- Period poverty discussed in public for the first time in China.
- China still lacks sex education.
- Period shame in China hurts women as much, if not more, as period poverty.
On Taobao, China’s largest online shopping website, you can find almost any products and services. Recently, a product there has raised tons of discussions. Several online shops sell sanitary pads in bulk, and in one of them, one questioner asks: “these pads in bulk are clearly three-without products (without brand and fabricator, without expiration date and without quality certificate), why are you girls even buying them?” The answers below can be, sadly, concluded in a sentence: because life is difficult.
In China, due to social conventions, sanitary pads are much more widely used than tampons. Unbelievable as it might seem, many people still judge women, especially those unmarried, using tampons by calling them easy girls or slut. Somehow, tampons violate the purity of virginity. For the sanitary pads, depending on the brand, a piece of common pad usually varies from $0.15 to $1, while the pads in question cost only $0.02 apiece. Background: over 40% of the total population in China have a monthly disposable income of less than $146, most of whom live in inland villages.
People have taken the discussions to Weibo. They blame the government for not helping women out of period poverty, and for imposing the highest category of tax (13%) on sanitary products. They call for social consciousness on the gap between rich and poor. They disdain male users for using razors as a comparison. Some even suspect that the sanitary companies are involved in order to lower the tax. Anyway, people are happy to see that period poverty is finally a topic to talk about in China.
Some of them question the quality of the pads sold in bulk, while others argue that the online shop in question is up to standards. Some are afraid that if these shops are taken down, it would be even harder for those women in need. Soon, the fabricator of the pads speaks out and claims that they do have all the certificates required, but the online shop is not authorized to sell them. The shop has forged a certificate and is selling their products without authorization.
Many people on Zhihu are recommending other cheap but legit brands. However, it’s very unlikely for those who are forced to used pads in bulk to read these posts. When life is so hard, it’s a luxury to even browse websites like Zhihu and Weibo. They also plead for donations to NGOs dedicated to help women in poverty.
Hope this wave of discussions can lead to some actual moves from the government. It’s not just about every woman being able to use safe sanitary products, which isn’t an easy task already, but also the general education on personal sanitary care. Period shame in China hurts women as much, if not more, as period poverty.