OPINION: Menstrual products are a basic necessity USC should provide

Illustration by Sydney Loew

When a male student walks into a restroom, he has access to everything he needs — a toilet, toilet paper, soap, paper towels. But when a female student (along with many trans and nonbinary folk) uses a restroom at USC, there’s something big missing: If they are on their period, they have no access to resources to take care of themselves. To fix this, USC should offer free menstrual products in on-campus restrooms and rectify this inherent inequality.

If a menstruating student does not have a tampon or pad with them, they are left to sit in their blood in classes. Without adequate products, poor vaginal hygiene can lead to infection or other illnesses.

Or, they’re forced to miss class to go elsewhere to buy hygiene products, impeding their ability to succeed in classes. By offering menstrual products, USC can eliminate both those issues and prove that it cares about its students’ well-being.

Periods have long been used to perpetuate female inferiority. The fact that women could not control their own bleeding was historically seen as mysterious and debilitating, and those attitudes carried over into shaming women over menstruation — these attitudes still exist, and by ignoring the existence of menstruation in USC restrooms, USC confirms such feelings.

By charging for menstruation products, living as a menstruating individual is more expensive simply because they experience an innate biological process — women, trans and non-binary students shouldn’t be forced to pay so much simply for having the bodies they do.

To put the cost into perspective, a basic box of 20 tampons from CVS Pharmacy costs $5.68. At such a price, menstruating people may spend at least $150 annually just to take care of their bodies.

This financial burden is one that USC should take on to take care of its students.

According to Aunt Flow, an enterprise dedicated to providing menstruating individuals easy access to tampons and pads, it would cost about $5-$7 per menstruating person annually to supply a school. The products can be stocked as easily as toilet paper.

Similar amenities, such as condoms, hand sanitizer and even sunscreen are made readily available for students in USC Housing free of charge — there is no good reason menstrual hygiene products shouldn’t get the same treatment.

Plenty of universities such as Harvard and Brown University offer students access to menstrual products.

USC should follow their lead, and take this significant step in showing that it cares about its female, trans and non-binary students.

In January 2018, the Undergraduate Student Government Senate voted unanimously to provide free menstrual products in USC’s gender-neutral and women’s restrooms.

While USG acknowledged the issue in menstrual product accessibility, it does not have the power to institute the change the greater University can.

Being able to take care of oneself is not optional — it’s a basic human right.

If USC can’t even address that, it becomes clear that the University does not support the basic rights of its female, trans and non-binary students.