This past week, free tampons and pads were placed in women’s bathrooms across Andover’s campus. Accompanying these supplies were posters containing information about menstruation and vaginal health. Thanks to the initiative of Antonia Leggett ’15 and the support of Andrea Orben, Isham Health Instructor, Christopher Joel, Director of Business Services, and Head of School John Palfrey, Andover has started to lessen the shame and stigma surrounding the truth of female biology. Andover has provided these feminine care products in the hopes of creating a community in which students of all genders feel safe, comfortable and accepted.
“These resources are not merely a convenience, they are a necessity,” wrote Leggett in an email to The Phillipian. “Symbolically, they demonstrate the attention to the needs of the menstruating community on campus. Throughout this process, it is clear that this aspect of women’s health has been brought to the attention of individuals who would be able to ignore it otherwise. As a society, we are so inclined to speak about female bodies in a sexual way, but as soon as an element of female biology that is less sexualized comes up, people react in a way that makes it seem unmentionable. So far, students and administrators of all genders have been incredibly supportive. It is very common for these products to be offered for free at academic institutions, so I’m glad that it is finally happening here,” continued Leggett.
The world at large seems to treat menstruation as “shameful,” “gross” or “unsanitary,” as demonstrated by various cultures’ treatment of women on their periods. Why is something so closely tied to biological womanhood deemed taboo to discuss on campus? Through Leggett’s initiative, more students have been and will be discussing feminine hygiene issues on campus. The free supplies offer a clear expression of support for those who experience menstruation at Andover. In an email to the students, Student Body Co-Presidents David Gutierrez ’15 and Rebecca Somer ’15 wrote, “We think these are amenities that have been long overdue, and we hope that they will make every month just a little bit easier.”
That said, many menstruating individuals on campus still feel excluded and unsupported.
According to the 2015 State of the Academy survey, 18 percent of those who identify as a woman said they believe that Andover is not a supportive environment for women. 40 percent of those who identify as a woman stated that they have felt discriminated against at Andover due to their gender, while only 15 percent of those who identify as a man felt that they had been discriminated against. Furthermore, 55 percent of students who identify as a man consider themselves feminists according to the 2015 State of the Academy, compared to 46 percent in the 2014 issue. While this increase in male feminists suggests an increase in support of women on campus, we must continue our efforts to promote equality amongst genders. We should work to become a campus on which all students feel safe and supported.
We know that issues of gender inequality reach beyond the Andover campus. The scale of these issues, however, should not dissuade us from taking initiative in the same way Leggett has. Andover students must take responsibility for any change we hope to see. Inequality will not solve itself. We must all, regardless of our gender, be active participants in creating an Andover that is supportive of everyone.
*This Editorial represents the views of* The Phillipian *Editorial Board CXXXVIII.*