Periods double as taboo. Female students hide feminine products in pockets and bras, fearing judgment from their peers while denormalizing a natural process for women. Others run to the bathrooms hoping for a reprieve, but upon arrival don’t gain the luxury of a free tampon or pad.
The Critical Mass club plans to change these problems. Starting in the 2017 fall semester, board members intend to fully integrate a program that implements free feminine products throughout the campus while simultaneously spreading the word about commonplace menstruation.
“A lot of times, it [funding] is in the budget, but if not, a lot of local women organizations, and we already have a law firm who’s talking to us who’s run by mostly women who are interested in donating money or donating products in general,” senior Gillian Bynum, Critical Mass board member, said. “It actually is looking pretty 100% right now. We’ve got a few fundings lined up, but it looks like it’s going to go through.”
Efforts to get this project up-and-running started earlier in the Spring semester with Bynum and senior Riley Ruchti, two students prepared to work during the school year and over the summer to make a difference.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that here in developed nations like America, still a lot of girls don’t have access, and because of that a lot of girls have to miss school while they’re on their periods, so it really hinders their education,” Bynum said. “So by providing tampons and pads, we can really open up that access to education and make girls feel more comfortable when they’re on their periods.”
Due to the shame surrounding talk of periods, many students find it difficult to talk to their peers about their own experiences with their monthly cycle and other “girl stuff”.
“Honestly, I don’t like talking about it because of the stigma, but having this [free feminine products] I think would help with me, because I’m part of the problem, and people like me need to realize that it’s not a bad thing, and you can talk about it,” sophomore Allie Haberman, Critical Mass member, said. “I don’t like talking about it, but I think people should be able to.”
On the other hand, the willingness to talk that some girls have gets stifled by the same fear that causes others to keep their mouths shut.
“I think that people should be able to talk about periods more openly, because I do it anyway and it’s kind of awkward because no one else joins in on that, and I think people should feel more comfortable with talking about it,” sophomore Haley Jackson said. “I think that if we just start talking about it more, if you can get with people in a conversation and have it not be awkward, then those other people will have conversations with other people and it’ll spread, and everybody will feel more comfortable with themselves.”
Aside from the implementation of feminine product dispensers in bathrooms, the Critical Mass also plans to spread the word through clothing designs in an effort to erase fear of periods.
“If we made shirts, it could just help a girl out,” sophomore Eliana Glenn, Critical Mass member, said. “Like here, have a pad.”
Students agree that the activism and promotion should stay within the student body, however, as including staff members and other adults into the mix might have the opposite of the intended effect.
“I think anything that a school does will make it worse,” Jackson said. “If they did that thing Eliana said, like get a powerpoint and talk about it, that’ll make it even more awkward and worse.”
The Critical Mass stands for change, and that starts with all women accepting themselves and one another, menstrual cycles and all.
“It’s so hard for me not to use strong words in it, but I read a post last night where it talks about how menstruation and the blood for menstruation is the only blood that is not born of violence, but we are the most disgusted by it,” Bynum said. “And that really opened it up to me how it’s just really rude and sexist about how women should be fearful and disgusted by their own bodies when, really, it’s a natural process, and it’s what helps us give life.”
Written by Katie Haberman