7th graders bake tampon-shaped cookies to demand free menstrual products at school

Middle school students protested their principal refusing to provide free tampons in school by baking tampon-shaped cookies. (Photo: Getty Images)
Middle school students protested their principal refusing to provide free tampons in school by baking tampon-shaped cookies. (Photo: Getty Images)

Middle school students trying to advocate for free tampons in their school bathroom hit a roadblock when the male principal apparently refused. In protest, the students baked tampon-shaped cookies.

NARAL president Ilyse Hogue brought the story to light in an Oct. 29 tweet, which included a photo of tampon-inspired cookies. “My friend’s 7th grader goes to a school where the kids organized for free tampons in the bathroom. The male principle said no because they would ‘abuse the privilege.’ The kids decided to stage a cookie protest. Behold the tampon cookies!”

No specifics about the school were provided, and Hogue was not available for comment on Friday. But her tweet, which has since gone viral with more than 57,000 likes and nearly 9,000 retweets, clearly struck a nerve. Social media users had strong reactions to the principal’s puzzling response that middle school girls would “abuse the privilege” of having access to free tampons.

Many applauded the students both for advocating for themselves in trying to get tampons in schools and for the creative protest cookies.

Claire Coder, founder and chief executive officer of Aunt Flow — an organization that works with businesses and schools to stock their bathrooms with menstrual products and coaches students on how to advocate for themselves — called the protest cookies “remarkable.”

“I appreciate that the students did speak out for this necessity,” Coder tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We work with students across the U.S. to advocate for this. I love that they continued forward even when someone said no. No is not an answer anymore. That was remarkable of them.”

Advocates for free menstrual products say that they are not a luxury — they are a hygienic need, just like toilet paper and soap, which are provided for free at school. Adds Coder, referring to menstrual products: “It’s not just an amenity — it’s a necessity.”

The lack of access to free menstrual products in school isn’t simply an annoyance. It also affects girls’ education. A 2019 State of the Period survey of 1,000 teens ages 13 to 19, which was commissioned by the period underwear company, Thinx, and the menstrual movement organization, Period, found that 84 percent of students “have either missed class time or know someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products.”

While Coder points out that some schools do offer these products to students, they’re often kept in the nurse’s office. “That’s a problem when you get your period, especially unexpectedly,” she explains – and any woman who has ever had a period knows that’s quite common. One survey, commissioned by Free the Tampons Foundation, found that 86 percent of women ages 15 to 54 have gotten their periods unexpectedly in public without any supplies on hand.

“You don’t want to leave the bathroom, go all the way to the nurse’s office, and then all the way back to the bathroom,” Coder says. Along with the potential for girls bleeding through their clothes in the middle of school, she says, “it forces you to miss valuable class time.”

Having access to tampons and pads in school can also help alleviate period poverty for students who can’t afford to buy their own menstrual products. The State of the Period survey also found that 1 in 5 teens in the U.S. “have struggled to afford period products or were not able to purchase them at all.”

For students interested in learning how to advocate for free menstrual products at school and in school bathrooms, there are several organizations they can reach out to, including Aunt Flow, Free the Tampons Foundation and Period.

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