Being a woman sucks. It really sucks.
Not only do we have to deal with fluctuating hormones and bad skin, most of us have to cope with blood leaking out of our vaginas once a month.
But what sucks even more is the amount of money simply being born female costs.
“As you can imagine, it is quite difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of money that a single person will spend on menstrual hygiene products over the course of a year,” Bodyform’s marketing manager Traci Baxter tells Yahoo Style UK. “Variables including the length of someone’s period, how heavy their flow is, the type of product used and where they purchase it can all contribute to a fluctuation in cost.”
As we all know, it’s not just tampons and sanitary towels that are required. It’s paracetamol when the cramps get too much, sweets and chocolates to make you feel better, and new underwear when there’s an accidental leak.
Not to mention the special cases that some women feel forced to buy in order to hide their period products from disapproving male colleagues in the office.
It’s why hundreds of teenage girls and grown women marched on Westminster on Wednesday night. Started by 18-year-old Amika George, the #FreePeriods protest aims to convince Theresa May to give free sanitary products to young women across the nation.
According to Plan International UK, one in 10 girls can’t afford to buy tampons, pads and the like. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that that statistic simply isn’t good enough.
£18,450 seems like a ridiculous number for a bit of blood to cost you. So to really feel some rage, let’s break down how much your period is costing you every single year.
The average woman will use one of several menstrual products including tampons, sanitary towels and mooncups.
Let’s start with tampons. Currently, a box of 20 regular Tampax tampons will set you back £2.90. A woman on average will use 22 tampons for each period but we’ll stick to the box of 20 price for now.
The BBC reckons women also spend £8 a month on new underwear thanks to their period ruining countless pairs of knickers.
You’ll also likely buy a couple of packs of paracetamol to help with the worst days. A pack of 16 tablets from Tesco currently costs 30p so let’s say 60p for two.
Then there’s all the junk food that you’re inevitably going to eat. In their tampon tax calculator, the BBC has calculated the cost of all those chocolates and sweets to be £8.50 a month.
Finally, there’ll be other things related to your period like magazines and hot water bottles that you might buy to make yourself feel a tiny bit better, setting you back a further £7 a month.
That all works out at £27 a period. Women usually have 13 periods a year, making the annual cost of having a period £351 a year (slightly cheaper if you use sanitary towels).
Of course, we’re not counting all the extra boxes of tampons you buy because you forget you’ve already got some at home. Or the fancy skincare products you’ll purchase when a new breakout occurs. Or even the money lost from a day off work if you don’t get sick pay.
Now wait for the scary bit. The average woman will menstruate 450 times in her lifetime (too many times to think about), upping that figure to £12,150.
That’s the price of a few nice holidays or a portion of a deposit for your first house.
If you’re on a certain form of contraceptive, you may be experiencing a constant period (or none at all). So this figure varies from person to person.
But what is clear is women are having to fork out thousands simply for being women.
“This is of course a topic we are equally passionate about,” a spokesperson for Tampax told Yahoo Style UK. “Price is a decision for retailers alone as they set the final price shoppers see on shelf for our products. But we know there are women who struggle to afford pads and tampons in the UK and around the world, and share the concern that this is an issue that needs addressing.”
If you’re struggling with the mind-boggling cost of periods and want to seek a cheaper alternative, they do exist.
Reusable cloth sanitary towels may seem expensive at first but they can last up to five years if cleaned properly. Thinx offer period pants which remove the need to use any menstrual product at all. The knickers can hold up to two tampons’ worth of blood and can be used again and again.
Mooncup is the original menstrual cup. Despite reading the positive reviews, you may still be a little apprehensive about having to tip your own blood down the toilet. But cups are great if you’re a heavy bleeder. They hold three times more blood than a regular tampon and should last you years.
“As a manufacturer, we appreciate efforts to make feminine hygiene products more affordable for more women, and more accessible to those in need,” adds a Tampax spokesperson. “In the UK, P&G [Tampax’s parent company] works with InKind Direct to donate a range of products – including Tampax and Always – to hundreds of charitable organisations.”
“Knowing that our products and especially sanitary care can help to restore self-esteem and confidence, we also provide product donation support for charities working to care for refugees and those who are homeless so they can be redistributed where they are needed most. We know this doesn’t provide a solution for all UK women who struggle to afford feminine care products every month, but it’s a start and we will continue to work to improve communities in the UK and across the world.”
“We know that being able to afford and have access to essential sanitary protection is a growing issue in the UK,” echoes Traci Baxter from Bodyform. “That’s exactly the reason why Bodyform has promised to donate more than 200,000 packs of sanitary products by 2020 to help those most in need. A donation of product is also being made to schools running Bodyform and The Self Esteem Team’s free #AboutBloodyTime educational classes, which are designed to smash period taboos including those surrounding period poverty. In doing so, we hope to help increase access to these fundamental products.”
Currently, there is no way of getting free sanitary products. You can donate tampons and the like to local homeless shelters for those who struggle to pay for their own.
You can also sign Amika George’s campaign to provide disadvantaged young women with menstrual products in schools and colleges.
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