The City Connection

February 14, 2023

Every other Tuesday morning, City High student Jennie Gidal ‘23 sells baked goods in the main foyer in exchange for menstrual products or cash donations. This is Tampon Tuesday, which Gidal is head of. It is an effort by students, sponsored by Student Senate, to provide free period products in school restrooms through student donations. According to Gidal, Tampon Tuesday not only exists to provide free menstrual products in the restrooms but also to destigmatize periods. 

“[Tampon Tuesday] exists to supply all the tampons and menstrual products in the bathrooms for students who may not have access to them at home or just those people who may have forgotten one at home,” Gidal said. “But [it] also exists to normalize talking about periods and menstrual products and the need for them because it is definitely a necessity.”

Gidal first got involved in the group last year.

“I first learned about Tampon Tuesday my junior year of high school and I learned about it from my friend,” Gidal said. “She was running it and it seemed like such a good cause.”

Gidal had always been curious about where the period products in the school restrooms came from, and has since found a calling being involved in the group.

“I always wondered where the tampons in the bathrooms came from. And when I started helping [my friend] do [Tampon Tuesday], it felt like I was actually making a difference in both ways by supplying the tampons in the bathroom and also just letting people know [about] and normalizing periods,” Gidal said.

According to the 2021 State of the Period, a national survey of American teenage students conducted by PERIOD and Thinx, the pandemic has further exacerbated period poverty among students with 23% of students facing struggles when it comes to affording necessary menstrual hygiene products. And, according to a recent survey of City High students, 57% of respondents said that they used the period products supplied by Tampon Tuesday, while 60% said they knew students who used the products. 

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Gidal said of the statistics. “It makes me really happy that people are actually using the products that we supply in the bathroom but it also makes me sad that so many people have to rely on [the products from Tampon Tuesday], that it’s our job to make that happen, and [that] the school district isn’t helping.”

In years past students have tried to get district administration’s attention about the issue of period product availability at City. 

“Last year, there were a couple of students who communicated with the administration and the school board to [try to] get funding for products for our school directly,” Student Body Co-President Mary Cate Pugh ‘23 said. “They said ‘Oh, they’re provided in the health office’ but that wasn’t really what we were going for. We wanted them in the bathrooms because that’s the most successful [place for students to get the products]. So then we created Tampon Tuesday.”

In addition to the donations taken by Tampon Tuesday, Pugh secured a grant from the Iowa City Community Foundation for products in the school restrooms. 

“This summer, I applied for a grant from the Iowa City Community Foundation and we got to $250,” Pugh said. “We’ve tried a bunch of different things. But mainly, the direct funding from the district has not been approved yet.”

According to the State of the Period survey, period poverty particularly affects Latinx and Black students with 23% of Latinx students having to choose between buying menstrual hygiene products or other necessities such as food or clothing. Furthermore, according to the same study, almost half of Black and Latinx students feel unable to perform their best in school because of the lack of accessible period products. For Pugh, having free period supplies in school restrooms is a matter of equity. 

“I think for most people, not having period products at school is just a minor inconvenience. It’s like ‘Oh, I forgot it. Oh, well, I have some at home’,” Pugh said. “But for some students that causes a very pressing issue, because they do not have the funds to buy them themselves, or don’t feel safe asking for them at home. Students need to feel like they’re taken care of here [and] we can’t just assume that they have the money to buy them because they’re expensive.”

According to the survey of City students, 9% of respondents have missed school because of lack of products. Furthermore, 58% of respondents have been late to class because of product accessibility issues. This is a large concern of Pugh’s.

“If they don’t have [period products], then students won’t come to school when they’re on [their period], and that causes a lot of absences,” Pugh said. 

Overall, Pugh is thrilled that Tampon Tuesday has been successful with consistently providing products to students. 

“Students are relying on what they have at school. And I think it’s great that Tampon Tuesday has become so reliable that students know it’s a resource and that they can use them,” Pugh said. 

The concern about period product accessibility is shared by City High Orchestra Director Megan Stucky-Swanson. 

“A couple years ago, Mrs. Davenport, the old Music Secretary and I thought that the women’s bathroom across our hall had wasted space and we wanted to make a little bit nicer area for the students,” Stucky-Swanson said. “And there’s a lot of women that need products that don’t have access to them. So we thought we would make that our pet project.”

For the first few years of supplying hygiene products in the music wing bathroom, the products were funded completely by Stucky-Swanson and Davenport. The products in the music wing bathroom are now majority funded by donations from orchestra families.

“[The products were funded by us] when we first started and all of last year,” Stucky-Swanson said. “But in the summer, I created an Amazon wishlist for the orchestra program and so I had lots of parents that donated.”

Stucky-Swanson has been happy to help provide menstrual products for students.

“Not everybody has access to them so I feel like it’s something that I can do to help make somebody’s day a little bit easier,” Stucky-Swanson said. “So worth it.”

In addition to the district providing products to any student who walks into the Health Office and getting a yearly donation of products from OB-GYN students, School Nurse Suzi Wilkes makes makeup bags with products for students who regularly use the Health Office’s products.

“We have some little makeup bags that are full, so if we see it’s the same students [who] come in and get them on a regular basis we’ll say ‘hey do you need some?’,” Wilkes said.

Erin Partridge ‘24 believes that the accessibility of period products at City has been improved by having products in the restrooms.

“I think [access to period products at City is] pretty good but I think most of that is due to the Tampon Tuesday people and not the school itself,” Partridge said.

Partridge believes that for the school to make menstrual products as accessible as possible it is necessary to provide them in all restrooms.

“I think the school should provide menstrual supplies in all bathrooms and not just in the health office because it can be uncomfortable to ask,” Partridge said. “Emphasis on all the bathrooms because I have friends who don’t feel comfortable going in the women’s bathrooms but need menstrual products.”

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