EDITORIAL: Pursue feasible solutions to the expense of menstrual products
In 1972, Judy Chicago, an American feminist artist, conceived “Menstruation Bathroom” (1972), as a part of the Womanhouse Exhibition that highlighted the taboo of the menstrual period. The sculpture featured a trashcan filled with bloody, used tampons in a stark white room. The piece elicited strong reactions from male viewers and served as an alarming example of a menstrual period taboo ― one that still remains to this day. The discussion of periods remains limited, and products such as tampons and pads remain taxed in the majority of U.S. states while products such as Rogaine and potato chips are not, according to a April 20 Newsweek article. This perpetuates a level of economic equality for women.
Under ideal circumstances, menstrual products such as sanitary pads and tampons would be readily available to the campus community for no cost, as proposed in a Sept. 23 opinion piece in The Brandeis Hoot. However, as it stands, it is financially unfeasible for the University or Student Union to provide menstrual products in every nonresidential bathroom on campus.
While some schools have already begun similar initiatives, Brandeis cannot approach the issue in the exact same way.
According to an Oct. 21 Brandeis Hoot Article, the Brown University Undergraduate Council of Students provide 10 tampons and 10 pads in most nonresidential women and gender-inclusive restrooms, with half the amount available in men’s restrooms. The same article states that the Brown UCS has an $8,000 budget for an academic school year, with each bulk purchase costing $800. This means that, over the course of two semesters, Brown UCS will purchase in bulk 10 times, with each purchase containing approximately 2,400 pads and 2,800 tampons. Though these numbers seem appealing in theory, there are several points of concern when it comes to application to the Brandeis community.
There are 19 nonresidential gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus alone, according to the Brandeis website. To provide 10 tampons and 10 pads for each of those bathrooms is 190 of each. Under the reasonable assumption that each public building with a gender-inclusive restroom also has at least one women’s restroom, the amount is doubled, and accounting for at least one men’s restroom in those buildings raises the sum to 475 pads and 475 tampons on campus at any given time. This means that each bulk purchase of menstrual products comparable to Brown’s would only be enough to completely replenish the whole of campus with menstrual products five times.
Further, adopting this system would present the University with a moral hazard. Due to the expensive cost of menstrual products in general, when provided for free on campus, individuals may be tempted to take multiple menstrual products at a time in order to ‘stock up’ for later in the day or the week. This is keeping in mind that these public supplies would be available not only for students but for faculty, staff and visitors as well.
It is unreasonable to have campus staff, already with their many duties, to additionally be expected to maintain the menstrual product supplies throughout the day. This means that, should an individual take all of the menstrual products provided shortly after the supply is replenished, the bathroom would be short on menstrual products for the rest of the day. Should this occur in several restrooms all across campus, the system would be rendered ineffective at either the University or the Student Union’s cost.
Although we believe it unfeasible to provide menstrual products for free in this manner, this board does agree that there must be measures taken to make pads and tampons accessible to students for when periods start unexpectedly. This board proposes that a stock of pads and tampons be available for such sartorial emergencies at the Shapiro Campus Center information desk, Gosman Sports and Convocation Center and the Golding Health Center. Currently, the Golding Health Center provides menstrual products for its patients in case of emergency. However, the University should provide sufficient funds to develop a more streamlined system. Should a period start unexpectedly, the individual would then be able to seek out the site closest to their position and acquire a menstrual product for use until a long-term supply is acquired. Maintaining an emergency stock of menstrual products at these three locations would cover the vast majority of campus while remaining manageable and financially sustainable.
Further, the University does currently offer Always pads at the Hoot Market at an 18 cent unit price, which is a few cents cheaper than the price offered for the same brand at Walgreens. Additionally, the Student Sexuality Information Service sells more permanent menstrual cups for $20 and disposable menstrual cups for $0.25 each.
This board urges the University to take forward steps to ensure that those across campus have greater accessibility to menstrual products when they need it. It sets an unfair standard when certain students have to miss or be late to classes in order to avoid embarrassment. As a University, education should remain the first priority. Under this board’s proposed solution the University would only have to allocate sums on the order of a few hundred dollars a semester to maintain this emergency supply of tampons and pads. Hopefully, in the future, our community can work together to destigmatize the menstrual period.