Guest Opinion: Tampon drives benefit more than cis women


The University of Iowa Campus Activities Board was set to host an event Jan. 18 called “Read Her Lips: What Does Feminism Mean to You?” — but it was postponed because of the ice and snow.

As a 22-year-old transgender man, I often see events such as these and yearn for my teenage years as a proud feminist lesbian.

A promotional flier for the event encouraged students to stop by the open mic to share stories of how feminism has affected their lives. The colorful graphic with pop-art lips noted “the event will also be a pad and tampon drive for women in need.”

People other than women use pads and tampons — menstruation is not an exclusive experience. Some transgender men like myself, nonbinary people, cisgender girls, genderfluid individuals, agender people, and others all share the medical experience of menstruation. Just as we all might put Band-Aids on paper cuts or take antibiotics for strep throat, we all use menstruation products such as pads and tampons for our health.

This gender-exclusive language is part of a pattern I can trace across numerous menstruation product drives in my almost four years on campus. In response to Hurricane Maria in Oct. 2017, the American Association of University Women group at UI held a “feminine hygiene product drive” with promotional materials stating “supplies specifically for women are often overlooked in the process of disaster relief.”

CAB will donate the pads and tampons collected in the drive to the Crisis Center of Johnson County. I called the nonprofit and asked if the menstruation products available at the Food Bank were reserved for women or if there was any sort of screening process to get those products.

The Crisis Center specifically repackages menstruation products to A) be cost effective and stretch supply and B) make the products appear more gender neutral without traditional packaging. People, regardless of gender, are welcome to pick out the menstruation products, provided they have enough points to spare using the Food Bank’s pick-and-choose system.

University-affiliated events cannot claim feminism while still using gender-exclusive language such as this.

I am a peer educator at the Women’s Resource and Action Center, which works to create greater equity for individuals and communities of all identities, with a particular focus on women through activism, social justice initiatives, leadership training, advocacy, service, and personal and professional development. We are a major feminist group on campus, and the first thing you see when visiting the WRAC is a sign that says “All Genders Welcome.”

So what does feminism mean to me? It is all about achieving equity for everyone.

Exclusive feminism is not feminism. While these pad and tampon drives achieve the end goal of providing menstruation products to those in need, the promotional language they use is inaccurate and ultimately reinforces the gender binary in the long run.

CAB should consider changing its promotional details while it reschedules the event, perhaps to something like “tampon drive for people in need,” and future menstruation-product drives should aim to be inclusive of the entire community.

— James Hirsch

UI senior, journalism & sociology double major

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