Feminine products should be free…period.

By Ela Jalil, Assistant News Editor

An average woman will have over 500 periods in her lifetime, each one lasting between three to seven days according to a Feb. 2020 Netdoctor article. Each day she should use between three to seven pads or tampons, where an average tampon costs about 60 cents each. Dollars and Sense approximates that a woman will spend at least $4572 on sanitary products alone in her lifetime. Pads and tampons aren’t a luxury, they are a necessity, and should be in every bathroom at school.

Some students can not afford the rising costs of sanitary products and depend on the products provided by the school. Like the MCPS policy of giving free and reduced lunch to lower-income students, it is necessary to provide students with the supplies they need to feel comfortable and safe in school. 

In an attempt to solve this problem, MCPS offers free pads and tampons in the nurse’s office. While this may seem like a simple enough solution, a line of obstacles stands in front of students. First, a student has to first ask their teacher to go to the nurse’s office, as the policy of the nurse’s office is to turn away students without a pass. Then, the student will have to wait in a line for the nurse, at a point where time is of the essence for students to get the products they need. 

If students do not get to these products in time, they may have to go home or stay in the nurse’s office for an extended period of time. All of this takes class time away from the student, causing them to be at a disadvantage if it’s their time of the month.

Forcing girls to go to the nurse’s office if they need sanitary products feeds into the idea that menstruation is something that is wrong with a girl, not a normal bodily function that every woman experiences for the majority of her life. Girls have also been taught at a young age that they should not talk about their periods. This mindset could lead to uncomfortable situations for students when they have to explain to their teachers why they have to go to the nurse’s office. 

Recently, a middle school principal went viral on twitter when he denied his students the ability to have free tampons and pads in the bathroom, claiming that the students would “abuse the privilege.” Having access to sanitary products should not be a privilege but a right, something as normal as having toilet paper and soap in every bathroom. Secondly, there is no way girls can abuse the “privilege” of having access to sanitary products. The only reason students would need to use them is if they were on their period. Even if students take more products than they need, it is always better to be over-prepared for a period. 

The Virginia Senate recently passed Senate Bill 232 which requires public schools to provide menstrual products in girls restrooms. According to a Jan. 2020 NBC article, this will provide easy access to period products to over 630,000 female students. The state senators cited reasons for increased accessibility and the stigmatization around periods for the necessity of the bill. 

Maryland lawmakers are attempting to pass a similar bill that makes it mandatory for all schools to have to provide dispensers with free period products in at least two bathrooms in the school by Oct. first. However, with this bill, every bathroom will have dispensers by Aug. 2024. 

This bill is a step in the right direction towards equality in school and destigmatizing menstruation. In our society, we are afraid to talk about periods, and how it affects every single woman no matter the race or economic situation. Most women start their period around 12 or 13, which is why middle schools and high schools have a responsibility to help their students adjust to a situation that they have to deal with for the majority of their lives. Providing privacy and security for students by making period products available in bathrooms allows students to have equal opportunities at education, and not letting something that every woman is born with affect their ability to achieve.