After the lack of powdered milk for children, the shortage of products for this period comes
Supply chain problems and inflation have hit nearly all consumer goods, but menstruating women are now facing additional stress in the United States, with period products in short supply.
Major retailers and manufacturers this week acknowledged the shortage, confirming complaints that have been circulating in the media for months. The issue attracted national attention this week after an article in Time magazine described the shortage of tampons and pillows as “a shortage that no one talks about.”
“I haven’t seen any products in stores in months,” one user posted on Reddit. “I’ve been ordering tampons from Amazon and noticing the prices are going up.”
The prices of tampons are rising significantly — nearly 10% since last year, according to Bloomberg. But an Amazon spokesperson denied the price-gap rumors, saying that its policies “help ensure sellers price their products competitively” and that the company actively monitors prices and withdraws offers that violate its fair pricing policy.
The shortage appears to be caused by supply constraints around key materials such as cotton and plastic, which are also used in personal protective equipment, which have been in high demand since the start of the pandemic. The war in Ukraine has worsened supplies, as both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of fertilizers that are used to grow cotton. And the drought in Texas didn’t help either.
Raw material shortages and supply chain bottlenecks are not limited to time period products, but like the shortage of infant formula in the United States, there is relentless and urgent biological demand that cannot be easily replaced. Menstruating women can’t wait to replenish the shelves.
“Getting raw materials and packaged materials to the locations we need remains expensive and highly volatile,” Andre Schulten, Procter & Gamble’s chief financial officer, said recently.
When Time asked Procter & Gamble, owner of popular Tampax and Always brands, about the shortage, a company spokesperson blamed an ad campaign involving comedian Amy Schumer for driving up demand.
Since the ads launched in July 2020, the spokesperson told Time magazine, “Retail growth has exploded.”
Of course, blaming Schumer’s ads doesn’t explain why other brands are so hard to find. A Procter & Gamble representative told CNN Thursday that the Tampax team is “producing tampons 24/7 to respond to increased demand.”
“We understand it’s frustrating for consumers when they can’t find what they need,” a Procter & Gamble spokesperson said in an email. “We can assure you that this is a temporary situation.”
While Schumer’s comment grabbed the headlines this week, the comedian, who spoke publicly about her hysterectomy last year, responded with a joke on social media.
“Stop, I don’t have a uterus, why Amy Schumer is being blamed for the national tampon shortage,” she wrote Thursday on Instagram, under a headline image. Schumer’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
Both Walgreens and CVS said they are aware of the tampon shortage and other period products and are working with their suppliers to ensure they can restock as quickly as possible.
The lack of tampons has troubling similarities to the lack of formula milk for children, particularly in the unhelpful responses given by men who are not directly affected by them. Either way, the two women say they are bombarded with comments — some sincerely offering help, others directing indignation at the women’s alleged biological flaws.
Journalist Elizabeth Spiers wrote in an article for the New York Times, “If we could imagine a world in which men have to breastfeed their children…the lack of powdered milk would not be so horrific.” “In this alternate reality…powdered milk will not be stigmatized because it is an option that men would like to provide for them.”
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