Middle School Girls Formed ‘The Revolutionary Girls’ Baking Society’ After Principal Refused Request To Provide Free Tampons
In recent years, there has been a movement among women’s rights activists to educate the public about the harmful cultural stigma surrounding menstruation. This movement, that pushes for “period equity”, aims to make it possible for all women of all ages to manage their period hygiene in a humane and dignified way. Although this mission seems simple, it is actually a deep-rooted and complicated one.
There is almost a universal culture of shame that surrounds women and menstruation. So much so that according to UNESCO worldwide, lack of access to period products is one of the reasons that many school-aged girls in developing countries miss classes. One study by UNICEF showed that 35% of girls from Niger sometimes miss classes due to the shame surrounding their periods. Other cultures across the world isolate girls from their homes and families when they’re on their periods. In conclusion, the stigma surrounding menstruation combined with structural obstacles preventing school-aged girls from easily accessing hygiene products interfere with their education. And it’s a problem.
Recently, three middle school girls went viral with their creative response to their principal’s refusal to offer free period products in the girls’ bathroom.
According to a Tweet by reproductive rights activist and President of Pro-Choice America Ilyse Hogue, students at a middle school in the U.S. “organized for free tampons in the bathroom” because their school didn’t offer any. Apparently unmoved by the students’ display of activism, the male principal the students’ request. In his response, he stated that students would “abuse the privilege” of free period products in the bathrooms. Rightfully, the students took issue with this reasoning. Three of the female students responded with an eye-catching bit of activism: none other than tampon-shaped cookies, complete with blood-like frosting and strings.
The Tweet describing the girls’ reaction to their principal went viral, racking up over 9,000 retweets and almost 60,000 likes. Not only were people outraged that the principal refused to provide period products to young students, but they were also upset that he labeled access to menstrual hygiene products as a “privilege”. As the non-profit organization PERIOD so eloquently states on its website: “menstrual hygiene is a right, not a privilege”.
Since the Tweet went viral, the girls that made the cookies have founded an organization called The Revolutionary Girls’ Baking Society, that aims to “bake a difference” through “one bizarre confection at a time”.
According to the newly-formed website, the three anonymous girls decided to form the society once they and their families were encouraged by “the groundswell of support” from the public. The website also provided an update to the situation at their middle school. According to the statement, the “principal and the school board are now working to make sure every girl in [the] town will have the products they need readily available so no girl misses a day of school”. The Society added that they “are very grateful that the school has taken our action seriously and is making a change”.
Although it’s exciting that these young women were able to make a difference by their activism, the bottom line is, many young women are still negatively impacted by the stigma surrounding menstruation. “Period poverty” is real and it is globally pervasive–America is no exception. According to a recent study commissioned by PERIOD and Thinx, one in five teens has struggled to afford period products or were not able to purchase them at all. Keep in mind, menstruation is a bodily function that most women experience almost universally–the fact that there are still so many obstacles surrounding period management if proof of society’s inherent disregard for women and women’s health.
As usual, the internet expressed its own opinion about a male authority figure asserting a harmful influence over girls’ bodies.
Twitter was pretty vocal about what many considered the principal’s ignorant comments about privilege and menstruation.
This Twitter user was confused out how “abusing” tampons would work:
The fact is, due to their privilege, many men are ignorant to how expensive period products are and how they can be difficult to get your hands on–especially when you’re in a pinch.
This Twitter user was frustrated with the principal’s lack of education on the topic of period poverty:
Once the principal’s argument was investigated further, it became obvious that it held no ground.
This Twitter user exposed the double-standard and built-in misogyny of refusing to offer hygiene products to help handle a normal bodily function:
It’s brilliant arguments like these that expose the hypocrisy of structural sexism and how it works against women at all stages of their life.