Localizing period poverty

MARA THARP
MARY.THARP.17@CNU.EDU

Prior to Winter Break, an organization on campus received local news coverage on their petition aimed to end “period poverty” on CNU’s campus. The club, PERIOD. @CNU, is the campus chapter of a nationwide organization that has dubbed itself PERIOD. The organization’s mission, listed on its website, is to “celebrate periods and provide products to those in need.” Furthermore, they identify themselves as young activists who believe that “menstrual care is a basic right.” 

PERIOD. @CNU, formed nearly a year ago, has organized events like “Packing Parties” where club members and volunteers put together menstrual care packages for those in need. One of the goals of this chapter is to provide menstrual products to those who cannot afford them (specifically homeless, impoverished menstruators). 

The national organization names its three main goals are to “serve, educate, and advocate” for those who menstruate, whether that is to provide those in need with menstrual products or to educate the public on periods. 

I had not heard much about this organization until the week of Dec. 10th, when Daily Press Staff Writer Katherine Hafner’s article on the organization’s petition “blew up” on my Facebook feed. The petition demanded that our University provide menstrual products (pads and tampons) in the academic and library bathrooms (both male and female) to give everyone “equal opportunity in education.” 

The petition also warned that if we do not provide students access to menstrual products we are “showing that we do not value students with periods” and are “actively perpetuating the harmful effects of period stigma and shame.” 

Many commenters on Facebook expressed frustration and concerns about the petition. Unlike the women and men on Facebook whose comments questioned college student’s ability to budget for menstrual products or be prepared, my issue was primarily in the wording of the petition and the lack of data presented. The first paragraph of the petition uses shocking claims of “stunted education” for CNU students who menstruate, painting a victimized image of those who have periods and are in school. While I am certain there are students who miss class because of their menstrual cycle, I have struggled to find quantitative data on this issue as it pertains to CNU’s campus. 

When I inquired within the club’s executive board, their justification for the demands of the petition was based on complaints they had overheard from other menstruators, or their own experiences in helping friends who did not have a menstrual product with them at the library or in class. These instances, stated by the leadership of the organization, lead me to question if the petition truly communicated the club’s agenda. 

The largest issue that they have witnessed our campus facing is the instances when you are unprepared – though I do not believe that my own educated is stunted by having a menstrual cycle, their desire for menstrual products to be accessible in campus buildings is not extreme. From my knowledge, there are very few restrooms on this campus that have receptacles to purchase menstrual products.

As a menstruator, I believe you have the responsibility and knowledge to be prepared for your cycle, but there are times when you are caught off guard and do not have products with you. In those instances, it is not “embarassing” (as the club has stated before) to ask others for products. In fact, one would think that if an organization aims to end a taboo on periods they would want to facilitate conversations about it outside of petitions and social media, but in everyday life. 

For those who lack the means to purchase products, the provision of free tampons and pads is justifiable. However, for there to be a supply in campus restrooms (as their petition demands, at “no cost to students”), that requires funding and time from the University. Unless more data and justification can be found for this demand, I do not see the rationale behind the University meeting the demands of this organization. 

If the organization feels that there is a need for free menstrual products in CNU’s restrooms, it has the responsibility to fund, provide and distribute these materials. Another solution to the lack of products available on campus would be to have them available for purchase in the bathrooms themselves. 

This club itself has potential to contribute to this campus by providing a necessary product to the students as well as serving those in need through their “Packing Parties.” Despite the controversy over the demands of the petition, I implore all students and community members to look deeper into their core values and help apply them to the needs of this campus. 

For more information on the organization or to get involved, email period@cnu.edu. ν

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