Homelessness & menstruation: making a tough situation tougher
January 24, 2017 6:48 AM   Subscribe


 
Sanitary ware in the UK is classed as a "luxury, nonessential item" and is taxed at 5 percent.

Due to EU VAT rules, funnily enough. One of the small side-benefits of Brexit is that it will allow the UK to zero-rate them.
posted by Segundus at 7:19 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I'm ashamed to confess that I hadn't ever really thought about this, except perhaps as a general feeling that homelessness is horrible. I just found out about The Melbourne Period Project and I'll show them some support. Thanks!
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:40 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


I'm going to talk to my union and see if we can't find a way to tie this into our International Women's Day event somehow. Great post!
posted by peppermind at 7:49 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I remember once learning that if at any point a woman asked out loud for a pad or a tampon, even her mortal enemy would share without a second thought. To do otherwise would be monstrous.

I learned this pretty late. There's really quite a bit that guys don't find out. None of us think toiletpaper is a nonessential luxury.
posted by effugas at 7:49 AM on January 24 [20 favorites]


The college campus I used to work at had free hot and cold running tampons and pads, in all the bathrooms. Every time I mentioned this, some douche would have to be like, "Ohhhh so you ladies get things for free, huh? Must be nice." No, asshole, it's so that no person who menstruates who finds themself on campus has to pick between a hot meal and some damn tampons.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:54 AM on January 24 [42 favorites]


While many, many homeless and marginally housed people don't make use of Shelters (safety issues, gender determined by staff, pets, difficulties dealing with crowds, etc.) an always welcome donation are pads and tampons.

In addition you can contact a local organizations working to assist homeless folks and you can donate there.

If anyone wants recommendations for where to donate in the SF Bay Area it's ok to MeFi mail me.

Thanks Kitteh for the post.
posted by pipoquinha at 8:15 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


For a volunteer event at work I packed several hundreds bags of various hygiene items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, tissue, deodorant, soap, hair care, razor, wet wipes, etc) for homeless families in Austin. We were told to put ONE tampon and ONE pad in each bag. Me and several girls revolted and put 5-6 of each per bag. We packed about 3 thousand bags total.

We were incredulous. ONE TAMPON and ONE PAD? Are you kidding me?
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:44 AM on January 24 [46 favorites]


The college campus I used to work at had free hot and cold running tampons and pads, in all the bathrooms. Every time I mentioned this, some douche would have to be like, "Ohhhh so you ladies get things for free, huh? Must be nice." No, asshole, it's so that no person who menstruates who finds themself on campus has to pick between a hot meal and some damn tampons.

I would be less interested in the free hygiene products, and MUCH more interested in the difference between hot and cold running tampons.
posted by Mayor West at 8:58 AM on January 24 [11 favorites]




There's really quite a bit that guys don't find out. None of us think toiletpaper is a nonessential luxury.

I understand the spirit of this comment, but you might be interested to learn that the default technique for anal cleansing after defecation that's almost universal in the U.S. and Europe is not the standard in some other parts of the world.
posted by layceepee at 9:14 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


“The Peach Coven collects menstrual supplies for the homeless,” Beca Grimm, Creative Loafing Atlanta, 30 June 2016
posted by ob1quixote at 9:40 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Under neoliberalism, there is no universal right to human dignity. Human dignity is a positional good on the market, like any other.
posted by acb at 9:56 AM on January 24 [8 favorites]


Been donating goods to homeless shelters recently - starting at Christmas. One of the most sought after items on their list: feminine hygiene products. We gave away backpacks for Christmas to a homeless shelter- each backpack was deliberately non gendered but every backpack had at least two packs of pads in them. No condoms, though.
posted by disclaimer at 12:11 PM on January 24


Here's a Portland, OR, organization Camions of Care that provides period supplies to homeless women.
posted by bendy at 12:59 PM on January 24


pipoquinha: an always welcome donation are pads and tampons.

For our mom's "In memory of," we asked people to donate to a local women's shelter. Afterwards, when I asked our shelter contact what the money had gone towards, she said, "Tampons, pads, diapers, that sort of thing."

I could tell she was hesitant about revealing the unglamorous use of the money, so I said, "Excellent! Mom was extremely practical. She would have been absolutely delighted. We are, too. It hadn't occurred to me that tampons and pads would be such a high priority, but OF COURSE."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:03 PM on January 24 [12 favorites]


I wonder if there are any programs aiming towards distributing reusable/washable menstrual products to the homeless? As a diva cup/cloth pad user, I haven't bought disposables in over a decade, and especially if folks are struggling, I could see that having some real benefit.
posted by Feyala at 1:42 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


"Ohhhh so you ladies get things for free, huh? Must be nice."

This is when you sneak into the toilet after him, reach under the partition, and steal the TP.

What, you need toilet paper? Bring your own, freeloader!
posted by jackbishop at 1:56 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I wonder if there are any programs aiming towards distributing reusable/washable menstrual products to the homeless? As a diva cup/cloth pad user, I haven't bought disposables in over a decade, and especially if folks are struggling, I could see that having some real benefit.

Those require regular access to sanitary places to wash the clothes and/or cups, which would cause issues for many folks. Likewise, with cups, I know *I* went through a learning curve for getting stuff in right/not leaking, and the issues regarding regular laundry access means that any issues with that are compounded.

That's not to say that they wouldn't be a solution for some people, just that there's a large proportion of folks for whom it would not be practical.
posted by damayanti at 2:15 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


Those require regular access to sanitary places to wash the clothes and/or cups, which would cause issues for many folks. Likewise, with cups, I know *I* went through a learning curve for getting stuff in right/not leaking, and the issues regarding regular laundry access means that any issues with that are compounded.

That's not to say that they wouldn't be a solution for some people, just that there's a large proportion of folks for whom it would not be practical.


I agree, though when I was living in my car I would wash them in gas station bathrooms, starbucks, etc. Definitely not a solution for everyone though & could add to the stigma of being "gross". One of the problems with coming up with solutions is that everybody's homeless experience and needs are different.
posted by Feyala at 2:42 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


When I volunteered at Rosie's Place in Boston I noticed that there was much more demand for pads than tampons. They had plenty of tampons, but everyone wanted pads, which they were out of. Is that the case usually?
posted by peacheater at 3:12 PM on January 24


Hot-running tampons are ones like OB, without applicators. Cold-running are the plastic-applicator ones. I invented a thing. You're welcome.
posted by lauranesson at 4:45 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


You can get several more hours' use out of a pad than out of a tampon. If you have limited bathroom access, it's also easier to change pads, which you can do standing up, than to change a tampon, which requires either sitting down or an awkward standing pose.
posted by praemunire at 8:57 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I was very pleasantly surprised to see a tampon/pad donation basket going at a Starbucks the other day. I wouldn't have expected such a thing in such a place. It seemed like such a great way of normalizing periods - standing by the basket of Tampax while waiting for your latte! And I am another one of those people who, though female, had really never thought of how important it is to be able to provide these products for people in need.
posted by imalaowai at 9:37 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I still wonder if menstrual cups are the way to go....I realise access to water may be an issue as mentioned above but in terms of capacity and long term usage (think of never having to buy pads or tampons again, once you have one cup - you're sorted, providing it works for you). The menstrual cup is something that you need to empty max twice a day even on a very heavy period.

In addition to this petition is it worth attempting to contact menstrual cup suppliers in the UK regarding this issue? As an added option? In terms of getting used to them there would be a period of simultaiously using a pad and a cup - but if the cup was obtained free as well as the pad it could mean a long term alternative once the user was used to the product?

I am a long distance cycle tourist so in many respects I experience the same issues as a homeless person does; we stealth camp and I have limited access to bathrooms/water etc, i was on the road for 5 1/2 months. I used tampons/pads on my previous tour only because the cup i had was uncomfortable on the bicycle, however I have since found one that is better and plan to use it on my next tour. I am actually less worried about using the cup because it never leaks - my plan is to keep a spare water bottle specifically for washing the cup when in bathroom stalls that don't have sinks - fill up from the sink before I go in - rinse when in the cubicle. I find in general there is much more trust in the cup lasting longer than any tampon or cup I have ever used - but I appreciate it is different for every women.

I think this could be very helpful to many women though.
posted by TheGarden at 9:49 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Sorry - lasting longer than any tampon or *pad I have ever used.
posted by TheGarden at 10:02 PM on January 24


I understand the spirit of this comment, but you might be interested to learn that the default technique for anal cleansing after defecation that's almost universal in the U.S. and Europe is not the standard in some other parts of the world.

FYI, women use toilet paper after peeing as well. I found out recently that many (most?) men don't know that.

I also realize that TP isn't free in many places, though.

I wonder about how useful period underwear like Thinx might be for homeless or otherwise impoverished women - I've never used them but I know they get rave reviews, and they're a lot easier to wrangle than reusable pads or cups. Concerns about laundry access are definitely still applicable, though. And they're WAY expensive, but maybe with time or donations...?
posted by R a c h e l at 6:51 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Where does a homeless woman store a cup for the weeks-long stretches when she doesn't need it?
posted by acorncup at 9:38 PM on January 25


A cup is small, it is smaller than a packet of pads. Do you think that is too big to keep hold of during the weeks the person is not on her period? If so - pads or tampons are more suitable for sure. I think I personally would find room for it, it's not a large item and if it meant never worrying about the issue of getting hold of pads or tampons at the right time, I think I'd treat it as a priority in my belongings. However I have not experienced homelessness of this nature, i.e. in the UK long term, so perhaps I'm not best placed to make comment.
posted by TheGarden at 9:48 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


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