So Long and Farewell!

By Maggie Pool

Since the beginning of this academic year, I have been an office assistant at UMKC’s Women’s Center. My time here has proven not only my aptitude for learning more about my passions, such as feminism, but also how much power I have in spreading that knowledge to the people around me.

One of my responsibilities was writing a weekly blog post for the Women’s Center website.

“What do I need to write about?” I asked.

“Anything about women.”

As broad as that prompt was, it allowed me to freely explore realms about women in fields that I am already deeply ingrained in, like film, for example. I became fascinated over the gender inequalities surrounding Oscar nominations, especially after this year featured an explosive amount of incredible female directors and female-driven film projects. I explored the history of fallen Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, who has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for two felony sex crimes. I dove into film industry history with Dorothy Arzner, who was the only woman director to successfully transition into the era of talkies from silent cinema. All of these topics filled me with greater wonder and love for the world of cinema, while also expanding my knowledge of women’s influence in cinema.

Alongside graduate assistant Indra Mursid, I had the honor of creating a brand new Women’s Center program. Indra and I teamed up to start a Menstrual Products Drive to raise awareness about the expenses of menstrual products, the hardships women go through during periods, the Pink Tax, and how many schools are trying to make products more accessible. We held the drives in UMKC’s residence halls, and we were pleasantly surprised to see students excited about our program by donating products for others to use. The ultimate goal was to have products available in every women’s and gender-neutral bathroom on campus. Raising awareness about menstrual cycles makes the subject less taboo. That will hopefully make it more possible in the future for women to have better access to menstrual products and better support systems during menstrual cycles.

My time working at the Women’s Center has been one of my favorite working experiences yet. I’ve told the staff they can’t get rid of me that easily! I will be back for events and to study in the amazing supportive environment that is the Women’s Center. I thank everyone so much for the fun and wonderful experience that this has been! So long and farewell!

Menstrual Products Drive

By Maggie Pool

For the first time ever, the Women’s Center is pairing up with Residential Life to implement a donation drive program into an annual activity called Wing Wars. Wing Wars happens every new school year and is a friendly competition between Johnson Hall, Oak Street Hall, and JP2 filled with a variety of events that earns each team points. In addition to the main Wing War happenings, there are events on campus residents can attend to gain points for their team. This is where the Women’s Center comes in. This year, the Women’s Center has decided to do a Menstrual Products Drive to raise awareness on the basic need for menstrual products. The drive will start November 5th and go through December 3rd. There will be a donation box placed in each residence hall and each product donated will generate a certain amount of points.

In 2019, an interview-conducted study was done in St. Louis, Missouri where an estimated 31,000 women 18 years or older are considered low-income. The study found out that 60% of its participants (109/183) skipped or ate a lighter meal in order to afford menstrual products over the past year (Kuhlmann, Bergquist, & Danjoint, 2019). Of those participants, 36% (40/111) skipped meals on a monthly basis. Similarly, 64% (117/182) did not have the money to purchase menstrual products at some point during the same year (Kuhlmann et al, 2019). ⅓ had to use toilet paper, rags, tissues, diapers, or paper towels as supplementary menstrual products (Kuhlmann et al, 2019). The study concluded that the solutions to these problems came down to three categories:

  1. Increase access to menstrual products
  2. Increase education in menstrual products
  3. Increasing access to safe public restrooms

Many schools across America are recognizing this is an issue and are taking action. For example, Brown University announced they would provide free tampons and pads across campus in men’s, women’s, and gender neutral bathrooms. Brown’s student body President, Viet Nguyen, said: “There’s been a lot of conversation about why pads and tampons are a necessity, not a luxury, but not a lot of action. We wanted to take it into our own hands” (Jones, 2016, p. 1). After Brown University announced their plan, New York City public schools announced they would provide free menstrual products in all sixth through twelfth grades schools (Jones 2016). Many schools followed after including Columbia University, University of Arizona, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and Emory College (Jones, 2016). Hashtag campaigns have furthered the awareness with campaigns like #TheHomelessPeriod and National Period Day (October 19th) and garnered global attention.

The Women’s Center provides free menstrual hygiene products (tampons and pads) for any student with no questions asked. These donations would go back into the hands of students who may be of low income, low access to resources, or too busy to buy menstrual products when they need them. Having this drive will also inform students that we are a resource to use when they are in need of a place to study, information on community resources, and a safe space. Our ultimate goal is to implement menstrual hygiene products in women’s and gender neutral bathrooms throughout campus.