A teacher took to Reddit to ask if he was wrong for offering free period products to the students in his class.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on September 20, 2021. It has since been updated.
As a gesture of compassion, a high school teacher based in California leaves out free period products in an easily accessible spot in his classroom for his students. Anyone at all is able to reach into the bin and take what they need. While this sounds like a compassionate act, one of his colleagues expressed criticism regarding the initiative as the teacher is a man. In a Reddit post, the teacher explained that his colleague, a woman in her 60s, claimed it was inappropriate particularly because the majority of those who will benefit from the period product box will be young girls. However, Reddit users affirmed in the comments section that his act was indeed a valuable act of kindness. The teacher's individual gesture is part of a larger conversation about period poverty.
The 38-year-old teacher, who goes by the username Lowthrowaway22 on Reddit, posted, "I'm a father of two daughters and I teach high schoolers here in California. Since we started off the school year recently I've been noticing our female students have been having some 'issues' and it's hard for them to have/find tampons/pads, etc. when they need them. As a father myself, I understand that those are essentials for women. So... I bought a bunch of tampons/pads and placed [them] in a basket in our class so our female students can grab one at any time and it's convenient for them. The whole class loves it. Nobody says anything and overall it's helpful for our students."
He began second-guessing himself when his colleague Susan criticized his initiative. "She thinks it's inappropriate that I have that for my female students and she told me it's weird because I'm a male," he explained. "I don't find it weird or anything. [Because] there isn't anything weird about it? What's wrong with a period? Nothing. It's natural and it happens. To make it convenient for my students I made the basket and they love it. I also refill the basket on a constant basis." Of course, fellow Reddit users agreed with the teacher's perspective.
One Reddit user wrote, "I think it is really sweet. And it gives them the message that it is totally normal and nothing to be hidden and ashamed of. I wish you would have been one of my teachers. Every time I saw that basket, I would have felt love and acceptance pouring out of it. It is even cooler that you are a male teacher doing it, by the way... And you are a great role model for the boys as well because it teaches them to have a relaxed and accepting attitude towards the women in their lives."
Indeed, Lowthrowaway22 has begun normalizing, at least in his class, the idea that non-menstruators must also get involved in conversations about periods. Furthermore, he has touched upon the issue of period poverty, that is: when menstruators still attending school do not have access to safe and affordable period products, they will either resort to harmful alternatives (such as newspapers) or completely stay home from school. The former leads to lifelong consequences on their menstrual health, and the latter may, in the worst cases, lead to children dropping out of school. The teacher has made his classroom a little bit more inclusive through his period product bin. In order to take things a step further, he could begin using gender-inclusive language (like referring to those who need period products as menstruators instead of relying on the male-female gender binary) and ensure the box is in a spot that is both accessible but also private. Nonetheless, in order to effectively eradicate period poverty, schools and other educational institutions should mandatorily provide free period products for all members of their faculty and student body. Governments must work to introduce a policy that makes this possible.
WATCH OUR OFFICIAL #MenstruationMatters CAMPAIGN VIDEO NOW ❣️— HomelessPeriodBelfas (@HPeriodBelfast) September 6, 2021
We’re calling for FREE universal access to period products in N Ireland to be locked into legislation.
Just. Like. Toilet. Roll.
No more period poverty & no more being caught out 👊🏽
👉🏽 https://t.co/i0tZjmilsN pic.twitter.com/5s8XQ5l08E