Rent? Check. Bills? Check. Food? Check. Tampons? Wait what?!
As a complete and utter perfectionist, I am that slightly irritating person who budgets to the very last pence. I monitor my outgoings religiously and know exactly how much I should be spending, and unfortunately, three Wetherspoons brunches a week is a no.
As students, we all need to be aware of where those twenty pound notes are disappearing, but of course, some expenditure is essential: travel, food and rent to name a few. However, it was not until I reflected on the meaning of ‘essential’ that I realised there is one thing that the vast majority of women must factor into their budget…sanitary items.
There was a time in most women’s lives wherein this completely unavoidable expenditure was not their problem. As a teenager, sanitary towels and tampons would have seemed to be in magically ample supply in the airing cupboard. It couldn’t be that your poor Mother was the vehicle behind this benevolent abundance of Always. No doubt sanitary towels were a staunch contributor to the cost of the big shop.
It wasn’t until I became an away student and my Mother’s amazing efficiency in this realm was removed from my life that I realised: sanitary items are actually expensive.
Typically one would need to purchase a box of tampons or a pack of sanitary towels every twenty eight days. These products cost around £3.50 per pack, meaning that, in a year around the £50 mark is spent, give or take. For the forty to fifty odd years women menstruate, a good few thousand pounds will be spent on sanitary towels. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I can think of better places to invest that money, for example, my entire maintenance loan for one year.
Of course, it is not an expense women can spare. We can’t escape our biology and periods are as much a part of life as is eating or sleeping. So I pose a question: why are we paying for sanitary items at all? Should a natural biological process for millions of women be something that should be profitable for huge multinational brands like Always and Tampax. I would argue that no, it should not.
The advertising and marketing of such products are laughable when you keep the above in mind. Tampax Pearl immortalise a character in their television adverts called Mother Nature, a nagging maternal figure who interrupts various women in day to day life, as periods themselves tend to do; the accompanying slogan is ‘outsmart Mother Nature.’ Tampax’s character demonstrates their recognition that periods are natural and unavoidable. This considered, their claims that your buying their product will somehow override, ‘outsmart’ the completely unavoidable, is actually ridiculous.
The very same applies to Always’ latest slogan: ‘Always have a happy period.’ A flowery, sanctimonious slogan like that does not mitigate the hell that is sprawled on the sofa, an over emotional time bomb, looking simply awful and eating your own weight in chocolate in a bid to subdue the menstrual cramps. We do not buy Always because it fills us with joy, we buy it because we have no choice.
Sex, another completely natural and inevitable process is showered with free condoms, femidoms, contraceptive pills and implants from sexual health clinics. So really, there is no reason why there should not be plenty of free tampons to go around as well, because for some of the poorest women in our society, £3.50 every twenty eight days is too much to spend on the relentless calls of Mother Nature.