Column: The price of a period


Photo credit: Azel Al-Kadiri

I visualize a one-hundred-dollar bill being stuck on a box of tampons as Scotland becomes the first country in the world to make period products free to everyone. The milestone reminds me of how much work still needs to be done in the period poverty movement in the United States and beyond.

By Azel Al-Kadiri, Columnist

I’m crying because my brother forgot to close his closet door, my lower back is killing me and my face looks like the “before” picture in an acne cream commercial. 

I roll my eyes and check the calendar: it’s that time of the month. 

For many of us, those five to seven days are not a particularly enjoyable time. In fact, I’m almost certain that some of the cramps I have experienced are enough to make a grown man cry.  

Last week, I made the monthly trip to the store to purchase a box of tampons. I had run out, and let’s just say time was not on my side. While standing between the toothpaste and makeup aisle, I stared blankly at the $8.39 tampon price tag. Ouch. 

The blue box perched right in front of me felt particularly painful, and it wasn’t just cramps. Only days before, I had read one of the most incredible news headlines I had ever seen. It was on the BBC titled, “Period poverty: Scotland first in world to make period products free.”   

I didn’t believe it at first either, but it’s true!

Monica Lennon, a member of the Scottish Parliament, introduced the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill. She has tirelessly advocated for public access to period products for years. With the aid of local authorities, councils and educational providers, the Scottish government will be implementing the Period Products Act

This act is more than just a luxury — it’s a human right. The inconveniences of the menstrual cycle are so much more than physically uncomfortable. That window of time is also a financial burden for women, a phenomenon known as “period poverty.”   

Let’s break it down. If you imagine that one pack of sanitary products costs around $8, and you buy up to two boxes a month, that’s $16. If you keep that up for twelve months, that is an annual total of $192 dollars, meaning there are people who have to choose between buying a pack of pads or dinner.

The mission of this bill is also about dignity. There is nothing more vulnerable than a young girl on her period. My friends and I often laugh as we recall our “first-period” stories, cringing at our younger selves and how little we knew of the subject. Never have I been more embarrassed than when my sixth-grade teacher pulled me aside and informed me I had bled through my jeans. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. 

The truth is that women have been trained to be ashamed of their periods. We all go through it, and yet you’d never know. The way people teach us to “hide” our tampons under our sleeves when we go to the bathroom. The way people teach us that the blood we bleed is “disgusting” and something we should be grossed out by. The way we instinctively lower our voices when we ask a friend for help.

The sad thing is, the people who teach us those “ladylike” behaviors are often other women who have been told the same thing.  

None of us should be embarrassed by it. The female body is incredible, and if you ask me, we should be waving our pads like flags. 

I did end up buying the $8.39 pack of tampons — I didn’t have much of a choice. Nor do millions of bleeding women on the planet. The periods won’t stop coming, just like the angry women standing at the checkout counter, feeling self-conscious of the product in front of them, wondering if one day they won’t have to pull out a credit card to buy it. 

Great job, Scotland.