One Football Player Is Tackling The Stigma Of Periods And The Reason Why Is Pretty Simple

"Even if you don’t have a period, someone you love does."

When you think of menstruation, professional football players aren't the first, second, or even one-hundredth thing that comes to mind. But Joshua Garnett — an offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers — is hoping to fight the stigma of people's periods with a powerful initiative that has the power to help individuals nationwide.



It all began when Garnett's twin sister, Rachel, introduced him to the concept of free bleeding — the practice of menstruating without using a tampon, pad, or menstrual cup. While it is a choice for some, millions of people around the world don't have access to feminine hygiene products and have no choice but to bleed freely. That's what prompted Rachel to start Kitty Packs — an organization dedicated to eradicating free bleeding in the homeless community — and now her brother is also looking to help erase the stigma around menstruation.

"I'm not a prudish guy. Growing up with a twin sister, I learned early about issues surrounding menstruation, and I'm not uncomfortable talking about it. And yet, it had never occurred to me to think of what people who can't afford sanitary products do when they get their period," Garnett told Upworthy.

Despite being a human biology major at Stanford, the concept of free bleeding was foreign to Garnett because it (and menstruation in general) are seldom discussed openly, which can create problems for those impacted.

In fact, a YouGov survey released last month polled 2,000 American adults and revealed only 46 percent of men said they agreed that having access to affordable tampons and pads should be categorized as a right, not a privilege. On the other hand, 65 percent of the women surveyed said it should be considered a right. 

Believe it or not, this gender disparity impacts the availability of sanitary products around the world. The same survey found that when asked if feminine hygiene products should be available free of charge in all school restrooms, only 53 percent of men surveyed agreed compared to 76 percent of women surveyed. 

"Football players are thought to be about as manly as it gets. So I'm here to tell you: It's not un-manly to talk about menstruation," Garnett declared. And though he acknowledged "feminine" topics like menstruation are typically avoided, he noted "it's never un-manly to care about someone's well-being."

According to a Vice article from last year, many girls in public school (even in places such as New York City) end up missing school on account of their periods in part because of a lack of resources. That struggle, Garnett said, is what prompted him to speak up. "People without the resources to get tampons and pads definitely don't have the resources to make their voices heard on a national level," he told Upworthy. "But I do — and that's why I've decided to raise my voice to get others involved in helping fight free bleeding in low-income and homeless communities."

In addition to raising awareness about the difficulties of menstruation, Garnett offered some tips on how anyone can help those who are unable to afford the necessary products. For starters, he suggested donating sanitary supplies to a local homeless shelter, and encouraged others to be more vocal and work to help destigmatize periods.

"Do away with the idea that you can't pick up a pack of tampons at the store. Don't make a face when your friend mentions their cycle. The more comfortable we get with menstruation, the better equipped we are to fight free bleeding," he concluded. "Even if you don't have a period, someone you love does — and the greater society that you're a part of is faced with menstruation issues every day. Step up and do your part to help solve those problems."

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