Just say period: Advocating for menstruation education

Emelia Sherin

The brown wicker basket perched on the sink of the women’s bathroom in Bowman Hall, filled with maxi pads, condoms, intimate lubricant, and bleach free tampons serves two purposes: to help Kent State students better care for their uteruses, and to spur wider conversations about an often taboo topic — periods.

Nationally, there’s been a movement to de-stigmatize menstruation, Clare Goebel, a senior special education major said. Goebel has led the effort on campus to do so by stocking bathrooms with the essential products. “This is a movement for all of us,” Goebel said.

Goebel, an intern at the Women’s Center on Kent’s campus and a member of Ova Achievers, an organization that focuses on menstruation education and awareness. She believes that these baskets start important dialogue that can go beyond just menstruation and into intersectional topics like homelessness, sexual identity, sex education and more.

Goebel also said she asked the university to put baskets in universal and male restrooms, but Kent State Administration declined saying that on and off campus people would not be happy and feel uncomfortable.

Goebel said she uses the word “menstruators” because not everyone who menstruates identifies as female.

“I am using the term menstruators instead of females because to de-stigmatize menstruation we need to not ignore groups of people that do not identify as female and menstruate.  This is an inclusive movement for periods to be something we, as a public discuss openly and do not shame,” Goebel said.

The baskets can help to start a discussion and better educate others.

“Not everyone on campus is properly educated on menstruation and revealed the effects it has on the human body,” said Jessica Kotik, a senior psychology major.

“Some, especially those without female anatomy, don’t even understand the basics of a period. “I can’t tell you the number of times some of my friends have expressed extreme disbelief that girls can pee with tampons in,” Kotik said.

“When my one friend was shocked to learn we (menstruators) bleed and pee out of two different holes, I explained the anatomy of the vagina to him because it’s important to know,” Kotik said.

There is still a lot improper education and misconceptions about periods that causes some women to feel uncomfortable in their own skin.

According to Lady Freethinker website’s article, “How menstrual education can keep a girl in school,” by Eve Danzeisen she explained how only 12 percent of girls worldwide have access to sanitary products and transparent education.

She also voiced her concern with how people would be bullied or feel shame over their periods due to how little people know about menstruation. They are, “left to internalize, in silence, the shame they feel at having to deal with their bodies privately,”Danzeisen said.

Periods also cause psychological repercussions on the menstruator. They usually suffer from depression, anxiety, social withdrawal and self-image issues, according to Women’s Health.

Due to the lack of education, many Americans are not aware of the issue with homeless menstruation and how women use plastic bags, bread and even leaves to combat their flow. Many make tampons out of paper towels or sit in their own discharge as they rip up old cloth to use as a sanitary pad replacement, according to Bustle.

It’s better to discuss menstruation and its effects now, rather than never, especially in college. Many menstruators in college grow to become more aware of their bodies and develop a better understanding as to why society needs better education.

“College is the time when many consensual adults engage in sexual activity with partners, and one of the most important things is making sure no one gets pregnant if not trying to,” said Rebecca O’Connell, a senior criminal justice major. “If people are concerned about pregnancy they should have a general understanding of the menstrual process since that plays an important role for us. We need to know when we’re ovulating, when our period is coming and notice changes in our body that can delay our periods,” O’Connell said.

Aside from pregnancy risks, people also need to be aware of the menstrual process to properly tend to their physical and mental health.

Kent State campus is being invaded by this, being surrounded by people who are willing to use their voices to educate and spread awareness on this topic.

“I think Kent should provide more educational opportunities outside of Sex Week about how menstruation works. Education is key to learning. I feel like the general Kent State population would rather make fun of the topic, than fully understand how it works as we continue to push it aside as college men and women,” O’Connell said.

There are many clubs and organizations that assist in normalizing periods and educate campus, like Planned Parenthood, Ova Achievers, and the Women’s Center. Joining these organizations can give you the opportunity to flow down this path of activism.

“The sharing of opinions and accepting those that are different than yours is an important life skill we should be learning in college. This movement can really aid with that,” Goebel said.

Emelia Sherin is the science reporter. Contact her at [email protected]