Me and the Menstrual Movement
There are 1,625 student groups registered on the University of Minnesota’s GopherLink. Each student group has its place in creating part of the University of Minnesota campus culture, but I found my home in PERIOD.MN, a student group started in fall 2017 but is also a part of a larger organization called PERIOD., which began in 2014. PERIOD., as an organization operates under three pillars: serve, educate, and advocate.
My first experience with PERIOD.MN was last spring at a Menstruation Station event. They had a table in Coffman Memorial Union and I walked up because they had free doughnuts. I got to paint a banner with my finger and after was asked, “Do you want a doughnut or a napkin?” This stopped me in my tracks as one of the officers explained that many homeless and low-income menstruators have to choose between their period products and their meals for the next week.
PERIOD.MN became a part of my life and has spread through the lives of the people around me through a destigmatization of periods. I have had countless open conversations with friends, family, and co-workers about periods and how PERIOD.MN serves both the campus community and the greater metro area. PERIOD.MN serves the local Minneapolis area through the fundraising and collecting products to assemble period packs to donate to our partners. A period pack includes nine tampons and five pads that are given to our partners and distributed to homeless and low-income menstruators around the Twin Cities. Our current and growing list of partners include Harbor Light Center, The Aliveness Project, People Serving People, St. Stephen’s: Ending Homelessness, the Jeremiah Program, and Project for Pride in Living.
At my first meeting, I learned about the international taboo of periods, what a menstrual cup was, what other sustainable period products were available, and how common menstrual disorders and symptoms were amongst my peers. The education I received on periods and the kinds of things that were happening around the world was eye-opening. How could I have missed them? How did I not know? The answer was the taboo. The stigma. The unwillingness to talk about periods and not acknowledging there is a problem.
The first thing I learned about the United States and its relation to period advocacy was that there is a luxury tax on tampons and other period products in many states. One goal of PERIOD.MN is to promote period positive policies, such as providing free period products in schools and abolishing the tampon tax. We are currently working on installing sanitary disposal units into every bathroom stall on campus because not all menstruators are women and it is important to advocate for everyone’s access to period products.
As stated on their GopherLink page, “PERIOD.MN enhances the University community by advocating for a supportive environment without stigma for all menstruators and by providing an opportunity for the University community to fulfill the hygiene needs of struggling individuals in the metro area.” PERIOD.MN has enhanced my experience of the University of Minnesota through the sincerely welcoming atmosphere it holds, the passion for helping menstruators locally and internationally, and the opportunity to talk about periods and period problems in a fun-loving space.