I haven't bought a packet of sanitary pads on over a year. Why? Because I have made the switch to cloth.
Not only am I now being responsible for my own period, but the big wigs at the sanitary napkin factory can't decide what harsh chemicals goes against my skin. They get none of my money, and neither do the government.
It's healthier for myself, and for the environment because I am not causing landfill that takes decades to break down.
So wouldn't it be better to be teaching women how to be more self suffient regarding their own periods rather then crying about how much it costs you each month?
It's about as hard to care for a cloth pad as it is to care for your own underware. Cloth pads don't cause a rash and are soft and comfortable. Plus, women who make cloth pads (and nappies) are being kept in business. So they should be supported. Do a search on Google for "Cloth Pads".
Feminism should be about being proactive as a woman, not whinging.
You're right that it is great to have environmentally-friendly alternatives. The Women's Department is actually planning to have some make-your-own cloth pad workshops next semester, as well as a bulk buying of menstrual cups for women who are interested. That's how we're being proactive.
There are several reasons why we are also protesting the GST on pads and tampons. In fact, I probably won't even be able to cover them all. The main one is that it is a tax on women, pure and simple. Alternatives or not, the fact is a majority of women use pads and tampons, and the GST was introduced at a time when such alternatives weren't as available. The fact that the government decided they were a 'luxury item' to be taxed, and not a hygiene or health item, is indicative of the way a male-dominated society is blind to women's needs. Especially given items like cock rings, condoms, and chocolate mousse are all deemed to not be luxury items. It is an insult to women to suggest that having their menses every month is to be defined as a luxury.
Secondly, the GST most strongly affects people who may not have access to the alternatives. Remember that for mainstream society, menstruation is still a taboo subject, so poor students and women may not know about the alternatives and often have to resort to things like toilet paper when their menses come, because they can't afford to buy pads and tampons with the extra GST.
I think it's absolutely wonderful that you've made the switch to cloth. It is fantastic for the environment. The lovely Emily Kate is doing quite well in persuading me to switch to menstrual cups, and in general, we're all incredibly pro being environmentally friendly. I suppose in the end it comes down to the fact that while we want to teach women to be more self-sufficient regarding their own periods, we also want to challenge society's complacency over women still being regarded as so Other as to have a natural biological function of our bodies be classed as something that can be taxed.
I hope that answers some of your questions as to our position. But you go girl, for being awesome and environmentally friendly.
Hey Erica, thanks for the quick reply! It's wonderful news to hear you guys being not just aware of, but encouraging the use of reusable items.
While, yes, I'm annoyed by the GST as well, I think the topic runs deeper (or should) into why the companies brainwash women into tip-toeing around the topic of periods and harmful bleaches into their products.
For example, the 'Pureste' brand of disposable pads and tampons really bug me because they're "Sterilised". As if what comes out of me is dirty? But why aren't underpants come sterilised as well?! It just boggles me, and I shake my head to think that that is what young ladies these days are subject to.
I think the biggest slap in the face for the government regarding the GST would be for all women switching to reusable sanitary items. To boycott disposable would really hurt their hip pocket. Teach women how to make/use/look after reusable sanitary items, and be sure, it'll be passed on, and on, and on.
I also think that classes on how to make sanitary pads is a wonderful idea. Teach women that it IS cheaper to use reusable products. Women can save $1000's!
Overall, we can protest till you're blue in the face, but my belief is that they will only hear you if you 'say it with your menses'.
Thanks for posting, Mary! You raise some excellent points.
It is my firm belief that it is a woman's right to choose her own option of menstrual care - be it reusable or not. I am concerned that those women who do not have stable housing arrangements will more likely need to rely on disposable options - usually being the more expensive option over 12 months - as they have more limited access to facilities where they can wash their pads as they want to (for example, free from the residue of harsher washing powders and detergents that are perfumed) or to clean menstrual cups in boiling water etc. This is of particular concern where the women in question may be shy.
Myself, I am a strong believer in reusable alternatives and thanks to my menstrual cup, I pay no GST each month for menstrual sanitary items, I know I am minimising my carbon footprint and choosing a more environmentally friendly option, I don't have to be worried about chemicals like bleach entering my reproductive system and I keep my expenses down - I paid $AU40 for my Lunette, which should last me ten years!
Unfortunately, I didn't hear about this option until I was 19 - my female relatives hadn't heard of this option at the time I started menstruating and there was no mention of it at primary or high school info chats in health classes (note: I went to a single-sex high school). I'm guessing you will have found yourself that most women simply are not aware of alternatives to the same-old - that's why it's important to have as much up-to-date info as possible out there, in as many places as possible: social networking sites, forums like this, at protests, in Women's Rooms/Lounges at universities, in public toilets, and hey, T-shirts, anywhere, be creative!
This is why I created the sub-board to this Bleeding Is NOT A 'Luxury' board some time back, and I encourage you and everyone else to help us empower women by posting any tips, stories, patterns, especially useful websites (my personal favourite: labyrinth.net.au/~obsidian/clothpads/index.html, check it out if you haven't already, it's brilliant!) and sources you may wish to share with the Victorian Cross Campus Women's Network and broader VCCWN Forum readership.
As Erica mentioned, The MSA Women's Dept are currently organising a 'Make Your Own' sewing skillshare (exciting!) and over the past couple of weeks I have been researching and trying to get a sample of all makes of menstrual cup currently available, as well as where to find out more and how to buy them (so far, the Keeper is the only brand of menstrual cup retailing in Victoria, which presents problems not only in terms of options for Victorian women, but because it is made from latex - a substance some women are allergic to). It's been an interesting excercise, and I have had to put my translation skills to the test (!!) but I am hoping to have a post on comparisons of twelve brands of menstrual cup and where/how to buy them up on the Bleeding Is NOT A 'Luxury' sub-board on alternatives by 5pm AEST tomorrow.
There is a lot to counter - the big brands, the social conditioning, law-making bodies in which women remain under-represented (female PM or not). My approach is to try to bring about change through many angles - protests are one, boycotts and positive action are another, petitions are another and information (my personal favourite!) is another again. I think it is important to remember that it's not just women who are outraged by this tax - it's men, too, and over this campaign I have found that men welcome and value the opportunity to add their voice to ours in support of this cause, which many of us have found heartening. For other women, they for whatever reason may not wish to make the switch - a choice that I respect completely, given it is their body, their health, their hip pocket and their life - but still do not deserve to be hit with this tax on pads and tampons.
It's true, the GST is one part of a larger problem - thanks for being part of the solution!