Periods, as in periods, is the new frontier of the social justice movement.

Not long ago, after widespread activist pressure, Obama opposed the (non-existent) “tampon tax.”

Now, a Columbia University female student has decided that Columbia should provide her—and all “people who menstruate”—with free tampons and assorted “period-related” items from sanitary napkins to painkillers.

Writing in the Columbia Spectator, this student writes, Columbia should pay for my period:

Sure, I can easily find a free condom on Barnard and Columbia’s campuses, but why can’t I find a free tampon in the bathrooms in Hamilton or Milbank? Why does the administration care about my sexual protective rights, but not how I handle my monthly menstrual cycle?

Limited access to free sanitary products, along with the widely recognized “tampon tax,” is a frequently recurring topic in popular discourse regarding reproductive rights. While California may have pioneered potentially eliminating the tampon tax at the state level, many people who menstruate still lack the sufficient financial resources to frequently purchase sanitary products. And even if the sales tax is removed from these products, we must still front the cost to pay for other menstruation-related items, such as pads, DivaCups, painkillers, and birth control.

This adds up, she reasons, to almost a hundred dollars a year.

If you were to go to Duane Reade and buy a box of 36 tampons, it would cost you roughly $8. Depending on the heaviness of your menstrual flow, you could potentially end up going through one box (or even more) during your cycle. Assuming a single cycle requires one box of tampons, a person could end up spending $96 a year. And this price only holds if you assume all people just use tampons—most people will end up spending far more on other period products.

But it’s not just about free stuff.  No, she continues, it’s about ending the societal “shame” associated with menstruation.

While finances and affordability are important parts of the demand for the University to supply free sanitary products, we should not end the conversation there. We must also work to deconstruct the shame associated with menstruation by discussing what we can and should do for student health on campus. Furthermore, gender solidarity is an essential part of this conversation. We need to encourage male allies to support women’s health care needs even if they may not menstruate themselves.

It seems to me that the Columbia and Barnard administrations only care about my reproductive health rights in regard to sexual activity, particularly vaginal intercourse. The Columbia community can only begin to deconstruct period shaming by stopping menstruation from being seen as a private problem and recognizing that reproductive health care does not stop at sexual protection.

I’m not quite sure how free tampons would end the “shame” she feels about being a “person who menstruates,” but then again, I doubt she knows, either.

I’m still having a hard time believing this isn’t intended to be satire. But then again, I’m so old I remember when Sandra Fluke’s demand for free contraception was considered extreme.

Sandra Fluke That's Not Funny


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