Panelists Answer Unasked Questions from She Votes Policy: Power to the Period! Event
On March 31, 2021, She Votes Illinois hosted She Votes Policy: Power to the Period!, a panel discussion covering period poverty to advance menstrual equity through legislation in Illinois. We asked panelists nuanced questions on an array of issues that affect period poverty including economics, healthcare, intersectionality, accessibility, and more. Watch the virtual event here.
There were several questions we did not have time to ask during the panel discussion and we are pleased to share written responses from the panelists with you here.
QUESTION 1: What additional burdens do LGBTQ, people of color, and religious communities face when experiencing menstruation?
- Rep Barbara Hernandez: People still go through stigmas and access to products.
- Dr. Janelle Howell: There are certain stigmas attached to menstruation from a religious standpoint and those of LGBTQ backgrounds are often left out of educational and supportive mechanisms for menstruation because most of society associates menstruating with female sexual identity. People of color have the highest percentage of citizens who are low income which puts them at a higher susceptibility to period poverty.
- Rep Latoya Greenwood: They may experience biases and individuals not understanding their religious commitments, cultural norms for people of color, and the issues that the LGBTQ communities may face based on how they identify.
QUESTION 2: Trans men may menstruate. Inconsistent access to hormones can cause unexpected bleeding and trans men and non binary people may also deal with bathroom issues if they have nowhere discreet to throw away period products in a bathroom. Source: Teen Vogue How can schools and places of business make the burden of menstruating easier on trans men or non-binary people?
- Rep Katie Stuart: This is exactly why my legislation states that products be available in ALL restrooms on college campuses. It is important to respect and support all menstruators. You have brought to my attention the issue of receptacles, and making sure they are available in all stalls. That is leading me to further legislation to make sure we match access to such in ALL restrooms.
- Dr. Janelle Howell: Normalizing bathrooms that are non-gender and having period products available in bathrooms that are for men and women.
- Rep LaToya Greenwood: By providing access to period products in all restrooms.
QUESTION 3: According to ABC News’ analysis of pharmacy locations across the country, there are 150 counties where there is no pharmacy, and nearly 4.8 million people live in a county where there’s only one pharmacy for every 10,000 residents or more. How do pharmacy deserts contribute to or exacerbate issues of access to period products?
- Dr. Janelle Howell: This makes it extremely difficult for low income people to access period products. Usually low income communities have more difficult forms of transportation and if they can’t easily access a pharmacy, then they are unable to bleed in a sanitary way which additionally increases mental distress/anxiety.
- Rep LaToya Greenwood: It creates another access barrier. Access is critical in addressing the needs of those who are in need.
QUESTION 4: via Zoom by Ramona: I stepped away for a minute, so I apologize if this was addressed — are the House bills inclusive of menstruators who don’t identify as women? Are they advocating for period products to be available in all restrooms? Can this be asked if it wasn’t covered? Thank you!
- Rep Katie Stuart: Ramona, thank you for attending. The bills related to products on college campuses and in middle and high schools specifically state ALL restrooms. It is for the exact reason that you stated it was important to put this in place. In addition, I believe that the way to normalize menstruation and end period shame is to be open and frank about the biological process, and that includes having non-menstruators have the products out and visible in locations, and for people to speak the words in public spaces.
- Rep LaToya Greenwood, (Chief Sponsor of HB310, Menstrual Products for the Homeless): Yes
QUESTION 5: FACEBOOK Live by Faith Miller: There used to be vending machines in the bathrooms for menstrual products, is that still being recommended? What are parts of the bills on the table to provide the products for free and prevent anyone from stealing or hoarding the products?
- Rep Katie Stuart: My legislation (HB641) allows flexibility for the college campuses to determine how to meet the requirement of providing free products. They can use vending machines that do not require payment for use if they believe that is how to best support all menstruators. Additionally, they are able to form corporate partnerships to provide the materials on campus, and that may involve single use dispensers of some type. Currently, in one of the main classroom buildings on the SIU Edwardsville campus, persons using the women’s restrooms are currently greeted with a sign that states products are available in the restroom on the first floor — which isn’t too helpful when you are on the fourth floor! This is what my legislation seeks to correct.
- Rep Barbara Hernandez: When it comes to HB156, I did not include any mandatory storage for the items because the bill would be less likely to pass if it had a funding component that many schools cannot afford to do at the moment.
- Dr. Janelle Howell: This is extremely important to figure out. If the products are free but also not controlled by how much one can access at once, then there may be an issue with preventing some from hoarding the products.
- Rep LaToya Greenwood: That could be a recommendation; the vending machine style distribution.
- She Votes Illinois: We have found no evidence that menstrual products are hoarded when supplied for free in schools — studies have shown that hoarding is not an issue. People don’t hoard toilet paper, so it stands to reason that hoarding tampons won’t be an issue once they are in regular supply. To the extent someone takes more than they need for the school day, they would be doing so because they NEED them — there is no other reason to take them. We should think of tampons/pads as no different than toilet paper or paper towels. If we treat them that way, people will treat them that way. We don’t think anyone would suggest we stop providing toilet paper to people in schools because some students may take extra home.
Join us in our fight to advance menstrual equity in Illinois
She Votes Illinois is committed to educating and creating awareness about menstrual equity while also garnering support for legislation that helps to end period poverty in Illinois.
Visit our Menstrual Equity Toolkit today — complete with resources and calls to action to pass legislation to advance menstrual equity in Illinois.