In some Canadian provinces, such as British Columbia, policies exist to provide free menstrual products in public schools but Alberta has not followed suit.
In Calgary, university students are faced with many expenses. The cost of paying for menstrual products, for those who need them, can cause additional financial strain.
Diana Bohutska, an international relations and education student at the University of Calgary, says if she forgets to bring her own menstrual products to class, she often feels frustrated with the cost of what is offered in the school’s washrooms.
“As students, you already don’t have a lot of money as is,” she says. “And you’re charging a dollar or even 50 cents for something I already have.”
To add to the frustration, condoms are offered for free on most campuses. Bohutska feels menstrual products should be equally as accessible as condoms, or even more so.
“In my opinion, women’s products should be accessible for free for women and they should be right next to the freakin’ condoms.”
While the U of C offers priced menstrual products in women’s washrooms, not every Calgary campus is like this. Ambrose University does not provide any products, even at a cost, in their women’s washrooms.
Ambrose Student Council president, Maddy Kehler, says offering free menstrual products is not a priority at the school, however, she personally supports the idea.
“I think maybe in comparison to finances or big mental health [projects], it’s a little lower on the radar, but I still think that it’s something that is a priority that needs to be addressed on campus,” Kehler says.
Unlike Ambrose, the U of C does offer menstrual products in women’s washrooms, but they are still not the best quality products and sometimes the dispensers aren’t working or are empty, says Bohutska.
“I don’t think they’re doing enough… if you go into a bathroom right now, what are the chances of a machine being fully workable [with] a decent quality product in there?”
According to Aisle, a menstrual product retailer, when people who menstruate can’t afford adequate products they start looking for alternative ways to handle the problem and this may include wearing their pads or tampons for much longer periods of time.
When tampons are worn longer than the prescribed time, they can start to create health problems like toxic shock syndrome. This can be fatal or cause urinary tract infections, which can lead to even greater health issues.
Though there are various ways that lack of access to menstrual products can cause health issues, there are several different views on if these products should be free.
Shereen Samuels, director of student services for Mount Royal University’s student association, SAMRU, believes that although menstrual products should be considered a necessity, it does not necessarily mean they must be free. Samuels does, however, see some room for improvement when it comes to the cost of menstrual products.
“I certainly don’t think they should have GST applied to them, for example.”
The SAMRU is not attached to the university itself, but represents students’ needs. While they provide tampons in both male and female restrooms in Wyckham House Student Centre on the MRU campus for a fee, they also offer free products in the peer support office located in Wyckham House.
The only concern with these free offerings is that raising students’ awareness of these products is “one of the things that the students’ association always struggles with,” Samuels says.
If these free products are not being properly advertised, it’s not likely students will find out about them, especially because those who menstruate do not typically feel comfortable discussing concerns they have around menstruation and access to adequate products.
Mount Royal University business student, Ebube Okeke, worries bringing up the topic may cause discomfort, especially when men are involved.
“Some men are still kind of uncomfortable about the topic and so if you were to bring it up to maybe a male superior, like a male prof or someone... you kind of don’t want to put them in that situation where they’re uncomfortable.”
Because of this, those who menstruate and can’t afford adequate products tend to silently struggle instead of speak out.
Bohutska says the hesitancy to discuss issues involving menstruation also occurs because there is an assumption that those speaking up will not be taken seriously.
“For any woman to bring this up, it wouldn’t be something that she would be comfortable or inspired to talk about,” she says.
“They automatically know it’s just going to be shut down, just because it’s not the biggest priority.”
Pandemic lockdown has some perks — working from home, having time to learn a new hobby or two and even catching up on TV shows you’ve been wanting to watch. But some new habits are going to have to be broken when this is all over. Here are seven things that should be left in the past with COVID-19.
1. Ordering booze for delivery … and drinking it all right away: Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love to have alcohol show up at your front door without even having to put on pants? The problem arises when you order a flat of beer and finish it all on your own within 48 hours.
2. Haircuts at home: There’s a reason we pay our barbers and hair stylists for their services and that reason has never been clearer. Sure, the haircut you gave yourself may look okay from the front on a Zoom call but the 3-D version may not be quite as sharp. Let’s leave haircuts to the pros.
Photo: Nicholas Montpetit-Skuba
3. Everything to do with Tiger King: Now there’s a guy who needs a haircut. Yes, the show was thoroughly entertaining, but the Carole Baskin jokes are wearing thin. From memes on Facebook to dances on TikTok, let’s leave Tiger King in the past with quarantine.
Photo: Nicholas Montpetit-Skuba
4. Ordering McDonald’s for delivery: Does anyone ever actually need McDonald’s bad enough to order it for delivery? Probably not but those fries are just so damn good. From here on out though, maybe support local a little bit more and order delivery from our neighborhood restaurants.
Photo: Erik Mclean/unsplash.com
5. Stocking up on toilet paper: For those who panic purchased, continue working through your three-year supply before you go out and buy more.
Photo: Erik Mclean/unsplash.com
6. Ordering snacks from Amazon: Not having to leave the house and have snacks delivered is pretty awesome, until you have packages showing up every day containing only a single bag of chips — even if you were hungry after 14 beers and thought it would be a good idea at the time.
Photo: Ryan Quintal/unsplash.com
7. Watching professional athletes play video games: Esports are popular but watching Major League Baseball players hit virtual line drives or hockey stars playing Fortnite isn’t exactly entertainment. Let’s leave that to the professional gamers.
Photo: Vlad Gorshkov/unsplash.com
Interest in gardening has grown in Calgary since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and business owners and customers alike are feeling the impact of its increasing popularity.