Katie Zhao / The Daily Pennsylvanian
Despite lagging behind the other universities in providing greater access to menstrual products, Penn is making great strides towards eliminating the stigma of menstruation in its own way. Not by having free tampons, but by having the biggest ones.
When schools like Brown and Cornell announced new initiatives to begin stocking their restrooms with complimentary tampons and pads earlier this year, some in the Penn community began to question why similar measures weren't taken here. While there are currently no concrete plans to institute similar programs, Penn maintains that they have been leading the charge in fostering acceptance of menstruation on college campuses for decades.
"Do we have free tampons? No. But that's a really simplistic way of looking at the bigger problem," a spokesperson for the Vice Provost of University Life said. "The real issue is about stigma. And that's something Penn has been dedicated to fighting since 1975, when we installed the Tampons at 39th and Locust Walk. What we lack in tampon access, we more than make up for in visibility."
Many students agree. Ben Terry, a Junior in the Engineering school and member of a fraternity, says he sees every day just how influential the Tampons have been in raising awareness about menstruation among his friend group. "When I was in high school, I couldn't even read the word 'tampon' without bursting into a hysterical fit of laughter and screaming 'GAAAAAAY,'" he said. "But now, I'm much more mature. Just the other day during Chapter, the brothers agreed to meet up for a pledging activity at the Tampons. I didn't even think to laugh at it because it's just become so normal. It's like I completely forgot that tampons go in—" he paused, chuckling, "v-vaginas."
Unfortunately, though, not all students have been so positively affected by Penn's activism. When asked whether she felt the sculpture's presence had helped her to appreciate her body and its natural processes, College senior Taylor Weber said "What? Sorry, my uterus is literally disintegrating inside of me and falling out of my body right now and I need to run to CVS to buy tampons. Can we maybe do this another time?"
Nevertheless, VPUL defends Penn's unorthodox method of improving visual access to menstrual products. "At the end of the day, it really is a matter of quantity vs. quality. And we believe that, by virtue of their sheer size, the Tampons are potentially the best in the world."