Ann Arbor is leading the way on providing free feminine hygiene products for women

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaking on the topic of free menstruation products in public restrooms in Ann Arbor.

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Her period. Her “time of the month.” Aunty Red paying a visit. These are terms often used to describe what is scientifically named the menstrual cycle. Almost every woman experiences this in their lifetime. At times, a menstrual cycle can be irregular, leading to it popping out of nowhere. This can lead to women asking around to see if someone has menstrual products either because public restrooms do not provide them or because they cost too much.

However, starting Jan. 1, 2022, Ann Arbor, Michigan will be the first city in the United States to require free menstrual products in all public restrooms.

The pink tax on period products is absolutely unnecessary, especially since it is on an uncontrollable bodily function that happens to 49.6% of the world. Pads and tampons cost $7 per box, and a person who goes through menstruation could spend around $1,773 on these products in their lifetime. No woman should have to pay an absurd amount of money to control a natural, common, bodily function.

Though this is a great start, there needs to be more done.”

Luckily, Ann Arbor has been able to notice the excessive amount of money that is being spent and has sought out to take action. With the new act of requiring free menstrual products in public restrooms, there will also be a $100 fine to facilities who violate it (“Ann Arbor becomes first US city to require free menstrual products in public restrooms, 2021”). 

Ann Arbor would not have been the first city in the U.S. to provide free tampons and pads. In 2019, a bill was proposed by New York Congresswoman Grace Meng stating that all federal buildings require free menstrual products in their restrooms. Unfortunately, since the bill was introduced as a stand-alone bill, not along with others, it did not receive a vote in Congress (“Menstrual Equity For All Act”, 2019). Along with that, on Nov. 24, 2020, Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free menstrual products nationwide, which is what the U.S. should strive to achieve (“Period Poverty: Scotland first in the world to make period products free”, 2020).

Though this is a great start, there needs to be more done. It is not just women in Ann Arbor who struggle with obtaining period products at a desperate time, especially when they don’t have change on them. Requiring pads and tampons in the bathroom for free will save women from bleed-through issues and enduring the stigma around periods. Furthermore, providing menstrual products in all public restrooms will help avoid the discomfort of not having one, especially since some women resort to just using toilet paper, which is much less absorbent than pads and tampons and is meant to decompose fairly quickly.

In February of 2019, a study was done with the objective to “assess the menstrual hygiene needs of low-income women in St. Louis, Missouri.” After completing the study, researchers found out that almost two thirds of low-income women could not afford menstrual products (“Unmet Menstrual Hygiene Needs Among Low-Income Women, 2019”). Once again, impoverished women do not only live in Ann Arbor. The government needs to broaden the spectrum and realize that all women should be able to have easy access to a basic necessity.

Though only one city in Michigan has taken the initiative in providing free menstrual products, the state as a whole has been able to take it a step further. On Nov. 4, 2021, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed off on taking away the 6% tax on feminine products (“Michigan Will No Longer Tax Tampons, Other Feminine Products”, 2021). This is yet another great step towards making period products completely accessible to everyone.     

The recent mandate of free menstrual products in all public restrooms in Ann Arbor is a fantastic beginning to this movement, but this movement should not even be up for discussion. There should not be a debate over whether or not period products be provided for women, especially since women cannot control it. All women should have access to all menstrual products, no matter what.