Ever since the beginning of the school year, Ohio University students have noticed new menstrual product dispensers on the walls of the bathrooms around campus, including Baker University Center, Donkey Coffee & Espresso and Alden Library.
The company behind the new dispensers is Aunt Flow, a group whose mission is ensuring everyone has access to menstrual products.
Aunt Flow was started by Claire Coder who, when she was 18 years old, unexpectedly got her period without the supplies she needed around her. She realized this was a common issue for many women with little access to menstrual products in their communities.
Since then, Aunt Flow has ensured that for every 10 menstrual products sold, it will donate one to an organization that supplies products to menstruators who need them. The company currently supports these organizations: (914) Cares, Dignity Grows, Keeping Families Covered, Sylvia’s Sisters, Giving Hope & Help and Period.org.
So far, it’s donated over 500,000 tampons and pads.
“I think providing free menstrual products around campus is very helpful because I know I have been stuck in situations where I’ve not been prepared or just forgotten something, and it would be really helpful to know that it’s there as a backup,” Hannah Bitner, a freshman studying pre-engineering, said. “There’s also people on campus who maybe cannot afford these products at some point since they’re really expensive for no reason, and I think it would be a great thing to have for people who need it in case of an emergency or people who just need it in general.”
Another aspect of Aunt Flow is it believes in the importance of language and inclusivity. The company is “actively changing our language to create a gender inclusive community,” according to its website.
Because of this notion, it also refers to all period products as “menstrual products” instead of “feminine hygiene products.” This is to make sure all students have access to these menstrual products regardless of gender identity.
Aunt Flow also emphasizes that those who use menstrual products should watch for the ingredients companies are putting in them, as most leading menstrual product brands are not required to disclose all of the ingredients. As a result, many menstrual products can be bleached with chlorine as well as contain synthetics, dyes and chemicals that could all be potentially harmful for one’s health.
Many of these products are only limited to certain areas of campus, which has proven to be another challenge for spreading this initiative.
“I wish that we were more involved in putting Aunt Flow products in more buildings on campus since, right now, we only do Baker Center and Alden Library,” Nate Padilla, a graduate assistant for OU Student Senate, said.
Despite these setbacks, OU has still been supplying bathrooms with Aunt Flow products, including 100% organic and biodegradable tampons and pads, in Alden Library. The dispensers say “Please, only take what you need” to emphasize that these products are dire for those who maybe cannot afford or have constant access to them.
With an optimistic take on spreading awareness about Aunt Flow, organizations like Student Senate who are involved on campus believe this company has still provided many benefits for students and will continue to do so in the future as campus life returns to a new normal.
“It’s been a great collaboration so far, I’d like to say,” Padilla said. “(Aunt Flow’s workers) are always so excited that we are continuing this project.”
Students around campus have also thought highly of the work the university has done with Aunt Flow.
“When I first came to Ohio, and one of the first times I went into Baker’s bathrooms and I saw it, I was just very excited,” Eliana D’Astici, a freshman studying media arts production, said. “It’s kind of empowering to me because they have those there, and it just felt like it was a little extra support for people who menstruate.”