No tampons, no problem: NYC legislator discusses making tampons a public good.

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.


Image (altered) via jmawork/Flickr.

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:

Image (altered) by jill, jellidonut... whatever/Flickr.

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.

Apple's not just ahead of its time when it comes to iPhones. The company was one of the first clients of Nancy Kramer, the founder of Free the Tampons. Image (altered) via Matthew Yohe.

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!

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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