It was a warm summer night and the stars were bright, I strolled down to Charles Street Market and encountered a confounding sight: CharMar has only two brands of pads.
Not only were there only two brands, but they were both overpriced and not designed for sleeping. With a 52 percent female undergraduate student body, one would think that our school would provide a half decent supply of a monthly necessity for thousands of students; CharMar carries five types of condoms, but the idea of female hygiene products has clearly eluded them.
I apologize in advance for the embarrassing topic that I am writing about, but women spend at least $200 every year on hygiene products, and that translates to a textbook, four Barnes & Noble sweatshirts or 120 Easy Macs. In an age where men can get Viagra for free with Medicare, women have to shell out more money than ever to buy simple necessities — much less the make-up, shaving cream and razors and other hygiene products required to conform to social norms at the most basic level. If female undergraduates are going to spend so much, it would be mutually beneficial for Hopkins to make it easy and convenient to do so.
Furthermore, as all women would know, there are only several companies producing female hygiene products. The market has become saturated with this oligopoly that competitive pricing does not exist any more. We are bound by a limited number of options; no new manufacturers are able to enter the market and thus, improve the designs of existing products. So, therefore, our comfort, as well as our wallets, has been compromised.
Accessibility is a major issue as well. Condoms are given out in some bathrooms for free — if you need an emergency tampon, you have to walk over to the Mattin Center and pay 25 cents. So far, I noticed that on campus you can only buy female hygiene products from Charles Street Market and two vending machines located inside the toilets of the library and Mattin. Meanwhile, if you need a more robust feminine hygiene product solution, you must go far out of your way to get it. University Market is the closest location, but their variety leaves something to be desired. The next closest location is Giant, which, as most students would know, is quite a long walk. So unless you want to take a 30-minute walk once a week, you either have to buy in bulk, making storage difficult, or just order online.
The University needs to put the well-being of over half of its student body at heart. While it may seem like a trivial matter, my dear readers, I must assure you that it is not. Female hygiene is one of those things that people do not mention or think about; it is one of those things that you do not even give a passing thought about. At the same time, it is at the forefront of most women’s minds every four weeks — we constantly worry about leakage, whether the cramp is going to pass in a couple of minutes or not or whether we have enough products to last us through a week. Just because something is ignored does not mean that it is not a massive inconvenience. And as such, the University could help make our lives easier by giving us more options, while simultaneously increasing CharMar’s bottom line.
We speak of equality so often, yet we still seem to ignore some fundamental physical limitations of half of the population. Hygiene is an integral part of health and safety, and I certainly hope that the University would start paying more attention to the health and safety of us female students. Perhaps, instead of selling two whole freezers worth of ice cream, Charles Street Market could clear some room on the shelf for two more brands of female hygiene products? Just a thought.