As more than half of the student body can testify, empty period product dispensers are a common sight in bathrooms all across campus. Menstrual product containers in bathrooms often open to reveal that they’re disappointingly empty, and in many bathrooms, these dispensers and containers aren’t available at all. The lack of readily available menstrual products on campus is not just an inconvenience, but also sends a message, whether willingly or not, that the needs of menstruating students on campus have been deprioritized.
The numbers speak for themselves. This past Wednesday, the board of The Phillipian conducted an informal survey of all womens’ and gender neutral bathrooms in academic and athletic facilities on main campus. Defined as all public-facing student facilities from Graves to the Phillips Academy Ice Rinks, we counted bathrooms where menstrual products were available. We noted if bathrooms were equipped with product dispensers or not, whether these were paid or free dispensers, and whether these dispensers were stocked or empty.
In our survey, we found that of 51 womens’ and gender neutral bathrooms on campus, only 24 were equipped with pad and tampon dispensers. Of these 24, just nine were stocked with menstrual products. These statistics, although informally collected, reflect a common sentiment among students who menstruate: that bathrooms on campus are severely understocked with period products. Students should feel assured that if they find themselves in need of a pad or tampon, they can turn to the restroom down the hall, rather than panickedly texting friends or running around campus searching for one. Regularity and reliability are crucial.
It is important, also, to note that we did not survey mens’ restrooms for period products. Unlike many boarding schools, Andover does not offer menstrual products in mens’ bathrooms, an oversight of the transmasculine students who use mens’ facilities. We recognize that for the majority of Andover’s male student body, pads and tampons may not be particularly useful (aside from a quick stop to a bad nosebleed — as Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson did during this year’s World Cup). But, we as a community must consider the ways we can make our bathroom facilities more inclusive, whether that be ensuring menstrual products are available in all bathrooms, or installing signs on gendered restrooms that all students — regardless of birth sex — can use a facility if it aligns with their gender identity (as Exeter does).
For an institution that emphasizes “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” offering menstrual products in all campus bathrooms available reciprocates these values. But beyond the bathroom, we must consider how we can dismantle social taboos around periods. Education on the science of menstruation (such as currently in our Biology 100 curricula) and how to dismantle misogynistic language around periods should be implemented in Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion (EBI) and Physical Education programs. We must also support student initiatives, such as womens’ rights and reproductive health clubs, in their endeavours to promote period education and resources.
At Andover, it is a privilege to not only have access to menstrual products, but to expect them to be provided for our student body. Nevertheless, we believe that taking steps to ensure that our students have access to the period resources and education they need affirms Andover’s commitment to tackling sex and gender discrimination, as well as our dedication to gender equity.