Thursday, May 31, 2018

Period Poverty

I'm seeing a lot of articles popping up in my feeds this week about period poverty. Most of them appear to be written by people who have never actually experienced it, trying to reduce the issue to whether a single tampon works out at 5p or 50p, and it is grinding my gears.

Periods are not consistent. There is no incredible One Box of sanitary products that covers one woman's needs for one period. You have heavy days, light days. You have times when it's best to use a super plus tampon and an overnight pad both at once, and you have times when either of those products would just be amazingly uncomfortable. It also wouldn't be economical - as a rule, night pads are more expensive than "regular" pads which are in turn more expensive than panty liners, but if you tried to get through a heavy day with just regular pads you'd need to use a dozen of them. To deal with one period, you need more than one product.

Whatever products you need though, even if you only need one of each, you have to buy multipacks. This is the thing really upsetting me about the pennies-per-pad calculations. The only way you can buy one pad, or one tampon, is from vending machines in ladies' loos which, last time I had cause to use one, is £1 a time (and might be more now). In the real world, we buy packs of 14. Or 12. Or 10. Or 50. A challenge for those snide writers of articles sagely declaring that the mega value bundle from UltraPoundwiseUniverse gets it down to a penny per pad: I'll punch you in the stomach a few times, put clothespins on your nipples, and fill your pants with loo roll, raw egg whites, and food dye, and then you can take your calculator on the bus and go shopping around for the best deal, yes? And don't forget, you can't do it while you're at work, and if you're unemployed you've got to fit it around doing your compulsory job applications and you have to take your kids with you.

Don't tell me we should bulk buy ahead of time, either. If you're experiencing period poverty you're likely experiencing other forms of poverty too. Your room in the b&b "temporary housing" does not have a pantry, under-stairs cupboard, loft, basement, shed, or any other storage space. Odds are you can't store anything in the shared bathroom either, even IF it's clean enough to consider doing so (mooncup evangelists, I'm looking at you as well now).

Of course, having bought your packet of 12 pads, you probably will use the remaining 11, because on average, for most people who have periods, it's something that happens almost every month for 30-35 years, for about 6 days in every 28.

But this is where tight budgeting comes in. Let's say it's day 5 of your period, it's light flow and almost over. You need three more pads. You've got two. There is £2.47 in your purse for the next two days. A packet (remember, you can only buy a whole packet!) of regular pads costs about £1.40 at the local shop (it's cheaper at the big supermarket but not if you add the bus fare). Do you (a) spend a sizeable chunk of your remaining cash on a pack of pads when you only need one, or (b) use the two you've got and then do your best with loo roll?

Period poverty isn't just about it costing £120 over the course of a year. When you're in actual poverty a year is an unthinkably long time and even a month is too far off to be planning. All of your Cope is taken up with making it through to the next payday and things that are "only" a couple of pounds might still be a couple of pounds more than you've got.