I love being a woman more than most things in the world. But like all great loves, I have a little gripe with mine. Mr Darcy was arrogant, Heathcliff was... difficult, Mr Rochester had the small matter of a psychotic wife, and my love? Well, womanhood bleeds.
As women, we spend around 1/5 of our lives menstruating. Imagine our dismay when we learn this for the very first time; the back, stomach, inner thigh pain that accompanies it, the headaches, nausea, constant threat of leak induced embarrassment, once a month every month for the next thirty five years. But what really adds insult to injury is the phenomenal cost of mopping it all up.
When I started my period at 11, I wrote a letter to the Chief Medical Officer, with help from my Dad, asking why sanitary towels and tampons couldn't be provided on the NHS. He sent back some guff about it being too large of an undertaking; incredible, really, that contraception is free, nicotine patches are free, but we're still being charged for something we haven't got a choice about.
Not only are we charged for it, but we're taxed on it too. This petition outlines the things you can buy tax free in the UK; the list includes men's razors and exotic meats. You'll notice that sanitary products are not on the list. If you believe that your entitlement to tampons is of greater importance than being able to eat a crocodile, you should probably sign it. (If you would rather eat a crocodile than have tax free tampons, I don't think we can be friends.)
This afternoon I went to Tesco to buy sanitary towels. I tend to bulk buy when they're on offer in order to save money, so the last time I bought any was a good 6 months ago.
Guess how much a packet of sanitary towels will set you back in Tesco these days.
No go on. Have a guess.
£3.46. For 18 pads. THREE POUNDS FORTY SIX.
I almost fainted. I mean, quite besides the fact that I'm basically haemorrhaging anyway, the very implication that I should spend £3.46 on a sticky back nappy for myself was enough to knock me out for a couple of days. Two packs for £6. TWO PACKS for SIX POUNDS. And they act as if they're doing you a favour with this 'offer.'
I took the two packets though, and do you know why? Because it's either that or new sheets. And what's going to cost me more - a prohibitively expensive packet of sanitary towels, or entirely new bedding? And why is this even a CHOICE?
The thing that drives me insane is that there will never be an end to this. I will be getting my period for the next twenty five years. The prices of sanitary towels and tampons are going to rise and rise, because they can, because we have to buy them to keep ourselves clean, and we have to be clean to hold down jobs and maintain relationships and remain sane and happy. So I did some sums and worked out that, since I started menstruating, until I stop at say, 50, I will have spent a grand total of around £3,000 on my period. I will have spent the equivalent to an all inclusive cruise to Florida on applicator tampons and maxi pads. I will have shoved three grand up my vagina.
That's a lot of money for one girl to spend, isn't it? Not to mention the fact that in just one year the average man earns over the equivalent of the average woman's lifetime ovary spend more than her, just for having a dick.
Never mind my uterus; sometimes my heart f*cking bleeds.
A slightly different version of this post first appeared on now-defunct blog ThingsWeWish in 2013.