Bowdoin College is one of several U.S. universities making menstrual products available for free in campus bathrooms—and, in an effort to be more inclusive of trans men, put them in both the men and women’s restrooms.
Other colleges offering tampons and pads free of charge in all bathrooms include Brown, Cornell and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Proponents argue that soap, paper towels, toilet paper and other basic necessities are already offered for free, so women’s hygiene products should be as well.
“We wanted to set a tone of trans-inclusivity, and not forget that they’re an important part of the population,” said Brown student president Viet Nguyen, who adds “people generally understand when we explain it.”
But not everyone approves of the “Free Flow” initiative: At Bowdoin, “all the tampons and pads in the men’s restroom… were thrown away unused several times,” according to the student newspaper, the Bowdoin Orient.
The paper also reveals one tampon dispenser in a men’s room was defaced when “someone defecated in the receptacle intended for used products.”
“I feel like it was either a person who did it as a joke or didn’t understand it, or it was a deliberate thing like, ‘these people aren’t welcome in this bathroom so I’m going to poop there,’ which would be considered a bias incident,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Benjamin Painter. “And if so, I think the administration should respond to it just like they would respond to any other bias incident.”