Students in the greater Boston area just helped their town become the first in the US to provide free period products in all public restrooms.
Brookline Town Meeting Member Rebecca Stone and two students presented the issue on May 23, according to the Hill. They made a convincing argument and compared period products to toilet paper, Patch reported. That night, residents voted to approve a plan to stock male and female bathrooms with tampons and pads.
Product dispensary machines will be installed by July 2021. They will cost about $40,000 to set up in the first year and then $7,300 to maintain annually, according to Patch. Advocates in Massachusetts are hopeful for what this means for the future of the menstrual equity movement.
Sasha Goodfriend, president of Mass NOW, the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women, is excited and proud that Brookline is the first city to make menstrual products available in public buildings.
“The menstrual equity movement, in general, is about taking periods out of the closet, and making sure that we are talking about menstruation,” Goodfriend told Global Citizen.
Passed unanimously by #BrooklineTownMeeting!! So proud of an awesome #BHS team and proud of my Town for taking this big step for #MenstrualEquity. #history#equity@MassNOW@NPR@MeghnaWBUR@PeriodPartner@FreeTheTamponshttps://t.co/uSehg9cNS1— Rebecca Stone, Brookline (@_RebeccaStone_) May 23, 2019
Restrooms in Brookline public buildings, including town hall libraries and parks, will stock menstrual products in both male and female bathrooms, to accommodate all people who have periods.
“It’s important to remember that not all women menstruate, and not all menstruators are women,” Goodfriend pointed out. “Trans men also menstruate, for example, and if they’re using men’s bathrooms, they need not only access to menstrual products but also access to garbages, to put the products in afterward.”
Lack of adequate garbage disposal seems like an oversight, Goodfriend explained, but it’s an essential part of making sure people who menstruate feel safe, comfortable, and included.
Brookline High School students first raised the issue of access to period products in public spaces in a column published in the school newspaper in 2018. Officials expressed concern about the cost of providing free period products and the possibility of some people taking advantage of the supplies.
“Is it that big of a deal if someone in need takes more than one?" Brookline High School student Eva Stanley asked Thursday night, according to Patch.
The Brookline School Committee will have to vote to have the new law apply to public schools.
“We know not having access to menstrual products causes menstruators to miss school,” Goodfriend said, “by working on menstrual equity policy we’re also combating education inequality, health inequality, and income inequality.”
Read More: Period Poverty: Everything You Need to Know
Some states including New York, Georgia, and New Hampshire provide free tampons and pads in schools already. Mass NOW is currently working on the I Am (Increased Access to Menstrual products) bill, which will be the first statewide legislation to guarantee period products are free in public schools, prisons, and shelters.
Menstrual health advocates across the world are fighting to end period poverty, which is not only the lack of access to sanitary products. People who get periods need access to menstrual hygiene education, toilets, and hand washing facilities, too, to manage their periods safely, and with dignity.
“It’s not only about access but it’s about combating the stigma against menstruation because the real power of the stigma is in the taboo, it’s in the fact that we can’t even talk about periods,” Goodfriend said.