The Big Red Taboo: Why public institutions should take on the burden of menstruation

Imagine if toilet paper wasn’t supplied in public bathrooms, and as a result, you had to supply your own, keeping your personal and private stash on your person at all times.

Luckily, this isn’t the case and institutions do provide toilet paper for you if and when you need it, so you are not subject to being unable to adequately clean yourself after going to the toilet. But what if you had forgotten? What if you didn’t have enough money for a multipack? What if you then had to go to a dispensary in a toilet in which you had to pay an extortionate amount per sheet? Why should women have to carry a similar burden — purely because they menstruate?

This is not an isolated or an individual issue. While there is no solid data for this – the Scottish Government have not conducted any studies into this and do not intend to, according to Labour MSP, Monica Lennon. This shared burden is something that could elevated greatly if there was firm action actually taken to tackle this issue. Women are in crisis, and it is highly implicated that the burden should fall on voluntary organisations, such as food banks, that come about in times of great need when the issue is brought up to governmental figures. Food banks would not have to exist if the governments had done their job in the first place, which is to ensure adequate care for all, regardless of gender. However, while there should absolutely legislation put in the place to solidify this action – other institutions need not wait to take matters into their own hands.

Elena Semple from City of Glasgow College is apart of a group that proposed free sanitary products be available within their campus as she discovered that:

There were only 2 dispensers installed in our City Campus with plans to only install 1 additional one – for a building with 10 floors.”

With the lack of dispensers – the institutions are making a profit from people who menstruate and it’s disgusting. The responsibility should fall on the shoulders on those with power and who do not have to make a choice between eating or bleeding.

One person who is making a difference is the aforementioned Labour MSP Monica Lennon, whose unrelenting support around this issue is helping to take steps to actually making a difference. Before she raised the issue of accessibility of feminine sanitary products in the Scottish Parliament, the word “tampon” had only been used within an environmental context as it described among debris washed up on a beach. Lennon’s raising of this issue was also the first time that the word had been uttered in the Scottish Parliament in 12 years.

It should not take over a decade for women’s issues to be brought to the forefront of the government’s attention – and only way that change will be made is if continuous pressure is placed opinion institutions to prioritise eliminating period poverty for good.

Words: Alisa Wylie
Artwork: Coleen Campbell, Instagram – @gazehounds


More in the Big Red Taboo series:

#PeriodPoverty in the 21st Century by Katy Flynn

Profile on Glasgow University’s Red Alert by Alisa Wylie