Culture

Tampons Are Coming to the Men's Room at Brown University

YouTube screenshot of an "If Men Had Periods" awareness campaign from WaterAid.

The student body president at Brown University, Viet Nguyen, will personally be handing out free tampons and pads in men’s, women’s, and gender neutral restrooms on campus, Newsweek reported Tuesday.

“We wanted to set a tone of trans-inclusivity, and not forget that they’re an important part of the population,” Nguyen explained in an email announcing his bathroom project. “I’d be naïve to say there won’t be push back [sic]. I’ve had questions about why we’re implementing this in male bathrooms as well. It’s an initial confusion, but people generally understand when we explain it.”

How do you explain it? “Men can have periods, too.” This is why the feminist hashtag #IfMenHadPeriods made a whole bunch of LGBT activists on Twitter insanely angry. Apparently, declaring the biological fact that people born with an X and Y chromosome (previously known as “men,” in the benighted ages) do not get periods is “transphobic” and “essentialist.”

To a sensible person, this might seem like insanity. But this is an Ivy League college we’re talking about.

To be fair, part of Nguyen’s plan is actually a very good thing. “There’s been a lot of conversation about why pads and tampons are a necessity, not a luxury, but not a lot of action,” Nguyen wrote. “We wanted to take it into our own hands. Low-income students struggle with having the necessary funding for food, let alone tampons.”

The idea that low-income students struggle with obtaining tampons might be insulting, but so long as the student body wants to spend their dues providing tampons for everyone with two X chromosomes (previously called “women”), it may be a good idea. After all, women from puberty to menopause do need them, and so long as the people who would be footing the bill agree that tampons should be free in principle, there is no reason to object.

Next Page: How the campus faculty responded.

Nguyen, a senior studying education policy, sent the email on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the campus faculty praised the “tremendous initiative” of this program.

“In efforts to work with and support their peers, leaders from the Undergraduate Council of Students take on a number of student-focused efforts each year,” Brian Clark, director of News and Editorial Development, told Campus Reform. “These are student-led and independent of the university administration, although we recognize that many important resources on campus today were first identified and advocated for by students themselves.” Clark promised that the administration would keep an eye on the program moving forward.

“Feminine products are not a luxury. They’re as essential as toilet paper,” Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, told Britain’s The Guardian. “Students’ participation in school should not be hindered by insufficient access to this basic necessity. Universities around the country should follow suit.”

Newsweek reported that Brown is not alone. New York City launched a pilot program putting free menstrual products in one school last spring, and then expanded it to 25 schools. By November, every school building with students in grades 6 through 12 will have free tampons and pads. “Students must feel comfortable during their classes so they can focus on learning, and having free, easy access to menstrual products is essential,” a Department of Education spokesperson said.

The real question the LGBT activists will soon be asking: Are those tampons in men’s restrooms as well? I also would like to know, just to gauge how much The Big Apple has lost it.