Imagine this: It’s about noon, and you’ve been feeling awful all day. No need to worry though — this happens to you every few weeks. You’re in pain, you’re tired and you’re experiencing inexplicable mood swings paired with irritability. You want so badly to curl up in a ball in your bed and lie there for the rest of the day. But you can’t.
This happens to you every month, yet society still doesn’t accept this as an excuse for missing school or work. You go to the bathroom because the one thing that prevents this from completely taking over your life is full. You have to change it. But, you realize you didn’t bring an extra one. What do you do now? Great question. I’m so glad you asked.
For any of you who haven’t picked up on what I’m talking about yet, I’m talking about periods. Believe me, I know you want to read about this as much as I want to write about it. But it’s time we give it the attention it deserves.
A campaign called Gators Matter, Period. is a coalition of UF students and community members fighting for free menstrual hygiene products on campus. Maybe you’ve seen a Change.org petition circulating throughout social media. But you probably didn’t hear a lot of conversation about it.
In recent weeks, however, periods have been on everyone’s minds and social media feeds. The leaders of this coalition have been tirelessly attempting to get free menstrual products on UF’s campus. Initially, a Student Government committee struck down the motion, stating only half the student population would benefit from it.
Since the initial rejection, SG gave students a glimmer of hope. It announced products would be available in the GatorWell office and possibly at the Field and Fork Pantry starting in February. Supporters of the movement are far from satisfied, but it’s a step in the right direction. And I agree. It’s not enough. What message are we sending women with this partial solution? Definitely not that we respect them or their needs.
Being respected and valued is an important part of mental health. It is incredibly difficult to thrive and reach your full potential while feeling as though your needs are unimportant. It’s enough stress having to deal with the actual physical and psychological effects of periods. We shouldn’t also have to worry about what to do if we don’t have a pad or tampon. We certainly shouldn’t have to fight this hard just to have basic needs met.
I don’t mean to devalue men here. I understand men know periods exist, and many support this movement. In fact, some of the biggest driving forces for this movement were men. But I think in general, most men don’t know as much about menstruation as they think they do. It happens every month, right? It’s not a big deal.
Well, not exactly. According to the website for the Office on Women’s Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 75 percent of women with regular period cycles report unpleasant physical or psychological symptoms before their period. That means in addition to the unpleasant physical changes, many of our brains change. Women can experience depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, sensitivity to rejection, feeling of being overwhelmed and social withdrawal. This is even if we have access to products and feel understood by those around us.
Guys, we don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but periods aren’t a comfortable thing for anyone. A lot of times, we don’t even know when it’s going to come. We shouldn’t have to feel ashamed or worried about what to do if we forget to pack a tampon and we get a surprise visit from our “Aunt Flo.”
Periods are a natural part of life and womanhood. Mental health can be negatively impacted by the stress of not having products and having to improvise. Let us talk about it, and let us have products. It will help you, too. And even if it weren’t, the fact that someone else is being helped should be enough.
Taylor Cavaliere is a UF journalism and psychology junior. Her column focuses on mental health.