Student Government passed a bill last week to finance 10 feminine hygiene product dispensers along with 6,000 feminine hygiene products. The dispensers, purchased from the company Aunt Flow, will be placed in various buildings around campus.
The SG bill, titled On the Fleaux, functions as an extension of the Period Project, a previous initiative that also offered free feminine hygiene products. The bill was written by SG sens. Alaysia Johnson and Revathi Menon.
“I want women to have access to these products because menstruation is a completely natural process that every woman goes through, and we have to treat it that way,” Menon said. “My colleagues and I knew Student Government had the money to fund these dispensers for the Women’s Center, and so it was our responsibility to take these on.”
In partnership with the LSU Women’s Center, On the Fleaux will provide women and non-binary people with access to free, high-quality menstruation products. SG is deciding which on-campus locations need dispensers most. Johnson said feminine hygiene products are not given out as resources on campus.
“Walking around campus, particularly in Free Speech [Alley], people are giving out so many different resources. When it comes to sex education and hygiene, things like condoms, stickers, even HIV [awareness] lip balm is given out, but not pads and tampons,” Johnson said. “The fact of the matter is that feminine hygiene products are viewed and advertised as a luxury. They’re taxed like a luxury and women are often shamed for even needing them.”
Menon said each dispenser will hold up to 50 pads and 100 tampons and will be equipped with a delayed dispensing mechanism to prevent over-consumption. After getting a pad or tampon from a dispenser, there will be a 30-second delay until the next one is dispensed.
The dispensers will cost $2,000, while the products will cost $3,000 for 3,000 pads and 3,000 tampons. Not only will the feminine products be free for students, they will also be sustainable and organic.
Menon said On the Fleaux is meant to help female students feel more confident on campus and help with unexpected periods.
“This was really important for me personally because I’ve had experiences where I’ve been surprised by my cycle and wasn’t able to access any products,” Menon said. “I’ve had to rely on the kindness of random women to provide me with products that are considered a luxury item when they’re a necessity.”
Johnson said dispensers might not be limited to female bathrooms so non-binary students using male bathrooms could also access the products. The senators were careful to use inclusive language when writing the bill, trying to reach everyone who has periods but does not necessarily identify as female.
According to Johnson and Menon, they had to overcome some obstacles to pass the bill, including explaining the importance of the initiative to senators who didn’t need the products.
“It’s interesting to me that people who don’t have a vagina tend to be the ones making decisions on behalf of those that do,” Johnson said. “It’s time for men to stick up for women and give us the support and resources to succeed. This initiative is the perfect way for them to do so.”
Menon said that others were also concerned about the bill not being relevant to all students. She said there were arguments that money and effort should be focused on issues that affected all students, like infrastructure.
“While I agree that infrastructure is a huge issue at LSU, that problem is completely separate from the issue of a lack of menstrual products and has nothing to do with how relevant our bill was to the student body,” Menon said. “Even if you aren’t a woman, everyone has a woman they care about in their life, and that is reason enough to care.”
Johnson said the bill will ease financial burdens caused by periods and should be prioritized.
“In a period where our reproductive rights are being attacked, it’s important that women have a voice, support and resources on campus,” Johnson said. “With this program, our girls never have to choose between buying food, textbooks or tampons.”