If I’m frank, I must admit that I stay as far away from politics and discussions of feminism as possible. However, in recent months, I have found my stance on such conversations changing – at least in part. While I still don’t really follow the politics of governance (etc.) I do follow the politics of living. Don’t stress yet if my division of political types has you confused, I’ll explain.
There are politics involved in poverty, and there are degrees of poverty. New Zealand is a first world country, which has the dubious honour of having some of the most unaffordable housing in the world. It is important to know that this doesn’t compare house prices with those in other countries directly, it compares them to income. The reality is that a minimum wage job will not pay ALL the bills if there is more than one person being supported by it (and by this I refer to the small type of human, more commonly known as children). As a single mother this is a fact that I must keep in mind as I search for employment. And if, by some miracle, it does pay all the bills you had best hope that your child doesn’t run through shoes, and that you don’t get sick enough to need a doctor – or that should you get sick that you do it well enough to be hospitalised.
A brief note on feminism and me. I consider myself a feminist. I’m neither a man-hater, nor a lesbian – common misconceptions until recently where I live. I believe that if you can do the same job just as well as a man (regardless of what that job might be) that you should be paid equally. I don’t believe that women should be taxed more, or otherwise penalised for a cyclic bodily function that they will have to live with for 30 years, or more, of their lives. And I don’t care whether or not you agree with me.
Just this evening I read an article debating the efficacy of free tampons in schools, but also whether by supplying them would encourage the parents, who couldn’t afford to purchase the sanitary supplies, to remain in poverty. But at the same time ‘they’ want the girls at school, where they will get their education. How to encourage one without endorsing the other? It may be that I have misread the situation, such a thing has happened before. This is another example of degrees of poverty, and the politics therein. I googled this topic with the intent to read more and have a better understanding of the situation, I stopped scrolling at the end of page three. In those three pages of results on the topic only 3 hits were ads for tampons or puberty education. Personally, I can tell you that I’m horrified by the cost of sanitary items. I couldn’t afford the monthly layout of approximately $40/month for my cycle. So I changed tactics. Because of the cost of sanitary supplies (among other reasons) I spent years on Depo Provera so that I wouldn’t have a cycle at all. That plan cost me $20- $30 per year. Thanks to my interest in historical fiction (and fact checking anything that was either interesting or suspect) I learned how many very poor women managed before ‘standardised’ sanitary supplies; they used rags – probably where the popular slur came from. I did further research into modern ReUsable Menstrual Products [RUMPs], and found a wealth of information; and suppliers. Long term, this is the cheapest option, but it also has the most expensive outlay. I bought a few here and a few there, transitioning slowly out of disposables as I went, I even upcycled a few myself. This is the house of the mad crafter after all. I compare RUMPs to cloth nappying versus disposable nappying, after the outlay they pay for themselves and the only on going cost is laundering. And there are other types of RUMPs as well.
I make no apologies for being excited about my alternative/hippy side. In order to feed and clothe a growing child I cut financial corners where I can. I make my own laundry detergent, all purpose spray cleaner, and most of my beauty products (excluding make up…); I even mend my clothes where possible, and where not I either turn them into cleaning rags, or upcycle them into something else – currently I’m, slowly, turning my hand to quilting. I make my own journals and notebooks because for $6 a piece it’s cheaper than anything I can buy. I’ve even converted a number of my friends, mostly through being excited – and the fact that it works.
My personal opinion on how to solve the sanitary supply issue is teach whole classes (boys and girls alike) to make their own, with upcycled material, and have them use those to build up what is known as a stash. It may not last them a lifetime, but it will last them a long time. In this instance the internet and YouTube are your friends.
There is feminist power in being able to make what you need. Whether that means clothing, cleaning supplies, RUMPs, or simply growing your vege.