According to new research released by U by Kotex, one in four women struggled to buy menstrual products within the past year because they couldn’t afford them. And one in five low-income women say they’ve missed work or school because they didn’t have access to period supplies. It’s a bigger issue than people realize, one that’s affected even my own community, raising truancy rates at area schools and motivating our local UnitedWay to do menstrual product drives within the last few years
That’s why U by Kotex launched the “With U, She Can” program to create greater awareness of what the brand is calling “period poverity,” or the lack of access to menstrual products in low income populations. The campaign is in conjunction with the company’s current partnership with the Alliance for Period Supplies, where it has already donated 2 million products this year alone.
It’s a fantastic program, one that is absolutely needed. The problem? These efforts overlook entire populations of people who don’t identify as women but who also menstruate.
Women Aren’t the only ones who menstruate
It’s 2018, so by now we all know that women aren’t the only ones who menstruate, right? There are countless people who have uteruses who do not identify as women. So when Kotex® developed their “With U, She Can” program to address the need for menstrual products in low income populations, why did they only address the needs of low income women?
According to the National Center on Transgender Equality’s 2015 report, which is the latest and most comprehensive survey of transgender people in the U.S. to date, people who are transgender are twice as likely to be living in poverty as the general population. In 2015, 29 percent of transgender people in the U.S. were living in poverty compared to 12 percent of the general population. One in eight (or 12 percent) of respondents experienced homelessness because they were transgender.
This data only covers the transgender community. It doesn’t include those who identify as gender non-binary or genderqueer, who also experience discrimination, poverty and homelessness at higher levels than your average cishet woman. Oh, and many of them have uteruses and menstruate and need period products.
How can we do better?
This isn’t a matter of a simple language change, though “With U, We Can” is a small, if pitiful, start. Companies like Kotex need to put their money where their mouth is by ensuring their products are getting into the hands of low-income transgender and gender non-binary people. Start a branch of their program specifically for outreach to the trans and genderqueer communities. Advocate for menstrual products to be placed in all bathrooms, regardless of what genitals the bathrooms are intended for, so everyone has access to them at all times. Include trans and genderqueer spokespeople in their campaigns because representation matters.
There’s absolutely no reason entire human beings should be forgotten from a vital campaign like this. If one in five low income women are missing school or work because they don’t have access to menstrual products, how many transgender or genderqueer people are missing school or work? It’s time for us to do better.