Campus

Contra-Texan: Free Tampons Don’t Belong in the Boys’ Bathroom

In a piece on January 29th, The Daily Texan writer Abby Springs claimed that menstrual products should be free and available to everyone, arguing that these products must be offered equally to both men and women for free in the name of menstrual equity. However, she did not address the social and logistical burdens that offering these products for free, especially to men, would place on the University. 

Putting menstrual products in men’s bathrooms is problematic based on biological differences between men and women. When it comes to healthcare products, including menstrual hygiene, biology is important for determining if an individual requires a specific medication or supply for their health. In the video that Springs links in the article, a young man explains that transgender men can still have periods. However, transgender men are still biological women, and changing one’s gender identity does not change a physiological fact. If you have a biological male friend who thinks he is having a period, he should go see a doctor because it’s certainly not menstruation. A doctor would be guilty of malpractice if she were to ignore the danger of a biological male experiencing period symptoms. With something as significant as bodily health, it’s important to stay true to biological facts.

I also take issue with the “free” aspect of these products. For some reason, there’s a sense of entitlement when it comes to feminine hygiene products as if your period is the University’s responsibility. Having products available to purchase in the restrooms is a great idea. Access is not a bad idea, but it shouldn’t be free, and thus deducted from UT’s funds that could be better used elsewhere. Consider all of the other hygiene products that UT would need to offer to follow through on this logic. I need to brush my teeth for dental health, but I don’t demand the right to free toothbrushes and toothpaste from UT. 

Having some products available at the University Health Services building for free for students in urgent situations is one thing, but having them out for free in every single bathroom, including men’s restrooms, is excessive. 

There’s also a social effect of feminizing a men’s restroom. Being sensitive to the feelings of transgender individuals is a central part of the argument for having these products in men’s restrooms. Transgender men do deserve to have their feelings acknowledged, but I wonder if the feelings of men who are uncomfortable with these products being in the men’s restrooms matter. While Springs argues that some men are excited and supportive of the initiative, I think this is unlikely. It’s awkward, mostly because it’s a men’s bathroom. I don’t want urinals in the women’s bathrooms, and some men probably don’t want tampons and pads in theirs.

If a transgender man (a biological woman) needs feminine hygiene products, and they don’t want to go into the women’s restroom, then they can purchase some at a building with gender-neutral bathrooms. Some schools, such as Boston University, that have put out free feminine hygiene products in women’s bathrooms had problems with implementation cost. Entire stashes of products would disappear after a day. Thus, I can’t imagine that putting them in men’s bathrooms would be anything but wasteful. 

Springs quotes Alexzandra Roman, co-director of the Women’s Resource Agency, as saying that the University doesn’t know who is menstruating or who needs financial resources for products. However, the University does have an idea of who is menstruating because the only group that can menstruate is biological women, which make up 52.5% of undergraduate students, minus some women who don’t. Hence, if we must give out free products, these resources would be best placed in women’s bathrooms.
It’s surprising that campus feminists aren’t more vocal about the exclusivity of periods to women. It’s removing the beauty of a part of what makes women different from men. Universities aren’t the only ones de-feminizing period products. Some big companies such as Always, which is owned by Procter & Gamble, have removed the infamous sign of feminity, the Venus symbol, from feminine hygiene products in order to be more inclusive. Nevertheless, no matter how much some might try to separate womanhood from periods, our sex is permanently woven into our DNA. No bathroom policy will change that.

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5 replies »

  1. Another reactionary article on this site. This one is, to quote Pauli, “not even false.”

    The author–motivated by partisan ideology, not facts–refuses to respond to the legitimate scientific discussion re transgender people; what, for instance, is the author’s definition of a biological woman? Instead, the author implies trans men are mentally ill. Has the author ever interacted with a trans man? Or engaged with any of the literature outlining male menstruation?

    What are the social and logistical burdens the author bemoans anyhow? Does anyone believe that the costs of free tampons would be so outrageously high? This author hasn’t provided an estimate, but we’re supposed to believe its super high.

    The author refuses to entertain legitimate arguments for free tampons, like the fact that the university has an interest in promoting comfort for students, like making sure they have resources on campus if they have a period. I for one don’t want students running around menstruating all over the place.

    In reality, the author, steeped in dogma, can’t abide “feminizing” restrooms, whatever that means. I’d reckon most guys don’t even care about tampons being in their restrooms. But I haven’t done a poll, so I can’t say so definitively; neither can the author.

    Again, actual arguments can be had about limiting waste. Let’s try to have them instead of vilifying trans people. #BeBest

    Like

    • Hi Rick!

      Thank you for your response! First, I want to clarify that I was not implying that transgender people are mentally ill. Furthermore, I certainly was not vilifying them. Rather, I was pointing out that a transgender man menstruates due to their female biology. I’m speaking to biological fact, not to social constructs or partisan ideology.

      As I cited in my article, menstruation products that have been provided for free in restrooms at other universities have been abused as some individuals will take entire supplies simply because they are free. I agree with you, though, as I don’t want students “menstruating all over the place.” However, the university does not currently offer free products in all the restrooms and that has not been an issue. Just like any other personal hygiene (dental health products, body wash, deodorant etc.), just because it is necessary doesn’t mean it has to be free.

      Like

  2. Not only is this a transphobic article, but it’s also extraordinarily classist, and I’m disappointed that the Texas Orator would approve this to be published.

    “Some schools, such as Boston University, that have put out free feminine hygiene products in women’s bathrooms had problems with implementation cost. Entire stashes of products would disappear after a day.” The University has already implemented this policy in the WCP and Union buildings and has not seen this to be an issue. In talks with the Chief Financial Officer and University Unions, they’re actually more than okay with expanding to every building with classrooms in it, emphasizing the fact that there’s no issue of “waste”, because there’s not. And if an individual were to need that many, is that necessarily an issue? Do we expect students to be in the same financial situations? That’s a very short-sighted claim to make.

    Also, the University has been giving out free condoms for ages and has not seen this to be an issue, but yet that fact is unremarkably missing from your article. The University should be working to support its students in any capacity, and being someone who’s female, you should understand that these issues can come up at any time, and not everyone has the time or money to go to a store immediately, so this initiative is very beneficial, and a recent survey showed that 84% of female students have missed a class due to a lack of feminine hygiene products: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0795/1599/files/State-of-the-Period-white-paper_Thinx_PERIOD.pdf?455788

    “Consider all of the other hygiene products that UT would need to offer to follow through on this logic.” Actually the University has already started with this in some restrooms; in RLP, some restrooms are stashed with hygiene products (including the male ones !!!), such as deodorant, and it hasn’t been an issue, so when writing an article, maybe instead of focusing on what other schools are doing, you should actually do your research here first and see what’s right in front of you. #BeBest

    Like

    • Hello there!

      First of all, thank you for your response! I want to say that this article is not intended to attack a group, but rather to evaluate an issue (namely, free hygiene products). I think that you bring up some good points, but what it comes down to is the role of the university.

      I don’t have an issue with them being sold at the campus PODs or in dispensers in the bathroom, but handing them out for free is not necessary. As I said, I don’t take issue with them being available in the Student Services building for rare emergencies and individuals that truly cannot afford them, but the university doesn’t have a responsibility to provide these products for everyone.

      While UT’s pilot program has been providing these products in a few campus bathrooms, that doesn’t mean that they should be doing it. Furthermore, having these in a few locations is different from having them offered in every building, both men’s and women’s restrooms. While it might be affordable for a large university, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best or right use of resources.

      Similarly, as for the free condoms, I don’t think that’s within the university’s responsibility to provide them. UT has the resources, but that doesn’t mean it should be spent on free condoms. The university is supposed to be training us to be adults. Handouts aren’t teaching personal responsibility, whether it is with tampons, condoms, or deodorant. As I explained in my article, I take issue with the entitlement to free resources.

      I realize that these menstruation can come unexpectedly, but by keeping a spare product in one’s bag, it’s not the end of the world. Being prepared and having a sense of personal responsibility isn’t a bad thing. Again, if an emergency should arise, the SSB or purchasing products at a POD are options.

      The statistic that you cited actually says that 84% of teens have “either missed class time or know someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products.” I think the statistic seems high at first, but you have to break it down. It says “or know someone who did.” The actual statistic, from your source, is that 24% of teens have missed class time due to lack of access to period products. The study doesn’t lay out what “access” means, but it’s not clear that it implies lack of financial resources. Granted, this is a considerable number, but it’s not 84%.

      Additionally, this study pertains to students ages 13-19, which is typically a high school student, not an adult college student. It’s not surprising that a high school student might be less responsible.

      I hope that I addressed some of your concerns!

      Like

  3. Hello there!

    First of all, thank you for your response! I want to say that this article is not intended to attack a group, but rather to evaluate an issue (namely, free hygiene products). I think that you bring up some good points, but what it comes down to is the role of the university.

    I don’t have an issue with them being sold at the campus PODs or in dispensers in the bathroom, but handing them out for free is not necessary. As I said, I don’t take issue with them being available in the Student Services building for rare emergencies and individuals that truly cannot afford them, but the university doesn’t have a responsibility to provide these products for everyone.

    While UT’s pilot program has been providing these products in a few campus bathrooms, that doesn’t mean that they should be doing it. Furthermore, having these in a few locations is different from having them offered in every building, both men’s and women’s restrooms. While it might be affordable for a large university, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best or right use of resources.

    Similarly, as for the free condoms, I don’t think that’s within the university’s responsibility to provide them. UT has the resources, but that doesn’t mean it should be spent on free condoms. The university is supposed to be training us to be adults. Handouts aren’t teaching personal responsibility, whether it is with tampons, condoms, or deodorant. As I explained in my article, I take issue with the entitlement to free resources.

    I realize that these menstruation can come unexpectedly, but by keeping a spare product in one’s bag, it’s not the end of the world. Being prepared and having a sense of personal responsibility isn’t a bad thing. Again, if an emergency should arise, the SSB or purchasing products at a POD are options.

    The statistic that you cited actually says that 84% of teens have “either missed class time or know someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products.” I think the statistic seems high at first, but you have to break it down. It says “or know someone who did.” The actual statistic, from your source, is that 24% of teens have missed class time due to lack of access to period products. The study doesn’t lay out what “access” means, but it’s not clear that it implies lack of financial resources. Granted, this is a considerable number, but it’s not 84%.

    Additionally, this study pertains to students ages 13-19, which is typically a high school student, not an adult college student. It’s not surprising that a high school student might be less responsible.

    I hope that I addressed some of your concerns!

    Like

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