The curse of Eve. Mother Nature’s little gift. The crimson wave. Whatever one decides to call their period, its monthly appearance is inevitable. For some it does not require much thought: perhaps a quick trip down to the local Boots a few days before hand and it’s sorted. For others, it’s a constant worry. What will I have to sacrifice this week for my period? Who would be there to help me out? How will I afford it? For those girls, having their period is a source of anxiety that never goes away and, until just recently, would have been an even bigger worry if universities had a tighter budget to adhere to.
At the start of this academic year it became mandatory for all Scottish schools, colleges, and universities to provide their students with free sanitary products. Many girls will breathe a sigh of relief, as anxiety that is felt on their shoulders every month is suddenly lifted away, which will soon be accompanied by thoughts along the line of, “Finally, someone must have told the government that we do not choose to bleed every month”.
The Scottish Government has been praised for offering free sanitary products to students. Period poverty is a very real and abundant issue in the United Kingdom: according to a survey of 2,050 people carried out by Young Scot, 70% of the women said they had used toilet paper as an alternative to a sanitary product, with a major factor thought to be financial consideration. This new initiative now takes that dreadful choice out of the hands of all female students and provides them with a much more hygienic option.
But let’s look at the issue within the context of St Andrews. Are there any female students here who couldn’t possibly afford such a basic item? Maybe, in a town that is as affluent and wealthy as St Andrews, period poverty has become a thing of the past, and even if a student was struggling, surely their parents would be kind enough to help them out. Perhaps, but even if this was true, it would still be very easy for a girl to be caught off guard by her period. It’s happened to many at least once, and is unlikely to be a one-off scenario. Our daily lives do not revolve around our periods and we spend our time thinking about other, more important, aspects of life.
So, let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute, and assume that every single girl at St Andrews comes from a wealthy background. Period products are still a basic item. Even if these free products are only used once in a blue moon by a girl who lost track of the days, it nonetheless has helped one girl for a time, and she is sure to be glad and grateful for that free sanitary product. Moreover, not every girl studying at St Andrews comes from a well-off family: many of us come from working class backgrounds, grew up in the care system, or come from single parent families where every penny counts. Therefore, it would seem unfair to assume that women in St Andrews don’t require free sanitary products, or at the very least, wouldn’t appreciate them and be thankful that they always had a back-up if they were caught unawares.
No girl wants to be caught out by their period, because despite living in the modern age, there is still plenty of stigma surrounding periods. People can be very cruel in such a situation, particularly when the girl in question not privy to the fact that she has been caught out. These free products help to alleviate that embarrassment; girls are less likely to be caught unawares. Moreover by having free products available in universities they will be in the public eye, therefore slowly removing the stigma surrounding periods. It’s a win-win situation for the whole of society.
Maybe after a year or so, when facts and statistics have been released by the Scottish Government on the positive impact of these free products on women’s lives, the rest of the UK will follow our example. Hopefully then period poverty in the UK will become a distant memory, and the next generation of students to arrive in St Andrews won’t have even heard of such a thing, because period poverty will be confined to museums, where it belongs.