Historically menstruation has been seen as a process that is “shrouded in secrecy and taboo” and still today the stigma that comes along with menstruation can be seen worldwide (Vora, 2016). Individuals are expected to not make it obvious that it is their time of the month. Some do this by wearing dark clothing, others by avoiding swimming pools or just simply not talking about it. Most of us are used to buying commercially produced sanitary items and any other alternatives are seen as “anachronistic” (Vora, 2016). But what if you did not have a choice?
For anyone who has endured a period, you know how uncomfortable and inconvenient it can be, but for homeless women it is much more than that. I recently came across a YouTube video that Bustle posted a little over a year ago regarding how homeless women deal with getting their periods. And their answers? To use non-conventional items like socks, cotton balls and plastic bags. For a population who is marginalized this is reality. When it comes to accessing safe and efficient sanitary items and keeping clean, they do not know where to go.
The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013 report stated that there are at least 200,000 individuals who experience homelessness in a given year (Gaetz, Donaldson, Richter, & Gulliver, 2013). This means that for the homeless women, trans men and intersex individuals, having constant access to clean showers is part of the struggle. Being without a home or having a limited income makes dealing with periods a nightmare, and this is on top of all the other challenges they face on the daily. Sanitary tampons and pads are costly, ranging anywhere from $3 to $10. Other items like pain medications, new clothing items or comfort foods also add up, making these extra items not an option for those who are living on the streets. Homeless folk should not have to choose between a pad and being able to eat but are being forced to (Mettler, 2016).
The secrecy that surrounds periods has unfair consequences on the homeless population. Sanitary items are needed in shelters but because menstruation is a topic that is not openly talked about, donators do not often know to donate them (De Bode, 2015). Thus the Menstrual Movement is about “making sure that all women have access [to sanitary products]…whether they’re living on the street” or in a shelter (Kasulis, 2017). Dealing with a period should not be something that you have to afford because menstrual health affects all of us. So we need to talk about it. Period.
[Bustle]. (2016, Ocotber 18). How Do Homeless Women Cope With Their
Periods? NSFWomen [Video File]. Retrieved
De Bode, L. (2015, January 13). Hygiene and heartache: Homeless women’s
daily struggle to keep clean. Retrieved November 06, 2017, from
Kasulis, Kelly. “This Harvard ‘Period Girl’ Wants to Help Lead the ‘Menstrual Equity Movement’.”
NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 28 Sept. 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
Mettler, K. (2016, June 23). ‘They’re as necessary as toilet paper’: New York City
Council approves free tampon program. Retrieved November 05, 2017,
Stephen Gaetz, Jesse Donaldson, Tim Richter, & Tanya Gulliver (2013): The
State of Homelessness in Canada Research Network 2013. Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85- 002-x/2011001/article/11495-eng.htm
Vora, S. (2016, May). The experiences of menstruation by homeless women: a
preliminary report (Rep.). Retrieved November 8, 2017, from