By: Morin Mawhinney
There are many things people prefer not to talk about, like periods for example! For roughly half the population, once a month, when a woman doesn’t get pregnant, her uterus throws a hissy fit. This is something one cannot ignore; when a woman is caught by surprise, pretending her period does not exist is not an option. As Cher Holowitz, an icon from the 90’s movie Clueless, says “I was surfing the crimson wave, I had to haul ass to the ladies.” When a woman’s period starts unexpectedly, the first course of action, as Cher states, is to get to a ladies’ bathroom. However, it has recently come to the attention of this writer that at the University Prince Edward Island (UPEI), “hauling ass to the ladies,” might not do you much good. Out of the thirteen bathrooms I visited while doing research for this piece, one of them had a tampon dispenser, and that dispenser was currently not functional. It is essential to understand that tampons are not a luxury; dispensers should be in every bathroom, and the fact that condoms are currently more available on campus than Feminine Hygiene Products (FHP), is unacceptable. To understand why the UPEI Campus, that is so ordinarily forward-thinking and student-based, would overlook such a feminine necessity, I had an emailed correspondence with a Facilities Management Staff.
The Cadre: There are not FHP Dispensers in every washroom on campus, why is that?
Facilities Management: I have never noticed any Dispensers on campus at all. I know the bookstore sells this type of product and if I remember correctly the Sports Centre might hand out when you are in need.
TC: Is the upkeep of the few FHP dispensers made a priority?
FM: We do not have products in every washroom on campus.
TC: Has the lack of available FHP been a problem that was brought up before?
FM: We have never had anyone bring forward the lack of feminine hygiene products on campus.
TC: Is UPEI doing anything to make the women’s washrooms more period friendly and supportive?
FM: We do have disposal units in each washroom but no dispensers.
TC: Are FHP dispensers at UPEI seen as necessary, or as a luxury?
FM: I think this has not been seen as necessity. Most people usually would bring their own supplies.
TC: Even in the engineering building, a brand new addition, there are no dispensers in the washrooms. What are your thoughts on that?
FM: *No answer*
TC: As a woman, do you see the lack of readily available FHP on campus a problem?
FM: I have never seen this as a problem on campus either now or when I was a student many years ago.
To begin, I’d like to address the idea that FHP (which can mean panty liners, tampons and pads) is a luxury. This is not like putting candy dispensers in every washroom. Although, as the management staff states, “most people bring their own,” there are times when menstruation can take you by surprise. In these situations, by not providing adequate services for the hygiene of the women on campus, female students are not being supported. Take a step back and think about this. A luxury is something nonessential, additional or even indulgent. When my period begins unexpectedly, my thought is not, “Maybe I’ll treat myself, not ruin these pants and not stain this chair with blood.” Having a period is a fact of life and addressing it properly is a necessity, not an indulgence. This alone should make having readily available supplies on campus a number one priority.
Did you realize that as of right now, condoms are more available to women than FHP? As I was scoring bathrooms tallying up Tampon dispensers, I came across another kind of dispenser: one for condoms. Interestingly and considering women are not the ones actually using condoms, it seemed strange to find them in a women’s washroom. With the help of one of my male co-managing editors, it was discovered that the men’s washroom is without the same dispenser. There are several major issues with this scene. First of all, this is assuming a heterosexual sex couple, which is simply not always the case.
Secondly, it is blatantly placing the responsibility of ensuring safe sex only on the female sex partner when protection is something both participants need to be accountable for. However, those points are an article for another time. The issue most relevant to this piece is the fact that the only working dispenser in a women’s washroom on campus is one for condoms. This is absolutely jaw-dropping. In the case of an unexpected period, having access to one-dollar condoms will do absolutely nothing for the hygiene of women. Finally, I can assure you that refraining from menstruation is much harder than refraining from unprotected sex, so having a dispenser for something that can be abstained from, versus an unpreventable fact of life is completely redundant.
All this being said, there are several places on campus that provide Feminine Hygiene Products to women. The Sports Center, the Student Services Office and the Chaplaincy Center all give out supplies when in need, however these are only helpful to women in the area. If in class at the Engineering Building, for example, a girl would have to leave her class for a substantial amount of time in order to get supplies. In addition to that, as the Facilities Management staff mentions, there are disposal units in every bathroom. Both of these services are fantastic steps toward ultimately supporting and taking care of female students completely, but I believe there is still a ways to go.
Feminine Hygiene Products are not an extravagance, having dispenser in all washrooms is not an unreasonable demand, and equalizing access of condoms and FHP is a must. UPEI needs to take Cher Holowitz’s advice, “Haul ass to the ladies,” and start providing access to the necessities their female students cannot go without.
As always, we at the Cadre value student opinion so be sure to write in your responses and thoughts on this matter. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.