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.