Many people can’t afford or don’t have access to necessary menstrual products. Nadya Okamoto is fighting to make menstrual products available to everyone who needs them, regardless of whether they can afford them, and regardless of the stigma these products still carry. Okamoto’s organization, Period (which she started when she was still in high school), has already launched a national campaign to raise awareness of the issue and prompt policy change. In many states, tampons are not considered medical necessities like ibuprofen, cough drops, or dandruff shampoo, and so they are subject to sales tax.
Okamoto calls this “discriminatory taxation.” There is also little legislation requiring public spaces to make menstrual products available. The goal is “to improve access to menstrual products in schools, shelters, and prisons as well as eliminate the tampon tax in the 34 states where it remains.”
Okamoto’s story is inspiring. Not only is she an impressively young social entrepreneur, she understands how to effect real change. She explains, “The way we need to make long-term systemic change is to change the system itself.” How does she plan to do that? “The bridge between service and systemic change, to me, is cultural change. Then we can create policy change.”
When we talk about periods frankly, we weaken the stigma around them and, in turn, effect cultural change. That way, when bills about access to and taxes on menstrual products land on the desks of majority-male legislators, they actually understand the significance of the issue.
How It Affects You
Regardless of your state laws, does your campus or workplace offer free access to menstrual products? Doing so would make students and employees of different income levels feel more included and respected, and it would help relieve them of the costs.
This weekend, 31 people died in mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. The El Paso shooter posted a racist manifesto online before his attack and targeted a Walmart with primarily Latinx patrons. Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, connects the lack of action toward white terrorists to racial stereotypes about who is and isn’t considered a threat. He describes the heavy government surveillance that Black, Latinx, and Muslim communities experience, despite the fact that 78 percent of domestic-terrorist murders in 2018 were linked to white supremacy ideology.
When white terrorists act, it is often described as an exception to the rule—the rule being a stereotype that people of color are dangerous by default and white people aren’t. This leads Kendi to ask, “How many people do white terrorists have to kill before America treats them as more dangerous than people of color?”
We are mourning for those who lost their lives and their loved ones this weekend. We often talk about the psychological, professional, and educational impact of stereotypes, but what we don’t often talk about is how stereotypes fuel hate-based violence. As Kendi points out, a recent study found that there was a 226 percent increase in hate crimes in counties that hosted Trump campaign rallies, compared to counties that did not host a rally. The culture that manifests from unchecked stereotypes and myths about identity groups can be a dangerous one.
How It Affects You
Hate-based crimes are on the rise in everyday spaces like schools, churches, and shopping areas. It’s crucial to call out stereotypes that falsely characterize people of color as dangerous, and to remind colleagues and friends that by and far, it is white men who are becoming dangerously radicalized.
The College Board recently released data indicating that the numbers of female, Black, and Latinx high schoolers in advanced computer science courses have increased. Since the launch of the AP Computer Science Principles course in 2016, the number of Black and Latinx students in the course increased 121% and 125%, respectively, and the number of female students increased 136%. There has also been a steep rise in the number of students from marginalized groups who received a 3 or higher on the AP exam for this course, which “enables exam takers to get college credit and bypass introductory computer science courses in college.”
Christina Gardner-McCune, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Florida, believes “these numbers will ultimately result in more students from diverse backgrounds being better positioned to major or minor in computer science. This in turn will help diversify the tech industry.”
Diversity in tech is critical because, as Gardner-McCune points out, “computing technologies are pervasive in our daily lives...But if the people who design the technology don’t include women, minorities, people with disabilities, or other individuals from diverse backgrounds, it could lead to technology that works for some...but not all.”
How It Affects You
As the College Board data indicates, diversifying the tech industry includes making the field accessible to everyone from an early age. In your own industry, are there ways you can pique the interest of and eliminate barriers for younger people of marginalized backgrounds? Examples include low-cost coding classes for teens, sliding-scale social justice and activism camps, and scholarships for youth entrepreneurship programs.