After the Purdue Period Project aided in pushing the University Senate to implement free tampons and pads in campus restrooms last year, the group is launching another initiative this week.
This year, as a part of the club’s attempt to incorporate more “eco-feminist” ideas, the organization is partnering with the Feminist Action and Coalition for Today to organize a menstrual cup giveaway.
The sign-up window to receive a free menstrual cup runs from Monday to Sept. 28. To qualify for a free menstrual cup, students must be participating in in-person instruction at the University.
The giveaway is facilitated through OrganiCup, a company dedicated to providing eco-friendly, affordable period products for menstruators around the world. Purdue is the largest university OrganiCup has worked with.
A menstrual cup is a reusable menstrual hygiene product. Unlike tampons, which have an eight-hour maximum use, menstrual cups can be left in for up to 12 hours and, depending on the brand, can be used for up to 10 years.
“We were looking more into how we could make menstrual health more of a topic of conversation on campus and start to break that stigma,” said Jaclyn Frank, the president of the Purdue Period Project and a junior in the College of Health and Human Sciences.
Andrea DeMaria, an associate professor in public health, said the stigma surrounding menstruation is rampant.
“People don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” she said. “I think it’s oftentimes associated with sexuality and so I think that people view it as a taboo topic, and it’s ultimately not a huge part of our education.”
Despite the uneasiness people may feel when talking about menstruation, DeMaria says it’s important to prioritize these conversations.
“When we talk about it and when we normalize these experiences for everybody,” she said, “we can create this culture that is period-positive and supportive, and we can help people if they need something.
“It can improve society if we all have an understanding and are educated. It’s a very normal, healthy thing that happens.”
The Purdue Period Project and FACT also highlighted the environmental benefits of using menstrual cups in place of disposable period products.
“The average menstruator can accumulate over 400 pounds of waste from menstrual products in their lifetime,” said Delaney Mortimore, director of public relations for the Period Project and a junior in the College of Health and Human Sciences. “Knowing that you can use this product for 3-10 years, depending on the wear and tear of it, it’s amazing.”
Every year, the U.S. discards about 19 billion pads and tampons per year, most of which end up in landfills, according to Stanford Magazine. Data from OrganiCup finds that over their lifetime, a single menstruator discards 11,000 period products.
Using a menstrual cup not only decreases the amount of disposable period products in landfills, but is also extremely cost-effective.
“There are lots of people who experience period poverty,” DeMaria said, “not just in developing countries, but here in the U.S. as well.
“When people don’t have access to period products, it can be this domino impact on their life. So it can negatively impact their health, it can impact their access to education (and) it could impact their academic performance.”
Menstrual cups may relieve some of these detriments caused by period poverty.
“Having this product that you can rely on for your whole cycle, every month, for 2-3 years, can relieve a lot of stress and anxiety,” Frank said.
By offering free menstrual cups to students on campus, the initiative provides an affordable option for those who encounter financial barriers to period products or new, more sustainable methods.
“We also know that it doesn’t work for everybody,” Mortimore added, “so having a free option to try it out and not have to drop that $30 (to) $40 is amazing.”
The Period Project and FACT both emphasize education as well as accessibility.
FACT and the Period Project host events and speakers to discuss feminist issues and menstruation education. In the future, FACT hopes to organize events surrounding voter registration and women’s rights and issues on the ballot, according to Claire Glenn, the president of FACT and a junior in the College of Agriculture.
“We are also hoping to do a reproductive justice and the black feminist future keynote and panel,” Glenn said.
Glenn said reproductive justice means “having the bodily autonomy for not only you but your entire family and to be able to make decisions about your body and your family’s future.”
While its focus is on the future of feminism, FACT also values the history that has led the movement to its current point.
“Reproductive justice is actually a movement that was coined and created by black women,” Glenn said. “So we want to take reproductive justice and the future of black feminism and have them meet together.”
DeMaria said that holding these events and facilitating these discussions is essential in promoting education and understanding. It’s up to more than just menstruators, though, to dismantle the stigma surrounding menstruation.
“Non-menstruators can try to make sure that they are not reinforcing some of these negative perpetuated myths associated with menstruation, that (it is) dirty or bad or something that needs to be hidden,” DeMaria said. “Understanding can go a long way to help somebody who’s dealing either with the physical or the mental or emotional impacts of menstruation.”
Students will be asked to pick up their menstrual cups at either Krach Lawn or Memorial Mall once they’ve shipped. For any questions, both organizations encourage individuals to contact them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.