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Harvard will provide free menstrual products to ‘menstruators’ on campus

Dispensers are located ‘mostly’ in gender-neutral restrooms

Harvard will now supply free tampons and pads in its residence halls, a decision that comes after an extensive effort by campus menstrual activists.

Over the summer Harvard College “worked with House building managers to install a [menstrual product] dispenser in each upperclassman House and freshman yard that will provide tampons and pads,” The Harvard Crimson reports.

The Crimson reports that the dispensers, “which custodial staff will fill regularly, are mostly located in gender-neutral restrooms in order to reach students who may not be comfortable in a women’s bathroom.”

“I think it is normalized in our society that we expect menstruators to carry their tampons and pads around, but if you actually think about it, it makes no sense, and it is extremely gendered,” Emma He, president of Harvard’s chapter of the activist group PERIOD, told The Crimson.

“Menstruator” is a word that some activists use to avoid connecting the act of menstruation to women. The menstrual product company GladRags, for instance, uses it as a way of “trying to make room for everyone” because “not everyone who is a woman…menstruates…[and] not every person who menstruates is a woman, either.”

From The Crimson‘s report:

When advocates for the program brought the proposal to College administrators, they said they would require “extensive data” demonstrating need for the products before they might consider funding such a large-scale program, according to Agrawal, now the chair of the UC’s Student Life Committee, and Emma Y. He ’19, president of PERIOD.

UC and PERIOD leaders got to work collecting that data.

In the spring of 2017, the Council allocated $1,000 for a pilot program in freshman dorms. In fall 2017, the pilot was expanded to four upperclassmen houses. By all accounts, the initiative was successful, with supplies frequently exhausted due to high demand.

Still, student leaders wanted to bring a stronger case to administrators, so the Council commissioned a survey to ask students about the prospect of wider availability of menstrual products.

In recent years, UC surveys have received relatively low response rates, most likely a reflection of a broader lack of student engagement with Council affairs.

This time was different, though. Over 2,000 students responded to the menstrual hygiene survey, the most of any survey in UC history.

Over 97 percent of respondents to that survey expressed a belief that “the College should provide students with free menstrual hygiene products in all dorms and public places such as libraries etc.”

Read the report here.

MORE: Students cover themselves in fake menstrual blood to advocate free menstrual products on campus

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