Wait–this isn’t already the norm?

That monthly gift can creep up on us when we least expect it, leaving us with sweaters tied around our waists as we sprint out of lecture to buy an entire box of tampons at the Cornell Store. Suddenly, there’s $8.19 down the drain since absolutely nobody carries quarters for the run-down machines in the women’s bathrooms.

Menstruating is already enough of a hassle, but for some reason the necessities for dealing with our bodies’ needs during this time are treated as luxuries.

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The truth is that periods are a normal bodily function like any other. When you walk into a bathroom there’s toilet paper, paper towels, soap, and sinks to meet sanitary needs, so why are other hygienic products out of reach? There’s no required 25 cent entry fee every time someone enters the bathroom to cover the cost of their toilet paper use, so why should we be charged for the necessary use of tampons and pads?

The ability to walk into a bathroom and find free tampons and pads should be essential–nobody’s lifestyle or performance should be hindered by insufficient access. On a campus that highly values the health and wellbeing of its students (and one that’s overflowing with free condoms and lube), it’s only logical that we promote public health across the board.

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Thankfully, Cornell is following Brown’s lead on the issue, and Referendum #30 has made it to the Student Assembly drawing board, posing the question to students: Should pads and tampons be available free of charge in all bathrooms on campus?

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Now, along with choosing between a hundred new representatives for the assembly, it’s our turn to decide on the issue. By providing free pads and tampons in all campus bathrooms, Cornell would take a huge step toward gender equality. We would be sending the message that feminine hygienic needs are just as valid as any other and must be met–no matter the state of a person’s change purse or the bathroom that they use. It’s important to recognize that using the bathroom is not always a convenient, routine trip — especially when cramps are dictating your every move and you’re worrying about when you last changed your tampon to avoid nightmares about toxic shock syndrome. With this understanding in mind, we have to work to make this process convenient, comfortable, and sanitary for everyone.

Tampons and pads are necessities, not luxuries, and it is crucial that we support each other in assuring that everyone’s personal needs are met. Making these basic hygienic items free and easily accessible is a push in the right direction to eliminate the ubiquitous “pink tax” and is a model for states everywhere. This small step can act as a catalyst to begin to mitigate the insidious economic gender inequality in our country. Let’s continue to foster an accessible and inclusive environment at Cornell by taking a stand for the equality of our students.

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