Illustration by Valkyrie Mata.

Periods can be the devil. This is a sentiment fellow menstruators all agree on at some point or another. What’s even worse than experiencing periods once a month, though, is the lack of free, easy access to pads and tampons and the amount of money we menstruators spend on an array of period products.

Texas State should take the initiative that universities such as Harvard, Cornell, Brown, A&M Corpus and Penn State have taken to provide students with free pads and tampons. Since Texas State currently does not provide these products, students have taken matters into their own hands with the #TamponClubTXST community tampon supply.

#TamponClubTXST is a student-led initiative that stocks restrooms around campus with a bin containing free pads and tampons. Students are encouraged to contribute to and/or replace the tampons and pads they use from the bin. While this is a great step towards easier access to period products, Texas State should be the one providing students with free pads and tampons.

A study from the Free the Tampons Foundation found that of U.S. women age 18-54, 86 percent say they have started their period unexpectedly in public without the supplies they need, 57 percent said they felt embarrassed because of this and 43 percent felt anxious or stressed during this time.

Many students who are unprepared for their periods leave or miss class in order to deal with it, PERIOD Austin Chapter Leader Alexa Atkinson claims. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 girls in the U.S. have missed school due to the lack of period protection.

The average woman is on her period for 2,535 days of her life. It is estimated that menstruators spend roughly $1,800 in their lifetime on tampons—assuming the price of tampons stays fixed. This does not account for the tampon tax 35 states in the U.S. have because period products are considered non-essential goods. There are also other costs besides tampons such as heating pads, medicine for cramps and new pairs of underwear.

While statistics on this topic mainly sample from a population of cisgender women, it is important to note transgender and nonbinary people also experience the stressors associated with menstruation. This issue can affect anyone.

Not only are college students missing class because of their periods, but students tight on money cannot deal with the expenses; this is called period poverty. College students are especially susceptible to this issue, especially students who struggle to cover college expenses in the first place. Texas State has the ability to alleviate—and even completely rid—students of this problem, yet it hasn’t openly shown any attempts to.

Being in school is stressful enough on its own and can even cause or worsen some menstrual issues. The least Texas State can do is provide students with free period products. Students don’t have to bring their own toilet paper to school; the same logic should apply when it comes to periods.

Menstruating is not something that’s done for fun. It’s an involuntary biological function that menstruators pay out of pocket for, and that is unfair. It makes no sense for menstruators to have to carry and provide their own tampons and pads. In fact, this act is extremely gendered. Texas State can help resist this by providing students with free period products in every, or at least most, restrooms on campus.

There are some steps being taken, such as the #TamponClubTXST movement. More recently, a member of PERIOD, a global distributor of menstrual hygiene products, reached out to Texas State administrators and plans to help stock our campus with free pads and tampons from the company Aunt Flow.

Yet, these solutions are all student-led. Texas State should have responded to this student issue sooner, and there is plenty more it can do in addition to these student-led movements.

Menstrual health does not end with free, easy access to pads and tampons; it continues with education about reproductive health. The lack of access to menstrual supplies is just one side effect of a scholastic system that has a poor reproductive, health and sex education. Providing students with free pads and tampons is just one facet of a much larger reproductive health education issue that should be openly and unabashedly talked about.

– Carissa Liz Castillo is an English senior

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