What NO ONE Talks About

So I know that I’ve been pretty rant filled and political and those sorts of things, but I firmly believe it is for good reason. My goal each time I post something along the lines of Kesha or Bernie or even Suicide Awareness is that more people will become aware of some of the issues of today and take action. I will not apologize for my “editorials”, nor for the motives behind them. But today, i am both taking a personal and an activist stance for something that I believe needs to be addressed: menstruation.

Thaaaaat’s right, your favorite gift from the great mother, the one that turns your girlfriend, wife, mother or sister into a cranky, bloated, bleeding stressball once a month. But as always, that’s only one way to look at it.I’m here to bring some facts, some interesting thoughts and some ideas to the crimson issue.

moon

Menstruation, or moon time has been revered throughout the ages as a source of power for women. It is with this flushing of the uterus that many women have been accused of sorcery, devil worship and all sorts of magicks. It’s my favorite time to be a woman.

WHAT?

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That’s right. It’s my favorite thing about being a woman. No man on earth can do it, that makes it unique to my biological sex. And having a period is a sign of health. If you are malnourished, or have an eating disorder, chances are menstruation is one of the first things that stops.And you know what else? I find it empowering that I can survive bleeding each month and not dying. It makes me feel like a fierce viking warrior woman who’s just come from battle. Seriously. I see absolutely ZERO shame in my “monthly”. But here are some things you may not be aware of.

hygiene

Around the world, being a menstruating female is a bad thing. ” In rural Nepal, a similar practice occurs, where women are not allowed in their homes for fear that the gods will become angry and put a curse on the home and family leading to illness and problems.” (1) Small Mali villages have NO access to feminine hygiene products, and neither do villages in Senegal, Tanzania (it’s increasing here!), Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Guatemala, and a number of other countries with limited access. (2) And here in the United States? The impoverished aren’t afforded the luxury of feminine hygiene products, as “the food stamp programs in most US states do not even consider menstrual hygiene products as “essential items” (1). “Many girls are terrified by their first period. Because they lack  information, many girls believe they are ill or dying when they first menstruate.” (1) A year’s supply of tampons and pads costs upwards of $70 (3)!

I personally think it’s a little higher, depending on where you live and how much stuff you have to go through each month. $6.99 for a 36 count of Tampax Pearls, $4.39 for a 50 count of Kotex liners and $3.19 for a 22 count Always Maxi Pad (4). You’re supposed to change a pad every 3-4 hours, and a tampon every 4-8 hours. Suppose you have a 7 day period. (It’s math time!) And most of the time, if your flow is heavy, you use both a tampon and a pad, if not two tampons. (just keep that in mind, I’m getting there).

1 day of light bleeding

5 days of moderate to heavy bleeding

1 day of light bleeding

(and let’s be honest, add 2 more days of liners JUST IN CASE something happens)

So in total: 4 days of “light” and 5 days of “moderate to heavy”.

4 days * 24 hours = 96 hours / 4 hours = 24 times to change a pad (light days don’t need both pads and tampons)

5 days* 24 hours =120 hours / 4 hours =30 times to change BOTH.

So for ONE month you use: 24 liners, 30 pads and 30 tampons.

With the size boxes that I looked at, you’ll need to buy a grand total of about 11 months’ worth of “stuff” So the last bit of math is:

(11*6.99)+(11*4.39)+(11*3.19)=$160.27 USD (a little more than TWICE the quoted cost.)

That is NOT okay. For being a woman, who by the way has no choice over the matter to have or not have a period, that is a LOT of money to spend. And not to mention, do you know how much waste tampons and pads make? No? Well let me tell you.

“According to the new book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, the average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of “pads, plugs, and applicators” in her lifetime.” (5)

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And now we reach the “story part”. So I had heard all of the information, and I knew that I really care for the environment, but I had never really thought about how something as basic as puberty might be destroying the earth. I mean, you literally don’t think about it. You just think, “Oh, well, I must bleed for a week, better not wear anything that might get damaged.” and go about your day. So on a coffee date one day, I walked past a CVS and decided I was going to do my part. Cue the DivaCup (6). I’d heard about these as a pretty recent fad, I figured they were just something that someone had thought up. And then it hit my news feed about the girl who got TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) for leaving a tampon in too long and I decided I needed to know what the craze was all about.

I have to admit, the first time using it was a little…frustrating. I didn’t know what I was doing, I felt kinda silly and I couldn’t get it right. But. A little research goes a long way. I found a fold, I managed to figure it all out, and now I’m saving myself so much money. AND I’m saving the environment.

blood

But that’s not enough. I have to be part of the message. We have to make menstruation something that’s talked about, something that women don’t have to be ashamed of. Did you know that’s the number one reason girls in impoverished countries drop out of school? Here’s a quote from a girl in Uganda:

“I used to use cloths that I would cut from my old T-shirts to keep the blood from staining my dresses, but they were not enough and blood would still stain my clothes,” she told a local NGO that visited her school to teach her how to make reusable pads.

“Boys used to laugh at me and I eventually simply stayed home whenever my periods started.” (7)

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Seriously. If we are going to end poverty, end gender inequality, we have to start talking about stuff like periods. Women should not feel ashamed that they are healthy. And they shouldn’t miss class because they have no access to hygiene products. Pads and tampons are not a luxury. Water is not a luxury. Education is not a luxury. We have to speak out.

Sources:

(1): Dignity Period

(2): Lipgloss and A Backpack

(3): New York Times

(4): Google Shopping For Hygiene

(5): Slate

(6): DivaCup

(7): Girl Effect

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A Day in the Life of…

So normally I try to write about something very near and dear to me, something that isn’t overly political, but is something that I am pretty passionate about. A little while ago, I posted about how I thought it was incredibly wrong to force people to go to college. And today, I want to present the other side. A personal narrative of what it’s like going to college in today’s world. And hopefully, to dispell some college myths. I’ve screen-shotted my proof for numbers, although they are easily available on Google.

I don’t know how many people relate, but it really grinds my gears when I hear “Why can’t you just save up money?” Or “Working through college isn’t that hard.” Or “Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” These sentences may have been true at one point, and that question may be well-intended, but I believe that they are incredibly un-applicable (inapplicable?) to today’s college generation. This will be, as always, just my experience, mi cuenta. 

Classes began yesterday. And if you live north, so did the snow. I woke up around 620, took the dog out, fixed lunch and made sure my husband was up. While he was finishing getting ready, I ran out to get the car scraped. He locked up and we left for class. The roads were slick, the cars were thick and it added some time to our drive. Rush hour in Ohio always does. We made it to school, and work in my case, and began classes. We got back to home about 12 hours later. The wind blew, but I walked over 2 miles yesterday, and will do so all semester, regardless of weather. And my husband’s walk is almost 4 miles a day. Just to get between classes. We’re both taking upper division classes (stuff meant for graduate students-not undergrad) and we’re trudging along.

Ohio State’s tuition is dependent on where you call home. For me, it has always been Ohio, so I get in-state tuition, as does my husband. For just one of us, it costs $20,144 USD just to attend for one year. That doesn’t include gas, rent, food or supplies. So, living in a big city is pretty expensive. If you say $200 in groceries for 1 person per month, plus $700 per person for rent/utilities per month, plus $100 a month for supplies/gas, that’s $1000 a month PER PERSON on living expenses. **NOTE: I am using the second set of numbers as my reference, because I live off campus in an apartment, so I’m filling in my numbers instead. And that supplies number isn’t adequate, so I’ve included the personal amount to fix it.**

So, in total, it is $20,144 + ($1000 x 12) = $32,144 per person just to go to classes for one full year.

  Two we people’s total is $32,144 x 2 = $64,288 for one year of college. And this is a public, state school. I shudder to imagine a private university. And this number doesn’t include emergencies like a broken down car, hospital trips, doctor visits or any other emergency things. If it did, it would look more like $70,000 USD.

So let’s look at the job markets and such. We’ll take a minimum wage job, because mostly the college population has one of those.  I have included my google search for current, factual information.

 
So, we have $8.10 USD as the minimum wage. So let’s discuss hours. The minimum amount of class time you can have at OSU is 12 credit hours. That, from my understanding means that you will have 12 hours of class per week, or around 3 per class. You can go up to 18 credit hours. So one week has an entire 7 x 24 hours = 168 hours. Suppose you’Re taking the upper limit of credit hours. That is 168-18 right off the bat. So 150 hours of the week is left.

Ohio State recommends that for every 1 hour of class, 3 hours are spent in homework to achieve a passing grade (taken to mean “C”). The picture I have is from the U of Michigan website.

  
(Notice how if you take 18 Credit Hours, it is recommended that you work less than 20 hours.) So to catch us up, we have 150 hours in a week after classes. Now,  18 x 3 = 54 hours. So, 150-54 is 96 hours in a week left. Let’s say that you sleep 8 hours a night. 8 x 7 =56. So you are down to 40 hours a week left. But what about drive time?

It takes us anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get to campus, even from where we live, depending on when we leave. So, if we were to leave every day during rush hour (because Ohio is famous for it), it would take an hour both ways. That is 5 x 2 = 10. So if you take that away from the 40 hours you had, you are now down to 30 hours left in the week. Take another 10 from that for dinner/eating each day and you are at 20 hours left for the week.

Suppose you were a scary person and you didn’t ever have any fun what-so-ever and you worked the rest of the 20 hours. You’d have to include the fact that you have to drive there (assuming you don’t get a job on campus while you’re already there. So take an additional 5 hours off of that number for driving to work. You are left with 15 hours to work.

Remember that minimum wage from above? Bring it down here.

$8.10 USD x 15 hours = $121.50 USD before taxes. In my best effort to predict my checks, I use 86% as the amount of the paycheck I will actually get post-taxes. So, if you’re using that too, $121.50 x .86 = $104.49 USD. For the month? That total is $417.96

So. Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

“Why can’t you save money?” Because making $417.96 per month (or $5015.52 a year!) compared to spending $32,144 doesn’t really put much of a dent in my student loans, and to be fair, I use the money I supplement with working a part time job to pay for the emergency stuff (and to apply to grad schools, law schools and register for the entrance exams-which cost $200 a piece).

“Working through college isn’t hard.” Well, as I hope I have illustrated for you, it IS possible to work during college, and I do so. However, I’m not sure I would ever call it easy. I mean, I like being able to work out, grab coffee with my friends and spend time with my husband, but those things take time and make life meaningful so I sacrifice work for them.

“Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” I’m very happy for you. But with today’s numbers, a part time job barely covers food for my husband and I for the month. (And let me remind you that these numbers did not include birthday presents, Christmas presents, lab fees, parking passes ($800 USD a year), fast food, or any “luxuries” that a person may want.) 

This blog post was not meant to be a “Michelle Complains About College Again!” Rant. That was NEVER my intention.

What I want you to see, maybe even empathize with or understand better is that going to college is a big commitment and what may have been true for older generations during their time, their 20s, is no longer true today. And we should stop using antiquated information to make generalizations about today’s 20-somethings.

And to round us out, here are some memes about college which I find funny and insightful.