Feminine Hygiene Products Should Be Provided by Universities

Last semester during a class lecture I was talking to a classmate of mine — let’s call her Sam for privacy. We were talking about typical things: dating, celebrities, the upcoming winter break… and our periods. I was on mine at the time and having horrible cramps, so naturally lecture was the last place I wanted to be. I grabbed some Ibuprofen from my backpack and realized I forgot to pack more tampons. Sam kindly gave me an extra. This led us to a conversation about why universities, and schools in general, should give their students access to free feminine hygiene products. 

The majority of college students are now women, and with 20-35% of students dealing with poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness, that means that there are thousands of women in college struggling to get by financially. Students have enough to deal with already: getting good grades, pressure to find internships and jobs after graduating, figuring out what degrees they want to major in, friends, and more. The last thing that a female student should have to deal with is figuring out how to manage her period in the middle of it all.

Sam told me how she went through a period of extreme poverty to the point where she could barely afford to buy a pack of ramen noodles. She was dealing with issues that made her unable to work and was missing school. When her period came, she realized she couldn’t afford to buy a box of pads or tampons. On another related note, tampons should never be considered a luxury item or be taxed, but that’s a conversation for another time. They are overpriced, yet extremely necessary for a lot of women. In fact, they are an item that shelters pretty much always need.

Sam said, “I was going to class hungry already, and now I had to worry about bleeding through my pants. A couple of bathrooms around campus have little baskets for handouts, but not all of them and oftentimes they aren’t full. I had to rely on asking other students if they had a spare. It was awful and made me feel so anxious. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about it now, but a lot of girls do.” At that moment, I really appreciated her giving me one. 

TamponsPeriods are a topic that most people don’t like to talk about. They are highly politicized, and sometimes taboo; no one enjoys them, and they often cause anxiety if they’re late or don’t come. Most females I know wonder why evolution hasn’t gotten rid of them yet, and hope that one day they will magically disappear all together. But alas, we still have to deal with them. 

Schools, especially for-profit universities, could make their female students' lives so much easier by offering free or at least low-cost products. Students already pay thousands of dollars in tuition, housing, meal plans, books, and more. With how much they make, buying feminine hygiene products would be a drop in the bucket, and would allow students to focus on their studies and take care of their health without having to worry about money or access. I’ve talked to some other classmates and friends of mine about this, and the responses have ranged from, "Oh my god YES please!” to, “That will never happen, but it would be awesome!” 

I can only hope that one day schools will think of this as a bigger issue, and consider doing more to help their students in this way. For now, I urge my fellow females to always carry an extra, just in case they run into another girl in need of one. I know I’ll be passing on the favor when possible, just as Sam did for me. We have to have each other’s backs.