I am very pleased to hear about the decision of the Helsinki City Council to start distributing menstrual pads free of charge in schools.
Helsingin sanomat newspaper said (3.6.)that Helsinki will start distributing free menstrual pads in schools. It sparked a debate on equality and the need for protection.
The Coalition City Councilor Arja Karhuvaara suggested that the students could, if necessary, make menstrual bands out of their old clothes. I think the performance is offensive. I would like to see what kind of uproar would arise if someone suggested that primary school toilet paper could be replaced with old school notebooks.
Nuutti Hyttinen, the city councilor for basic Finns, once again equated menstrual pads with razors and suggested that in the name of equality, free shaving equipment should be distributed to low-income men. I see the parable as frighteningly naive, but the alignment is not unheard of. It is repeated in public debate and internet comments. It tells how badly some men have a perception of women’s physiology and basic needs. Shaving is a choice, menstruation is not. You can get out the door without shaving, but without menstrual pads, it is difficult to get beyond the toilet door.
I think the parable of the mosquito is bad because women also shave their hair and often do it with even more expensive pink-skinned planers. These menstrual protectors, such as VAT, which are subject to VAT at the highest level, can be seen as part of the so-called pink tax phenomenon: Often pink products for women may be more expensive than similar products marketed for men (HS 21.7.2019).
I think what makes this equality debate misleading is the reasoning that women should not get financial relief for their basic needs without men also receiving something. In practice, equality is not about giving everyone the same, but about giving people what they need.
I am very pleased to hear about the decision of the Helsinki City Council to start distributing menstrual pads free of charge in schools. It thus offsets the unequal monthly expenditure left for girls, and I believe the practice also reduces menstrual concealment and shame by treating shelters as an ordinary part of daily hygiene rather than using toilet paper.
Assistant Lecturer in Cultural Studies, Dissertation Researcher, London College of Fashion
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