I’ve spent the last 31 years working with hundreds of brands and organizations as a marketing and advertising writer and creative director and each one had a learning curve at the beginning. Some were easy. Some were super complicated. None were more unexpected than my learning curve with period poverty.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. For men, period products are a bit of a mystery. Mention pads and periods and 100 percent of men will think hockey first. Once, after I got married, I offered to pick up a box of pads at the grocery store for my wife. I won’t lie, I was pretty proud of myself, laughing in the face of any threat to my masculinity. Then I got to Kroger. I wasn’t prepared for the number of styles, sizes, brands, and quantities. Fragrance? Absorbency? Wings? I called my wife and begged to at least start with what color box I was looking for. I was overwhelmed.
Then and now, it’s not like I was unaware of periods, menstruation, and feminine protection. I have a Mom, a wife, and a daughter. I’ve had the conversations. I’ve purchased products. But as a man, I’m embarrassed to admit, not once in my life had I ever considered there were women and girls who couldn’t afford to buy the period products they needed to maintain their cleanliness and dignity. Not. Once.
Since I started working with She Supply last year, I’ve talked to dozens of other men (and surprisingly, women) who have told me the same thing. That’s no great consolation. There are more than 150,000 female-led households in North Texas who can’t afford the period products they need. Plus, another 2,400 women who are homeless. That’s not ok. And I’m proud to be working with an extraordinary group of women doing something to change that.
She Supply started as a local nonprofit to help end period poverty in North Texas. An “unapologetically female” group committed to raising money and collecting period products to distribute to women in need. In the organization’s first five years, She Supply distributed more than One Million products to help women and girls in need. Our next great goal is to distribute One Million products annually.
How does that happen? It starts with more people seeing and understanding the problem. It requires conversation about a topic that most of us were raised not to talk about. More than half the planet gets their period. It’s as natural as breathing, or salivating, or any other bodily function. And yet, at one point or another, every woman has been stigmatized, discriminated against, or made to feel self-conscious about her period. For some women, it’s a monthly occurrence.
As a man, I acknowledged all of this. But for me, the bell went off when someone on the board explained what it meant for women living in poverty. “Imagine, a woman trying to keep her job to be able to feed her family. Now imagine her having to miss work one week every month because she can’t afford tampons and pads. Imagine her daughters having to miss one week of school every month because they don’t’ have protection.” This isn’t theoretical. This is reality for 150,000 families who live within 25 miles of my house. That’s in a city that’s been ranked as the 17th most affluent city IN THE WORLD!
Thankfully, we live in a time where some of the “period stigma” is changing and that groups like She Supply are doing something to help women in need. As men that doesn’t mean we get a pass. We can step up and make donations to help either financially or with product. Buying tampons and pads in the grocery store may still be out of our comfort zone, but every donation helps. Fighting to change legislation in Austin to repeal the “period tax” helps. As company leaders, being more empathetic and not making things harder for female employees helps. Teaching our sons to be respectful of women and encouraging them to fight for those in need, helps.
It won’t solve the problem overnight. But it’s a good start.
To make a gift to support the She Supply mission to end period poverty in North Texas, please visit us at: shesupply.org/donations