On Feb. 15, third-year Western Washington University student Keara Ryan gave away approximately 720 free Diva Cups to anyone that could make it to her booth in Red Square while supplies lasted.
Ryan is the primary student who runs @TheBackOfficial on Instagram, a parody news account covering Western and Bellingham. She runs the account along with a group of other students, and though their account is primarily satire, this event was meant to seriously help those in need.
Ryan handed out these free Diva Cups in Red Square with the help of her partner, Sam Brown, who has also contributed to the Instagram account. Ryan said these particular products were returned to an Amazon vendor, for reasons such as damaged boxes or purchasing mistakes, and were going to be thrown away.
“My dad works at a storage unit, and a bunch of people run Amazon businesses out of there since it's located pretty close to Seattle, and it's cheaper to rent a storage unit than it is to rent an entire warehouse,” she said. “The nice person who runs this business doesn't want all of these to go to waste and instead works with me to donate them to local unhoused people or students.”
According to their website, Diva Cups normally retail for $39.99. Second-year Katrina Doerflinger said she believes that this price point creates an unnecessary barrier between low-income individuals and eco-friendly period products.
“People who can’t afford that have to use cheaper options that are not as sustainable,” Doerflinger said. “And ones that you eventually have to spend more money on, because these last.”
The manufacturer recommends that Diva Cups be replaced every 12 months, making them a more sustainable option as opposed to most single-use tampons and pads. However, there are various sizes, brands, materials and other factors that go into finding a menstrual cup that works for each person, and the process of finding the right one can be time-consuming and expensive.
“It’s a big investment to make, especially because the Diva Cup does not fit everybody,” Ryan said. “There are many menstrual cups out there, some for a lot cheaper, so you really don’t know what is going to work until you try it.”
Jade Phillips, the Planned Parenthood Generation Action coordinator, is also advocating for accessible period products, and the club is hosting a product drive throughout the month of February.
“The upkeep required for menstrual cups isn't possible for everyone and there is a lack of education, so not everyone is aware there are more options,” Phillips said. “So, while sustainable products do have many benefits, until they are accessible to everyone, they might not be a feasible solution to period poverty for most.”
A study conducted by U by Kotex in May 2021 found that two in five Americans have struggled with period poverty.
“For any Western students who are experiencing period poverty or find themselves in need of products on campus,” Phillips said. “I would check out the pantry on the fourth floor of the Viking Union, where there are products available.”
Western also offers single-use period products for 25 cents in several of its women’s restrooms.
“Our goals with this drive have been two-fold: advocacy and action,” Phillips said. “We aim to connect people experiencing period poverty here in town with a variety of products that they can choose from. The other part of this drive is the process of destigmatizing conversations around menstruation, accessibility and period poverty by normalizing the topic and spreading awareness.”
For more information on PP Generation’s period product drive, going until Feb. 28, visit their Instagram page for the latest updates.
Isabella Loy (she/her) is the campus news editor for The Front this quarter. She's a fourth-year transfer student majoring in news/ed journalism with a concentration in Religious Studies. She has also worked on publications at her community college and at Western's magazine, Klipsun. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.