Period OSU: The Menstrual Movement
“The period movement is a fight for menstrual equity,” explains Ameer Abdulrahman of the Period OSU chapter, “It is a fight to end menstrual stigma and a belief that menstrual care is a basic human right.”
Though founded just four months ago, the Period OSU chapter has already gained significant ground for the period movement: they have held product drives and period packaging parties to organize tampons, pads, and other menstrual products into packages to be distributed to the local YWCA; they are preparing to hold period policy workshops on campus as well as start a conversation about periods at OSU’s upcoming Sex Week; and they have launched a petition working with the Undergraduate Student Government to provide menstrual products to all residence halls and academic buildings, having so far expanded the number of restrooms with menstrual products to 140 across campus.
The chapter met with Councilmember Elizabeth Brown to learn about her focus on working to provide menstrual products in all Ohio school restrooms. Period OSU isn’t just concerned about menstrual provisions for Ohio students; they recently marched at DC with 40 members from Period chapters across the US, along with Period founder Nadya Okamoto and members of the menstrual hygiene company THINX, to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene concerns in schools across the country.
“It is the job of the Department of Education to put students in the best position possible to succeed in school,” Ameer explains, “By not providing these products in school restrooms, they are holding menstruators back from being able to attend school consistently, receive the education they deserve, and ultimately reach their full potential. We marched to demand that Betsy DeVos, US Secretary of Education, take action on this issue, acknowledge the importance of menstrual products across school restrooms, and work to provide the option of these products to all those in need.”
During this march, they also submitted 35,000 signatures to Secretary DeVos to support their mission of getting these menstrual products into school restrooms. However, there has been no word on Secretary DeVos’s response.
The OSU chapter has also met with Ohio House Representative Brigid Kelly, who recently authored a bill to remove the Tampon Tax in Ohio. The Tampon Tax is a tax placed on menstrual products in over 30 states, deeming them a luxury item rather than a medical necessity. The tampon tax negatively impacts menstruator health and finances, as Period OSU reports that, in Ohio alone, “menstruators make up more than 50% of the population and are taxed over $4 million a year on tampons and pads alone.”
“This is unfair extra pressure being placed on menstruators, especially those of the homeless community, for products that are necessities and nothing less. I’ve heard stories of families who have had to choose between putting bread on the table and buying menstrual products, and it really puts the tax into perspective. It shows the true effects that it has, not only on menstruators, but on their families as well.”
Homeless women unable to afford products often have little choice but to use the menstrual products that they do have longer than medically advised. This can lead to infections like Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is often difficult to detect and can be deadly.
“These products are in no way a luxury item: they are a medical necessity,” says Ameer, “and it is about time we as a community and a government began treating them as such.”
Toxic Shock Syndrome is not the only concern facing menstruators: Period OSU also works to inform people about different menstrual disorders such as PMDD and endometriosis, which often go unaddressed, as well as to combat the stigma surrounding menstruation. Period OSU wants everyone to know that “menstruating is just as natural as any other bodily function and it must be treated as seriously.” By helping remove stigma and educate about menstruation, the chapter believes they will garner more support for getting products into restrooms and residence halls, treating menstrual disorders, removing the tampon tax, and ultimately ending period poverty.
Being a part of Period OSU has taught Ameer that the Period movement “is more than only about menstrual care. It’s about gender equality on all levels.” On the topic of solidarity, he explains that he feels “it is necessary that we as men must stand up for what is right and stand up for something greater than ourselves, because fighting for issues surrounding menstruation and gender equality is fighting for human rights.”
“Period has showed me that even though we may be young activists, our voices are much louder than we know, and by speaking out we can have a real impact on our communities and society.”