Upon exploring any collegiate bathroom, resource center or even a state health department, one will find one thing in common: condoms. Free condoms.
And this is a fantastic development; more young adults are able to have protected sex and make wise decisions regarding their sexual activities and health no matter their economic situation. However, some students seem to currently be using these free condoms as an exemplary illustration of sexist practices in our daily lives, constantly asking: “Well, if condoms are free, why aren’t tampons?”
The issue at hand here is not a cabal of conniving misogynists creeping through the meeting rooms of collegiate and governmental offices, plotting to bring down womankind, but what is just ignorance by these so-called activists in regards to the needs of the human body.
Condoms and tampons are not equal, and should not continue to be equated on such a superficial basis on their relation to each sex. Comparing condoms to tampons is a relatively simple case of apples and oranges: condoms are not the male equivalent to tampons, because tampons address a completely different need. Condoms are beneficial to the public as a whole. When used correctly, they protect any individual who engages in penetrative sex from the threat of STDs, and are many women’s only line of defense against potential pregnancy. Tampons, on the other hand, are a personal good.
Condoms are provided free of charge in an attempt to aid low-income members of the community who might have issues purchasing these important items on their own. This necessity does not exist for tampons. Yes, there are certainly women who cannot afford tampons due to cost, and that is an issue, but there are various alternatives such as reusable menstrual cups — which can last for years without needing to be replaced — sea sponge tampons or cloth liners, that are available for individuals who are unable to handle a recurring monthly cost. This use of tampon alternatives does not have nearly the same ramifications of using a low-cost stand in for a condom, and thus it does not require a mandate for their provision.
As a woman, I would personally love for tampons to be free. But to insist that they exist on a level reserved for an item that protects the general population is incorrect. Activists should instead focus on the current luxury tax for tampons, or the ridiculous reality that women’s products almost always cost more than men’s, not something as generally unhelpful as the needless comparison to condoms. Ultimately, providing tampons to students is not the responsibility of a university or larger institution — there are greater battles to be fought in the name of women’s health than this one.
This article initially appeared online and in print in the February 29th edition of Washington Square News.