By Lauren Rearick
The Internet can be a magical place filled with hilarious memes and videos of the Jonas Brothers performing Carpool Karaoke. Unfortunately, as one Facebook user proved, there will always be some corners of the world wide web where misinformation and ill-informed opinions run rampant. Such was the case on March 4, 2019, when Twitter user @aisghar shared a screengrab of a Facebook comment made by someone who claimed that people who experience periods only need to use seven tampons during the course of one cycle.
As The Huffington Post reported, the commenter in questioned demanded that others should “stop whining” about the cost of period products, and instead suggested that they “cut down on your Starbucks venti frapps.”
Per the user’s math, they allege that the average period causes a loss of “10-35 mL of blood;” the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research notes that the amount of fluid loss is “highly variable,” ranging from a very light flow to heavier flows that shed up to 540 milliliters of the uterine lining many people equate with period blood.
Continuing to use their own math as a guide, the poster went on to suggest that tampons hold up to 5 mL, and this means that someone would need only seven tampons per cycle. Their math did not take into account that experts advise changing your tampon at least every four hours.
Twitter users were more than happy to respond with GIFs that reflected their incredulous reactions, but as Nadya Okamoto, founder and executive director of PERIOD explained, the comment speaks to a continued global misunderstanding of the true cost of period products.
“It takes a certain amount of privilege for someone to be able to say, ‘Stop eating and drinking so much Starbucks and just pay for period products,’” she told MTV News. “In order to be able to say something like that, it’s assuming that someone can afford $20 a month on Starbucks.”
According to Okamoto, there’s a continued lack of awareness regarding the true cost of period products. “People inherently don’t understand that period products are a necessity, and that’s why in 35 states there’s a tampon tax on period products,” she said. “They’re considered a luxury item, and this message is a testament to the fundamental misunderstanding of period product necessities.”
Only 15 states don’t tax menstruation products, NPR reports. Although menstruation products are a necessity, 35 states continue to categorize them as a luxury item, adding a tax that applies to items like soap and deodorant, The New York Times reports.
As people around the world continue to miss class and use spare rags or napkins as replacement products, it feels especially misguided to compare the purchase of a coffee to the very necessary purchase of pads or tampons. For those who are struggling with affordability of period products, organizations including PERIOD, #FreePeriods, Bloody Good Period, and the Homeless Period Project are working to rectify that, offering free products and resources to people around the world. And while the comment may have temporarily riled up the Internet, Okamoto does give the poster some credit: “I love that it’s starting conversations about period poverty,” she points out.
So how many tampons should someone with a period use over the course of their cycle? That, of course, is up to them. But as one person pointed out, the math would account for at least 240 tampons a year — and that’s not counting pads, menstrual cups, or the cost of laundry when things invariably leak. The Internet may never agree on everything, but in the case of this comment, it’s safe to say that everyone has learned to take the math of someone in your Facebook feed with a grain of salt.