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People are claiming that period poverty “isn’t real” – and we’re having none of it

Posted by
Hollie Richardson
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Period poverty

Women are sharing their experiences of period poverty on Twitter, after claims that it isn’t a real issue. 

Finally, the government has announced that period products will be available in every primary and secondary school and college to help end period poverty. The scheme will start next week, following relentless campaigning to ensure girls don’t miss school because of their period.

Although the news is good, it’s undeniably overdue. This is something that female students have had to deal with since, well, forever. A survey in 2017 by charity Plan International found that 10% of girls and women aged 14-21 had been unable to afford menstrual products. Over 137,700 children in the UK have missed school because of period poverty. And 68% said they felt less able to pay attention in class at school or college while menstruating. 

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But, for some people, these statistics aren’t enough to prove that period poverty is a very real thing.

A radio presenter wrote on Twitter: “Sorry if this is gross. But #periodpoverty FFS?! My mum had to use old rags which my grandma boiled-washed and she re-used. How did she ever manage to get a scholarship to grammar school, go to uni and became a headteacher without free tampons?”

Many people – mostly men, who don’t will never experience menstruation in their lives because they haven’t got a womb – agreed with the idea that period poverty isn’t an issue. “All these girls will have pleading poverty, will have phones in their pockets,” sneered one. “Anyone who can’t afford £1 a month on sanitary towels really needs to evaluate their life tbh,” added another.

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In response to this, women are now sharing their own experiences of period poverty to highlight just how prevalent and unacceptable issue it always has always been – and still is. 

Writer Emily Linka started the online conversation by detailing her own story on Twitter.

The thread read: “Let me tell you about period poverty from someone who grew up poor. TW for trauma: My mum didn’t believe me when I told her my period had started because I’d had a false alarm a few weeks before. So she wouldn’t give me pads at all for the first few days so I bled. And bled and bled.

“I tried to use toilet roll but it wasn’t great because I was very heavy. Eventually I got in trouble for bleeding onto my underwear (a regular occurrence) and got given Asda smart price sanitary towels. Bulky awful plastic things that flooded straight away.”

It continued: “And the pads - they smelt weird, and the smell of blood rose up from them. They’d sweat and crinkle and stick. They’d chafe your legs and you’d be left with skin rubbed raw and split open, on top of your period, on top of your pain and your shame. I still feel the trauma today.

“I have no idea why on earth middle class people are so mortally offended by the idea of giving CHILDREN and TEENAGERS free sanitary products is so awful or why they think period poverty is some sort of weird conspiracy scam but I can only assume it comes from privilege.

“I’ve known homeless women too who had to just free bleed, ruining the few items of clothing they had, ending up with sores and matting and pain from the dried blood with no facilities to wash or clean themselves. There is no way in which providing this products for free is bad.

“And if you think it is, I would like to challenge you to go for a whole period without using sanitary products. And making sure you’re living the life of a school aged person - active, walking all the time, not being allowed to go to change whenever you want, doing sports.”

She concluded: “Because believe me, you will be miserable. Beyond miserable. And anyone who starts saying that their grandmother’s grandmother used clothes or whatever - we also didn’t have soft toilet paper in the UK until after 1950. Do you want to go back to tree bark & leaves for that too?”

Linka then called for people to donate to the Bloody Good charity, which is working to end period poverty in the UK, or to Action Aid, which is working to end global period poverty.

This thread inspired more women to share their experiences and call out the comments about period poverty not being an issue.  

One replied: “Gosh yes, I remember those awful cheap pads, and the way they bunched up in the middle and blood got everywhere. My mum and sisters and I all synchronised and there’d be four pairs of bloody knickers soaking in the sink each month!”

Another added: “I remember those types of pads. I was only allowed one of the cheapest 20p a pack pads for a whole day and night as a teen. Needless to say a pad costing less than a penny was beyond crap and I’d get sores in other places because I literally couldn’t change my pad.”

One Twitter user also said: “Emily I felt so upset for you reading your experience. People who say stupid things about period poverty have never been through it. I remember trying to make my pads go longer by wrapping toilet roll around them. I had heavy periods and [endometriosis], at night my cheap pads leaked.”

Food writer Jack Monroe also responded to the original tweet, writing: “Hi Liz. I stuffed free newspaper in my pants when I suffered #PeriodPoverty AFTER going to a nice girls grammar school. Poverty isn’t a linear experience, and your comments are ignorant and revolting. Use your position to raise other women up, not trample them and sneer.”

Here are ten ways you can help make change happen in society, particularly when it comes to period poverty in the UK.

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Images: Getty

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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