A person's ability to be prepared for anything, even something as ubiquitous as a woman's cycle, is predicated entirely on having a stable place to live and a decent income.
By Lonita Fraser
Published May 19, 2019
Last week's decision by the Hamilton Board of Health not to approve a pilot project to provide feminine hygiene products in some public buildings included some comments from certain councillors that were very much in the vein of a 1950s housewife mentioning that her "Aunt Flo" is coming to visit.
Because we're apparently still not supposed to discuss menstruation in public, I've decided to discuss menstruation in public. Let me dispel some myths and mysteries about the humble period, for those people who appear still to be confused by it.
Women do not always know when their periods are coming. The reason they don't know is because they don't. That's just the way it is. It's not regular like clockwork for everyone. Although there are women who are lucky enough to be regular enough to track their periods reliably, that certainly does not hold true for every woman, nor a woman's entire life, always. The cycle changes, it can change frequently, and it does so without warning, sans a convenient turkey timer to tell us when we're ready to go.
Sometimes we skip periods, and we do so because we do. We don't know why that happens either. Sometimes it's stress, sometimes it's a medical condition, sometimes that's just the way the cookie crumbles.
The Pill can be taken for reasons other than preventing pregnancy, such as regulating the period.
We can't hold it in.
The contents doesn't all come out at once, nor can we make it so.
It's not all just blood.
The amount and flow can vary by woman, by age, by stage of the menstrual cycle, by time of day, be affected by medication and medical conditions, by hormonal changes, and it can do so seemingly at random, without so much as a by-your-leave.
Menstruation can begin at a range of ages. I have known girls start their periods as early as age seven and as late as age 18.
Periods can be accompanied by any, or all, or none, of the following: PMS, food cravings, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, migraine, skin eruptions, bloating, cramping, severe pain, fatigue, extreme fatigue, weakness, fainting, breast tenderness, and diarrhea.
Feminine hygiene products are expensive.
Dollar store hygiene products are crap.
Tampons will not de-virginise you.
In a recent CBC Hamilton article, Ward 7 Councillor Esther Pauls was quoted saying, "as a woman, when I have my period, I would be stocked with the things I have at home before I went out so I was prepared."
A Hamilton Spectator article also quotes her saying, "I always believe a woman is always prepared."
I'm glad Councillor Pauls is always prepared, but not everyone is, or can be. I'm surprised that I would have to clear this up to a contemporary woman in this day and age, but Councillor Pauls' bubble seems particularly rose-coloured.
Pauls seems to think women wouldn't resort to methods of desperation brought on by poverty, because, as she said, "this is not a Third World country." Have I got news for you, madam.
I've resorted to methods of desperation myself, and I live in the same city you work in. So yes, women here do do that.
The list of people who can't always be prepared includes: any girl young enough not to have learned her cycle yet, anyone with certain medical conditions, anyone whose cycle is not regular, women going through menopause (of which I am one, so trust me when I say that my period has now become an intermittent surprise that has no harbinger to warn me), or anyone, surprise surprise, too financially strapped to be able to buy feminine hygiene products of a quality decent enough to provide adequate protection.
Hint: Products from the dollar store need not apply, especially from stores that sell you candy ten years past its sell-by date.
Just as an aside, I have actually been in the unenviable position of being broke enough that I couldn't afford to buy lady products, and had to borrow money enough to do so.
A person's ability to be prepared for anything, even something as ubiquitous as a woman's cycle, is predicated entirely on having a stable place to live and a decent income (You're welcome, by the way, Councillor Pauls, for your $95,488 salary as a member of council), and a bubble ignoring this, ignores the scores of homeless and financially strapped women who can't be prepared.
It also ignores pubescent and teen girls who might be caught out at school, who might not want to have to go to an office and announce their conditions to the world, who don't have a school nurse to turn to, because a lot of schools don't even have them any longer, and who might not have parents who can always afford the necessities.
And, to those who naysayed because the program is "too expensive" - that's right, feminine hygiene products are expensive. Consider how women who are homeless and otherwise financially strapped feel. Or can you even?
At the very least, these products should be provided in grade and high schools, hospitals, shelters, and provided to food banks as well.
I would not want to have to go back to a period in time (no pun intended), where a woman's best friend at that time of the month was a cloth-wrapped stick of wood or some sand.
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