Half of the population on college campuses bleed monthly. It can’t be controlled and it usually isn’t enjoyed. But menstruating on Georgetown University’s campus is particularly miserable because of the lack of readily available menstrual products.
Georgetown boasts a message of cura personalis, or caring for the entire person, but has yet to follow through. The school has a moral and ethical responsibility to provide all students access to menstrual products. Such products are as essential to a person’s health as toilet paper and a lack of them can be a barrier to education.
There are 43 academic and residential buildings on Georgetown’s main campus, yet only 15 buildings have menstrual products available in select bathrooms, per a 2019 report H*yas for Choice received from the Office of Planning and Facilities Management. Georgetown has not made any information available to students about which bathrooms have products, and even those that have them run out quickly. Not a single dorm on campus has tampon or pad dispensers, and some bathrooms on campus do not even provide garbage cans in the stalls to dispose of used tampons or pads. It is unacceptable to lack readily available menstrual products when they are such a necessity in the lives of over half of Georgetown’s student body.
In a survey distributed on Georgetown’s campus by H*yas For Choice, 95.6% of the 229 undergraduate Hoyas who responded believed it is Georgetown’s responsibility to provide menstrual products on campus. The survey also found that 71.2% of Hoyas found it difficult to acquire products on campus, financially or otherwise. Currently, the only places on campus where you can obtain tampons or pads are at Vital Vittles and the campus bookstore. The closest CVS is a 15-minute walk from Georgetown. At all of these locations, the price of a single box of tampons ranges from $5.99 to $12.29. Assuming that only one box of the cheapest tampons is used by each person every month, a student that menstruates spends at least $72 a year on products.
An illogical and gendered expectation, which ignores how the accessibility of products is tied to one’s perceived gender, exists for those who menstruate to always have products on their person or to have funds to purchase products when in public situations. Georgetown, along with educational institutions across the United States, does not expect its students to buy necessities like toilet paper and always carry them on their person, so they have no reason to expect students to provide their own menstrual products.
Menstruation is not just a women’s issue. Not all women menstruate. Not everyone who menstruates identifies as a woman. Therefore, menstrual products should be available in most, if not all, bathrooms on campus so people who menstruate but do not identify as cisgender women can access menstrual products without being forced to enter a bathroom that does not align with their gender identity. Increased access to menstrual products in all bathrooms on campus will not only make getting your period at Georgetown a less worrisome process, but also has the potential to destigmatize periods for the general population, transforming menstruation from a women’s issue to a general health issue while simultaneously taking away the gendered connotation of periods.
Georgetown is late to the game in terms of providing products for students. Brown University started providing free menstrual products in all bathrooms in 2016, including the men’s bathrooms. In 2017, Harvard University began providing products in the four freshman dorms located in each of their freshman dorms. The program was so successful that the university expanded it to some upperclassmen dorms in fall 2017. Earlier this year, Yale University announced it would begin providing free menstrual products in all of its dorms. These three universities are only a few of the countless that have begun increasing access to menstrual products on their campuses.
It is Georgetown’s responsibility to provide menstrual products to its students to protect student health. Georgetown must supply period hygiene products in all women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and at least one clearly designated men’s bathroom per building. Periods should not be a stigmatized or a gendered part of students’ lives, and our school needs to do better on this issue. Georgetown needs to practice what it preaches: cura personalis, period.
Jessica Shannon is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. Keerat Singh is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service.