As if being a teenager with a period isn't stressful enough, many schools don't supply tampons and pads to students. And when they do offer them, you have to put a dime or quarter in a machine that is broken 70% of the time (and what teenager carries spare change???).
This was the case for Cordelia Longo, an 8th grader at Islander Middle School on Mercer Island in Washington State. She recently found herself in need of a pad or tampon while at school and couldn't find a working sanitary product dispenser in a single bathroom, after trying bathrooms in three separate buildings, she told the Seattle Times.
Sound like a nightmare? It is. A nightmare that most women have experienced at some point in their lives, probably more than once.
"I just felt scared because I was embarrassed. But I shouldn’t have been, because it’s just what happens," Longo told the Times. "Then I was mad. It shouldn’t be that I was caught without pads. The principals talk so much about diversity and how it’s a good thing to appreciate everyone’s differences, but they don’t think of the difference between boys and girls."
So Cordelia, future lawyer and/or President (fingers crossed), decided to start a petition to get her school to supply menstrual products. She got about 100 students—boys and girls—to sign it and handed it in to school administrators.
In an attached letter, she wrote:
Why are tissues and toilet paper provided free at school, but not sanitary pads and tampons? As toilet paper and tissue are used for normal bodily functions, sanitary pads and tampons are also necessary to address normal bodily functions.
Girls do not choose to have periods. So girls are being penalized and made to pay for a bodily function they cannot control.
She also did her research, and pointed out that in New York City, public schools are required by law to provide sanitary products, the Times reports.
The letter worked. Within a week, the school had restocked the pad and tampon machines and disabled the coin operation function so students can get the products for free. And Mercer Island High School did the same.
Islander Co-Principal Mary Jo Budzius told the Times that the school keeps a "huge stockpile" of feminine products in the gym locker rooms, but that most students were probably unaware and too shy to ask.
She's impressed with Cordelia for taking action.
"As a woman, I never really considered it," Budzius told the Times. "It is what has always been. It’s so great for a 14-year-old girl to say, 'This is wrong and we should not pay for this.' I’d love to take credit."
Cordelia's mom, Jen Longo, is also impressed. And proud. She told the Times:
Boys should be cool with [menstruation], girls should be cool with it. And the more that it’s normalized, the more girls are treated like humans, the better it will be for everyone. If boys are taught there is nothing wrong with women’s bodies, they won’t grow up to legislate against them.