Progressive New York decision to provide free female sanitary products in schools shows requirement for gender equality

Feminine products (pictured above) sold in Walmart in the United States. These products are very expensive and a requirement for women’s health and safety. Providing free supplies is essential and will foster greater equality. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Free feminine hygiene products will now be provided to girls in grades six through 12 in New York State public schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a tweet on April 2. 

While the steps New York has taken are admirable for lessening the costly burden menstrual products put on women, society will never be able to claim full equality for women until these practices are adopted worldwide.  

If toilet paper and soap are offered at no cost in public restrooms, materials a woman needs for a cycle she can’t prevent should be too. Women are charged an absurd amount of money for something their bodies must do, not because of a choice they made. The average woman will use almost 10,000 tampons in her lifetime for a cost totaling $1,773.33, according to HuffPost. 

The high cost and taxes on menstrual products help contribute to what is called “period poverty,” wherein families cannot afford to purchase these products, especially low-income families. 

In a press release from January—when Cuomo first proposed free menstrual product legislation—it was reported that “42 percent of children live in low income families. At $7 to $10 per package, a month’s supple of something as simple as a box of pads or tampons can be one expense too many for struggling families.” 

New York—along with California and Illinois—should be commended for alleviating the cost of products from middle and high school aged girls. The rest of the country must follow suit.

As New York Assembly member Linda Rosenthal—who introduced three bills to help increase access to menstrual products—wrote in a press release in May, “menstruating is not a luxury; it is a biological phenomenon that necessitates the use of products that are costly.” Leaving families responsible for purchasing feminine hygiene products is a form of sexism and simply unfair to girls who cannot access these supplies. 

Women who cannot afford these products must worry about how they’re going to handle their period every month. In comparison, teenaged and young men don’t have to worry about access to free condoms. 

Many high schools and colleges across the United States provide free condoms in sex education classes and dormitories. Condoms are regarded as being very important—there’s no denying that they are essential in preventing the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Yet menstrual products don’t seem to be taken as seriously, which is simply unfair. 

Without access to these products, millions of girls miss school while they are on their periods, according to Affinity Magazine. Furthermore, girls will often use a pad or tampon for much longer than is medically recommended, Affinity Magazine reports. 

Free feminine hygiene products nationwide would reduce the number of girls missing school or risking consequences such as Toxic Shock Syndrome.  TSS is “a complication arising from an infection with certain types of bacteria” and happens when tampons are left in for too long, according to The Washington Post. 

Despite society’s attempts to improve equality and opportunities for young women, the gap will never be fully bridged so long as schools aren’t providing free menstrual products and stores are still taxing them. New York, among other states, has helped lead the way and hopefully, other states will soon follow. 

To alleviate the burden of purchasing or paying taxes on feminine hygiene products from women is to acknowledge that nothing should stand in the way of what they can achieve; their periods included.