A female student sits in class on Western’s campus. While listening to her professor’s lecture, she realizes she started her period. After frantically looking through her backpack to find a tampon, she realizes she does not have one with her. She is now faced with the choice of asking a stranger for a tampon or rummaging for change to use the toiletry dispensers in the restrooms. For many women, this scenario is an all too common reality because Western does not provide free toiletries for students.
This situation might soon be avoidable thanks to a new club called Free the Toiletry. The club wishes to provide free tampons and pads in restrooms on campus.
Last year, club president Paige Rosson was in a sociology class where she was assigned to write a persuasive letter. Around the same time, Rosson had been reading articles about the tax on tampons in Europe. After spending some time researching more on the topic, she wrote her letter to the Student Health Center in an attempt to persuade them to provide free tampons to students.
In her letter, she argued the health center supplies free condoms, so why not toiletries? Students can walk to the health center on campus at any time and pick up condoms, but there is nowhere on campus for women to receive free toiletries, Rosson said.
“Sex is a choice. Having a menstrual cycle is not,” Rosson said.
The health center didn’t begin to supply free toiletries after receiving Rosson’s letter, so she decided to take matters into her own hands. She started devising a plan over the course of a year to make her vision of free toiletries for Western students come true.
Rosson has two major supporters in her endeavour. Danielle Freyer, Rosson’s roommate, is a senior and business management major who became interested in Rosson’s plan after hearing Rosson talk so passionately about her ideas. After doing more research on the topic, Rosson said she quickly became engrossed in the idea as well. Freyer said she knew she wanted to help Rosson make the club possible.
“Sex is a choice. Having a menstrual cycle is not.”
Another one of Rosson’s biggest supporters is her childhood friend, Samuel Backman. A senior economics major, Backman became interested in the club after talking to Rosson over beers one evening. Hearing Rosson’s passion and vision for the club convinced Backman to become active as well.
Freyer said the issue is a relatable one for women.
“What am I supposed to do if I don’t have anything?” Freyer said. “I have a bladder and there is toilet paper in the bathroom. Why aren’t there tampons?”
Rosson became increasingly interested and aware of gender inequality in society after coming to Western.
“I have spent a lot of time opening my eyes to some of the double standards within how we behave in our genders,” Rosson said. “We’ve been living so long in this kind of world where it’s generally accepted women just have to pay for that stuff and that’s life. That just struck me deep. I realized this isn’t fair and we could make a huge change about it.”
Another primary goal for the club is to minimize the taboo placed on tampons and other menstrual products.
“We want to bring this out in the open and say, ‘There’s no reason to hide the fact that you have a menstrual cycle, everybody knows it already.’’ Rosson said.
“I realized this isn’t fair and we could make a huge change about it.”
If the club gains traction, the goal is to supply an organic, natural brand of tampons and pads in all bathrooms on campus.
“That way, it’s not even a question, so you don’t have to worry about it when you’re in class or in any situation. It’s just there,” Rosson said.
The club will hold its first meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20. The location of the meeting is still being determined, and future meetings will be bi-weekly. For further information on the club, visit their Facebook page “Free the Toiletry WWU” or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.