Following a viral campaign launched by a female fan, Celtic are to become the first Scottish football club to provide free sanitary products in their stadium from next season. Erin Slaven started an online petition which gathered more than 2,700 signatures, prompting the club to start providing products on a trial basis in August, with plans to make it permanent from December. Me and my ovaries are delighted.
While this has been celebrated by many, it’s not been universally appreciated. Some (men) have commented that people who go to football matches tend to have enough money to be able to buy their own products, but that’s not always true. Clubs like Celtic give away a significant number of tickets each match to schools and disadvantaged groups who may not necessarily have the kind of cash needed to buy expensive sanitary products each month. Other people who menstruate may find themselves in a totally different financial situation from the one they were in when they bought their season ticket. In the time we’re in now, where people are facing huge financial instability, you just can’t assume that people will be in a comfortable and stable situation all the time.
And what about the young teenagers who are just starting to get their period and may not have got into the habit of carrying tampons around with them? There are tons of young people going to matches, often with their dads who are unlikely to be carrying sanitary products around with them on the off chance that their kid needs them. They can’t exactly jump to the shops and come back during a match, so they have to make do with almost see through toilet paper and pray that they don’t bleed through before the 90 minutes are up.
Plus, grown women can forget too, or their period comes early and they’re caught short. It’s happened to most of us. Again, the only options are that devil toilet paper or hoping there’s an insanely overpriced machine. In a lot of grounds there isn’t even that. It is so hard to focus on the match you’ve paid to watch when all you can think about is whether or not the paper has moved and you’re bleeding through the back of your trousers. (If you’re an Aberdeen fan, of course, then this is all null and void – your strips are handily designed to disguise leaks. It’s the one advantage of supporting the Dons).
Also, importantly, hot water is a rarity at matches and that’s a problem. If I need to use sanitary products, I need to be able to wash my hands properly. It’s basic hygiene standards. I know a lot of men would disagree, and to you I say, gross. Wash your hands dudes. Even if you plan ahead and bring products, there’s the issue of where you can change them. If there’s no hot water, then you might consider it better just to leave tampons in longer than they should be, and that’s potentially life-threatening. I shouldn’t be forced to choose between the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome and bloody hands.
Look, I can afford sanitary products and most of the time I don’t forget them when needed. But I can also afford toilet paper, and I don’t see anyone saying we should have to pay for that. Imagine having to tuck toilet paper up your sleeve or cart along a bag just to have a roll handy everywhere you go. Picture forgetting to bring a roll and having to pay £2 for a couple of sheets. Envisage toilet paper being subject to a luxury tax rate, with part of the fund raised from that going to a group that campaigns to deprive you of rights. Last year, anti-abortion group Life received £250,000 from the tampon tax. If this happened to men society would collapse.
People menstruate. It happens. Having access to sanitary products is a necessity, just like toilet paper and water to wash your hands with. Yes, it’s unlikely that the majority of the people going to Celtic Park are having to go without sanitary products, but it’s a great step on the path to ending period poverty. Celtic can afford it – it’s not about to break their bank. They are standing as an example to other football clubs, and hopefully the move can trickle down to smaller and smaller clubs where maybe more people are in direct need. At worst, this decision is simply a show of inclusivity for people who menstruate – no bad thing in itself. At best, this could pile on to a societal shift until we reach the point that no one has to use inappropriate items at that time of month, whether it’s cheap toilet paper, newspapers, socks or rags. It’s time to show period poverty the red card.
[Louise Wylie – @womanpendulum]