Here’s a WTF for you.
Newsweek reports, Sept. 6, 2016, that students at the East coast’s Ivy League Brown University have something new in many campus bathrooms: free tampons and menstrual pads.
Brown’s student body president, Viet Nguyen, a senior education major who’s pushed the student-led initiative, will be hand-delivering menstrual products into all nonresidential bathrooms, including men’s rooms, with the help of 20 other students.
Nguyen said, “There’s been a lot of conversation about why pads and tampons are a necessity, not a luxury, but not a lot of action. We wanted to take it into our own hands. Low-income students struggle with having the necessary funding for food, let alone tampons.”
By putting menstrual products in women’s, men’s and gender-inclusive bathrooms, Nguyen’s campaign seeks to highlight what it claims to be an often ignored fact: Not all people who menstruate are women.
Nguyen said, “We wanted to set a tone of trans-inclusivity and not forget that they’re an important part of the population. I’d be naïve to say there won’t be push back. I’ve had questions about why we’re implementing this in male bathrooms as well. It’s an initial confusion, but people generally understand when we explain it.”
The free tampons and pads for “not all people who menstruate are women” are funded by the student-run undergraduate finance board.
Students at Brown aren’t the only ones going back to school this month with unprecedented access to menstrual products.
As of this fall, New York City public schools will provide free tampons and pads in all school buildings with 6th through 12th graders. The move is part of the city’s landmark legislation, passed on July 13, 2016, ensuring free menstrual products in all public schools, shelters and correctional facilities. In July, New York also became the 11th state to eliminate taxes on menstrual products. Advocates hope that New York City’s new law will set a new standard for schools around the country.
A Department of Education spokesperson said, “Students must feel comfortable during their classes so they can focus on learning, and having free, easy access to menstrual products is essential.”
Earlier this year, Inside Higher Ed reported that students at the University of Arizona, Columbia University, Emory College, Reed College, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, UCLA and Grinnell College, among others, have all advocated for free menstrual products on campus. As Courtney Couillard wrote in the Columbia Spectator, “I can easily find a free condom on Barnard and Columbia’s campuses, but why can’t I find a free tampon in the bathrooms in Hamilton or Milbank? Why does the administration care about my sexual protective rights, but not how I handle my monthly menstrual cycle?”
It turns out “menstrual equity” isn’t confined to schools and universities, but is a new pop culture movement.
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, an advocate for menstrual equity, said: “Unlike toilet paper, which is provided for free in school restrooms, students are typically on their own to access menstrual supplies. Yet in order to be fully engaged in the classroom, these are as much of a necessity as pencils and paper. This is especially true for younger teens who are more likely to be caught off guard by the arrival of their period and without budgets of their own to buy emergency tampons or pads.”
President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Terry O’Neill said, “Feminine hygiene products are not a luxury. They’re as essential as toilet paper; just ask anyone who has ever struggled to obtain or afford them. Students’ participation in school should not be hindered by insufficient access to this basic necessity. Universities around the country should follow suit.”
And what does Brown University’s administration think of the free tampons even in the college’s men’s rooms?
As reported by Sydney Hutchison for Campus Reform, Brian Clark, Brown’s Director of News and Editorial Development, praised the students for their “tremendous initiative” and said the university will look forward to observing the results.
H/t FOTM‘s MomOfIV