By Isobel Chiang, October 11 2016 —
Cornell University recently passed a referendum to provide free tampons and pads in both women and men’s campus bathrooms.
Kudos to Cornell for subsidizing the cost of feminine hygiene products. It’s about time universities recognize that all students and faculty deserve to have their personal needs met.
We need free tampons and pads for the same reason that bathrooms are stocked with free toilet paper, soap and paper towels -— it is a matter of public hygiene. We don’t live in a BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper) society, so why should we have to BYOTampon?
With that said, double-kudos to Cornell for including a gender-inclusive clause to their policy change. Implicit within this referendum is the understanding that people who identify as women are not the only ones who require tampons — transgender individuals often still menstruate even if they identify as men.
Cornell’s referendum passed in full consciousness that gender exists on a spectrum. As a result, transgender individuals are able to enjoy complimentary tampons and pads in the same capacity as cisgender women.
New York City passed a similar bill last June to provide free feminine hygiene products to all public schools, prisons and shelters. Columbia and Brown are also implementing similar programs. The University of Calgary should follow suit and provide free feminine hygiene products in all the washrooms on campus.
Creating gender-inclusive bathrooms at the U of C in 2014 was a crucial step towards combating transphobia on campus, and its importance cannot be overstated. It is time the university took the next step and joined the “menstrual equity movement.”
Many people will argue that it is not the university’s responsibility to pay for another person’s tampon and tuition money should be allocated elsewhere. But tampons and pads fall in the category of essential hygiene products, similar to toilet paper or hand sanitizer. If condoms are readily handed out to students for free, why not these as well?
Some will argue that because only a small percentage of people identify as transgender, it is a waste of money to supply all men’s washrooms with tampons and pads. But in implementing this policy, the number of people who identify as transgender is completely irrelevant.
What matters is that there are people on campus who belong to the transgender community and their experiences are real and worthy of our attention. We need to commit as a campus to ensuring their health care needs are met to the same standards as any other student.
The cost associated with subsidizing tampons and pads for students across the gender spectrum would be worth every penny. This is a future-facing strategy that would position the U of C to become a more inclusive and socially-conscious university.
Plus, I’m not gonna lie, free tampons would be convenient as hell. Never again would I have to awkwardly ask a girl in the gym locker room for a spare tampon.
But for the transgender community, this policy change would be more than just a convenience — it would be a symbolic gesture, and a signal of a more inclusive future.