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Make menstrual products free and accessible on campus

By José Castellanos

Section: Opinions

September 23, 2016

On Sept. 6 of this year, students at Brown University made a major breakthrough: The administration had finally made a largely necessary change and provided menstrual products in various bathrooms on campus, completely free of charge to students. Obviously it’s wonderful that a major institution like Brown has taken this step toward helping out their students, but this reveals a major issue that menstruating students at Brandeis are all too aware of and that the administration seems completely blind to: that Brandeis, the school where condoms are only 10 cents thanks to subsidies, fails to provide free or even reduced-cost menstrual products for its students. The only option for someone who is caught off-guard by a period while on campus is to buy menstrual products at the C-Store, which are not always in stock and which are not always a financially feasible option.

Though the administration should be held accountable for this, it’s also worth noting that this is part of a larger societal issue. Periods, despite being a normal bodily function, are often seen as a taboo, something never meant to be spoken of and are often made out to be something repulsive, not normalized in any way by society despite, again, being a perfectly normal bodily function.

It’s a sad fact of life that menstrual products, though clearly a necessity for the people who need them, are often priced as luxuries. Rachel Dobkin ’17 put it best, stating that “almost every place on campus has a free safety kit which has basic medical necessities like Band-Aids or Advil. When you want one of those, you don’t choose whether or not you cut yourself, or if you have a throbbing headache. And these commodities are usually very accessible. I don’t control when I get my period or what happens inside my body, and women should no longer be penalized for our physiology. This creates a financial barrier to obtaining a hygienic necessity, especially when it is not a ‘luxury item.’”

There are those who would argue that people should always be prepared for a period; however, for various reasons, this may not be feasible for some people who menstruate. Many people, such as a junior who chose to remain anonymous, have irregular periods, and therefore may not always be expecting it when it comes, stating that she has “had months where I had one period, and two weeks later I’m having another.” In this situation, it was often enough to make her skip class in order to return across campus to her room and grab a tampon. “It’s incredibly stressful, and you can miss handing in an assignment or an important lecture,” she said. “Knowing that the bathrooms have free products would be a relief. Periods are already a stressful time and anything to reduce the stress is great.”

Moreover, it would obviously be helpful to reduce the stress of people who menstruate. It’s not difficult to understand that not having to worry about being caught completely off guard by a period and having to miss class to go across campus and address it would be incredible. In the same way that students don’t have to worry about being caught off guard by the need to urinate because there are bathrooms around campus, people who menstruate shouldn’t have to be concerned about an untimely period. This isn’t an issue of politics, and it isn’t something that really needs to be debated or fought for in order for it to exist, as it’s a necessity to people who have periods. It’s a simple issue of women’s health that needs to be addressed by the Brandeis administration, especially because it can be very easily fixed. There is no downside to providing free menstrual products in the bathrooms around campus.

If we provide the products to people who menstruate free of charge, then they are less likely to have to miss important class sessions or appointments because of their period, which can only work toward their benefit. Frankly, failing to do this simple act is highly problematic, as it shows that Brandeis is less willing to care for menstruators, who have absolutely zero control over their periods, than they are willing to pay for condoms, which in no way address an uncontrollable hygienic necessity.

  • Audrey Fein

    Seriously? Not only is this a financial burden to Brandeis, it’s unsustainable and unnecessary. Brandeis should be putting it’s resources into funding research projects and student organizations. College students are ADULTS who should have enough foresight to put a tampon in their backpack just in case. As someone who gets a period regularly, I’ve done it and it isn’t that hard. Brandeis should be encouraging self-responsibility and academic growth, not giving away free stuff for no reason.

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