Toilet paper: essential, right? Can you imagine having to bring your own toilet paper to campus? What if one day you forgot to bring your roll of toilet paper and you had to go really bad? Lucky for all of us, the University of Utah provides toilet paper in all the restrooms on campus, because it is a basic personal hygiene necessity. But what about the basic personal hygiene need for pads and tampons?
According to The Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act of 2015, feminine hygiene products are a $2 billion industry in the United States, but the cost of poor menstrual hygiene is much higher. In fact, the leading causes of poor menstrual hygiene are related to availability and affordability. There’s even a special word for the cost that women have to pay for personal hygiene: Pink Tax. On average, products for women and girls cost seven percent more than products made for men and boys. And although tampons and pads are a necessity, 36 states still tax them—in other words, the “tampon tax” becomes part of the economic burden.
At the University of Utah, the Gender Theory & Community Organizing class recognized this problem locally and organized the Tampon Allies campaign in the Fall of 2016 to address this very issue. Tampon or pad machine are usually affixed to the wall inside the bathrooms on campus but these products become inaccessible without spare change. The Tampon Allies campaign aims to provide free and accessible feminine hygiene products in four major locations across the campus.
“We are paying so much money for our education and for the cost of living, and period products are really expensive. We should take the burden off people a little bit and provide these products through the university,” said Sam Roberts, class student. “This is similar to services like the food pantry, or emergency financial relief. Even if not everybody uses these services, I think it’s really something everyone as a community should care about.”
In addition to offering free and accessible hygiene products, the Tampons Allies campaign also raises awareness of the social stigma surrounding menstruation. Historically, menstruation has been a taboo, something people felt ashamed to talk about. Today, society tends to hold on to these same silent values which can leave women feeling negatively or embarrassed about their bodies. The campaign seeks to openly speak about menstruation on our campus so that we can demystify shame, respect women and address feminine hygiene problems more directly.
“The goal is for Tampon Allies to become a campus-wide campaign. I would like to see every building get on board with this campaign,” said Samantha Roberts, a class student and a recent U graduate. “It would also be great to be able to pull the online campus map and have little icons of tampons at the locations they are available. Really, a little access can help students a lot on any given day.”
To learn more about the Tampon Allies Campaign and other Sex Week events, visit the Students for Choice Facebook page.
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