Access to feminine care products is very limited on USC’s campus. Though they are available in the Engemann Student Health Center, even basic 25-cent tampon dispensers are missing from most women’s restrooms. Though the school has implemented many different programs to relieve students’ stress and increase their comfort, providing free feminine care products in restrooms is a necessary next step that the school needs to take. Despite being hailed as a luxury item by many state legislatures and taxed in 45 states, tampons and other feminine care items are a part of women’s basic needs. It is imperative that USC begins to offer free tampons and pads in restrooms across campus to increase accessibility and dispel the taboo surrounding feminine healthcare products. Precisely because this sort of program has been successfully implemented at many universities, including Brown and Emory, USC must adopt a similar policy.
Providing free pads and tampons in restrooms is necessary to improve and maintain women’s health on campus. Imagine what would happen if universities stopped providing free toilet paper or soap in restrooms — there would be a public uproar because it would affect students’ well-being and basic sanitary needs. Tampons and pads should be no different. Getting your period and not having any supplies on hand is frustrating and stressful. Additionally, pads and tampons, as necessary as they are, are incredibly expensive. It is estimated that women spend about $18,000 on tampons and other menstrual items during their lifetimes. Most states also impose a tax on tampons, treating them as a luxury item instead of a necessity, making the price even higher. At the end of the day, periods are unavoidable. If the University were to provide tampons for free in restrooms, it would be a major financial and stress relief for many students.
Increasing access to menstruation items and making them commonplace in restrooms across campus will allow for more discussions about this taboo topic to take place and hopefully remove some of the stigma surrounding menstruation. Menstruation has been a taboo topic as far back as the first century, and tampon and pad companies focus their advertisements on how their products are the most discreet and unnoticeable. Because of this, periods are still shrouded in mystery, usually only discussed by women in whispers. The shame that women feel about their periods is absolutely ridiculous. Having a regular period is a sign of a healthy, functioning body. It is imperative that both men and women be educated on menstruation and that the negative stereotypes associated with periods are removed. Just last year, rapper T.I made headlines when he said he would not vote for a female president because “women make rash decisions emotionally.” Additionally, despite affecting roughly half the population, there is a lack of scientific articles on periods, and the ones that exist focus on how periods make women emotionally unstable. It is clear that society still has very backwards beliefs about menstruation. Allowing for discussions about menstruation on campus and beginning to normalize periods may slowly change these sexist and harmful attitudes, and this change can be started by treating feminine care products similarly to toilet paper.
There are some concerns about programs like this that have kept them from being implemented at other universities. During a general assembly meeting at Cornell University, many students were opposed to a free tampon program because they feared that the program could be abused. Though this is a valid point, the same is true of any free resource provided by a school. For example, students who will never benefit from tampon dispensers, like biologically male students, may need to subsidize their cost. However, that possibility does not outweigh the value that such free resources have to those who use them fairly. Providing these supplies can help increase productivity, make students feel more comfortable and is an easy way to help improve women’s health and sanitation. If the school can afford to put condoms on every floor of every residence hall and in the health center, a small portion of the $1.4 million student health services budget can certainly be allocated toward improving women’s well-being. The overall benefits of providing free tampons and pads in restrooms exceeds the small cost that may be incurred to students.
Our University is always looking for new ways to make students happier and healthier on campus. Free concerts and luxurious gyms are much appreciated, but a simple way to make life easier for half the student body would be to stock tampons and pads in restrooms. It’s time to become more educated and realize that periods are normal and healthy, and perhaps more importantly, something that can be discussed freely. Hopefully in coming years, finding college restrooms stocked with these supplies will become the norm, and society’s unnecessary stigma surrounding periods will end. Until then, it is imperative that the student body continue to fight for women’s health and start a positive shift in their attitude toward menstruation and women’s health in general.