Jessica Valenti, a columnist for the British-based Guardian newspaper, was doing some research for a column she has planned — one that was published on Monday — in which she argued that women’s feminine hygiene products, that is, tampons and similar products, “should be free for all, all the time.”
The previous Friday, she went on to her Twitter account and asked her followers if they knew of any areas of the world where tampons were provided free, or were subsidized.
Twitter friends: Anyone know a country where tampons are free or somehow subsidized?
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) August 8, 2014
Though Valenti, the founder of the feminist site Feministing, has certainly encountered hostility for her views before, even she was shocked by the response she received on Twitter.
— jimmy hendricks (@jhendricks2301) August 9, 2014
As the Time Magazine site described the horrific torrent of vitriol directed Valenti’s way, “Though Valenti’s tweet was merely a question — not a demand, not a request, not even an opinion — it seemed to trigger rage in dozens of men and women online, who then unleashed a torrent of abuse at Valenti.”
— amcphee (@adam_mcphee) August 8, 2014
In her Guardian column, Valenti noted that for millions of women and girls in countries around the world, tampons are simply not affordable or even obtainable at all, and they risk infection and other health maladies, as well as time missed from school, “all because too many governments don’t recognize feminine hygiene as a health issue.”
“Sanitary products are vital for the health, well-being and full participation of women and girls across the globe. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch, for example, have both linked menstrual hygiene to human rights,” Valenti wrote. “Earlier this year, Jyoti Sanghera, chief of the UN Human Rights Office on Economic and Social Issues, called the stigma around menstrual hygiene ‘a violation of several human rights, most importantly the right to human dignity.’”
Here are a few more of what Valenti described as “hundreds” of similar Tweets in she received, simply for asking if anyone knew of a place where tampons were subsidized.
@JessicaValenti here’s a thought: get married. Then your husband can pay for it. As long as your putting out….
— MrSugarButt (@MrSugarButt) August 8, 2014
— Busy Lizzy PAI (@piecrust33) August 9, 2014
How did all of these angry individuals even hear about Valenti’s tweet, since few appear to be the type who would follow her Twitter feed? The ire was set off by the blog Twitchy, a right wing site that headlined its entry, “Jessica Valenti is looking for a place to score free tampons.”
But as writer Amanda Marcotte pointed out, the blog inadvertently “ended up proving Valenti’s point: Menstrual products are treated like luxury items that you ‘score’ instead of medical devices that you need.”