Surveying Period Poverty at South

By: Hayden Cordova | Managing Editor

The menstrual cycle, and the difficulties that come with it every month, can be a tough topic to discuss for various reasons.  But senior Katie Pfeiffer is tackling the subject head on with her senior project surveying the phenomenon known as “period poverty” and its effect on campus.

Period poverty can be defined as when menstrual health products are made unreasonably difficult to obtain.  According to Pfeiffer, this problem arises from a variety of different causes.

“It can be a systemic issue, but it can also be a cultural issue,” said Pfeiffer.  “Period talk is considered taboo in some cultures. Many people in the U.S. today think it’s gross and ‘un-ladylike’ to openly talk about.  At its best, period poverty limits people’s access to menstrual hygiene products. At its worst, access to these products (along with sex education and hygienic facilities) is completely restricted.”

One issue that further period poverty’s effects come from a lack of awareness and education on menstruation.

“If menstrual products were freely available to all who need them, I don’t believe this would be as big of an issue,” Pfeiffer said.  “But, the other half of period poverty has to do with (lack of) sex education. Schools are responsible for teaching sex education. Abstinence-only policies are not a sufficient replacement.”

Pfieffer says that the demographic most affected by period poverty are homeless people since government assistance does not cover menstrual hygiene products.  Period poverty also strongly affects the non-binary and transgender communities, a group that Pfeiffer has dedicated her project towards raising awareness. 

“When you don’t identify as a woman but still experience menstruation, it can be mentally taxing,” Pfeiffer said.  “That is only further complicated when you are potentially putting your safety at risk when you attempt to access menstrual products.  I chose to include the experiences of these individuals in my survey because they are just as important and need to have their voices heard on this issue.”

Pfeiffer’s project, a short survey, and questionnaire open until Dec. 1, will draw information from South students to determine the area of greatest need for period products on campus.  A geography major minoring in sociology and geographic information systems, Pfieffer will be using her skills to create a map showing this information and one that shows the areas of the country most lacking in sufficient sex education.

Pfeiffer’s project will point out areas where menstrual education and access can be improved. With plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health, she hopes to raise awareness about period poverty in the future. You can participate in Pfeiffer’s survey here.

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