Home Feminism Jacinda Ardern's Grossly Misinformed About Period Poverty

Jacinda Ardern’s Grossly Misinformed About Period Poverty

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This is one of those little examples of how an entirely cooked up statistic becomes a part of the national conversation. And then government tries to do something about it. Here the contention is that some large number of girls don’t have enough money to deal with monthly necessities. Therefore the government should provide such for free.

The problem here being that even the original contention doesn’t stand up to even the most casual examination and that before we even get to the solution, even if it did, being the wrong one.

Here’s the contention:

Girls in New Zealand high schools will no longer have to pay for sanitary products after the government announced it would foot the bill in an attempt to stamp out widespread period poverty.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said sanitary supplies for a monthly period were not a luxury, but a necessity and too many girls were skipping school because they weren’t able to afford pads and tampons.

Schools in deprived areas also reported girls being forced to use toilet paper, newspaper and rags in an attempt to manage their period.

Fifteen Waikato schools – identified as those most in need – will have access to free products from term three of this year, with the programme going nationwide on an opt-in basis by 2021.

That some teenage girls don’t quite get the calculations right about when they’re going to need such necessaries doesn’t surprise. Hell, who ever got everything right as a teenager? The thought that a school might have some supplies around to aid those doesn’t seem too appalling. Seems very sensible in fact.

But this analysis that this is to do with poverty is ludicrous.

“We know that nearly 95,000 nine-to-18-year-olds may stay at home during their periods due to not being able to afford period products,” Ardern said. “By making them freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school.”

Nonsense. There are around and about 1 million under 18 year olds in New Zealand. Half of whom are going to be female, half of those in that 9 to 18 age group. That’s 250,000 people in the menstruating in schools population. Of whom 95,000, damn near 40%, are too poor to afford £1 – $NZ 2? – a month on the necessaries?

Pull the other one, it’s got blood free bells on it.

And yes, a box of tampons – sure, supermarket brand and all that – is about that price and no, it’s not true that any appreciable percentage will need more than a box a month.

Forgetting to have a couple rolling around in the bottom of the school booksack, sure, we can believe that. That 40% of NZ schoolgirls don’t have $2 a month in disposable income? Perhaps not the correctly gendered word here but nutsacks to that idea.

The underlying contention simply is not true. Yet even if it were the government provision of free to all wouldn’t be the answer. Emergency supplies, yes, sure, just as the school nurse can dole out aspirin. The thing being that there are a number of variations of these necessaries. Those inserted, those placed upon. With wings and without. Scented or not, heavier and lighter. Each women having preferences and why the hell shouldn’t they? We do not want to have each school with its own selection of such. For we’ve vast barns in every city, town and village in the country with shelves and shelves of those variations. We call them shops.

Society is made richer by each individual having more of what the individual desires. That’s just a definition. Society really is made richer by the lassie who prefers the winged scented getting that rather than the inserted not. This is also known as agency, we each being able to choose how to dispose of the resources available to us and human beings like and desire agency.

So, assume that poverty really is the problem – it isn’t, but still – what would our solution be? The one that made us richer? It would be to provide the teenage girls of the country with an extra $2 a month to go into the stores to buy the variant they prefer. This produces the maximum agency for them at the same cost to us, we’re richer collectively as a result.

The original identified problem, period poverty, isn’t actually a thing. And even if it is the solution is the distribution of money, not tampons. But, you know that’s not how government works, is it? Instead we get bad policy based upon lies. No wonder we get a vote every few years to kick out the people who do this to us.

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