Written by Kristin Guglietti; Photos Courtesy of Kristin Guglietti
Pads and tampons are not free in public places. If you’re lucky, you might walk into a women’s restroom that contains dispensers, but these machines are rarely stocked. On campus, dispensers in women’s restrooms seem to be perpetually labeled, almost in a mocking manner, “NOT STOCKED.”
“Empty machines are insulting,” said Maeve Forde, president of Rowan’s Intersectional Feminist Collective (IFC) and senior history major. “The machines are denying access to something people need. It is a façade that the machines can be convenient.” According to Forde, college campuses are great places to start conversations about topics most people feel uncomfortable about.
So, why are people uncomfortable talking about periods? Maybe because society views women’s problems as less important to male problems. Maybe women become “crazy hormonal werewolves” each month. Maybe periods are gross.
Regardless of the justifications, periods are a part of life. Women get periods. Transgender men get periods. Men are surrounded by mothers, sisters and friends who get periods. This is a topic we need to talk about and normalize. According to College Board, 46% of Rowan’s undergraduate population are women. It’s not like it’s unreasonable to ask for something to be done.
I investigated the majority of buildings on campus to see if I could find a stocked pad and tampon dispenser.
There are no machines in the Chamberlain Student Center, Winans Hall, Westby Hall, Bunce Hall, Bozorth Hall or Bole Hall. I could not find a single stocked machine of the locations that did have dispensers at the Campbell Library, Savitz Hall, James Hall, Robinson Hall, Science Hall, 301 High Street, Memorial Hall and Hawthorne Hall.
There are only a few places where women can find pads and tampons on campus. Women can ask someone at the Wellness Center for a pad or tampon, as well as request one at the Information Desk in the Student Center, but this places pressure and fear of embarrassment on any woman seeking one.
According to an online survey conducted by Free the Tampons, 57% of women ages 18-54 would feel embarrassed if their period started unexpectedly in public. Free the Tampons surveyed 1,072 women. Of those women, 35% of women would panic if they started their period and had no supplies.
For people who do not want to ask others, they can purchase pads and tampons at a nearby convenience store. At Ro-Go, a convenience store in the Chamberlain Student Center, people can buy a 14-pack of pads for $4.25 and a box of 10 tampons for $3.99.
Donna Mehalchick-Opal, an alumni with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, thinks the empty machines are ridiculous.
“Not everyone has time to go to 7-Eleven or a convenience store. It would be ideal if they would stock the machines,” said Mehalchick-Opal.
The rec center’s women’s restroom is the only place on campus that provides free pads and tampons, but only because Platex gave a certain amount of feminine products to the rec center for free. The pads and tampons found there are not paid for by Rowan to supply.
Other students like Kelsey Burke, a junior biology major, said, “I just have something on me.”
The media tells women to deal with their own problems from a young age. At work, they supply bandages if someone gets hurt on the job. Meanwhile, at school, if a woman bleeds, she has to deal with it her damn self.
“You’ll get in the habit of being prepared. And before you know it, getting your period — wherever you are — will be no big deal.” This quote is from a kids health website! With that logic, how come no one carries toilet paper to be prepared to poop? Oh right, because usually, that’s reliable enough to be available in public restrooms.
An article from The New York Times said that New York is working on passing a bill that would make tampons and pads free to public schools, shelters and jails. If New York ends up making tampons free to the public, other states might be more motivated to follow.
Student government representatives at Brown University in Rhode Island stocked all bathrooms with pads and tampons (including the men’s room!). How can we get Rowan to climb on board?
Toilet paper and seat covers are supplied, but we cannot rely on janitors to stock tampon and pad dispensers? John Davis, Director of Housekeeping, was “too busy” to comment.
Weeks after the initial investigation, I noticed one machine on the second floor of the library was missing. That particular machine was off its hinges and ready to fall, however, I worry that this might be the school’s “solution.”
Getting rid of the empty machines will not solve the problem. Rowan administration needs to learn that tampons and pads are a necessity, not a luxury, of its female students.