This is a dangerous, and expensive, period in US history, by John McGauley

I don’t usually read tweets from Beto O’Rourke, but I read this posting by him on Twitter earlier this month:

“In detention centers and prisons, in big cities and small towns, women across America don’t have access to the period products they need. On #NationalPeriodDay, men need to join women in demanding real change — which is why I’m supporting the Menstrual Equity Act.”

Then I read on Twitter subsequent postings from Cory Booker and Julian Castro, that they were also supporting National Period Day (Oct. 19) and the Menstrual Equity Act.

Booker tweeted: “Too many people don’t have access to basic health needs like menstrual products. Whether due to lack of income, incarceration, or gender identity, it’s outrageous.”

Castro put it in even stronger terms in his tweet. “Every day, people are forced to choose between going to school or work, or staying home because they can’t afford the menstrual products they need.”

I’m not always up on the thousands of bills introduced in each session of Congress, so I did a little investigating. In March a bill was introduced entitled H.R. 1882: Menstrual Equity For All Act of 2019, which is designed “to increase the availability and affordability of menstrual hygiene products for individuals with limited access, and for other purposes.”

It was introduced by Democrat U.S. Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who represents sections of Queens. The latest legislative action on this bill was on May 3 in which it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Why that committee is handling it is a mystery to me, for I can’t find any way it’s connected with crime, terrorism or homeland security. But Congress works in weird ways.

But back to the subject at hand. I couldn’t find out why she in particular introduced such a bill, but I did find out some other information about this bill that I found fascinating.

A total of 83 United State representatives served as cosponsors of the bill, including our own Annie Kuster. Of those cosponsors, 34 are men.

And, every single one was a Democrat. Could they find no one of the other party to support such a measure?

Then I read the fine print on the bill, and I think I know why. If passed without amendments, employers of companies with 100 or more workers will be forced by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to provide free sanitary napkins and tampons to employees. And, all federal employees will be supplied with free feminine hygiene products.

So, it boils down to kind of a budget issue; I can imagine that large companies would lobby against it.

As a man, I’m not inclined to pay as much attention to menses as say, a woman. I do know that years ago it was commonly referred to as “the curse” and mothers spoke with prepubescent daughters about it. It was also crudely known, mostly by men, as “being on the rag,” but that description does have an origin in fact, as for centuries women used rags. Modern feminine hygiene products came into being when Red Cross nurses in World War I modified bandages used for battle wounds into what would become sanitary napkins for women.

I was curious about all this, so I went to Hannaford’s in Keene and closely examined the feminine hygiene products. As an aside, for some reason as I did that I was reminded of a scene I’d witnessed several years ago at Walgreens early one Sunday morning. A tough biker guy in a leather outfit was ahead of me in the checkout line. I looked at what he was buying — tampons, bubble gum and Scotch Tape. He saw me looking at what he was purchasing, then looked at me with a “don’t screw with me” grimace. Being a sniveling coward, I ran away to the photo department.

Anyway, what I found out in Hannaford’s though is two things — one, there are many different types of feminine products and two, they’re really expensive. Again, to the web. Revenue in the feminine hygiene segment in this country amounts to $3.572 billion this year, and is expected to grow by 2.2 percent every year until 2023.

I found out a few other things, too. No other country subsidizes feminine hygiene products for its female citizens. But in Venezuela, the cost of government-regulated tampons and other feminine hygiene products jumped 1,800 percent in 2016, forcing average Venezuelan woman to spend a third of her monthly wages on feminine-care products. Rampant hyperinflation and a lack of foreign currency still exacerbates the issue, and tampons and sanitary napkins have virtually disappeared from store shelves.

That might be a warning to budding female socialists; at least those living under a failed regime.

Then I thought that why should women have to pay such high prices for these things that obviously only apply to them? I mean, paper towels and napkins, toilet paper and Kleenex are also outrageously overpriced, but people of all genders have to use that stuff, at least there’s an equity about it. But women have to — have to — buy feminine products.

I cannot think of one thing — one — that men have to buy only because they’re men. OK, there’s Bud Light. But that’s it.

Maybe Beto’s right.

John McGauley, an author and local radio talk-show host, writes from Keene. He can be reached at mcgauleyink@gmail.com

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