Saturday, April 17

Free menstrual products: a debate that should not arouse so much passions

The announcement of the free menstrual products in Scotland created quite a stir in Quebec, where a motion to study this possibility has just been unanimously adopted in the National Assembly.

In this regard, comments of hatred and incomprehension are increasing on social networks. Many male users hold up their razors and shaving cream, which they want for free: “It’s not my fault, either, if I have a beard!” I read. They complain about the “weakness of women”, who are too stingy to buy their own tampons.

Upon reading these words, I was distraught. A large part of these men saw this female victory as an injustice that had to be remedied. The subjects of these responses going against this gratuity, sometimes coming from women, reveal a lack of education, both on sexuality and the condition of women.

The comparison with the razor is often advanced. Deconstructing this faulty argument is no genius. On the one hand, there is hairiness. Hair growth, like periods, is not a choice. The resemblance ends here. The hair does not afflict only the man, but rather the Man, that is to say the whole humanity. Calling for free razors for men, when the media and social norms require women to have hair free from hair, would not restore the situation of inequality.

Going a step further, it is even possible to realize that the inability to shave, although it can cause discomfort, does not have the same inconveniences as the inability to access menstrual products. If a man does not have enough funds to get a razor, he has to undergo a beard and mustache. If a menstruating person runs out of money to buy a tampon, they must find a safe way to bleed continuously for a week while continuing with their daily routine. This brings me to my next point.

Sanitary napkins and tampons, although they have not been taxed in Quebec for barely 5 years, remain expensive. The free supply of these items is not just a big saving for middle-class menstruating women: it can save many homeless women and women in precarious situations, who, faced with the impossibility of buying tampons, must fall back on unhygienic means putting their health at risk.

The report «How Do Homeless Women Cope With Their Periods?» reveals the solutions used by homeless New York women to live with, or rather survive, their menstruation. Stockings, pieces of clothes bleachés, plastic bags, sanitary napkins torn and rolled into a kind of tampons; in short, all kinds of methods putting these women at high risk for infections and toxic shock syndromes. Thus, the ultimate benefit of the free distribution of menstrual products is this protection of the most impoverished women.

Another subject of frustration is that of taxes. What is gratuity worth if it is deducted from the wages of others, especially that of men who do not menstruate? This question, going beyond the case of menstrual products, is a political issue. To answer simply, I would say from a personal point of view that it is about solidarity.

Help cover the necessary expenses of those who do not have the same economic privilege as us is at the origin of free essential goods and services.

On the scale of my life, I will be spending a large sum on pantiliners and tampons when my male counterpart will not have to open his wallet for this reason. Help cover the necessary expenses of those who do not have the same economic privilege as us is at the origin of free essential goods and services. The same goes for health care and food aid.

In a similar vein to users complaining about taxes, others sarcastically state that if menstrual products are free, then why not diapers and toilet paper? Without realizing the irony of their remark, they try to prove the ridiculousness of a gratuity by invoking another, just as relevant. To that I answer: why not? Why not free diapers to help parents and incontinent individuals? How about free toilet paper? Of course, toilet paper is already distributed for free in all public restrooms, while tampons are not, still costing $ 2 in the majority of establishments. When times are tough, no one should have to choose between basic hygiene and diet.

Despite these disheartening responses, the multiple positive reactions from both sexes keep me hopeful. More and more initiatives providing better access to menstrual products are taking shape in schools and municipalities. And now let’s see how far this file will go to the National Assembly.

The Perspectives section offers personal texts that reflect the opinion of their authors and not necessarily that of HuffPost Québec.

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