James Van Der Beek admits that before he became a father of five (a son and four daughters), periods just weren’t on his radar as a non-menstruating guy. But after connecting with Walmart and Always on their #EndPeriodPoverty campaign and learning from medical professionals, young menstruators and activists, the former Dawson’s Creek star says that working to make menstrual products accessible is just a no-brainer.
“You know, it’s one of those things that before I had kids, as a guy, I just never thought about. But it’s an issue that, according to [the campaign’s research], is affecting at least one in five girls in this country — which is insane and just not okay,” Van Der Beek told SheKnows in an interview earlier this week. “Celebrity comes the ability to bring awareness to something and this is one of those no-brainer problems that, when you spend two seconds thinking about it, you realize ‘Oh, wait a minute, yeah, that can be a really big problem.'”
When we talk about period poverty, we’re talking about a complicated problem tied to economic inequality, a lack of cultural awareness and a persistent and pervasive stigma surrounding menstruation. It exists on a global scale, which more people are probably familiar with, but is also prevalent in the United States. Because having a period ain’t cheap, the average menstruators will spend thousands of dollars to manage their periods and menstrual health throughout their lifetimes (plus, there’s still a troubling number of states taxing menstrual products — as though they weren’t a necessity).
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In this country, right now, 1 in 5 girls are missing school and extracurricular activities they love because they lack access to period products. This is not okay. And pretending this problem doesn’t exist isn’t going to make it any better. That’s why I’ve #partnered with @always_brand and @walmart on their mission to raise awareness and #EndPeriodPoverty. Here’s how it works: Watch the video in the link in my bio about these incredible, inspiring girls, and for every view during the month of January, a pad donation will be made up to ONE MILLION pads to keep girls in the activities they love! On top of that, for every comment or share of this post, they’ll donate a month’s supply of pads to girls in need, up to an additional HALF A MILLION pads! So let’s get talking about this – because it’s not just about pads, it’s about bringing attention to this issue and chipping away at the stigma around something that is natural, healthy, necessary and unavoidable. Time to normalize what’s normal!
For kids who menstruate, particularly those who are low-income and without resources to buy their own products, the effects of not having access can be utterly devastating. Van Der Beek says it was so easy to empathize with these young people — particularly the one in five who might miss out on school or any of the activities or experiences they love because they don’t have access to the products they need to move through life while on their periods.
“I put myself in the position of, if I had to miss play practice when I was a kid for a week, it would have been devastating,” the actor said. “And then, if it was because of something that is completely natural, 100 percent unavoidable and important to my body’s health? You go ‘Oh wait, no, this can’t happen. This should not be happening.'”
Since he’s got four daughters of his own, Van Der Beek said he was beyond flattered to be considered enough an ally to be included in this campaign — and adds that it’s beyond time for dads everywhere to be on board with busting period stigma.
“It’s not just about pads, it’s about awareness,” he said. “And, for me, it’s about speaking to other dads and saying ‘Hey guys, I know we probably had, like, awkward puberty education early on, but that awkwardness is actually really detrimental to our daughters and to all of these young girls growing up. So we need to just get over that and make sure that there’s zero awkwardness and zero shame following this thing’ — because it’s a huge part of women’s health.”
While, yes, this totally can be an uncomfortable moment for dads that still have some learning to do about periods, Van Der Beek had the realest takeaway from an adolescent gynecology expert he got to meet during the campaign: “Ditch the drama.” And, truly, we felt that.
“It doesn’t need to be anything awkward. It’s not only natural, but it’s healthy. It’s important and it’s unavoidable. So any awkwardness around it, just recognize it’s probably learned and it can definitely be unlearned — because any awkwardness and stigma does not serve the young women in this country who are going through it,” he said. “Even the unconscious things like using monikers for things instead of actually calling them what they are signal to young women that [menstruation] is something that should be covered up. There’s shame around so we can’t talk about it directly and that needs to change.”
Want to join in to help put an end to period poverty? Always and Walmart will donate one pad toward their goal of donating 1.5 million pads for each watch of their #EndPeriodPoverty video and for each engagement with one of Van Der Beek’s #EndPeriodPoverty social posts in January 2020.