Imagine you're a young woman who, due to stress or a hormonal blip, or even just your personal biology, you have a longer-than-average menstruation cycle. Sounds annoying, right? Now think about what'd it be like to deal with that while in prison. Even if it's just for something minimal, like petty theft, disorderly conduct, or marijuana possession, you're allotted a dozen pads for the month — no matter what.

This is the reality for female prisoners all over America. But one state just made a move to change that.


Maryland has taken a landmark step towards making hygiene products more accessible for prison inmates.

On March 1, 2018, Maryland lawmakers unanimously approved bills that require correctional facilities to provide free feminine hygiene products to all inmates.

Photo via iStock.

The state mandate was a huge win for feminists and activists who've been pushing for inmate rights. Reproductive rights groups have long advocated for making hygiene products more accessible for inmates. Diana Philip, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, has been particularly outspoken about fair treatment for all women, and the need for state policies that make hygiene products accessible for incarcerated women. Philip's pointed out that women who've been incarcerated by the state haven't been able to get the supplies that they need.        

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Inside or outside of prison, it's expensive to be a woman, particularly if you menstruate.

The good news? Federal policies actually make a lot of sense on this issue. But due to a weird quirk in U.S. prison practices, many incarcerated women will never benefit.  

Although federal prisons made hygiene products free for inmates in August 2017, most incarcerated women are actually in state prisons or local jails. This means that fewer than 10% of female inmates benefited from the new federal measures. Thus, most female inmates rely on state legislation to see changes in their prison. But, the problem of expensive or inaccessible products isn't limited to prisoners, though.

Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images.

Even for women who've never seen a jail cell, a box of pads or tampons is pricey, ranging anywhere from $6 to $10 at a typical drugstore. Over the course of a lifetime, at a box of tampons or pads per month, the average person can easily spend thousands of dollars on hygiene products, and nearly $20,000 on products related to menstrual cycles, such as panty liners, Midol, and birth control.

Due to what's been deemed the “pink tax”, women have increasingly criticized the costs of hygiene-related and other products that are largely used by women. Low income communities are particularly vulnerable to these expenses, and are often unable to afford all of the costs that come with having a period.  

People who have periods have very different experiences from one another. Some experience extreme pain, have very heavy flows, and experience periods for more than seven days. Still, many prisons historically allocate a certain number of pads per month.

This disenfranchises women inmates with heavier or elongated flows. Women make roughly 75 cents a day for a day's work, and a 24-pack of pads is just over $2.50 in some states. With other necessities like deodorant, toothpaste, and edible food, saving for pads can be a challenge. When inmates need more hygiene products, they’re forced to rely on whatever income they make through the prison system to buy additional products.        

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

In a system that’s largely — and rightfully — criticized for its dehumanizing treatment of inmates, making hygiene products more accessible is a good step towards progress.  

As activists continue to push for inmate rights through various movements, such as the #LetItFlow campaign, there’s hope that other states will continue to shift policies to make prisons less dehumanizing to women. Recently, Arizona increased the number of pads it offers to inmates from 12 to 36.

Humans, regardless of background, experience, or misdeeds deserve rights to health, safety, and livelihood. By providing basic — yet necessary — products, our society can continue to move towards a more equitable and humane world for all.      

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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