At my local grocery store, I avoid eye contact with the cashier as I place the box of tampons on the counter. It seems to be a collective and mutual experience for people who menstruate to be embarrassed by their periods. I am told the price, pay and move on, dreading the next time I have to deal with the cycle of menstruation that comes along with a cycle of shame.
From personal experience, periods were not talked about in any setting other than home. I received no education on the menstrual cycle and how it works — I was only taught socially.
Periods have a lot of stigma around them of being unsanitary, unnatural and gross. The lack of conversations around periods due to societal norms makes it difficult to address the issue of how much periods actually cost. Why do we need to pay for something that is biologically prone to happen, and why are we not talking about how many people can’t afford it?
Period poverty is defined as a lack of access to menstrual products and menstrual education. Many may have not considered this phenomenon, but that can be credited to the lack of education of periods in schools, social or news.
Let’s do some math. The average period lasts about five days. Depending on whether or not people who menstruate buy both pads and tampons, prices may vary. The New York Times states that the average person spends $9 per month on period products, adding up to about $108 per year, but a mother with two daughters states they spend about $50 per month. According to Duquesne University’s School of Nursing, the average person who menstruates spends around $2,000 on tampons in their lifetime, and 3.5 million do not have the finances to buy menstrual products. We also need to take into account contraception, which is not just for preventing pregnancy, but also for regulating periods and making them less painful. Without insurance — which a lot of people can’t obtain — the average birth control pill costs $50 per month. That is $600 a year.
These are all general statistics, but there are more details that come along with periods and factor into what to buy. Whether it be considering flow type, organic products, how long one’s cycle lasts or how many people are in one household who get their period, it is all relative to the person. However, one thing is clear: periods cost a lot of money.
Embarrassment and expenses are not something people who menstruate should have to deal with every month. Rather than making those who menstruate conceal part of their natural biology, there should be a required education on the menstrual cycle for all genders. This could possibly destigmatize periods and lead to legislation similar to what Scotland put in place on Nov. 24, 2020: free period products for all.