News & Politics

Period Activists Say Men Should Have to Pay for Toilet Paper in Public Restrooms

(YouTube screenshot)

I don’t know about you, but I wish we could go back to a world where we didn’t have to talk about periods and other bodily functions all day long. Unfortunately, we are going in the opposite direction, with toilet paper commercials showing bears with skidmarks on their Jockey shorts (where’s Mr. Whipple when you need him?) and harpies from the “Menstrual Movement” suggesting that men should have to pay for toilet paper in public restrooms.

A non-profit group called “PERIOD,” in partnership with HUGE, a marketing firm, released a tongue-in-cheek (or was it?) video on Sunday, showing what would happen if men had to insert coins into a toilet paper dispenser in a public restroom. The activists behind the video are trying to make the point that women have to pay for their own menstrual supplies, which is not fair or something.

A press release from HUGE says that in order to bring awareness about a lack of access to period products in public restrooms, the group “installed the machine in a men’s restroom as a one-day activation and filmed a video to generate conversation online about pad and tampon accessibility in public restrooms” in conjunction with International Women’s Day on Sunday.

“Toilet paper is an essential human need, and it’s free in public restrooms,” the press release goes on to say. “But for 50% of the population, an equally critical item is missing: tampons. And in the rare case they are available, they usually cost money.”

[NEWS FLASH: Everything costs money, Karen.]

The press release then goes on to make a fair point—that pads and  tampons are dispensed from “archaic, coin-operated” machines “that are rarely stocked and usually broken.” But they’re not calling for working tampon dispensers. Instead, the group says it is fighting for “freely accessible period products in schools, shelters, and prisons — because menstrual hygiene is a right and not a privilege.”

It’s only a matter of time before they uncover a penumbra in the Constitution to prove that we all have a right to free tampons.

PJM reached out to HUGE to ask if the video was a dramatization, but we had not received a response at publishing time. I can’t imagine they actually put cameras in the men’s room to monitor reactions to the TP vending machines, but who knows anymore? We’re being told that we need to have national conversations™ about stuff that was taboo just a few years ago, so I’ve given up trying to stay on top of these trends.

The good news for these crisis actors beta boys who were caught with their pants down and no quarters in their pockets is that period activists offered them a way out: “Tweet a message about period equality using #FreeThePeriod.”

“The act of tweeting is an empathy play and is meant to echo how women feel when they need to ask strangers for tampons,” HUGE explains in their press release. Further, social media users are being asked to “share a bathroom selfie calling out schools, workplaces, and businesses where period products are not offered as a way to address the problem and demand change. Users will be prompted to nominate three friends to join the fight and share their own bathroom selfie. Everyone is encouraged to tag the location, #FreeThePeriod, and @periodmovement in their posts.”

And tweet they did:

(Actually, there were only a handful of tweets from dudes and I couldn’t find a single selfie from a men’s room.)

At any rate, I have two words for these people: STOP IT!

A key element of adulting is pulling on your big girl panties every morning and preparing for the day ahead. If you’re expecting a visit from Aunt Flo, toss some supplies in your purse, simple as that. If your period shows up unannounced (it happens to all of us) Macgyver your way out of the mess with whatever you can find—paper towels, tissues, or gum wrappers from the bottom of your purse. Frankly, I don’t care. Just figure something out.

The notion that someone should have to pay for your period supplies because of The Patriarchy™ is absurd. No one has a “right” to free stuff (the fruits of someone else’s labor) and even if we did, don’t you think we should start with something everyone needs to live—like food?

BONUS PRO-TIP: You can buy tampons at Walmart for about 10 cents apiece. Even if you’re a heavy bleeder and need a dozen a day, it’s not going to cost you much more than a Starbucks latte.

Update: A spokesperson for HUGE responded to our request for a comment and said that while the video showed actors in men’s rooms, the toilet paper vending are indeed real.

Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard