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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Menstrual hub generates awareness on period poverty

Lynette Medley said The SPOT delivers approximately 275 feminine product packages per week. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Lynette Medley, a sexual awareness educator and counselor, opened The SPOT Period, a 2,500-square-foot brick-and-mortar menstrual hub in Germantown this February.  

The hub is furthering the mission of Medley’s sexuality awareness organization, No More Secrets: Mind, Body and Spirit, which addresses the citywide deficits in education and awareness on period poverty and menstrual inequality.

Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products, menstrual education, bathrooms and waste management systems for product disposal. The first of its kind, The SPOT (Safety, Programming, Optimal, Transformation) is a space for marginalized female communities that offers period products and menstrual health education.  

“It was an extension of the need for the multidisciplinary approach to really dealing with menstrual health and hygiene for underserved populations,” Medley said. “That’s where the hook came from, just creating a more comprehensive approach to dealing with period poverty and menstrual insecurities.”

The SPOT also offers a delivery option to help with accessibility. Before the coronavirus pandemic, The SPOT employees were delivering 75 to 80 feminine product packages per week. Employees are now delivering around 275 packages per week, or approximately 50 to 60 per day, during the pandemic, according to Medley. 

Medley said the pandemic showed the overwhelming need for menstrual products in the community.

“The pandemic shed light on the disparities in the haves and have nots,” Medley said. “Our underserved populations were really struggling because even some of the places where they would be able to get products from had all shut down, from schools and community centers.”

Medley said The SPOT offers “every menstrual product there is,” including pads, tampons, menstrual cups, liners and period underwear. They also provide toiletries such as deodorant, toothpaste and underwear. 

However, while The SPOT offers a variety of resources, Medley said there is still a stigma surrounding the conversation about menstrual health nationally. So, The SPOT offers various educational sessions for women on menstrual cycles and maintaining menstrual hygiene.

“We live in a patriarchal society and misogynistic society that doesn’t incorporate women’s health and women’s bodies as a whole,” Medley said. “I can’t understand how in 2021, we’re still fighting for the right to get tampons [covered] when Viagra and Rogaine are covered. But [women] can’t get access to something that they don’t even choose that is just a normal bodily function.” 

Kate Barker Swindell, service & operations manager of PERIOD, a global nonprofit organization fighting to end period poverty and stigma, wrote in response to written questions from The Hawk that education provides a foundation for dispelling that stigma and understanding that periods and menstruators are best supported when not “hidden, shamed or shelved.”

“Education is so important in combating period poverty and menstrual inequities because it breaks down the notion that menstruation is something to be pathologized,” Barker Swindell said. “The first step in education is framing periods as a normal part of human biology, using appropriate terms for what happens when someone is menstruating—‘vagina,’ ‘blood,’ ‘uterine lining,’ etc.—and the variety of period products there are available.” 

Medley said The SPOT takes on a “risk reduction model” to best serve and educate women. 

“You have [women] who are using pads and tampons for eight to 10 hours a day, or using anything from newspaper to socks to rags, or engaging in high risk behaviors or selling their body or engaging in human trafficking, just to be able to have access to menstrual products,” Medley said.

Nearly one in five American girls have either left early or skipped school while on their periods because they did not have access to period products, according to research by Regis College.

“When menstruators can’t afford to buy supplies and aren’t able to take care of their periods in a dignified, expedient way, they may not go to work or to school or to places where they may be able to get help,” Barker Swindell said. “This perpetuates feelings of shame, helplessness and hopelessness.” 

Additionally, period products are taxed in 30 states and cannot be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid or health insurance spending accounts because they are considered “luxury items.” With 25 million U.S. women living in poverty, they must choose between buying food or buying period products. 

Barker Swindell said there is progress being made with policies towards menstrual equities, as there has been a noticeable uptick in legislation being introduced on all levels of government. 

“From removing the tax on period products to providing free period products in public schools and buildings, we hear almost daily of a new menstrual rights bill in numerous towns, cities and states across the country,” Barker Swindell said. “As of now, there are 20 states who have struck down the tampon tax, with many more states in the wings with similar initiatives.”

On St. Joe’s campus, pads and tampons are provided for free in the Student Health Center and in HawkHUB, a food and basic needs resource center for students, faculty and staff. Maddie DeMarco ’22, president of HawkHUB, said period products are a basic need and thus important to provide in the HUB. 

“They’re necessary for a woman to function,” DeMarco said. “If you don’t have those feminine products, you aren’t having your basic needs met.”

A study from George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services found that one in 10 female college students experience chronic period poverty. Of this, nearly one in four Latina women and one in five Black women reported experiencing period poverty. The percentage was also higher for college women who were from immigrant backgrounds or first-generation college students.  

DeMarco said HawkHUB and Women’s Leadership Initiative, which she is the co-president of, are collaborating to put these menstrual products in some of the bathrooms on campus. They are currently in contact with the Office of Facilities, and hope to have the products in place in the coming weeks. 

DeMarco said she hopes there won’t be a stigma with taking a pad or tampon from the bathrooms.

“I do think there’s a tough barrier talking about menstruation in general on campus, and reproductive health too,” DeMarco said.

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