The Montclair Menstrual Club brings hygiene products back to MHS bathrooms

Montclair Menstrual Club board members, left to right, Serena Lee, Dylan Campanaro and Natalie Smith at a hygiene product drive organized by the club, Cafe Moso and the MHS Time’s Up club in the spring 2021. (COURTESY MONTCLAIR MENSTRUAL CLUB)

By DIEGO JESUS ​​BARTESAGHI MENA
[email protected]

Colorful boxes full of menstrual products were placed in the bathrooms at Montclair High School by the Montclair Menstrual Club.

The boxes, which are placed in both girls ‘and boys’ bathrooms, are intended to provide quick and free access to tampons and hygiene products when needed, without putting students in the uncomfortable position of asking for products to friends or strangers, or to ask permission. to leave the classroom to ask the school nurse for them.

“I went to restock the boxes and in almost every bathroom I went, students were like, ‘Oh my God, I just needed a tampon. Thank you so much for doing this. It’s helpful, ”said Dylan Campanaro, an MHS junior and MMC board member. The group is not officially affiliated with the school, but is made up of students and was founded last year to de-stigmatize menstruation. “It’s really gratifying to see that people need and use it. I have the impression that they are empowered by this.

The group was supported by the National Organization for the MMS Women’s Club and MHS Director Jeffrey A. Freeman, who let the club store the products in his office. Campanaro said these interactions motivate the club to keep the boxes in place for the long term.

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Freeman said he supported the initiative when it came to his attention.

“Our students are doing amazing things and it’s their initiative,” Freeman said. “It shows how amazing our students are on every level. ”

Has already been tried

Members of the Montclair Menstrual Club told the Montclair local last spring they hoped to put the products in place in the bathrooms. In 2017, a campaign run by NOW placed boxes decorated with tampons in bathrooms, which anyone can take for free, said MHS sophomore and club member Eliza Salamon in the spring. She said then director James Earle supported the idea, but NOW didn’t have enough money to replenish the boxes for the entire year, she said.

Accounts of what happened the following year vary.

Salamon had said in the spring that in 2018, students surrendered to then-principal Anthony Grosso Salamon seeking to bring back the boxes, but administrators and nurses told him cost would be an issue. Plus, she said, there were concerns that students would take on more than they needed at any given time. Salamon said she and two club co-chairs she spoke to recall, club advisers told them Grosso and the nurse were also concerned that students could use tampons to get drunk by soaking them in of vodka before inserting them.

Grosso, however, told Montclair Local by email in the spring that no such concerns about the vodka had ever been raised. And he said the administrators “worked with the NOW Club, the national women’s organization, to find sustainable solutions for women’s products in high school. This question was carried out in collaboration with the district leaders.

However, the boxes did not return at the time.

Bridget Crawford Professor of Law wrote a blog post on MHS’s story with women’s products for FeministLawProfessors.com in March, bringing new attention to the issue on local Facebook groups, though this post made claims about the story that have not been attributed to anyone having first hand knowledge.

Freeman told the Montclair local that he was not working at the school at the time and was unaware of the past situation.

Look ahead

MMC board member Serena Lee, also an MHS junior, said the club had several ideas for the future. She said the club might not be able to see them all come to fruition, but one of her main goals is to bring the boxes to colleges around town. Group members have yet to approach college administrators about the idea.

Natalie Smith, another MMC and MHS junior board member, said, “This is when a lot of girls and menstruating people get their first period. “

The club plans to hold more collections and work with other organizations in the city, Lee said. The club organized a fundraiser with Café Mosso earlier this year that raised $ 387 in donations and raised more than 3,000 products.

“We donated it to Montclair Mutual Aid for them to distribute on their distribution days,” said Lee. “I think we have a great relationship with different groups because, for example with Aisle Seven (Montclair Mutual Aid’s menstrual distribution program), we donated products to them and they donated to us. I think that makes the whole job even more efficient.

End the stigma

The club is in talks with the section of the National Organization for Women to organize a campaign to collect women’s products and organize events, Smith said. However, Campanaro, Lee and Smith

said their biggest focus right now is ongoing fundraising, advocating to have the products in middle schools, and working to encourage the Montclair community to have rules conversations.

“There is definitely a huge amount of stigma around periods,” Smith said. “I think that’s kind of the reason we wanted to start it up and work to de-stigmatize the whole idea around it.”

Campanaro said many of his peers and friends would be afraid to ask a teacher to use the bathroom or go to the nurse’s office. She said teachers are questioning why they have to go.

“Or the teachers made them ashamed of having to miss hours of class to take care of this natural bodily function,” Campanaro said.

Another way to de-stigmatize the rules is to tell stories. Smith has said in previous meetings that attendees only talked about their experiences, how people felt in classrooms, how their interactions with teachers went. She said that’s what the club wants overall, because “people are so quiet about it.”

To amplify other voices, Campanaro said, the club created a podcast, “It’s on the rules”, where he invites people to share their own personal experiences around their period. It is available on several podcast services including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

Even though the club has received a positive reception, it has had some negative responses, Smith said.

“In some of the boys’ bathrooms, some of the boxes were destroyed and misplaced and emptied in a rude manner,” Smith said. “So we were disappointed about it, but we kind of wanted to build on that and show why we wanted to create the club. This is an example of how there is a stigma around it. ”

After such an incident became known in the school via social media, Lee said the club received a lot of support from the students.

“Overall, the response of the student body to [the incident] was very positive, very encouraging, uplifting, ”said Lee. “It was a negative experience, but it was a really rewarding and positive result in the end. I think it really raises awareness. And now more and more people are aware of this stigma and our club in general and want to support us. “

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