I recently had to make a quick trip to Target to pick up extra tampons. As that was the only thing I was picking up, I asked the cashier not to give me a bag because I didn’t mind carrying my one item out to my car.
“Everyone knows that women get their periods,” I thought, “no big deal.” But to my surprise, I was shot with a couple dirty looks and a few eye rolls on my walk to the car.
Menstruation is a completely natural bodily process for half the population, but it has been overly scrutinized for decades. And in addition to the societal shame, another burden that comes with having a period is the price tag.
Those who menstruate have to come prepared with their own menstrual supplies in public places and in some states — luckily not Pennsylvania — pads, tampons and menstrual products are not treated as medical goods, meaning they are not exempt from states’ sales taxes.
Charging people for having a period is counterproductive to accepting menstruation as a natural process. And that’s why I believe Temple should start offering free sanitary products to students.
“This is something that makes people happy to be there and feel safer being there and feel supported by their institution or place of work,” political science professor Taylor Benjamin-Britton said. “Temple should want to provide that for their students.”
Offering free sanitary products would help limit extra costs to students, as well as create a more open, comfortable place for all students to feel welcomed and accepted.
Many universities across the country — including the University of Maryland, the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities and Brown University — already offer free menstrual products in men’s and women’s bathrooms.
Paying for sanitary products can be a burden for some people financially. Offering free period supplies is something that schools, cities and states can to work toward free sanitary products on a national scale. It’s time for Temple to join this movement.
In 2016, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation to offer free menstrual products to women and girls in public schools, shelters and jails.
“If it can be [a burden] for some parts of society, then we as a society should make sure that everybody doesn’t have to deal with this discomfort,” Benjamin-Britton said.
By offering free sanitary products, students who menstruate will have a more comfortable learning environment. With all of the extra stress surrounding school and studying, students don’t need that added concern of finding creative alternatives to pads and tampons or doing without when they can’t afford menstrual hygiene products.
Temple already offers discounted condoms at the Wellness Resource Center — 10 condoms for one Diamond Dollar. With this policy, the university is making strides in accepting sexual activity as a normal human process — and it is time we do the same with menstruation.
Providing low-cost condoms is progressive and important, however, Benjamin-Britton said, it may be more important to provide sanitary products for low cost, or no cost.
“They should be provided equally, reasonably easily and cheaply,” Benjamin-Britton said.
It is time for Temple to be the next university to eliminate the stigma surrounding menstruation by making sure its students don’t have to pay the price for their periods.