Opinion

Diapers and Tampons Help Men, Too

Diapers and Tampons Help Men, Too

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez's bill this week requiring employers to provide sick leave.

By now you’ve probably heard about Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s push to expand the state’s CalWORKS program to include $80 a month for low-income families to buy diapers. It’s getting a lot of press lately, both because it’d be the first U.S. welfare program to cover diapers, and because it’s provoked some nasty reactions.

That puts it on the same footing as another idea proposed this week by writer Jessica Valenti, who says governments worldwide should consider subsidizing feminine hygiene products:

Sara Libby on NewsAnd for young women worldwide, getting your period means new expenses, days away from school and risking regular infections. All because too many governments don’t recognize feminine hygiene as a health issue.

We need to move beyond the stigma of “that time of the month” – women’s feminine hygiene products should be free for all, all the time.

Both ideas seek to help low-income women in two ways: by addressing a health issue, and helping working moms stay in the workforce.

Keeping infants in dirty diapers in order to stretch the supply can cause babies to “suffer from painful diaper rashes, fever, vomiting and even urinary tract infection,” and – less discussed – can also foster depression and mental health problems in mothers.

The economic pitch, as laid out by U-T San Diego:

Most child-care centers, even those subsidized by the state, require parents to bring four or five diapers per child per day. Parents who cannot afford the diapers might decide to stay at home with their children and forego searching for a job, Gonzalez said.

Valenti’s proposal has similar roots:

In countries where sanitary products are inaccessible or unaffordable, menstruation can mean missed school for girls (UNICEF estimates 10% of African girls don’t attend school during their periods) and an increased dropout rate, missed work for women and repeated vaginal infections because of unsanitary menstrual products. One study showed that in Bangladesh, 73% of female factory workers miss an average of six days – and six days of pay – every month because of their periods.

Those are precisely the kind of efforts Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, say they’re interested in – programs that help someone get somewhere. Gonzalez’s bill is a direct effort to support working moms who are trying to get it together but teetering right on the cusp of not working.

For all the similarities between Gonzalez and Valenti’s ideas, they share something else in common: a torrent of disgusting, hateful reactions that seem appalled by some of the basic facts of what it means to be a woman.

It’s unavoidable that the reaction to Valenti is gender-specific – after all, women are the only ones who get a period. But the vitriol surrounding Gonzalez’s bill also zeroes in almost entirely on women, even though it takes a man and a woman to create a child, and all children – girls and boys – need diapers.

We are literally talking about making it easier to afford receptacles for blood and shit – items that meet the bare minimum of a woman or child’s physical needs – but they become fancy luxury items when they’re presented in the context of helping working women.

Diaper comment 3

There’s also a remarkable uniformity to the suggestions pitched to both Gonzalez and Valenti.

The solution, according to the internet haters: Stop being women, basically. How’s that possible? Quit “popping out children” (this is a popular directive among Gonzalez’s critics – everyone knows the gestation and delivery of a child happens in a quick, easy instant). Get a hysterectomy. Remove your ovaries. Stuff objects into your vagina, or sew it shut.

 

 

 

Valenti Twitter response 1

Diaper bill response 3

Diaper comment 1

Diaper comment 2

(I love that all of these diatribes from the U-T comments section come from designated “top commenters.”)

I won’t wade into the financial merits of Gonzalez’s proposal (though Robin Abcarian makes a strong case here), and so far, Valenti’s proposal is just an idea.

But the fact that we can’t even debate these ideas without devolving into cries of “Let the sluts fend for themselves!” is pretty damn depressing.

See, women’s bodies are supposed to be sexy and available, right up until they start showing any signs of actual womanhood – say, getting pregnant or having a period – at which point they become gross and burdensome.

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Sara Libby

Sara Libby

Sara Libby is VOSD’s managing editor. She oversees VOSD’s newsroom and its content. You can reach her at sara.libby@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526.

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70 comments
shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

The whole debate is preposterous. An above quote states that government doesn't consider something a health threat unless it is subsidized. Whoever wrote that has zero credibility in my mind.

Manny Chen
Manny Chen subscriber

Wouldn't worry about the internet trolls. They foam at the mouth at the slightest of provocations.

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

FYI:  the late Robin Williams' daughter Zelda has left social media after being attacked by online trolls. It's "yet another demonstration of the Internet’s bottomless lows -- and of Twitter’s still-uncontrolled abuse problems...," the Washington Post reports. "Women in the online eye, no matter how blameless, are constant targets for harassment and misogynistic abuse."


The column above is mainly about this kind of abuse, truly "disgusting, hateful comments" that are designed to intimidate women into shutting up. 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/08/13/robin-williamss-daughter-zelda-driven-off-twitter-by-vicious-trolls/?hpid=z5

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Here are my disgusting, hateful comments:

1.  Where are the data that show women are leaving the work force or missing significant time from work due to lack of diapers for their kids?

2.  Where does this extra money come from, and please don’t waste time explaining how it will actually save the state money through multiplier effects or increased convention attendance, etc.

3.  Are you willing to subject this benefit to the following standard:  Home must have no internet access, smart phone plan or cable TV.?

In my uneducated opinion, this whole new "crisis" is a sign we are approaching an election and people are trying to “motivate the base”.  Is that opinion too hateful?
    

Glenn Younger
Glenn Younger subscribermember

Yes there is, and will always be, crazy stuff said about any proposal.  When it involves children and sexuality the noise only gets dialed up to a higher level.  


Generally with all problems I believe the answer is; make the right thing easy, and the wrong thing difficult.  Yes what is right is sometimes subjective but it might work here.  


One easy idea I like is making the diaper increase/ subsidy  part of the WIC program.  Program already in place, no new overhead, etc.  All money goes to intended use.  

The only logical argument I've heard against the extra money for diapers is that $80 a month is a lot for diapers.  I don't know what they cost.  Is $40/ month the right number?  If it makes for healthy babies, and the ability for more mom's to go to work it sounds good to me.  The reduction in trips to the emergency room for diaper rash and UTI's etc should more than pay for the program.  



hockeysuit
hockeysuit subscriber

I was surprised to learn from this that diapers are not a food-stamp-eligible item.  I would support increasing the stipend of an existing program a bit and allowing the purchase of diapers and, yes, tampons. Seems reasonable and humane to me.

Desde la Logan
Desde la Logan subscriber

It's straight up sexism that women's feminine products for menstration (why not womenstration?) are not covered by ACA and other health insurance plans.

And conservatives claim to love the children (especially when unborn) yet don't want to help poor families by providing something as basic as diapers.

We live in a sick society where corporate welfare and giveaways to the rich are ok but helping the less fortunate is not.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Ms. Libby: While I think your general point about the inappropriateness of the vitriol is correct, my observation is that this is not confined to misogynistic commentary. This is a reflection of the public acceptance these days of ranting and mean-spirited debate, especially online and in partisan media (which seems to fuel this as almost an art-form). Equally hateful and crass forms of commentary appear in all sorts of forms not confined to women's issues, such as racism.

In this case it is important to separate peoples' cogent views (with which I disagree) on welfare generally from the manner of expression. More importantly, we need to address the low level of debate regardless of whom the target may be. These are good examples, but they are examples. I'd encourage you to broaden your perspective to include all hateful commentary.

Mike Delahunt
Mike Delahunt subscriber

So we're going to ban multi-use plastic bags and give away single-use plastic diapers? Brilliant!

Since we're essentially paying welfare queens to be full-time stay-at-home moms, is it too much to ask to use environmentally-friendly cloth diapers? Oh yeah, they'll have nowhere to put the dirty ones, because there's no more plastic bags.

Am I the ONLY ONE sick of paying for other people's sh*t???

Ken Platt
Ken Platt subscriber

Instead of writing a new law to give $80 a month to low income families to buy diapers, why don't we just change the current WIC laws to include this provision instead? That way, this money can be used ONLY for diapers and other WIC related items instead of cash that could possibly be used for something else.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

I really don't think taxpayers should have to pay for either. Those items are the responsibility of the individual just as personal hygiene, cleaning or household products.

And personally I don't think pregnant women are gross and burdensome.

I find them beautiful.

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

@Mike Delahunt With apologies to Janis Joplin...


Oh Lord, won't you buy me some hu-man-i-ty ?

My friends all aren't trolls, I must make amends.

Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,

So Lord, won't you buy me some hu-man-i-ty?


Oh Lord, won't you buy me a sense of decorum ?

Reality shows keep trying to find me.

I wait for delivery each day until three,

So oh Lord, won't you buy me a sense of decorum?


Oh Lord, won't you buy me some generosity ?

I'm counting on you, Lord, please don't let me down.

Prove that you love me and buy the next round,

Oh Lord, won't you buy me some generosity ?


Everybody!

Oh Lord, won't you buy me some hu-man-i-ty ?

My friends all aren't trolls, I must make amends.

Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,

So Lord, won't you buy me some hu-man-i-ty??


That's it! 

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

That isn't a valid comparison. Disagreeing isn't hating and those same people have commented for years, but suddenly they are haters because they don't see eye to eye with you the champion of women's rights?

Kathy S
Kathy S subscriber

@Bill Bradshaw  One study...       Jun 17, 2010 – 04:17 PM EST

 

DALLAS, Jun. 17 /CSRwire/ - /PRNewswire/ - A groundbreaking new study reveals a startling issue - 1 in 3 American mothers struggle to provide diapers for their babies. These mothers have had to cut back on basics such as food, utilities like heat or electricity, or even child care in order to provide enough diapers.

"This issue of 'diaper need' - mothers struggling to provide diapers for their babies - is serious and has been largely unrecognized until now. This study helps us understand the true scope that this type of material hardship may have, both physically and emotionally, for babies and mothers," said Dr. Cybele Raver, a lead researcher on the study and professor at New York University. "Diapering is an important ritual that offers parents and babies valuable time to create a warm and positive emotional connection. This study helps us to understand the ways that many mothers feel distressed when they are faced with situations where they don't have enough diapers for routine changes. It is clear from this study that not having enough diapers makes the job of parenting more difficult."

Another critical impact is mothers' abilities to carry on with necessary daily activities. Nearly one in four mothers struggling with diaper need have missed work or school, stayed at home when they needed to go out, or kept their babies out of daycare because they did not have enough diapers. The majority of licensed day care centers require a full day's supply of disposable, not cloth, diapers. Further, many Laundromats do not allow cloth diapers to be washed for sanitary reasons, making them an unrealistic option for mothers who don't have in-home or private laundry access.

Forty-three percent of mothers struggling with diaper need say they need 14 or more extra diapers per week to feel they have enough. Yet there is little help for these mothers and babies as many community-based organizations don't provide diapers. Public resources are also limited as food assistance programs like food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) focus solely on food and nutrition, and therefore do not cover diapers.

Desde la Logan
Desde la Logan subscriber

I don't get the hang ups that many conservatives have with welfare recipients owning cell phones. Isn't communication a necessity? Isn't internet connectivity a necessity in the Information Age? Most businesses make potential workers fill out applications online. Same with colleges. Should welfare recipients not have this kind of access to jobs and schooling? Should society just leave them behind? The antagonism by conservatives towards the have nots in this country is truly disturbing. Yet I don't hear many conservatives complain about corporate welfare and handouts to big business.

Glenn Younger
Glenn Younger subscribermember

@Glenn Younger The solution is to change the WIC program to allow for diapers.  The state of CA administers the WIC program and has the ability,  if not the courage,  to tell the federal government that in California we are going to allow WIC funds to be used in this way. 


Since the legislation is dead for this year, time to make a case for it for the next legislative  session.   Still need to determine the right amount of money.  Is $10 a week enough for diapers? 


Kathy S
Kathy S subscriber

@hockeysuit 

The federal government actually bars food-stamp beneficiaries from using subsidies to purchase diapers and other hygienic products.

Both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (informally known as the food-stamp program) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (often called WIC) are run by the Department of Agriculture and only allow beneficiaries to use subsidies to purchase formula, food and drink.

Mike Delahunt
Mike Delahunt subscriber

The problem with Communism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money.

Mike Delahunt
Mike Delahunt subscriber

Should their toothpaste be covered too?

Why not?

hockeysuit
hockeysuit subscriber

@Chris Brewster Chris, I've been thinking about this lately too.  It wasn't that long ago when the Union/Evening Tribune's letters-to-the-editor was about the only forum for commenting on local issues, and that was of course subject to their conservative filter.  Now, anyone can admire their words of wisdom "in print", from the erudite (i.e. you and me!) to the subhuman.

Comment boards can be somewhat self-policing & moderated, but then the moderator is making censorship decisions in determining what is truly hateful and dangerous as opposed to merely weird, lame or ignorant. Not an easy task. Other social media forms (twitter etc.) seem totally wide open and unmanageable, but I think we're all learning how to sort through the garbage to find things that interest us.  

Desde la Logan
Desde la Logan subscriber

WIC is federal. Lorena's law is state. Plus, the do nothing Republicans in Congress ain't going to pass anything that actually helps people. Perhaps only if corporations defecated themselves.

Desde la Logan
Desde la Logan subscriber

Women's periods are not a personal hygiene issue. They're a health issue and should be covered under insurance plans. If Viagra is covered why not tampons?

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

@shawn fox   I'm talking about the "disgusting, hateful" comments that Sara Libby mentions in the column above. Many of the comments are disgusting and hateful, and they represent the larger problem of hatred toward women online. 


As for the idea that I'm somehow a champion of women's rights: I don't recall ever saying that.  Not a bad thing to be, but not something that's on my bragging rights list. 

Mike Delahunt
Mike Delahunt subscriber

"Mercedes-Benz" need.

I need a brand-new Mercedes-Benz.

No other vehicle will provide the reliability I require to look full-time for a job.

No other vehicle will provide the safety I require for myself and my family.

If you disagree with me you are a RACIST and a hater of children and the disadvantaged.

So get to work an render to me what I am ENTITLED to!

Kathy S
Kathy S subscriber

@Bill Bradshaw And in the food stamp calculator there is a basic deduction for a Telephone Utility Allowance.

marque2
marque2 subscriber

@Desde la Logan There have been times in my life when I didn't have Internet at home.  I went to the library and used the computers there.  I even applied for jobs there.  


You come up with all these excuses why people are so incapable of figuring out anything on their own. If these people are that slow they couldn't get a job anyway.  I guess I see your point.  We will just have government worker come in and bath, clothe, and feed them everyday. 

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

@Desde la Logan 

Bills point is about individual budget choices. 

It is hardly antagonistic. 

Kathy S
Kathy S subscriber

@hockeysuit  Food stamp participation since 1980 has grown the fastest among workers with some college training, a sign that the safety net has stretched further to cover America’s former middle class, according to an analysis of government data for The Associated Press by economists at the University of Kentucky. Formally called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or SNAP, the program now covers 1 in 7 Americans.

Working-age people now make up the majority in U.S. households that rely on food stamps — a switch from a few years ago, when children and the elderly were the main recipients.
Some of the change is due to demographics, such as the trend toward having fewer children. But a slow economic recovery with high unemployment, stagnant wages and an increasing gulf between low-wage and high-skill jobs also plays a big role. It suggests that government spending on the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program — twice what it cost five years ago — may not subside significantly anytime soon




Manny Chen
Manny Chen subscriber

The problem with capitalism is you run out of people to sell sh*t too.

Kathy S
Kathy S subscriber

@marque2 @Desde la Logan " stay on welfare without having to get a real job." ??

  • Unless exempt, applicants/recipients of CalWORKs are required to participate in welfare to work activities as a condition of receiving aid.
  • Adults in one-parent families must spend at least 30 hours per week in welfare to work activities. The minimum participation requirement for two-parent families is 35 hours per week. After receiving aid for up to a maximum of 24 months, non-exempt adults must work in unsubsidized employment or participate in community services activities for the minimum number of hours listed above.
  • Additional employment-related services are provided based on an individual's education and work history. Individuals may be assigned to:

    • Unpaid work experience/preparation.
    • Vocational training placements.
    • Adult education or community college programs 

  • Manny Chen
    Manny Chen subscriber

    Probably. Oral health is pretty important to maintaining a longer lifespan.

    Mike Delahunt
    Mike Delahunt subscriber

    Yes!!!! And a big huge Xanax. Thx!

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @Kathy S @Mark Giffin 

    I've said I do concerning what the state has done. My objection has and is that I believe these things should be done on a state and federal level.

    Not on the city level.

    As far as diapers and tampons?

    No I do not. 
    Not as a specific item. You think benefit appropriations should be increased then lobby for that. but this stacking for entrenchment of specifics I do object to.

    The other aspect I object to is these initiatives are heavy on enabling and light on motivation.

    They should have to budget just as everyone else concerning their available funds.

    marque2
    marque2 subscriber

    First of all Viagra is not covered. Secondly - if it is a health issue our insurance should cover toothpaste shampoo soap and deoderant as well. And I think that would be getting a bit silly. I can understand the vitriolic anger at yet another stupid program, and how folks like you try to guilt trip people by making us out to be misogynist s if we have any doubt's about these dubious programs.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @Desde la Logan 

    " If Viagra is covered why not tampons?"

    I don't think it should be but I get your point

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    @Kathy S @Bill Bradshaw Kathy, I must admit I've never been on food stamps.  When my kids were born in 1953 and 1957, if food stamps existed I wasn't aware of them.  My wife, a stay at home mom, and myself, an operator in an oil refinery, scraped by on fairly low wages for quite a while, and of course used cloth diapers, which we would clean by flushing the toilet while holding on to them (water was cheap and plentiful then).  Then we'd give them a rinse in the sink and hang them on a clothes line.  Times change, and I stand duly chastised on my point #1.

    On point #2, it is clear that both the federal and California state governments have no available money for increasing welfare benefits, so what do we cut?  Or should we just continue to print money?

    On point #3, notice I didn't say no CELL phone, I said no smart phone, and that's because even today I don't feel it's worth the money for myself.  Internet access is available at any public library in San Diego, and cable TV remains a "nice to have".  So, what do you say in response to my points 2 and 3? 

    Kathy S
    Kathy S subscriber

    @hockeysuit  Working-age people now make up the majority in U.S. households that rely on food stamps.....Costco takes EBT!

    hockeysuit
    hockeysuit subscriber

    @Kathy S @hockeysuit Your calm presentation of facts and analysis is much appreciated.  I've learned a lot just from this discussion.

    As you probably know, Rep. Gonzalez' diaper subsidy bill has stalled for this legislative session, but the good news is that the paid sick leave bill, AB1522, has advanced.

    Thanks also to @SaraLibby for stepping into the line of fire by posting on this subject.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    Hasn't happened yet Manny. However communist countries have often failed big-time.

    Mike Delahunt
    Mike Delahunt subscriber

    Have you been to an Apple Store or BestBuy lately?

    Or a WalMart or Target or a movie?

    Starbucks?

    Von's, Ralph's, or Sprouts?

    They're all JAMMED full of people.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    I thought that is why they poison our water with fluoride but I would prefer subsidizing toothpaste if given the choice.

    marque2
    marque2 subscriber

    Viagra is not covered -as men we should complain. It is a basic health issue.

    Kathy S
    Kathy S subscriber

    @Bill Bradshaw  Info 0n 3....Cricket (ATT) is discontinuing Lifeline support..

    That AT&T is moving away from Lifeline is notable considering that Cricket counts around 671,000 Lifeline customers currently, according to a source familiar with the government's Lifeline program.

    The federal government's Lifeline program is designed to provide telecommunications services to eligible, low-income Americans. The government gives participating Lifeline carriers a subsidy of up to $10 per month per subscriber; the program is part of the $9 billion Universal Service Fund. Customers who qualify for Lifeline are often those who qualify for other federal benefit programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps).

    This is part of the safety net that many people live with in lieu of good jobs and decent wages.....671,000

    Gaby Dow
    Gaby Dow subscribermember

    First, thank you Sara Libby not just for writing this article, but for doing so knowing of the personal criticism and attack you would receive. And I am glad strong leaders like Lorena Gonzalez are taking up issues like this that are crucial but make many uncomfortable, and angry.

    Bill, why do you and so many other generally older, right-leaning community members so often use the example that low-income families should not have smart phones if they are to be given food, healthcare and any other assistance that is funded by tax dollars we all contribute to as a society?

    Answer that question before you continue to demand facts and figures that are provided on multiple social program needs, along with first-hand accounts of the reality families face today that a retired commenter who built their life in a very different San Diego economic climate may be clueless about.

    Why is the smart phone always such a fall back, accusatory trigger point in these discussions? I would really like to know. Thanks!

    bigdprender
    bigdprender subscriber

    Go a step further and try caring for young children when you do not have a computer or washer/dryer or a car. Take those tired, hungry kids with you on the bus to the laundermat, to the library, to the grocery store and see how easy your life can be. Everyone has choices. But there's no guarantee any of them are good choices.

    This educated dad of three who works his butt off to barely get by in San Diego would like to smack some sense into such out of touch, backward armchair blowhards. The difference is I'll say the same thing in person and not hide in my office.

    bigdprender
    bigdprender subscriber

    I would say you have no clue what its like raising young children in the current economic climate, with rising prices, shrinking capacities and stagnating wages. Those enjoying a certain financial comfort either back in the day when a dollar went further or now with the benefit of higher incomes should spend a few days in the shoes of someone less fortunate before they make snap judgements about what they are "allowed" to have. Then they could appreciate the kind of financial challenges and downright ugly spending decisions faced on a daily basis. Sadly, its much easier for the armchair blowhards to lob such comments from their insulated and isolated living room or office.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    Gabby why do you think that you have a right to force others to work for you under threats of fines or imprisonment? Do you realize that government can only raise revenue through force? Therefore why do you think that your position is more right than that of the person who just wants to keep what they have earned?

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    Sorry but my single mom and I walked many miles to and from the store and laundry mat without very much trouble at all. So cry me river.

    Gaby Dow
    Gaby Dow subscribermember

    Shawn, I have worked nonstop since I was 15 years old (often 3 jobs at a time, and I enjoyed every job be it at the local coffee shop or deli, a department store, news bureaus, governor's office, corporations, tech firms, etc) and I have always been happy to be able to contribute to society by paying income taxes or additional fees through my own businesses. I have built startups from scratch, and been honored to donate my time and even more money to non-profits. I don't understand where you get the idea that I want to "force people to work for me?"

    Is it because I expressed that of the tax dollars I have paid for over 25 years I am glad to see benefits include diapers for families that need the assistance? I raised two children with my husband and we remember the incredible cost of diapers to our own healthy and secure family budget.

    Real families need help out there. This country needs leaders and citizens that can say the word "tampon" without overreacting and using rhetoric about forcing people to work or imprisoning citizens. Have you ever been to a country where people are truly imprisoned by abusive regimes? I have and I find your question to be ... lacking. But it's your opinion, so I'm trying my best to answer.

    People can vote for different tax laws, engage in discussion about legislation and elect leaders with different economic, social and corporate welfare policies. That's how people can "keep what they earn" while understanding that in a democracy they also agree to taxes and fees. And if they don't like how government spends that money then get involved and help fix it.

    bigdprender
    bigdprender subscriber

    Raising kids is easy. What was I thinking? Haha! I'm sure if this donkey ever goes through raising a few he'll be singing a different tune...