Take that, stigma!
Toilet paper, like the hand soap and paper towels we also find in public restrooms, is a sanitary product.
And at some point in our history, a decision was made to make those products available to everyone for free in public restrooms because it's good for the public.
The same logic (and courtesy) has yet to be extended to the tampon.
Despite the occasional protestation on Twitter...
...and a whole movement for bathroom equality...
...they still ain't free in most places.
In fact, you're lucky if you can even find one of these things stocked and functional:
Some companies have seen the light, and the light says, "Free the tampon!"
Since 1981, Apple has made tampons just as available to their employees as toilet paper.
If only Apple ran every public restroom. But they don't. So women have to either guesstimate and preempt or be forced into spontaneous DIY projects using the toilet paper at hand until they can find an ally with supplies or a corner store, where they'll spend almost $10 because corner stores don't sell individual tampons or pads.
That raises an important economic argument for making women's hygiene products available for free in public restrooms:
40 million women live in poverty in the United States. A year's worth of tampons or pads can cost around $60 — and these products are not covered by food stamps.
The lack of feminine hygiene products has been a HUGE problem for homeless shelters and prisons. One Michigan prison has been sued, in part, for denying prisoners access to pads and tampons. And in homeless shelters, donors are wising up in light of reports that shelters are sorely lacking in period gear.
But who bears the brunt of the problem? Low-income teens, says Al Jazeera's Lisa De Bode:
"Many girls were reported to miss school to avoid the embarrassment of staining their clothes, according to representatives at the meeting, or having to ask staff members for menstrual hygiene products."
Really, America? Last I checked, America was not about being the place where young women are forced, due to lack of resources, to stay home from school because they have their period.
That's like LeBron James missing basketball practice because he forgot his socks and there's a stigma around feet.
But New York City is ready to up its tampon game! And hopefully more cities will follow.
"I just felt there was a shame associated with something that just says that you're absolutely healthy," says Julissa Ferreras, a New York City councilwoman. "Celebrating that to me is why we need to remove the taboo."
Ferreras is drafting legislation and assessing the costs of making tampons and pads free in NYC public junior and high schools. In an interview with the New York Post, she raised yet another great point on this issue:
“In a city where we hand out free condoms, we should be making tampons more affordable and accessible."
So what are we waiting for, folks? Let's free the tampon!