On Oct. 19, rallies were held throughout the U.S. in order to elevate the issues of the stigma surrounding menstruation, period poverty, the lack of accessibility to sanitary products and the tampon tax. This event was the first National Period Day in history.
The local rally occurred at the Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland, drawing approximately 100 participants. It was sponsored by PERIOD, a national organization, that initially started its first chapter in Portland. In addition to the traditional elements of a rally that include speakers, chants and posters, there was also a drive to collect menstrual products for the homeless population.
A repeated mantra of the rally was “Menstrual equity is a right, not a privilege.” On campus, the Feminist Student Union (FSU) is trying to spread awareness on this message. Caroline Arnis ’22, a member of the FSU, is helping make menstrual products free and easily accessible on campus. Arnis, along with a team of FSU members, are purchasing products with their union’s budget and are in charge of restocking whenever necessary.
“At the moment we are working on expanding our period products to more places on campus, because as of right now, you can only get them in the Watzek library,” Arnis said. “We’re currently working on expanding the products to Olin.”
The FSU wants to make menstrual products easily available for women in STEM, in addition to those taking classes closer to the central academic campus.
However, the FSU struggles with the fact that the money for these products has to come straight out of their budget.
“It’s basic healthcare and should be provided by the administration,” Arnis said.
Arnis also pointed out that the Copeland Residence Hall does not have feminine hygiene trash cans in their restrooms.
The rally speakers shared that anyone who menstruates inevitably spends substantial amounts of money over their lifetimes on menstrual hygiene products, which gives to the shame and stigmatization around periods. This point is emphasized when condoms are provided for free in campus residence halls and menstrual products are not.
There are opportunities on and off campus for those interested in breaking the stigma surrounding periods and assisting those in need of hygiene products. The Portland branch of PERIOD will be hosting more rallies, drives, and political actions this year, and they are always looking for volunteers. On campus, FSU holds meetings on Mondays from 6 to 7 p.m. They are looking for more members to help make feminine hygiene products more accessible on campus.