SIUE Women’s Studies Interim Director Christy Ferguson discusses her motivation for starting The Mensi Project, a menstrual product sharing program for all women’s, family, and non-gender specific restrooms on campus at SIUE.
Earlier this year, the women of SIUE noticed a change. Suddenly, the menstrual product dispensers that had lived in nearly every restroom, had mostly disappeared. The machines had been replaced by signs directing them to find their emergency coin-operated, backup plan on another floor of the building.
POOF! Gone. No more emergency pads or tampons.
What to do? What to do? Waddle uncomfortably to another bathroom hoping no one notices? Or resort to that final, uncomfortable and ineffective option *GULP* toilet paper? Ugh! No, thank you!
Well, worry NO MORE! In conjunction with the SIUE Women’s Studies program, I have set a plan in motion that not only has the potential to solve our emergency period predicament, but also show the world that in a time when women are under attack for speaking out against oppression, SIUE women are ready and willing to support one another, even in the smallest of ways: The Mensi Project.
So, how does it work? It is simple. Look for the brightly colored fabric bag hanging in the campus bathroom. If you need a tampon/pad/liner, take what you need, free of charge. Have extra or two in your purse? Consider sharing and leave them in the bag for the next possible period emergency. It is that simple. No money. No waddling to another floor. No worries.
The overall goal is to encourage women to be more mindful of each other in everyday situations. Although SIUE women’s studies will be continually collecting donations and using those donations to fill the bags as much as we can, the goal is for women to share amongst themselves. YOU can fill that bag! You can help whenever you can and wherever you are! You can donate one pad or 100! It is all up to you.
Folks menstruate. Menstruation is a HUMAN experience. This is not news. We all know it happens. Most women know how to handle it when it does happen, but we are never, EVER to talk about it in public or allow others to know it is “that time of the month.” *SHUDDER*
However, despite the continuous monthly cycle tracking, the constant expectation to be prepared, and the anticipation of the blessed event, it never fails. The ONE time you don’t have a tampon on hand, that’s when mother nature strikes! Something else to consider is that not all women can predict their periods. According to an article published by the National Institute of Health, 14-25% of all menstruating women experience period irregularity. That level of uncertainty is difficult enough without the added concern of what to do on that fateful day when you will inevitably forget your purse in the car.
In a culture that has groomed us to see our periods as nothing more than a disgusting (and incredibly expensive) monthly curse, it is no wonder women are left to fend for themselves in the wild. By taking away these machines, we remove one more aspect of comfort and protection for women in the public sphere.
So, let’s take matters into our own hands, ladies. Let’s take care of each other, as well as ourselves. Look for The Mensi Project bags. Over the course of the next several weeks, I will be hand-making each bathroom bag using supplies happily donated by members of the Women’s Studies faculty and The MAC (Macoupin Art Collective), a school of arts and crafts located in Staunton, Il.
On Thursday, November 8th at 6pm we will be inviting all who would like to join in the fun to the Women’s Studies office (Peck Hall 3407), where as a group we will fill the bags with donated menstrual products and spread out over campus to install them in every public women’s, family, and non-gender specific restroom on SIUE campus. After which, we will meet and have a Mensi Project Celebration with food, music, drinks, and camaraderie!
I am personally overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement in seeing this project have such a positive, community-building impact on this campus. If you, or someone you know are interested in getting involved, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Product donations can be dropped off outside of the Women’s Studies office (Peck Hall 3407) in the large, brightly colored donation box. The Women’s Studies program will continue to filter your donations out to the bathroom bags as needed.
Or even better, you can donate directly to the bags! Gather your student organization, sorority, or group of friends together. Arm them with tampons and pads and send them out to help break down the patriarchal barriers that keep us from talking about our periods and fill those bags! You don’t need my permission, just DO IT! The longevity of this project and the ability to destroy the stigmas that hold women back depend upon us all.