On April 25th I will be participating in the Illinois Women March On Springfield. According to the website, “April 25, 2017 is planned as a day for advocacy, lobbying and a large rally in support of issues that support a progressive agenda.” Illinois residents will be advocating and lobbying for causes such as ratifying the ERA in the state of Illinois (SJRCA4), Safeguarding legal abortions (HB40), and strengthening the Illinois Equal Pay Act (HB2462/SB981).
While in the state capital I will be lobbying for House Bill HB3215, or the “Learn with Dignity” bill. It is a bill requiring school districts to make feminine hygiene products available, at no cost to students, in the bathroom of school buildings. Along with supporting the bill, I will be asking that the language of the bill be changed from “feminine hygiene” to menstrual products in order to be inclusive to those in the transgender community.
You can view the bill here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=3215&GAID=14&GA=100&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=104882&SessionID=91
I was doing some loose calculations while writing this article. I wanted to know, on average, the number of days spent menstruating by the average student. The average American girl will start her period at 12.5 years old, approximately 7th grade. Periods usually last about 7 days. That works out to be 63 days per school year or 2 months out of the 9 month total of the school year is spent on their period. By graduation, a menstruating student will have spent 378 days, or over one full year, of their education dealing with their period. Every woman knows that you don’t stop thinking about your period once it starts. You spend the next week doing countless other things in life, WHILE thinking about your period. It dominates your daily routine if not fully your thoughts. Especially if you have only been learning this balancing act for a few months, as most Jr. High students are.
Every woman remembers a day she was unprepared for her period. It may be the day she started, it may be years later, but we all have it. As we get older it becomes less traumatic, but to a young student, that moment can become an insurmountable mental hurdle. It is difficult to concentrate on mathematical equations, or The Great Gatsby when all you can think about is whether you are leaking through your pants. It is hard to figure out how a bill becomes a law when you are counting the minutes until you can rush to the bathroom. In the local Jr. High students are not allowed to carry any purses, backpacks, or bags on their person when entering the bathroom. Currently a menstruating student must get their pad or tampon out of their locker and find a way to get to the bathroom without anyone noticing. Many students are forced to tuck the tampon or pad up their sleeve. While the action of tucking the tampon only takes a moment, I know that a great deal of time is spent mentally coordinating how it can be done discreetly in a way that will be the least uncomfortable with the least chance of being exposed. So much time spent worrying that could be spent learning.
And those are the students whose families can afford for them to have access to tampons and pads. Many girls, every year miss school because they simply don’t have access to tampons or pads because their families can’t afford them. No student should be forced to miss valuable days of their education because they are having their period and they can’t afford a pad.
This bill (HB3215) would require Illinois schools to supply menstrual products in the bathrooms at no cost to the student. I feel it is imperative that these products be free to the students, and readily available in the common restrooms of the students. Currently if a student at one of the local Jr. high school’s starts their period and does not have any menstrual products on hand they must go to the nurse’s office and pay a dollar for what the school has available. Consequently many local schools do not keep any menstrual products available for purchase.
There are many hurdles to a successful education. Many cannot be avoided. Missing class due to their period is one issue no student in Illinois should have to face. I encourage you to contact your local legislators and encourage them to support HB3215. If your legislators are not in Illinois contact them anyway and let them know that this issue is important to you. If your state does not have measures in place to give students access to no cost tampons and pads in schools, bug them until they do.
According to the International Women’s Health Coalition women use 5,000 euphemisms for their period. With “Aunt Flo” and T.O.M. being the most common.