Some men got a taste of what it feels like to experience period poverty this International Women’s Day, and they did not like it.
The organization PERIOD teamed up with ad agency Huge and installed a coin-operated toilet paper dispenser in a men’s restroom for a video campaign released on March 8. If men wanted toilet paper, they could pay for it or they could send a tweet and share a message of solidarity with people who menstruate using the hashtag #FreeThePeriod. The stunt intended to show how it feels to have to pay for a basic need.
“People think it's like an abomination to put it [toilet paper] behind a coin-operated dispenser, and then I'm like, but that's what period products are,” PERIOD Founder Nadya Okamoto told Global Citizen. “Period products are just as much of a necessity and periods are just as natural.”
The coin-operated toilet paper dispenser is the creation of Stephanie Loffredo, associate director of social marketing at Huge. Loffredo is also the designer behind the Hooha, a mobile-activated tampon dispenser that users can text to dispense a free tampon.
While only a few used the bathroom stall with the coin-operated toilet paper dispenser due to filming, many who did were not prepared and did not have coins on them, the creators of the video told Adweek. The installation forced the men to experience how frustrating it can be if you can't pay for a tampon or pad.
"The most common realization we get is, 'Oh my gosh, I've never thought about period products in general,'" Okamoto said. "Even more progressive men are like, 'Oh well aren't there already period products?' It's just not something they've thought about. That's kind of the crazy thing, stigma makes it an ignored need."
In women’s restrooms, 92% of the time period products are missing, Okamoto said in the video. In the US, 25 million women who are living below the poverty line are at risk of living with consistent access to period products and 31 states still tax period products as luxury items. All over the world, especially in developing countries, people who menstruate miss school and work because they do not have access to the proper information or safe sanitation necessary to manage their periods.
PERIOD is focusing its efforts on fighting for policies that provide period products in schools in 2020. To draw attention to period poverty, the organization is also encouraging people to tweet bathroom selfies from schools, workplaces, and businesses that do not provide free period products using the hashtag #FreeThePeriod. Okamoto has already received positive responses from hotels that she tagged that said they would speak to management about making period products available.