Alanna Carlson | Columnist
Probably the most ubiquitous complaint of women around the world is when “that time of the month” comes around. Periods are universally acknowledged as unpleasant. Symptoms from cramps to cravings, mood swings to muscle aches and bloating to breast tenderness all make periods uncomfortable at best and debilitating or possibly even life-threatening at worst. But there’s another, less talked-about issue surrounding periods: the cost of feminine hygiene products. And that cost is outrageous.
According to USA Today, the average woman spends between $150 and $300 a year on pads and tampons alone — that’s not counting any other products or services a woman on her period may need. While that cost may not sound like a lot, it adds up fast. The average woman menstruates for about 40 years. So, today’s typical woman will spend upwards of $6,000 in her lifetime just on pads and tampons.
This cost is a major problem for many women, but college students particularly feel the extra expenditure. For most students, the cost of tuition, books, supplies and room and board are already high, eating up what meager income they might have. Adding the extra expense of feminine hygiene products onto an already tight budget can mean a lot of stress for a female student.
So, what’s the solution to this problem? It’s relatively simple, actually. College campuses need to start providing feminine hygiene products to their female students free of charge.
The cost for a 36-count box of generic brand tampons at Target is $4.24 after Spokane County sales tax. That’s roughly $.12 per tampon for tampons that are still better quality than the ones available in Whitworth’s campus bathrooms. And yet, one cheap, cardboard applicator tampon costs $.25 in campus bathrooms.
Not only that, but the feminine hygiene product vending machines in the public bathrooms on campus are woefully understocked. In search of a vending machine on campus properly stocked with tampons or pads, I visited four buildings and five different bathrooms. At the time of writing, the machine on the first floor of the Hixon Union Building was empty, as was the one in the second floor bathroom in Dixon Hall. The empty Dixon Hall vending machine had a sign taped to it reading, “Feminine hygiene products available in the first floor women’s bathroom.” The machine in the first floor bathroom ate my quarter and then informed me that it, too, was empty. The machine on the first floor of the Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library didn’t work. Finally, I found a machine in the first floor bathroom in Weyerhauser Hall which had no pads, but did have tampons. I put my quarter in, and was dispensed a tampon — apparently the last one in the machine, as it also read “empty” after my purchase.
So, not only are female students and staff being charged more than twice as much as grocery store prices (for a lesser product) in the event that they need a tampon while on campus, they may also have to search several buildings on campus before finding one. This high cost and lack of availability is an unfair hindrance to female students and staff alike. With 60 percent of undergraduate students being female, according to U.S. News and World Report, this lack is unacceptable when such an easy and affordable solution exists.
Access to feminine hygiene products should not be considered a luxury. It is a necessary product for the health and safety of everyone on campus. If Whitworth can provide toilet paper in their public restrooms, they can provide basic feminine hygiene products as well.