Dyssmenorrhoea. Period pain. It’s not pleasant, but it’s common. A study by Feminax in 2005 found that over 80% of a group of 600 females suffered from period pains, and that 10% of the group found the pains so debilitating that they were forced to take monthly time off work. Despite the commonly portrayed ideas of what women like to get up to on their periods, (roller-skating… really?!), anything that doesn’t involve being laid in bed and assuming the foetal position can be really quite difficult.
And that’s just the bodily side of things.
Socially, menstruation is even more difficult. Maybe, this is down to the fact that we exist in a society where women are so extensively sexualised that the thought of a vagina being used for anything more than accommodating penises is somehow repulsing, or perhaps it’s because of many people’s first encounter with periods – an awkward sex education class, surrounded by peers who find anything to do with the opposite sex gross. One thing, however, is definitely for certain. Periods are taboo.
There are many examples of this. The use of blue, (not red), liquids in advertisements for feminine hygiene products just serves to reinforce the idea that a period is disgusting, dirty, and something to be hidden away – and was only broken in 2011. When Uta Pippig ran and won the Boston marathon in 1996 whilst menstruating, ( a hats off moment, I’m sure we’ll all agree), there was hushed discussion of ‘physical problems’. When Karen Houppert found herself exploring the taboo within her work, she concluded that periods aren’t just forbidden, but confusing; we’re taught how natural they are, but simultaneously told to hide them. Even menopause, signifying the end of this apparent stain, (forgive the pun), on our lives, is strictly secreted.
Subsequently, with all of society’s anxiety surrounding the topic, you’d think it’d be made easy for us to hide this natural seven million year old process, considering the probable reaction if we were to venture out, ‘riding the crimson tide’, without some form of sanitation. You’d assume, considering the mounting evidence that society really doesn’t want to hear about your bodily fluids, they’d consider their sanitation and prevention of trips to the hospital to deal with fairly unpleasant health problems, or even just the discretion of your bodily fluids, ‘essential’, would you not?
Well, apparently, when it comes to Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, this is not the case! No, Mr Osborne believes female sanitary products are ‘unessential’, and in need of a 5% tax rate. A tax on gender.
Fundamentally this means that women are expected to not only hobble our way to whatever shop is closest, clutching our cramping stomachs, and casting awkward glances behind us to make sure nobody has noticed that we are part of the female gender, (and as such our body reflects this), but we are then expected to pay excessive amounts of money in order to maintain our hygiene during this ridiculously challenging monthly occasion. What’s bemusing about this decision is that, if we were so inclined, we could theoretically hobble our way to said shop and then purchase – tax-free – men’s razors, cake decorations, alcoholic dessert jellies, and… wait for it… crocodile steaks.
Evidently, Mr Osborne is fairly confused as to the definition of essential. I for one, having only ever come in contact with one item from that list, (cake decorations), can confirm that I’m somehow managing to survive. The same couldn’t be said if I didn’t have feminine hygiene products. If I didn’t use them, not only would I be severely criticised within our society, or be forced into perpetually buying new sets of underwear to replace those that wouldn’t look out of place a slasher film prop, but I’d be seriously risking my health.
When the lovely Laura Coryton set up the ‘Stop taxing periods. Period.’ petition this year, (now representing 47,000 voices), it urged Mr Osborne to ‘recognise the essentiality’ of these supposedly un-needed products and advised him that ‘failure to acknowledge this, especially in comparison with other menial products, is an insult to men and women alike, and should be reversed. ‘
So come on Mr Osborne. Stop taxing periods.