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Period piece

Movement aims to make free tampons in public restrooms the standard

By WITW Staff on March 1, 2016

In a piece for the The New York Times Well blog titled “Free the Tampons,” Roni Caryn Rabin chronicles the movements taking place around the country that would make public restrooms that offer free tampons a standard rather than the exception. She notes that the cause, which has been gathering momentum, has sprung from advocates and lawmakers collectively challenging the taboos that are normally associated with menstruation — and changing the paradigm in which those conversations take place. As one federal lawmaker notes, menstruation is a topic that members of both genders have traditionally been uncomfortable discussing publicly. “I think many people, men and women, are probably a little uncomfortable thinking or talking about menstruation,” said Grace Meng, a U.S. congresswoman representing a district in the New York City borough of Queens. “We’re thinking of how we can change the conversation.”

Meng led the charge last year in convincing FEMA to include tampons and other feminine hygiene products among the items that can be covered by federal assistance funds provided for the homeless. “Menstrual products should not be treated as luxury items,” Meng said. Beyond the effort to help homeless women, a New York City councilwoman, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, has her sights on helping all of the female students in New York City’s five boroughs. To that end, Ferreras-Copeland has launched a pilot program that will have a tampon-dispenser installed in the women’s restroom at a local high school.

The efforts are hardly limited to New York City. “Tampons and pads should be treated just like toilet paper — they’re the equivalent,” Nancy Kramer told the Times. Kramer is an entrepreneur from Columbus, Ohio, and started Free the Tampons, a campaign aiming to bring feminine hygiene products to all restrooms, free of charge. Kramer crunched the numbers and the cost for schools and businesses to provide free sanitary products would amount to $4.67 per female per year. “Menstruation is a normal bodily function, and it should be treated like that,” she said. There are efforts underway in other parts of the country as well — like Wisconsin, Ohio and New Jersey, where advocates are fighting to make feminine hygiene products a basic right. But in a sign of how long a way there is to go on this issue, only two states — California and New York — have even introduced legislation to end the tampon tax.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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