If Men Had Periods, Would Port-A-Potties Be the Only Toilet Facilities Available at Music Festivals?

Approximately 75,000 people attended each day of Austin City Limits (ACL) 2016, and it stands to reason that about half of those attendees were women. Suffice it to say, the number of individuals on their period while at ACL is far from insubstantial, especially when one considers the demographics typically appealed to by music festivals – in the case of women, likely those who are post-menarchal and pre-menopausal. That being said, the ~toilet situation~ at Austin City Limits and other festivals of a similar scale seems to have been designed in complete ignorance of the fact that, for approximately five days of every month, women bleed out of their vaginas (and often quite heavily).

I bought my ACL weekend pass in mid-May. While I am admittedly horrible at keeping track of when my period is meant to start, I also believe that regardless of how diligent you are about monitoring your cycle, there's bound to be some margin of error in any prediction made five months ahead of time. Less than a month before I was set to spend three days under Austin's unfathomably hot October sun, I stopped taking a medication that had wreaked havoc on the regularity of my periods. Like, I'm talking a wait-is-that-blood moment of panic every two or so weeks. Eventually, I decided that marginally clearer skin wasn't worth spending half the month attempting to curtail the bleeding emanating from my vagina. Unfortunately, this revelation occurred dangerously close to the start of ACL, meaning the general unpleasantness of my period was potentially going to be further compounded by toilet facilities that are far from conducive to changing tampons/pads.

Luckily, my worries proved unfounded – my period began and ended before I arrived in Austin. Still, so many other women (already dealing with cramps + bloating + the fear of bleeding through whichever sanitary product they choose to use) were forced to handle the realities of menstruation in frankly subpar conditions. Most port-a-potties I've been in had no receptacle in which to dispose of tampons or pads, and even if they did, the thought of spending extended and continuous lengths of time in such an enclosed, fetid space remains less than appealing. Port-a-potties may be considered varying degrees of gross by people of all genders, but their unsavory aspects are far more amplified for women. Austin City Limits, for instance, provided makeshift urinals in addition to port-a-potties, meaning men only infrequently found themselves suffering through the experience of touching bare skin to a much-used toilet seat. Of course, being on one's period just makes the whole port-a-potty ordeal much, much worse.

Would the transition from port-a-potties to permanent facilities be costly for vendors? Undoubtedly. Is it likely to transpire? Hardly. But nonetheless, those tasked with coordinating music festivals attended by thousands of women must be more conscientious of the fact that a sizeable percentage of said women will be menstruating while at their festival, and they must therefore do better to provide suitable accommodation for what is ultimately such a basic bodily function.

Ellie is a Political Science and Policy Studies double major at Rice University, with a minor in Politics, Law and Social Thought. She spent the spring of 2017 studying/interning in London, and hopes to return to England for grad school. Academically, Ellie's passion lies in evaluating policies that further the causes of gender equality, LGBT rights, and access to satisfactory healthcare, specifically as it pertains to women's health and mental health. She also loves feminist memoirs, eighteenth-century history, old bookstores, and new places. She's continuously inspired by the many strong females in her life, and is an unequivocal proponent of women supporting women.

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