“I think we need to do more than simply remove the stigma around periods. Smith College, which has posited itself as a progressive institution for gender and sexuality, has to understand that accessibility remains a serious issue for menstrual hygiene,” wrote Jade Mosley for the Smith College publication, The Sophian. Smith is an all-women’s college located in Northampton, Massachusetts that is known for its liberal agenda and policies – but one student feels the school is not yet liberal enough.
Mosley wrote an article calling for the school to install period supplies in men’s bathrooms across campus. She writes:
“House bathrooms and other public restrooms on campus are not equipped with pad or tampon dispensers. While these products are sold at the Smith College Bookstore in a spot central to campus, surely, taking menstruation seriously means doing more than just acknowledging that some students do it. If students are guaranteed access to toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels in any given restroom, why not menstrual products? All of these materials serve the purpose of maintaining hygiene. Only one is more expensive than the rest. Students are not expected to trek halfway across campus for toilet paper, and it stands to reason that they should not have to do so for pads or tampons. So, what can be done?”
Mosley argued that the school needs to face the issue rather than try to ignore it.
“Smith should pioneer by taking the strangely radical position of understanding a period for what it is; a cycle common to those with uteruses which requires hygienic care.”
The writer believes that quality menstrual products should be available inside the college’s bathrooms, so students can have access at all times.
“Where students may do their business, they should also be able to easily manage their menstrual cycles. Similar to toilet paper, these products should be made available in large enough quantities that there is no pervasive worry that any bathroom might be completely out. This applies to individual toilets and rooms with multiple stalls.”
Other colleges, according to the student, have already made progress by including more menstrual supplies in the bathroom. “Since 2007, the University of Minnesota has provided free tampons in all campus bathrooms. At University of Washington, a college-wide program has made menstrual products free and accessible in nearly all campus restrooms.”
She argues, “Clearly, institutions of higher education are capable of providing free menstrual products to students. Not doing so is a deliberate choice, and it sends a clear message to menstruating students about the lack of care for their wellbeing.”
Although Smith College is a school dedicated to the progress of women, Mosley feels the administration is falling short of dealing with gender issues.
“Attending a historically women’s college is not a safe haven from gendered societal problems, and Smith is not exempt from the widespread effects of period poverty by virtue alone. Supporting students of varying identities requires institutional action — and a fairly simple one. I only ask that Smith takes the hygienic needs of its student body seriously.”
Do you think menstrual products should be made more widely available?
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