International Day of Men’s Razor Burn

By Sara Veltkamp, Minerva Strategies —

The typical global health communicator’s editorial calendar is jammed with cause awareness days.  These are days that nonprofits around the world try to galvanize supporters around a cause that is meaningful to their organization. They can be a very effective tool to motivate people to take action – whether that means donating to organizations or advocating for policy change.

Next weekend is the International Day of Men’s Razor Burn. Join Minerva Strategies as we rally around the pain of razor burn that men experience every day in many countries around the world due a lack of sharp razors, shaving cream, and in some cases, water. This is a solvable problem, and with the right partners in the public and private sector, we can make a difference in the lives of men and adolescent boys everywhere.

Ridiculous, right? Well, last weekend was actually Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day to raise awareness for the many women and girls who live without the ability to manage their menstrual hygiene safely and with dignity.  My goal in comparing razor burn to menstrual hygiene is not to trivialize the substantial challenge that women and girls face when getting access to products that allow them to live their lives with dignity, but instead, to illustrate the sexual discrimination that is inherent and often overlooked in our societies.  This particular example is taken from the “tampon tax” debate – if things like men’s shaving accessories are seen as basic necessities and not taxed, why are tampons taxed in many states and around the world?

mhm - smallThe need for a day to galvanize people around menstruation outrages me. Roughly half of the world’s population will have or have had a regular period. And yet, this same world needs a day to draw attention to menstrual hygiene – to make sure that girls are staying in school, and women are able to participate in society when they have their periods?  This shows us just how far we have to go with reapportioning political and financial power.

In Shrill, Lindy West’s book about sexism, she addresses the Western world’s conflation of worth and physical appearance. While pathologizing menstruation is different, the principles she gives still hold:  “Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise women to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws, rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time – that moves the rudder of the world.”

Women’s natural processes are powerful, anyone who has given birth, or witnessed a birth can attest to that. And yet, these natural processes are degraded, seen as unclean, a sickness, or a flaw that makes women not suitable to participate fully in society.

We have made progress. Women’s issues have come a long way in the last ten years thanks to initiatives like the Girl Effect, funded by the Nike and Novo Foundations, as well as groups like Dignity Period that provide better access to menstrual hygiene products for girls in rural Ethiopia, and social entrepreneurs like Thinx that work to break down the stigma around menstruation.

But we aren’t done. To the discredit of our world, we still need Menstrual Hygiene Day.  My great hope is that someday Menstrual Hygiene Day and Men’s Razor Burn day are seen as equally ridiculous.