Period poverty is defined as the lack of access to menstrual education and having unstable access to menstrual hygiene products. It also includes the financial burden that many low-income menstruators face when seeking to buy menstrual products like tampons, pads, and menstrual pain medication.
Period conversations are taboo among minority communities and period poverty is a deep-seeded problem spanning generations in these communities.
There exists a lack of communication among low-income Black menstruators that impacts understanding and approach towards menstruation in these communities. At the same time, minority women are disproportionately affected by period poverty and menstrual inequity in the United States
The History of Medical Abuse Against Black Menstruators
The sexual and reproductive health of African American women has been compromised due to multiple instances of systemic racism, including discriminatory healthcare practices from the time of slavery through the post-Civil Rights era. James Marion Simms, “the father of gynecology” pioneered surgical tools and procedures at the expense of Black enslaved women. His medical achievements include perfecting the method for repairing vesicovaginal fistula and creating the “first successful gallbladder surgery," and the "first successful artificial insemination,” according to the Washington Post. He obtained his medical achievements by conducting experiments on enslaved Black women, without anesthesia (although, later on in his career, he chose to administer sedatives by addicting the slave women to morphine).
It’s important to mention the dark history of gynecology because it is the reason many Black menstruators today have a distrust in medical care from gynecologists. This deep-rooted history also results in period taboos among Black menstruators and perpetuated stigmas around menstrual health.
Today, Black ob-gyn leaders are among those working to move beyond the systemic racism that causes disparities in the healthcare that Black menstruators receive, and into an era of improving the lives and lifespans of Black people.
What Can We Do to Eradicate Period Poverty among Black Menstruators?
- Increase representation in the medical field
- Increase health education around menstruation for all students
- Increase access to menstrual care products in public spaces through legislation
- Reduce the stigma around periods by talking about them!
The way we address period poverty can address the mistrust that Black menstruators have in medicine. We need more representation in the medical field, along with financial accessibility of health care. The history of racism in medicine must be emphasized to all medical practitioners. It is the job of every doctor to actively work against this long standing systemic racism. Along with affordable and accessible health care, educating menstruators from a young age about the importance of seeking help when they feel something is wrong will make medical care more approachable. We can eradicate period poverty with effort on an individual and systemic level.