As a community of men and women for and with others, Bellarmine has a proud tradition of serving those in need. We’ve raised money to support global humanitarian projects through CRS Rice Bowl. We’ve warmed some feet and warmed some hearts through our Winter Warmth Drive. We’ve stood side-by-side with San Jose’s homeless population at the Solidarity Sleep-outs. But as admirable as our efforts have been, we’ve yet to touch upon one of the most requested items at pantries and homeless shelters.
No, not food. No, not clothing.
Law student Holly Sanchez discovered the answer the hard way, recalling her shock when working at her local women’s shelter in Chicago: “I was really surprised to find out that feminine hygiene products were the biggest request that we had and that it wasn’t being filled.”
In fact, we’ve focused so much on sifting through the cans in our cupboards and the clothes in our closets that we’ve forgotten about these hygiene products – pads, tampons, anything that makes it easier for homeless women to deal with their menstrual cycle.
Jordana Kler, co-founder of menstrual hygiene company LOLA, has acknowledged this discrepancy between the supply and demand of these products at homeless shelters. “Menstruation is still a very stigmatized topic,” Kler says. “Tampons are not something people think about donating in the same way as, say, winter coats.”
This lack of availability breeds a difficult situation for many impoverished women, especially considering that periods take a lot more than five-dollar Band-Aid packs and Neosporin ointments to treat. The average woman ends up spending almost $2,000 in her lifetime on tampons alone. Factoring in the panty liners, cramp relief pills, and the 2.9-7.5% tax many states impose because these products are considered “non-essential” yields a total bill of more than $17,000. In the end, women end up having to pay for periods they have no control over, and unfortunately, not everyone can afford paying up that price.
So instead of spending what little money they have on tampons and panty-liners, many homeless women struggle to find cheaper ways to alleviate the discomfort of an already-painful struggle. Whether they resort to using plastic bags, newspapers, or old reused socks, what others consider a nuisance becomes their nightmare. A nightmare some wake up from in a pool of their own half-dried-up blood.
You and I, we’re lucky enough to never have to deal with the discomfort that comes with menstruation. And that discomfort extends past bleeding. Symptoms vary from person to person, but it’s universally agreed upon that not one of them are the least bit pleasing to live through. Many women have to deal with symptoms ranging from aching joints to dizzying headaches to paralyzing cramps, from insomnia to unpredictable irritability to uncontrollable depression – all on a monthly basis.
If the mere thought of that sounds uncomfortable, that’s because it is. And if you ask anyone who’s actually been on their period, they’ll agree. It’s an uncomfortable part of life we tend to stigmatize, but a part of life nonetheless.
BCP HeForShe, under the guidance of Ms. Pellerin, Ms. Bauman, and AGAPE, hopes that we, as men for and with others, can help make these women’s lives easier by providing them with the hygiene products they need. And the best way to do so is with your support.
From Wednesday, February 8 until Friday, February 17, there will be boxes at SLC and the AGAPE Lounge in first floor O’Donnell where you can drop off tampons, pads, and other sanitary products. Please consider taking the time this weekend to go out and buy these products – that way we can best tear down the stigma we’ve built up around menstrual care. We will also be collecting monetary donations during homeroom on February 8 and February 15. All contributions will go straight to CityTeam San Jose.
There’s plenty of time between now and the fundraiser, but there’s already plenty you can do to contribute to this cause. Talk to your friends outside of Bell. Talk to your moms, your aunts, and your sisters. Talk with them about what it’s like to have a period. Let them know this fundraiser’s going on. Do everything you can to let them know you want to sympathize, you want to understand, and you care.