Scotland made history this week when it became the first country to offer free pads, tampons and other period products nationwide. But now it is already at the center of fierce criticism — after a team of local councils near the capital Edinburgh hired a man as the area’s first “period dignity officer.”
The councils and colleges in the Tay Cities region selected Jason Grant — a former tobacco salesman and fitness trainer — to raise awareness around the new law and promote access to free menstrual products at schools and in the communities. Candidates should have “a successful track record of engaging and empowering a large range of people ... in particular, young people who menstruate,” the job description said.
Grant’s hiring was actually announced last week — but the firestorm around his appointment didn’t start until after the law went into effect on Tuesday, drawing global attention.
Having a man as a period dignity officer is “ridiculous,” global tennis star Martina Navratilova said on Twitter.
Scottish columnist Susan Dalgety said: “Wonder if he’s ever experienced the horror of a blood stained dress in public, or the gut-wrenching fear of a missed period? No, didn’t think so.”
Jason, Scotland’s 1st period dignity officer (he’s bloke in the blood red polo shirt) mansplaining menstruation to a couple of woman. Wonder if he’s ever experienced the horror of a blood stained dress in public, or the gut-wrenching fear of a missed period? No, didn’t think so. pic.twitter.com/HX7aZ4DBoZ— Susan Dalgety (@DalgetySusan) August 15, 2022
In an interview with the local Courier newspaper earlier this week, Grant said that he knew his hiring would grab headlines but that he wanted to be seen “as a positive male role model.”
“For me it’s about driving the discussion from a young age so boys and girls are included and there’s no hiding it away because that keeps it as a taboo topic,” he said.
Scotland’s Parliament approved legislation to make menstrual products free and available in public spaces in 2020, building on an existing policy that offered free pads and tampons at schools and universities. The new law will expand access to include places such as youth clubs, pharmacies and community centers.
The policies are part of a global movement to eradicate “period poverty,” a term used to describe the “struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products,” according to the United Nations Population Fund.
“The term also refers to the increased economic vulnerability women and girls face due the financial burden posed by menstrual supplies. These include not only menstrual pads and tampons, but also related costs such as pain medication and underwear,” the U.N. agency says.
A recent study found that 1 in 4 women enrolled in Scottish educational institutions had trouble accessing menstrual products before they were free.
On Tuesday, Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party, told Sky News that having a woman in Grant’s position would be “far better,” adding that the move to make period products free is a policy of which all Scots should be proud.
Monica Lennon, a member of the Labour Party in charge of driving the four-year campaign on menstrual equity, struck a more diplomatic tone, saying, “there’s a role for men taking on leadership roles and contributing to positive and respectful conversations whilst ensuring that the voices of women, girls and people who menstruate are never crowded out,” Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported.
“I think being a man will help me break down barriers, reduce stigma and encourage more open discussions,” Grant said in a news release announcing his appointment.
“It’s time to normalize these topics and get real around the subject,” he said.