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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

Strong Women, Strong Girls, Brandless collaborate to distribute free menstrual products on campus

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Members of the Tufts chapter of Strong Women Strong Girls pose for a picture on March 8 in Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center.

Disclaimer: Yanelle Cruz is a staff writer at The Tufts Daily. She was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.

Tufts Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) and Brandless, an online grocery retailer, distributed free tampons and panty liners at an event in the lobby of Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center yesterday.

According to Stephanie Chen Schmidt, a campus brand representative for Brandless, the pop-up distribution event was being done in coordination with similar events at Tulane and University of California, BerkeleyChen Schmidt, a senior, said products left behind after the event ended were donated to local women’s shelters.

SWSG Chapter Director Priyanka Kumar, also a senior, said the event was timed to happen on International Women’s Day.

“Who is being included on international women's day, and who isn't? What does 'international' mean in this context? We took it as an opportunity to engage more with these ideas, and promote cultures of open dialogue and [de-stigmatization],” Kumar told the Daily in an email.

The event featured a temporary installation, erected in the Dewick lobby, which consisted of three-foot-high letters made of pad and tampon boxes spelling out “TAKE CARE.”

People entering and exiting the dining hall were encouraged to take as many boxes of menstrual products as they wished. They were also encouraged to participate in the installation by filling in blank space on signs that read “I feel cared for when…” SWSG members took photos of people holding the signs.

Responses included “I care for myself,” “I get hugs from my friends” and “I receive free tampons.”

“The main message today was to take care and engage in self-care,” Chen Schmidt said. “That can be shown in any way possible.”

The event's language and framing were largely gender-neutral.

“We tried to be as transparent as possible with saying that we want everyone to celebrate International Women’s Day, [whatever] that means for you,” Chen Schmidt said. “A lot of the population experiences menstruation, and that’s one way to care for themselves that has been stifled and marginalized for eternity in many cultures.”

Students, staff and visitors to the university engaged with the event over the course of several hours. Some returned multiple times to take more boxes, often distributing them to friends elsewhere, according to students.

“[My friend] was just mentioning to me how we should grab some for our friend ... because tampons always run out,” first-year Himay Dharani, who came across the display in Dewick, said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, it would be a little uncomfortable to go there,’ but maybe the benefit outweighs me being slightly uncomfortable and not having ever done this before.”

Dharani noted that the event helped destigmatize menstruation.

“It’s a step in the right direction for people to see that it’s nothing to be scared of,” he said.

Other students noted the positive messaging surrounding the event.

“I think it’s cool that it’s happening on this day, and that it’s reminding women to feel cared for or take care of themselves,” junior Yanelle Cruz said.

First-year Michael Eve commented on the widespread appeal of the event.

“I definitely know a few people that can benefit from this, here and internationally, and also at home,” he said.

Cruz also spoke about the event's emphasis on self-care, which she saw as radical.

“People don’t encourage you to take care of yourself — it’s kind of revolutionary,” Cruz said. “I was thinking about it. When do I feel cared for? In which ways? I like that it poses that question.”