Imagine you’re a college student currently going through your period. You knew it was coming because it happens every month, yet you forgot to put a pad or a tampon in your backpack.
Now, you’re walking to class, fearing that you’ll soon become the laughingstock on campus if they notice you’ve leaked through your pants.
So, what do you do? Where do you go? Do you ask someone to borrow one? Do you go to the bathroom and try to make a bad situation worse with an incessant amount of toilet paper?
The Health Promotion and Advocacy Office’s new menstruation stations aim to provide free aid to students who have forgotten their menstrual hygiene products and provide informational resources to students with periods.
The Menstruation Station initiative was created when students asked why Ball State’s campus has multiple sexual health resources but no menstrual health resources.
Since menstruation is a basic human function, menstruation stations were introduced to some of the health buildings on Ball State’s campus. The central location is on the second floor of the Health Center in the Health Promotion and Advocacy section, with smaller stations at the Healthy Lifestyle Center in the Health Professions Building and in the Counseling Center in Lucina Hall.
Destiny Cherry, health and wellness coordinator for the Health Promotion and Advocacy Office (HPA), said that the station provides liners, pads and tampons for students and is an educational resource for information on menstrual health.
“The menstruation information provided allows students to choose the best menstrual product for themselves and receive information on basic needs resources on campus and in the Muncie community,” Cherry said via email. “We are incredibly excited to provide these resources to Ball State students and aid in their health and wellness.”
The HPA introduced these stations due to the consequences that could arise for students based on lack of access to menstrual health resources. Cherry said that neglecting one’s menstrual health due to this lack of access can result in various challenges, including damage to reproductive organs, overuse of menstrual resources that can lead to toxic shock syndrome, infections from poor menstrual hygiene and much more.
A significant reason why this happens is due to menstrual inequity in the United States. Temple University defines this as “unequal access to menstrual products, education and reproductive care.”
“Despite roughly half of the world’s population experiencing menstruation, it continues as a taboo topic,” Cherry said.
Cherry noted this as a significant problem in the United States because, until recently, menstrual equity has been given little consideration in policies, laws and conversations concerning reproductive health.
Despite menstruating being considered a “taboo” topic, having access to menstrual resources and education still affects a person's freedom to stay healthy and engage in daily life. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a law and policy institute, having equity-based arguments and utilizing the term "menstrual equity" helps with the normalization of period talk because it aims to counter the inconsistencies and oversights currently in policies and laws that make it a “taboo” topic to begin with.
For this reason, freshman studio art major Briza Medel said introducing menstruation stations on campus is vital for Ball State students since it normalizes the idea that menstruating students should be supported on campus.
“Not all students have the time and money to leave campus to get these resources. Also, since students can’t control when their menstruation happens, they may not be prepared to have the necessary products to get through the day,” Medel said.
Period inequity is a significant problem in the United States, primarily due to the taxation of menstrual health products. The taxation makes it more difficult for people to take care of their menstrual health due to an inability to afford the menstrual health products that are best suited for them. According to a 2021 study by THINX & Period, “23% of students have struggled to afford period products, and 16% have chosen to buy period products over food or clothes due to the pandemic.”
The taxation of period products is debated mainly because menstrual cycles are unavoidable and natural for many people. Harvard Medical Schoolsays, “Menstruating is a basic fact of human existence. Menstrual hygiene products are necessities, not luxuries, and should be treated as such.”
Junior psychology major Amalia Ferreyra agreed with this statement that taxes should not be imposed on products considered “necessities.” Still, she also pointed out that public places should provide better access to menstrual products.
“The menstruation stations are important because many students are living off a budget right now and may have to rationalize supplies because they can’t afford them,” Ferreyra said. “Along with some students not always being prepared for their cycles, lack of access on top of paying a sales tax for pads and tampons is wrong because periods are natural. Dirt is also natural, yet public places provide soap to wash it off. They should be providing menstrual products, as well.”
The taxation of menstrual products leads to the growing issue of period poverty, which Harvard Public Health defines as “the inability to afford period supplies.” Introducing the menstruation stations to Ball State’s campus makes it so students can first consider their menstrual health before worrying about if and when they can obtain more menstrual products.
Although the menstruation stations are new to campus, the HPA contributes to the work already done by students from the Cardinal Kitchen and the Student Government Association (SGA).
“Cardinal Kitchen is an on-campus food pantry that services Ball State students and their families. In addition to non-perishable food items, they offer toiletry items, including menstrual hygiene products,” Cherry said. “Additionally, SGA announced that it would fund free menstrual products in all of the women’s bathrooms in L.A. Pittenger Student Center and has done so ever since.”
Currently, there are no plans to expand the stations to other locations on campus. However, Cherry said anything is possible as they piloted the menstruation station in the Health Center in March.
“We’re currently collecting data on usage and feedback from students before we do anything else,” Cherry said. “The culture surrounding periods and menstrual health is changing, but there is still more work to be done.”
The Health Promotion and Advocacy Office hopes that the menstruation stations will continue to support students’ needs, increase accessibility, decrease stigma around menstruation, and educate students on the options available to make the best decisions for themselves.
If you're interested in furthering menstrual equity or requesting educational materials or programs on menstrual equity, you can call 765-285-3775 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.