New York State will offer free menstrual products in all middle and high school bathrooms
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday evening that all schools in New York will now be required to provide free menstrual products in restrooms for girls in grades six through twelve. Cuomo added: “Menstrual products are as necessary as toilet paper and soap, but can be one expense too many for struggling families.”
He’s absolutely right. Here’s to ending menstrual inequality and period poverty.
New York is the third state (right behind California and Illinois) to require schools to provide menstrual products to female students–as well as the eleventh state to eliminate the so-called “tampon tax” that for years has added 4 to 10 percent to the products’ price tag. This new law also follows a 2016 law that New York City passed that provided all public schools, shelters, and correctional facilities with free feminine products.
This new requirement is good news not only because schools should be providing for their students’ daily basic needs, but also because it takes the state one step closer to equal treatment of girls in our society. Just as eliminating the tampon tax in New York sent a message that menstrual products are just as essential as items like toothpaste and deodorant, this new law puts menstrual products in the same category with toilet paper and paper towels–as they should be.
In addition, providing free tampons moves us toward eliminating the cultural taboo of periods and menstruation–and instead treating them for what they are: a normal, natural bodily function experienced by just over half of the world’s population.
On a more practical level, this new requirement means that, at least in New York State, nurses can stop pleading for feminine product donations online and teachers can stop using their own money to provide pads to their students. And, hey, even student activists in New York can devote their completely awesome feminist campaigns to the next injustice of their choice.
Do kids in school really need access to free tampons and pads? Even when the issues of equality and fairness are put aside, the answer is a strong yes. As Gov. Cuomo’s office stated earlier this year in a press release, “In New York, 42 percent of children live in low income families. At $7 to $10 per package, a month’s supply of something as simple as a box of pads or tampons can be one expense too many for struggling families.” In some cases, these families can be choosing between menstrual care and food.
But there’s more good news: this legislation is only part of Gov. Cuomo’s 2018 Women’s Agenda For New York, which also includes plans to reduce dating violence and domestic violence, close the STEM gender gap, and providing more mentorship opportunities for girls. Along with girls having easy, shameless, and free access to menstrual products, these are all wonderful steps in the right direction.
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