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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton needs to provide for our periods

The Carleton administration needs to take a page out of CSA’s book and expand their policy to stock every campus bathroom — residential and academic — with free pads and tampons. You know, like it’s toilet paper. 

“But that’s expensive!” 

Exactly. Menstruating is expensive. It reminds me of our overdue shift to free laundry machines on campus. Students no longer have to review their financial situation before determining if they can afford to clean their clothing. It’s about dignity. Our campus should — and has in the past — removed financial barriers to taking care of yourself. 

Remember the “.25 for a tampon” machines? They are a reminder that in the past, menstrual products were present in bathrooms, just for a fee. Instead of removing the fee and eating the cost of a quarter, they ceased to be reliable. Carleton should provide free menstrual products in all bathrooms because people regardless of financial situation should have free and easy access to them. 

“Can’t you just ask a friend?” 

Yes, true, you can also always ask around, which, most of the time, works out. It’s a moment of community that people — regardless of gender — have to experience if they get a period. I’m all for helping people and I will always “answer the call.” When I was younger, though, that interaction was awkward to me — and I know I’m not alone. I would avoid asking altogether and just make do. Carleton should provide free menstrual products in all our bathrooms because people – even if they do not feel like asking – should have free and easy access to them. 

“Do you really mean every bathroom?” 

Having pads and tampons in every bathroom, even men’s bathrooms, means recognizing periods for what they are: something that many women, some men, and plenty of other people experience. Also, trans students are [JUMP] perhaps less able to treat the sourcing of period products as a neutral act of hygiene. It can be loaded. Gendered bathrooms in dorms are almost non-existent now, anyways. Plus, pads and tampons do not expire quickly.  Carleton should provide free menstrual products in all our bathrooms because people regardless of their relationship to their uterus should have free and easy access to pads and tampons. 

“Just bring your own like you always have. What’s the big deal?” 

Maybe you forgot to grab one when you needed to pee in the middle of the night. You’d have to walk back across the luminous fluorescent hallway half-asleep, creek open the door, tiptoe past your snoring roommate, and rustle around for one to then return to the bathroom….

Maybe you swore that you still had that tampon at the bottom of your backpack – but then remembered you gave that to your friend in 2c when she’d asked for one during the break… 

Maybe the Costco box from sophomore year is almost out, and you didn’t plan on the 15-minute walk to town in sub-zero temperature to buy more…

Maybe you didn’t have time to find someone at SHAC, or OHP or [insert acronym] between 9-5 for a refill, or to access the pickup points before buildings close … 

… we can do better. 

It is a fact of life that if you get periods, you will need a tampon or a pad that you do not have. Lots of people have wadded up single-ply toilet paper or kept tampons in their bodies longer than they would like. This exposes you to toxic shock, or a urinary tract  infection, or harboring bacteria until you find what you need. It means risking bleeding through those jeans you found that actually fit you right. It means feeling uncomfortable or gross during class, or worse, missing class altogether. Carleton should provide free menstrual products in all our bathrooms because we no matter the situation should have free and easy access to them.

I applaud the recent and successful — albeit limited — work by the Office of Health Promotion (OHP)  and the Carleton Student Association (CSA) headed by President Buhman to stock some bathrooms and spots around campus. This begs the question, though — why was this up to our student government? 

Carleton should provide free menstrual products in all our bathrooms because they are in charge of our bathrooms, and it’s a bathroom necessity for their students. The current piecemeal approach reinforces the toxic idea that people who get periods, and the existence of female bodies are an administrative afterthought. Instead of delegating necessary hygienic upkeep to four-ish different campus and student groups, invest in following through on your commitments to equity and accessibility by providing pads and tampons where they are most needed: bathrooms. 

Our janitors work hard to keep our bathrooms and spaces clean. In fact, they are tasked with supplying and emptying the envelopes lining the rectangular canisters affixed to bathroom stalls. This infrastructure is designed specifically for the disposal of period products. Staff stock our bathrooms well with paper towels, toilet paper, soap, garbage bags, and those waxy envelopes… they can refill pads and tampons too. They just need to be on a budget and an order form. 

I believe in the Powers That Be (i.e. the Carleton administration)! I bet they can find the money. I bet they can pull together a few dozen containers and fill them with the basic necessities that every little girl and a plurality of their residents manage to keep tucked in sock drawers, shoved into bedside tables, and squished at the bottom of backpacks. We’ve done it for years — they can do it, too!  

P.S. To the allies out there that don’t get periods for whatever reason…

You can carry a tampon or a pad with you, even if you don’t intend on using it. 

You can make sure that, at your home bathroom, you have a few tucked under the sink or near the toilet for anyone to use, just like you would toilet paper. 

You can donate menstrual products to your local homeless shelter or charity drop point, especially if you can buy in bulk. 

You can email our admin and ask why, in year 1 PBM*, we do not have easy and free access to period products in the spaces where we need them. 

* = post-Barbie Movie

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