Menstruation Matters: Challenging the Law's Silence on Periods
Forthcoming, NYU Press 2022
24 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2021 Last revised: 15 Dec 2021
Date Written: June 4, 2021
As we embarked on writing this book in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had just begun to reach the United States. For several years, we had been closely following the state-by-state campaign to repeal the sales tax on menstrual products—commonly called the “tampon tax.” This kind of gender discrimination, at the cash register and otherwise, flourishes in a culture of silence, stigma, and shame associated with menstruation. As law professors, we were struck by the fact that the law seemed mostly silent about menstruation, even though approximately half the population menstruates for a large portion of their lives. Until recently, most people would have said that periods are private matters not to be discussed in public. The pandemic may have changed that culture of silence, though, as “period poverty” became more visible both in the United States and elsewhere. Menstrual products like tampons and pads were revealed as the essential products that they are; during a time of stay-at-home orders and disruptions in supply chains, the importance of being able to address the involuntary biological process of menstruation in a reliable, safe, and affordable way became more obvious than ever.
Inspired by the work of advocates of all ages, we set out to explore the many ways that menstruation matters in law and life in the United States. The topics covered in this book range from cultural attitudes toward menstruation, the tampon tax, the need for accessible products in schools, prisons, and other public buildings, employment discrimination matters, health and environmental concerns, the complex market for menstrual products, and how similar issues manifest in other countries. Our book asks what the law says about menstruation (spoiler alert: not much) and lays out a course of action for legal reform aimed at eliminating menstruation-related barriers to full participation in all aspects of public life.
Keywords: menstruation, period poverty, tampon tax, employment, schools, prisons, health, environment, immigration, human rights
JEL Classification: K1,K34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation