Politics

“Menstrual Equity” Activists Demand DeVos End “Period Poverty”

“Father of Potty Parity” Suggests Legal Actions to Achieve “Period Parity” 

Menstrual Equity
DanaTentis / Pixabay

WASHINGTON, D.C.  (January 28, 2019) –  A new movement being termed “menstrual equity” – also known as “period parity,” “period equity,” and perhaps even “equity, period” – has demanded that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos take steps to end what movement activists call “period poverty” by requiring that K-12 restrooms be equipped with free menstrual hygiene products.

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Their letter to DeVos, signed by the presidents of the two major teacher unions among many others, argues that 1 in 5 girls in the United States have left school early or stayed home because they did not have period products.

It calls upon DeVos to remove what it terms "discriminatory barriers that hold students back," and that lack of access to these products "affects a student's freedom to study, be healthy, and participate in society with dignity."

Newsweek reports that "Menstrual Equity Is The New Thing," and that the related "fight to end period shaming has gone mainstream."

But to achieve true period parity, the movement should begin using legal action, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has been dubbed "The Father of Potty Parity" - i.e., ending the practice of forcing females to wait on much longer lines than males to use restrooms in public places.

For example, a legal complaint he filed helped force the U.S. House of Representatives to construct the first female restroom adjacent to the House floor so that female members are no longer "forced to urinate in a coffee cup" (as one report put it).

Another Banzhaf potty parity legal complaint prompted the University of Michigan to provide additional restroom facilities for females when it renovated its Hill Auditorium.

But, notes Professor Banzhaf, this new movement is apparently relying primarily upon trying to change the attitudes of the public and legislators - often a slow and inefficient way to achieve progress.

But - unlike the potty parity, women's rights, nonsmoker's rights, LGBT's rights, and other similar movements - it has yet to take advantage of the tremendous but largely untapped power of legal action to both force change and to educate the public, says Banzhaf.

For example, failing to provide tampons in female rest rooms, while providing soap, paper towels, and toilet paper in rest rooms generally, could fall within a new class of court decisions cited by Banzhaf when he brings actions in support of potty parity.

Both decisions, by different U.S. Courts of Appeals, held that providing exactly the same restroom facilities for men and women can still constitute illegal sex discrimination - under disparate impact and/or sexual harassment and/or hostile work environment legal theories - if what is provided does not meet the special and additional needs of females, based upon what one court said are the "anatomical differences between men and women which are 'immutable characteristics,' just as race, color and national origin are."

As Banzhaf famously remarked regarding the need to better equalize the lines and waiting times to use male and female restrooms in public places, if women want equity - in this case menstrual equity - they may have to stand up for their rights by talking legal action, even if they exercise them sitting down (under potty parity, a/k/a squatter's rights).

http://banzhaf.net/ jbanzhaf3ATgmail.com  @profbanzhaf