In a 1978 satire for Ms. magazine, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem answered the question that so many women have asked: “What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear—menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much,” she wrote. Steinem envisioned a world where “men-struation” justifies men’s place pretty much everywhere: in combat, political office, religious leadership positions and medical schools. We’d have “Paul Newman Tampons” and “Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads” and a new model for compliments:
“Man, you lookin’ good!”
“Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!”
Nearly 40 years later, Steinem’s essay still stings because “menstrual equity” has gone almost nowhere. Today, tampons and pads are taxed in most states while adult diapers, Viagra, Rogaine and potato chips are not. Men can walk into any bathroom and access all of the supplies they need to care for themselves: toilet paper, soap, paper towels, even seat covers. Women, however, cannot. In most schools, girls have to trek to the nurse’s office to ask for a pad or tampon, as if menstruating is an illness rather than a natural function. In most public and private places, women are lucky if there’s a cranky machine on the wall charging a few quarters for a pad that’s so uncomfortable you might prefer to use a wad of rough toilet paper instead. No change? You can pay for a parking spot with a credit card, but have you ever seen such technology on a tampon machine in a women’s bathroom? The situation for prison inmates and homeless women is far direr.
The Fight to End Period Shaming Is Going Mainstream
Related: What if Men Could Get Pregnant?