The Cost Of A Uterus

Hannah Jackson


This project was created by Hannah Jackson at the University of California, Santa Barbara for the 2019-20 Raab Fellowship.

It is no secret that women’s healthcare is riddled with stigma. From battling tooth and nail for the right to contraception to the ongoing fight for abortion access, proper reproductive care has always been an uphill battle. This applies as well to transgender and nonbinary people with uteruses, as having a gender identity that does not align with assigned sex at birth can lead to further struggles.

So many of the inequities that surround women’s healthcare, so many can easily go overlooked. Perhaps it is because in the grand scheme of things, they simply are not as monumental. But these hidden costs — both monetary and emotional — add up over time.

Two such topics that have caught my attention throughout my four years of undergraduate education are issues that college students are particularly privy to: the financial burden of overpaying for necessary menstrual hygiene products and the emotional toll of a societal stigma regarding female sexuality.

The exorbitant price of feminine hygiene products has become a more global issue within the past few years, as activists and legislators slowly begin to chip away at the “tampon tax,” a luxury goods tax that targets female-oriented products (but manages to skip over items like lattes and yachts). The Huffington Post estimates that a woman will spend over $18,000 on menstrual supplies in her lifetime, approximately $2,000 of which goes toward tampons. 

Slut-shaming, the negative judgement of a sexually active person (often a woman), is another issue that has not received the attention it deserves. Likely due to its taboo nature slut-shaming is as equally swept under the rug and hushed, leaving those who have experienced it to feel alone and ashamed.

These quotidian experiences are seemingly exacerbated in college, where universities hike the prices of necessary items and slut-shaming runs rampant — and is even expressed by medical professionals at the Student Health Center. 

For the 2019-2020 school year, I participated in UC Santa Barbara’s Raab Writing Fellowship, a yearlong program that allows selected students to complete a project on a topic of their choice. Under the mentorship of Writing Program Lecturer Nomi Morris, I have spent the last year looking into these healthcare injustices that students face every day. 

Part I: I looked into UCSB’s menstrual hygiene product prices in comparison to those in the surrounding area, using an 18-pack of regular Tampax tampons as a sample. I explored deeper factors into why the university’s tampon prices are so much higher and why there has been so little change despite years of empty promises from student politicians. 

Part II: I interviewed several students about their negative experiences with Student Health gynecological or STI testing services. These students have been faced with instances of slut-shaming, HIPAA violations and other inappropriate behavior from medical professionals that have left them distrustful of healthcare providers. In addition to their stories, I delved deeper into the reporting process at Student Health/Title IX and tried to understand why this issue generally goes unreported.

Part III: I compiled stories told to me by students about non-medical instances of slut-shaming. Ranging from extremely overt to more subtle, the experiences that these women speak of can look extremely familiar to readers’ own lives. Accompanied by poetry, and my own art and photography, I formatted this final installment of my fellowship as a zine.

In her Raab Research Fellowship project “The Cost of a Uterus,” outgoing Daily Nexus editor-in-chief Hannah Jackson has pushed herself beyond writing campus news and features to produce a well-documented investigative work that confronts taboo topics head-on. Jackson has done careful data and cost analyses. She has exposed issues that students and administrators find hard to discuss. And she has given voice to large number of students who feel discomfort that they seldom articulate. This project demonstrates bold student journalism. 

Nomi Morris, Writing Lecturer and Journalism Track Director in the Professional Writing Minor at UC Santa Barbara

Part I >