Students rally for accessible menstrual products

Decked out in all-red outfits and holding up signs of protest, student organization Emerson Flows will gather in City Hall Plaza on Oct. 19 to rally against period poverty.

Mass NOW, Massachusetts National Organization for Women, will join Emerson Flows, Emerson’s official campus organization for menstrual advocacy, at the rally. The rally is happening in conjunction with the first ever National Period Day. All fifty states and Washington D.C. will hold their own rally in celebration of National Period Day.

Natalie DeRoche, president of Emerson Flows, said the rally supports the Massachusetts chapter of NOW’s “I AM” statewide bill. The bill is co-sponsored by senators Patricia Jehlen and Julian Cyr. Rep. Christine Barber is also a sponsor of the bill along with 70 others from both the House and Senate. The legislation would make menstrual products available in all Massachusetts public school bathrooms, homeless shelters, and prisons.

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“[The bill] will reduce the social stigma and prohibitive cost of necessary health products … I am looking forward to working to move the bill forward this legislative session,” Barber said in a statement from Mass NOW.

DeRoche stressed the necessity of inclusivity in the legislature.

“The bill has very inclusive language, so it wouldn’t only be provided in the women’s restrooms,” DeRoche said in an interview. “It’s for anyone who has a period, so anyone who needs a product can have one.” 

The rally is sponsored by PERIOD., a national organization that has over 450 registered chapters across the US. PERIOD.’s mission to end period poverty is fulfilled by these chapters, who distribute sanitary products to the homeless.

Emerson Flows decided to attend the rally in July, when Linzy Rosen, the rally’s lead organizer, first announced it. Rosen, PERIOD. chapter president at Brandeis University, said that the overall goal following the rally is to push lawmakers to support the “I AM” bill. 

“There was a survey that was conducted by Mass NOW that found that all counties in the state had distribution plans, but only two of them had actual policies,” Rosen said in a phone interview. “So there are plans in place, but we don’t actually have any action.” 

With around 300 to 500 people planning on attending, Massachusetts is slated to have the largest expected turnout out of all fifty states, according to Rosen. Many of the attendees are students in PERIOD. chapters from colleges across the state.

Junior Elizabeth Pine plans on attending the rally this Saturday with the rest of Emerson Flows.

“I’m psyched to spark some change hopefully and be a part of the movement that’s going to bring help to people in need and break down some social barriers while we’re doing it,” Pine said.

Each rally focuses on a period equity–related issue that is relevant to their state. Massachusetts no longer has an upcharge on women’s health care items, commonly known as the “Pink Tax,” but 35 states still do. Ending tampon tax is one of the key issues for both the rallies in Hawaii and Florida, according to the PERIOD. website.

Emerson Flows already played a role in helping combat period poverty, starting on Emerson’s campus. During the 2017-18 school year, the organization initiated putting menstrual products in the fifty most popular campus bathrooms.

“We coordinated with Campus Life to get [menstrual products] in the school budget so we wouldn’t have to supply the products, Emerson would, just because that’s something they should do because it’s a necessity,” DeRoche said. 

After the rally, Emerson Flows will hold their annual holiday drive in December where students will be able to donate menstrual products. These donations will then be passed on to the St. Francis House homeless shelter on Tremont Street.

“There are so many people who don’t have access to these products, and it’s something that we don’t always think about,” DeRoche said.

Moving forward, Emerson Flows hopes to get involved with grade school and middle school students in an effort to educate them and get rid of the stigma that periods are “icky,” DeRoche said.

“It’s such a stigmatized issue,” DeRoche said. “Having a rally that’s talking about periods is kind of a big deal,  because it’s not something that a lot of people feel comfortable talking about.”

Copy Managing Editor Abigail Hadfield and Living Arts Editor Grace Griffin did not edit this article due to conflict of interest.

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