Today I’m starting a new and exciting series for my blog called Anything Goes. In this series, I am going to be tackling topics that are taboo or uncomfortable for many to talk about, and will be including guest posts, interviews, and some of my own writing. I plan to address stigmas and issues that surround subjects like feminism, mental health, and more, in hopes that they can bring light and fuel conversation between me and you and others. Look out for a new installment to this Anything Goes series every last Sunday of the month 🙂
I have always wanted to address the stigma around periods on my blog, but as I began researching statistics, I realized there was an even more important issue that relates to this topic: period poverty. Before beginning research, the only experience I had with period poverty was adding menstrual pads and tampons to flood relief kits in my area. And even after that, my knowledge was slim to none. For those of you who are in the same boat as I was, let me break it down for you.
Period poverty is a term used to describe a situation where girls and women do not have access to information about periods and/or cannot afford the menstrual care and products needed during their “time of month.” Period poverty causes a sense of shame for the women who experience it and has been known to keep girls from going to school or work while on their period.
For my British friends: Make sure to check out my good friend Lexie’s blog. She’s a lifestyle and review blogger with the coolest style and Instagram. In her post, she shares her similar interview with Bloody Good Period, an organization dedicated to reducing period poverty in Britain. If you want to learn more about period poverty in your nation and ways to help, head on over to her post to learn about that for yourself!
QUICK FACTS ABOUT PERIOD POVERTY
- A lack of affordability causes many women to use only one tampon per day or one pad for multiple days. Sometimes, women are even forced to use items like socks, newspapers, and dishrags during their menstruation (Borgen Project).
- A study done in Britain with 500 women who suffer from period poverty and 500 women who don’t showed that women who have experienced period poverty are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety (Independent).
- Without mestrual hygiene, women are at risk for serious and life-threatening health issues like Toxic Shock Syndrome (Borgen Project).
In order to gather more insight into period poverty and its effects, I reached out to Chelsea VonChaz, the founder of #happyperiod, an American organization created to “[provide] menstrual products to anyone with a period that has low-income, is homeless, or living in poverty.” She is quite the female powerhouse who runs #happyperiod while speaking at global conventions and simultaneously breaking the stigma surrounding periods. Through a phone interview, I got greater insight from her about what exactly period poverty means and what you and I can do to help those struggling with it. Let’s get into it!
THE INTERVIEW with CHELSEA VONCHAZ
* With permission from Chelsea VonChaz, this phone interview was recorded. Sadly, the recording ended up being too muffled to make out. Luckily, I wrote down a lot of her exact words and bulleted her other thoughts. Therefore, the answers to these questions are not direct quotes unless stated or indicated with quotations, BUT are all directly from the answers Chelsea VonChaz gave me.*
What is your definition of period poverty?
Chelsea described her definition of period poverty as the same one the United Nations uses: “people who have periods who have a lack of resources, no access to washing facilities, and/or no access to menstrual materials.”
Through #HappyPeriod, how have you seen period poverty affect girls in ways other than discomfort? How does the stigma around menstruation affect this?
Chelsea stated that “with stigma comes trauma people don’t consider.” It has become normal for women to be shamed for having periods to the point where we, ourselves, actually begin to feel ashamed about it. For those going through period poverty, this effect of shaming is magnified. As Chelsea said, “if you don’t feel clean and you’re not clean, it can have an effect on [your] emotional health.”
Has period poverty become less of an issue or more of an issue over the years?
It has become more mainstream globally, especially since 2015; “people who don’t have it are beginning to see it as an issue, [but many still] see themselves as exempt.” Essentially, Chelsea concluded that it may not have become less of an issue over the years, but a bigger focus has been put on it, giving it the attention and resources it needs to become less widespread.
Realistically, could abolishing period poverty be something that happens in the next few years, or is it something that could take years to get rid of?
Chelsea “definitely sees it being a country to country process [as it] would take a lot of policy for it to be abolished.” As she brought to my attention, four to six countries have eliminated the tax on period products and provide the products in public places, giving more access to them for different kinds of people. This is a great example for what could happen, but Chelsea doesn’t see this happening in the immediate future for America unless it became a state-by-state process. Also, although getting rid of period poverty would take policy and action, it “starts with the culture.”
Chelsea listed a few examples of how period poverty could be reduced in America, stating, “If everyone on welfare or getting government assistance in general was provided with menstrual products, that would be extremely helpful for [people with periods].” She also mentioned how if schools provided menstrual products for free, it could cut the problem of period poverty almost in half.
How can we help remove the stigma around periods and help to prevent period poverty in general and through #HappyPeriod?
“Happy Period is all about reshaping the perspective on periods and providing people with choices for their menstrual products,” Chelsea told me. She says the work that Happy Period is an intersectional organization that is for with anyone with a period, whether you’re a girl, a woman, non-binary, or transgender. People can set up happy Period chapters in their area to have donation drives, but with a chapter or not collecting and donating period products at places of work and school is one way we can move towards preventing period poverty.
Other ways Chelsea says can help in general, are to have conversation and use your own platform to do so and create a space and room for anyone as “menstrual issues have always been invisible.” Lastly, an easy way to help remove the stigma around periods themselves, are to buy any pins, posters, art, and clothing that relate to periods, then wear them to start conversation wherever you are.
Before ending this post, I want to say a quick thank you to Chelsea VonChaz from Happy Period for giving some of her time to answer these questions. Be sure to check out Happy Period’s website and Instagram to stay up to date with how to fight period poverty. I hope this post and her interview were an eye-opener and a quick synopsis into what period poverty in America is.
Although this post focused mainly on period poverty in the US, it is important to remember that period poverty and the stigma around periods is happening all over the world. Educating yourself and taking action globally is just as important as doing so locally. Here is a great article by Refinery 29 that talks about period poverty on the global scale: What Every Woman Should Know About Period Poverty.
Now, I’m going to leave you all with a few resources to further educate yourself on period poverty and ways to take action to prevent it:
Thanks so much for reading! Stay tuned for the second installment in my Anything Goes series, coming at the end of November. Don’t forget to head over to Lexie’s blog to read her interview with Bloody Good Period to address period poverty in the United Kingdom. Can’t wait to tackle more important topics with you all!