity issue far too many of us aren’t privy to. In part, it’s about feminine hygiene products. Yes, we all need to discuss maxi pads and tampons. Women bleed every single month and it should no longer be a taboo topic.
A key point in this Women’s Agenda is to give kids free access to feminine hygiene products in public schools. I believe these products should be free in public bathrooms and institutions everywhere as well. This isn’t about giving away free candy. This isn’t a hand-out. This is supplying what’s needed for a biological function.
Men need to imagine if they needed to make a bowel movement and there was no toilet paper to clean themselves up with after. Imagine if everyone was expected to carry around their own toilet paper for the times they have to go to the bathroom in public. Imagine if public bathrooms didn’t supply soap or something to dry your hands after washing. We take all these things for granted until we find ourselves trapped in a stall, pants down, without something to wipe up with.
A woman’s menstrual cycle is a fact of life -- just like the fact that we all need to use the bathroom during our days. So why can’t we have feminine hygiene products to use whenever the need arises? Why has this been overlooked?
I have a theory. It’s because men don’t bleed. If men got their period once a month for about five days of flow, maxi pads would be free and in well-made dispensers. Tampons wouldn’t give us toxic shock syndrome because they would have more information out there to prevent it. Diva Cups wouldn't cost a thing, and neither would birth control because it’s the only thing that can stop a monthly flow besides pregnancy and menopause. In fact, it wouldn’t be called birth control, simply estrogen/progesterone, so religious freedom fanatics wouldn’t freak out. You do know that “birth control” also helps so many women in so many vital health ways that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy, right? I won’t even get deep into the “pink tax”, but the cost inflation of products marketed to women is also an issue.
Women have just accepted the fact that men get two ways to eliminate in the public toilet room -- urinals and stalls -- and yet women are told to go into a dirty restroom to breastfeed our babies. This isn’t veering off topic -- this is pointing out the numerous issues with the accommodations that have been put into place for men versus the ones there for women. Free feminine hygiene products for all is the least we can do.
Looking at Cuomo’s stats, New York State has 42 percent of children in the low income bracket. Feminine hygiene products can cost between seven to 10 dollars for a one cycle’s supply, and it’s an expense that could be too much for people on the poverty line. Consider the estimation that the total cost of a woman’s period over the course of her menstruating lifetime is $18,171. That’s a new car, part of a downpayment on a house, and a good start for a college tuition. The high cost of maxi pads and tampons are an added burden on women. Not only the cost, but the tax of feminine hygiene products have the greatest impact on low-income women and single mothers. This is the group that seems to be overlooked and discriminated against the most. More tax cuts for the rich! Let’s eliminate health care for people who can’t afford it! No birth control for you! Have more babies, no abortion, we don't care what happens to them once they're born!
You could argue that the cost of these products then fall on businesses, although no one has ever argued that point when it comes to toilet paper. That’s because toilet paper defies gender construct. There shouldn’t have to be an “agenda” to accommodate a woman’s basic rights. But I’m thankful there is because it’s a start for everyone to realize the weight of this imbalance. No woman should be without maxi pads and tampons when her period occurs. We should aspire to live in a world where women aren’t worried about keeping their dignity intact when we menstruate. Every woman deserves to have what they need when it’s their time of the month.
This is a dignity issue, a human rights issue, and an equality issue -- this “Women’s Agenda” should be embraced across the aisle, and rolled out everywhere. We can’t overlook a biological function of a woman’s body and then charge her for it. It’s simply inhumane.