Maggie Di Sanza
Third-Wave Feminism: How is it Related to Menstruation?
Updated: Aug 9, 2019
Third wave feminism - nothing like demolishing the gender binary, myths about the wage gap, addressing male privilege and making representation for women a first priority. All incredible goals… on the surface. I am sure most of us are familiar with the concept of feminism: the belief in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. The majority of people living in the United States can agree on this principle; it is within the nuances of gender equality that the commonalities begin to unravel. First and second wave feminism were the movements of people fighting for women’s rights prior to the 1980s. First wave feminism can be associated with suffragettes and protesting for the right to vote, while second wave feminism encompasses more modern goals such as equal pay. On the other hand, third-wave feminism tends to focus on the social aspects of equal rights, addressing concepts like cultural imperialism, toxic masculinity, and diet-culture.
Third wave feminism is often bashed for its seemingly unnecessary goals with many debating whether or not this fight for equality is even justified in a developed nation like the United States. Despite these perceived notions, third wave feminism is an incredibly necessary force in our society. There is no denying that women are being more aggressively and legally threatened in various other parts of the world; it would be foolish to deny this. Though, a large part of the third wave feminist movement addresses notions of privileges, assisting others in the process. By applying a more global perspective on feminism, we are able to make an effort to walk the line between fighting for the rights of others and infringing on their cultural values. In reality, the argument against third wave feminism is irrelevant, and in many ways, proves the need for it.
But, how does this relate to menstruation? Despite the cheesy and rhetorical nature to this question, it is an incredibly important one. As third wave feminism works to tackle certain social issues surrounding women, it is uncovering many uncomfortable topics including prostitution, sexual liberation, abortion rights, and period equity. Simply by shining a light on these issues, the public is beginning to pay attention to the silenced voices, addressing essential legal actions that - in my opinion - should have been implemented ages ago.
One example of this is known as the ‘Pink Tax.’ This is the phenomena that products with the intention of being used by females have an additional luxury tax, while the male equivalent is taxed as a necessity. As referenced by the article written by Money Matters, ‘Pink Tax: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer,’ “Women pay seven percent more for toys and accessories; four percent more for children’s clothing; eight percent more for adult clothing; thirteen percent more for personal care and hygienic products; and eight percent more for senior/home health care products than their male counterparts.” This issue has been fairly underground and discussed among feminist groups, social justice committees and the most progressive of politicians, until the 2010s. Third wave feminism has helped to unearth this issue.
By pushing society to discuss some difficult topics, third-wave feminism has made significant strides in menstrual equality, including promoting an end to a luxury tax on period products, making menstrual materials more accessible, and making education surrounding feminine hygiene more inclusive.
Besides making menstrual equality a more relevant issue, third wave feminism has introduced even ‘politically correct’ people to the idea of intersectional menstruation. If something is ‘intersectional’ it addresses many identities, backgrounds, and experiences. As menstruation is introduced through this lens, people who have different cultural values, who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, or transgender are considered when discussing issues surrounding menstruation.
Undeterred by the stigmas against third wave feminism, the movement continues to provoke outrage and backlash among typically conservative politicians and constituents. I am deeply interested in this issue, and if you disagreed with anything stated I would love to hear your perspective in the comments, or in a blog response. Please start a conversation!