Yesterday, Michigan State University's menstrual equity and justice club Pad the Mitten held its first period package party of the semester. The organization's goal was to donate 100 period packages to the Salus Center, an LGBTQIA+ community center in Lansing.
Held in Wells Hall, the event featured an assemly line-set up of pads, tampons, wrappers and bags, and was operated by over 20 students.
Seventy-five percent of the products used were from MSU Trio Student Support Services (SSS) Program, an on-campus group that supports first-generation college students and donates to other organizations. The other 25% of products were leftovers from previous package parties.
Social relations and policy and comparative cultures and politics senior Mackenzie Lovell is President of Pad the Mitten. Lovell, who has been involved in the organization since her freshman year, said she was "elated" to see huge turnout for the party.
Lovell said the main focus for Pad the Mitten is to eradicate period poverty in the Greater East Lansing area, as well as reduce the stigma around menstrual cycles.
"(Menstrual products) are quite literally a medical necessity," Lovell said. "Going without them can be a hazard to your health and to your mental well-being, and people kind of underplay that a lot. Period poverty is prevalent on campus, and that’s first and foremost why I think people should learn about it."
In addition to students, Lovell said, university administration should also be edcuated on periods. She said that when students are informed, they can raise awareness and call out administration for not providing adequate resources.
Two years ago, the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, passed a bill requiring free menstrual products in all restrooms on campus. While Lovell noticed products placed in Wells Hall and Case Hall, among others, she said she is unsure of the actual supply.
Pad the Mitten Vice Pesident and physiology junior Ananyaa Asthana joined the club last year because she is passionate about advocating for equity in healthcare.
“(Menstrual cycles) are what people go through, it’s completely natural and completely normal,” Asthana said. “We just try to make it something that’s not scary and not stigmatized. So you can come and meet with people who are going through it or are allies and are passionate about it.”
Asthana said they hope to host menstrual education workshops in Greater Lansing area schools and push for menstrual products to become free. However, Asthana said, if periods continue to be viewed as “dirty,” resources will become scarce for menstruators.
“We are not going to get access that we need,” Asthana said. “We are not going to get access to affordable menstrual products ..., clean hand-washing supplies ..., safe places to change our menstrual products ..., any of those things. Instead, we are going to get that embarrassment and shame and isolation ... culminated together into period poverty."
Asthana said the club distributes period packages in paper bags to allow menstruators to both share and have their own experiences.
“You don’t know if they are going to be able to have their products out in the open," she said. "There is still a stigma around menstruation in our community.”
According to Lovell, this stigma stems mainly from patriarchy.
"We talk about people with penises way too much,” Lovell said. “It’s the oppression of people with vaginas, and that's why it's so stigmatized. Because we don't prioritize education about it, people don't feel comfortable to ask about reproductive health. It doesn't necessarily have to be menstruation, but menstruation (is) something that's been so targeted.”
Lovell added that Pad the Mitten works to be intersectional and inclusive, especially pertaining to gender.
"We don't want to talk about specifically women," she said. "We want it to ... an LGBTQ issue, but people don't see it as that. So I want I always try to emphasize that, and ... try to stay binary with our language.”
Package parties occur three to four times a semester, and are the club's most popular event.
For students like psychology freshman Minaleah Koffron, participating in these parties is one way to make a positive contribution to society.
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"I like feeling like I am doing something, and it makes me feel productive and (like) a decent person," Koffron said. "I think we’re all here for a good cause and it's really nice – that communal nature of trying to do something good and very lovely.”
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