It’s not until you start paying attention you realise how ridiculous it is. £2 for a tampon out of a machine. You must have the right change – 2 individual pound coins or you’re goosed. And that’s one of the cheaper scenarios!
If you use the women’s toilets, have a look next time. Are the machines stocked? Are there machines at all? You’d be surprised at how often the answers no to either one of the two. A number of restaurants and bars don’t have sanitary product machines, but they have machines which vend condoms, vape refills, even disposable toothbrushes.
So why is this? Why is it you can always access toilet roll and soap free of charge and not sanitary products? Why is it that sanitary products are categorised as luxuries that you have to pay to vend, the same way you do if you’re after a condom, some shifty scented lube or a candyfloss vape refill?
It’s the price you pay for having ovaries. It’s that simple. The previously mentioned products are used either by both men and women or men specifically. Sanitary products are a necessity for anybody with a female reproductive system, just as essential as toilet roll and soap is to everybody! There is no reason we should have to pay for tampons, anywhere. In shops, in pubs, in public places, museums, dancings, stadiums, train stations – nowhere!
It’s this realisation combined with the current political momentum behind the concept of ‘period poverty’ which made me take my own action. I love football, and I love politics – so it seemed only right to mix the two! With football being a male-dominated sport, we thought it would be particularly significant if we were to increase the visibility of football fans in football grounds by pushing for free sanitary products provision in football stadia – starting with our own team, Celtic.
Two female season ticket holders Mikaela McKinley and Orlaith Duffy, along with myself started an online petition encouraging Celtic FC to make sanitary products free of charge in their stadium. With Celtic being the top of the league for such a considerable time, with the profit margins and reputations that they have – it seemed only natural that Celtic lead the way with this initiative.
It is no secret that sanitary products are expensive. It is the harrowing truth that not all women and girls can afford them, and many find themselves choosing between food or menstrual hygiene. This has to change. Work to increase accessibility to sanitary products in Parliament currently has a primary focus on schools, colleges and universities which is absolutely essential – ensuring that no women or girls have to miss out on education. However, we believe that social inclusion is just as important as education and free sanitary products should be provided in all public places so that females are not prevented from participating in social activities – an important factor in lifestyle, wellbeing and mental health.
This isn’t a problem specific to Celtic, it is across all teams and all leagues. However, it can’t be ignored that women have always been the minority gender in football grounds, although our numbers are increasing! Females are often overlooked in terms of football merchandise, the female representation in lower league football is not massive compared to young boys participation and we’re often considered to follow the sport for male validation. We hope that by starting this campaign, if it is a success, that we will be able to highlight our deserving female presence at football grounds.
We have faced considerable backlash, and a lot of the arguments bare great similarity. Women demanding their essential hygiene needs are met isn’t greedy – its an absolute human right. Nobody should have to leave a football match halfway through because their needs weren’t met, nobody should have to compromise opportunities to socialise because they cannot access sanitary products. Nobody should be made to feel ashamed about their body’s natural functions.
Even if this campaign is not a success, it has started a lot of debate and discussion – which is a victory in itself. Social attitudes need to change towards menstruation. Once it is a normalised subject, we can improve accessibility and ensure nobody’s day at school, trip to the swimming or matchday experience is compromised.
**UPDATE: Erin’s campaign has been successful!**