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“Between The Bills” Episode Four: Period Poverty And Menstrual Equity

“Why haven’t we long ago questioned why everything we need isn’t in the bathroom?”

December 20, 2019

listen up

t’s been a minute, y’all! Welcome back to Between The Bills: For Bodies Out Of Control, a reproductive justice podcast brought to you by your faves at PULP.

I’m Emily Rose Thorne, a journalist from the Peach State, working to see the U.S. South represented in national conversations about advocacy.

A quick transparency note: we’re going to be scaling back the show to once a month rather than biweekly to make sure we have the time and energy to bring you this important content without burning ourselves out.

We’ll hear from Claire Cox and Adele Stewart from Georgia STOMP (Stop Tax On Menstrual Products) about what period poverty is, who it affects, and what we can do about it — plus, as always, the positive change they’ve already inspired down here in the South. (No spoilers here, but it’s pretty incredible what they’ve done!)

A period poverty primer: “Period poverty” refers to a lack of access to menstruation management products and safe, hygienic spaces in which to use them, exacerbated by social and cultural stigma surrounding menstruation.

Menstrual equity, then, is the process of restoring those rights. According to the attorney who coined the term, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, folks experiencing period poverty are denied:

“full democratic and civic participation,” because “the ability to access these items affects a person’s ability to work and study, to be healthy, and to participate in daily life with basic dignity.”

There are two primary factors contributing to period poverty: affordability and access. Period products are expensive, and they’re counted as “luxury,” taxable goods, unlike male sexual health products like Viagra. But, menstruators will spend about 2,000 days of their lives on average bleeding and in need of these products. In addition, American women are 38% more likely to live in poverty than men.

That’s 25 million American women below the poverty line.

“Men go to the bathroom and there’s toilet paper, paper towels, soap, water — everything they need’s in the bathroom. Why haven’t we long ago questioned why everything we need isn’t in the bathroom?” — Claire Cox, Georgia STOMP

In terms of access, advocates like Claire and Adele are working to ensure that the most vulnerable of menstruators can get their hands on these products. Incarcerated people, homeless people, young people attending schools, and people recovering from crisis situations such as natural disasters or domestic violence, are particularly at risk of not being able to even find period products, costs aside.

So why is it so damn hard to make it easier for the more than 50% of the population to get the medical products they need each month? Two reasons: cultural ideas that menstruation is dirty, and a lack of representation in our governments. The people in power (mostly men) just don’t think about periods, and when bleeding is brought up to them, they get grossed out or otherwise disinterested.

To put things in perspective:

Items states have decided to make tax-exempt instead of period products:

  • Texas: cowboy boots
  • Illinois: barbecue sunflower seeds
  • Wisconsin: gun club memberships
  • Louisiana: Mardi Gras beads
  • Georgia: candy and soda
  • The U.S.: Super Bowl tickets

Claire and Adele explain the nuances of period talk beautifully in this episode, and they illustrate how grassroots advocacy goes from talking about a problem to officially organizing to finally creating lasting legal change.

We also talk about how and why states apply taxes, what it’s like to get your period while homeless, sexual and reproductive health outcomes for young people who can’t access period management products, menstruators’ experiences while dealing with situational poverty following crises, and navigating conversations that are so often predicated on the male-female gender binary.

Grab your coffee, your tea, your mineral water — whatever floats your boat — and settle in for Episode Four of Between The Bills.

Hit that play button — let’s talk.

If you enjoy Between The Bills, make sure to give PULP a follow here on Medium and on our social media! All your love helps us keep the lights on!

And if you have ideas or feedback for the show, a story you want to share, or questions about our coverage, reach out to me at

// go deeper //

Sources used to inform Episode Four and resources to learn more about the state of period poverty in Georgia and around the country…

Academic and scholarly resources

U.S. Policymaking to Address Menstruation: Advancing an Equity Agenda — Jennifer Weiss-Wolf; William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice (2019)

Menstrual hygiene plight of homeless women, a public health disgrace — Allegra Parrillo & Edward Fellow, Rhode Island Medical Journal (2017)

Government resource

Georgia Homelessness Statistics — United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (2018)

News articles

A Look at Menstrual Equity from a Policy Standpoint — Zaira Khan, Step Up Magazine (2019)

Getting Your Period Is Still Oppressive In The United States — Julie Kosin, Harper’s Bazaar (2017)

Homeless Period Project provides feminine hygiene products to women, girls in need — The Homeless Period Project/Greenville Journal

Macon Periods Easier’ Helps Fight Period Poverty — 41NBC/WMGT

What Happens if I Keep a Tampon in For Longer Than 8 Hours? — Jessie Gill, VICE (2017)

Milton students to address school board on period poverty and education — Elizabeth Nouryeh, North Fulton Neighbor (2019)

Macon Periods Easier addresses period poverty in Macon-Bibb County — Raven Stephens, FOX24/WGXA (2019)

‘Macon Periods Easier’ aims to provide for midstate women — Jayla Whitfield, FOX24/WGXA (2019)

The Cost of Women in Prison: A survey of Middle Georgia’s incarcerated women — Eric Mock, FOX24/WGXA (2017)

The Hidden Impact of Period Poverty in Prisons — Mika Doyle, Luna Pads (2018)

Period Power: Periods and prisons in the US — Lunette

Trump administration leaves menstruating migrant girls ‘bleeding through’ underwear at detention centres, lawsuit claims — Andrew Buncombe, The Independent (2019)

Georgia allocates $1.5 million to address ‘period poverty’ — Tanya Modersitzki, 41NBC/WMGT (2019)

Vintage vids

A Brief History of (Terrible) Menstruation Education Videos — Rae Alexandra, KQED (2019)

A not-so-vintage vid

The bloody truth about period poverty in America — CBS News, 2019

Organizations & additional information

Daybreak Day Resource Center, Macon — Depaul USA

Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2019 — Aleks Kajstura, Prison Policy Initiative

Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, attorney and vice president for development of the Brennan Center

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