If you’ve been on Twitter the past few weeks, you’ve likely seen these viral videos with hundreds of thousands of likes — a young woman with a microphone approaches college students to ask them their opinions on tampons.
The girl is Kaitlin Bennett, a self-proclaimed conservative journalist, and the question is this: “Do you think tampons belong in men’s bathrooms?”
While Bennett would disagree, the answer to her question is a resounding “yes.” Menstrual products need to be two things : accessible to those who want them and free for those who can’t afford them.
To accomplish this goal, UT should provide free menstrual products in men’s bathrooms in buildings without gender-neutral facilities.
Student activists have already been making strides in promoting menstrual equity. Last fall, a joint resolution passed by Student Government, the Senate of College Councils and the Graduate Student Assembly called on UT to include free tampons and pads in all women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms.
“Menstrual equity is just our way of trying to provide resources to all people, regardless of if they can afford it,” said Alexzandra Roman, government and women’s and gender studies sophomore and co-director of the Women’s Resource Agency. “The University does not necessarily know who is menstruating or who might need certain resources or what economic backgrounds we’re coming from.”
Low-income menstruators often have a difficult time acquiring period products, as they can’t be purchased with government assistance programs. Roman said that Student Government is currently working with UT administration to implement the resolution, an important step in achieving access.
“A lot of people are really for it,” Roman said. “It’s not just women either, we also found that a lot of men are in support and have even asked when this might be an option in men’s restrooms.”
Still, the resolution leaves out one thing — full access for all who menstruate. It calls for free products in only women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms. However, not all menstruators are women, and not all buildings have gender-neutral facilities.
Transgender men may menstruate, which means that they also need tampons and pads. Transgender Americans are also far more likely to face poverty, heightening the need for free menstrual care.
While men could use the proposed tampons and pads in gender-neutral bathrooms, not all buildings even have gender-neutral options. These include Waggener Hall, the Engineering Education and Resource Center, the Butler School of Music, the Belo Center for New Media, Painter Hall and four of the buildings in the six pack.
Radhika Patel, economics sophomore and co-director of the Women’s Resource Agency, said the Student Government resolution did not include men’s restrooms because it is only one step in the overall path of achieving menstrual equity.
“Based off of our talks with the administration from last year … the best way for this resolution to get passed and for it to get implemented within this academic year was if we geared the resolution towards … women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms,” Patel said.
Of course, implementing programs like this take time, and the members of Student Government should be commended for their efforts in increasing access. However, this resolution should not be the final step.
Because of the important advocacy of students, free menstrual care is finally becoming a reality. Once this program is implemented, UT should turn its sights to adding free tampons and pads to men’s restrooms, especially those in buildings without gender-neutral facilities. UT needs free menstrual products for all — no matter their gender identity or income level.
Springs is a government and political communication sophomore from Dallas.