period poverty

Does anybody really love to get their period?

Periods have been giving people a run for their money since the beginning of time. It's a pretty safe bet that nobody likes them. If there was a way to replace them with a text message, email or post card that simply read, "not pregnant this month," people would happily sign up for that instead. There are so many better ways to deliver the message than debilitating cramps, irritability, headaches and the need for menstrual products.

Emily Vondy took to social media to show her attempt to psyche herself up for her period, and it's got people laughing. The woman appears to be standing in a mirror filming herself do a pep talk to prepare herself for her upcoming menstrual cycle. But it was honestly probably doing the opposite, though the song is clearly a bop.

"The average woman has about 450 periods in her lifetime, which adds up to ten years. Ten years of our lives will be spent menstruating and I don't want all those years to suck, so this is my attempt to gaslight myself into thinking my period is super cool," Vondy says to open the video.

Yikes! Ten years seems a bit excessive, mother nature, but that's the point of the tune Vondy starts rapping. Pointing out the reason people have periods and how cool our bodies are may make the cramps of a period not seem so bad. Again, not sure it will have the desired effect but commenters really felt her jam was on point.

"Are my kids of homeschooling age yet? No. Do I have a daughter? No. Will this song be apart of our homeschool science curriculum? Yes. Yes it will," one woman writes.

"Ohhhhhh my gosh!! No lie THIS.... This song should be reproduced and used in Health classes all around. It's VERY on point of what to expect or should expect and gives the needed encouragement. I'm going to save it for my now 4yr old daughter. It's fun," another says.

"Straight to the point NOT PERPENDICULAR this was the most valiant effort I can imagine for period hype. Go team," someone encourages.

There were puns made in the comments as well and a little confusion on her math with people wondering how periods only lasted 10 years of life. Vondy explained that she meant if you added up all the minutes a person was actively on their period then it adds up to 10 years. Either way, everyone seemed to agree the song was a banger and should be used in curriculum and available on iTunes.

"Period poverty" — being unable to regularly afford menstrual hygiene products — affects people around the world.

For the millions living in poverty, affording menstrual products is a huge challenge. And it's not just those living in developing countries who struggle. Advocacy group Plan International estimates that 1 in 10 girls in the U.K. — a wealthy, developed nation — are unable to afford sanitary products. In the U.S., 42 million women live at or near the poverty line, and since many public benefit programs consider menstrual products "luxuries," menstrual hygiene is unaffordable.

Countries are battling period poverty in various ways. India recently eliminated its 12% "luxury tax" on sanitary pads and tampons after a widespread campaign put pressure on the government.

In New York state, all public schools now provide free tampons and pads to students, and some schools in the U.K. are offering the same.

But the question of disposable sanitary product affordability also raises questions of environmental sustainability — is providing one-use pads and tampons really the best way to go?

Disposable menstrual products are an environmental blight.

In the U.S. alone, people use and throw away 7 billion plastic tampon applicators per year. According to the book "Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation," the average menstruating person will throw away 250 to 300 pounds of disposable menstrual products during their lifetime. Considering that's about half the population, that's a whole lot of period trash flowing into landfills and polluting our oceans — trash that will long outlive the people throwing it way.

Image via AFP/Getty Images.

And it's not just the disposal of tampons and pads that's an issue. The production of non-reusable menstrual products also uses plastic, rayon, and other materials that cause harm to the environment.

Environmentally friendly menstrual products are also more affordable in the long run — potentially solving both economic and ecological problems.

There are three main reusable options for people with periods: washable pads, period underwear, and menstrual cups — and all three cost far less than pads and tampons in the long run.

Washable pads work the same way cloth diapers work and can be reused until the cloth wears out. Period underwear works similarly, with an absorbent pad built into panties. Both the pads and the undies can be washed in the washing machine.

Sun’s out, pads out. #gladragspads #breezy

A post shared by GladRags (@gladragspads) on

However, access to washing facilities may limit their viability for people living in poverty. Unclean pads can increase risk of infection.

Menstrual cups are another sustainable option. Inserted like a tampon, these silicon or latex cups collect blood; however, unlike a tampon, they can be worn all day or all night. And because they require a minimal amount of clean water to maintain, they are a good option for people living in places with limited sanitation.  

“We have done a small pilot project at a refugee camp in Malawi. And another of our projects in a drought stricken area of Kenya showed that cups were a better option than cloth or washable pads due to the much smaller amount of water required to keep them clean and use them safely," a representative of The Cup Effect told Passblue. "If there is enough water to sustain life, there is enough water to use a menstrual cup safely.”

However, the cup is not a panacea for period poverty either because it does have limitations for certain people, including those who have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM).

So while there's no one perfect solution, looking beyond simply supplying more disposable sanitary products to those living in poverty may be a smart move both economically and ecologically.

Where people and governments can help is defraying the upfront cost of reusable products.

Reusable menstrual products do cost more out of the gate, but the cost is quickly recouped and long-term savings are significant. Product needs and usage varies widely. However, The Penny Hoarder estimates that using a menstrual cup can save $100 per year. And since menstrual cups can be used for 10 years, their environmental impact is minimal and tiny compared with disposable products.

However, that upfront cost makes reusable options out of reach for people who are struggling to make ends meet. A community-led initiative in New Zealand is battling period poverty by making menstrual cups more accessible. The initiative has given out more than 80 menstrual cups in the community since September 2017. Such projects can have a significant effect on people's lives.

Again, there is no single best solution to period poverty as each person will have specific circumstances and needs. However, a good percentage of the population — and our planet — could benefit from providing people sustainable, affordable options for managing menstruation.