Amy Schumer returned to the Saturday Night Live stage this weekend and brought her trademark brand of self-deprecating humor based on her life experiences. Following a sadly relatable bit about being a bridesmaid in your 30s (wearing Grecian dresses with “aging cleavage” and arms resembling turkey legs), she launches into how, despite her financial success, she still enjoys getting stuff for free and names tampons as something so accessible that anyone can get them for free. Except that’s definitely not the case for a lot of menstruators.
Let’s go back to her monologue:
“Something else you can get for free? Tampons. Honestly, someone will always hook you up. You’ll never have to just bleed out. Someone will… a sister will be there for you,” Schumer tells the audience in the studio and watching at home.
Yes, I understand that this is comedy and not a political speech, but the idea that period products are free to everyone is inaccurate and a blow to those working to highlight issues like the tampon tax and menstrual equity (a term coined by lawyer, activist and all-around badass Jennifer Weiss-Wolf).
To start with, a lot of people “have to just bleed out.” For example, menstruators who are homeless or incarcerated frequently don’t have access to period products; other people may have to pick between buying food or pads. After natural disasters, people are quick to donate items like clothing or diapers, but typically don’t think about the fact that a significant portion of the people affected will bleed for a week once a month and lost everything (including period supplies).
Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to afford to buy period products still have to contend with the so-called “tampon tax” (or “pink tax”) in most states, which classifies period products as luxury items rather than a necessity.
Sure, your fellow bleeders in the restroom may help you out if you need a tampon and don’t have it, but that doesn’t make them free.
This is probably also a good time bring up that not all people who menstruate are women and that not all women menstruate. For those who #BleedWhileTrans, for example, getting a period product isn’t always as simple as just asking for one.
Having said all that, there are a few aspects of periods that Schumer gets right during her monologue. For instance, she talks about asking women in a locker room if they have a spare tampon and notes that someone said she did, and then asked her what size she needed. Because yes, that’s a real thing!
Tampons — and pads and menstrual cups — come in different sizes, and this may be helpful information to the audience watching who may not already know that. Period products, like most things in life, are not one-size-fits all, and even though this may seem like a throwaway bit from a standup routine, it’s beneficial because it helps normalize this conversation.
Lastly, when she describes the hushed tones in which people ask each other for tampons, she rightfully attributes that to the fact that “we’ve been taught to be ashamed of being born human women.” This is, unfortunately, accurate. And by talking about periods on a national stage, Schumer is helping to break the stigma surrounding periods. Here’s hoping next time she at least acknowledges that period products aren’t always accessible — let alone free.