HomeLocal governmentCity Commission votes to put free menstrual products in both male and female City restrooms
City Commission votes to put free menstrual products in both male and female City restrooms
October 13, 2022
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At their General Policy Committee meeting this afternoon, the Gainesville City Commission directed the City Manager to put pads and tampons in all City-owned restrooms, both male and female.
Commissioner Reina Saco championed the issue and introduced the agenda item, saying this is part of “conversations of how to best expand what the City does surrounding healthcare. Healthcare is not generally our first lane, so to speak, but we do look for ways to… make sure everyone stays healthy and has the dignity of care that they deserve as humans. So I think this is one small way we can enhance public health for our community.”
Morgan Spicer, the Interim Policy Oversight Administrator, gave a presentation on “Providing No-Cost Sanitary Products in Municipal Bathrooms,” saying that “Access to sanitary products, including menstrual hygiene items… has become a globally recognized public health topic due to cost and access inequality.”
The presentation stated that menstrual products cost an average of $300 per year. The presentation also cited a 2019 study that said 64% of low-income study participants were unable to afford menstrual hygiene products during the previous year and that 37% of students surveyed by Women’s Reproductive Health said they have missed school due to a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products.
Potential advantages to the policy were listed as benefiting lower-income neighbors due to the cost of sanitary products, making restroom necessities more accessible to neighbors, and helping to stop the spread of blood-borne pathogens and diseases.
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Potential disadvantages were listed as difficulty in finding adequate, cost-efficient sources of products, additional work for restroom managers, potential environmental impacts, and potential misuse of sanitary products provided in restrooms.
A second presentation, “An Argument for Free Menstrual Products in City Bathrooms,” was given by Riley Moon. As Saco introduced Moon, she asked others to “be respectful of their pronouns, which are they/them… and make that effort to make them feel comfortable at City Hall.”
The presentation states that 52% of the people living in Gainesville are “assigned female at birth” and then uses poverty rates to estimate that 18,600 people in Gainesville “experience period poverty.”
Another slide estimated the cost of menstrual products, stating that an average box of tampons usually contains 36 tampons for $13; the slide says that comes to $2 per tampon, but it’s actually 36 cents per tampon. Walmart (which has locations near areas with low-income populations in Gainesville), sells 18 super absorbency tampons for $3.17, or 17 cents per tampon. Even organic tampons are only 38 cents per tampon at Walmart. Brand-name (Tampax) regular absorbency tampons are 18 cents per tampon.
Using those inflated numbers, the slide computes $41 per cycle for menstrual products. The cost at Walmart would be $3.57 per cycle or $42.84 per year.
The presentation offered counters to the disadvantages listed above; the counter to the potential misuse of sanitary products was, “We live in society that stigmatizes the menstrual cycle. We need to start the normalization process and the only way to do this is to start.” The presentation proposed a pilot program with products being offered in restrooms at 6 City parks.
Saco said people have told her privately that “this is just some women’s fad issue, and I very politely said that this is an issue for people who menstruate, not necessarily for women.”
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos supported the pilot plan and suggested adding the MLK Center, Bo Diddley Plaza, and City pools.
Commissioner Harvey Ward said he was “Totally in support… We don’t ask people to bring their own soap to the bathroom. We don’t ask people to bring their own toilet paper to the bathroom. I don’t know why we ask people to bring their own menstrual products to the bathroom.” He said instead of starting with a pilot, the City should “treat it as any other restroom supply in municipal restrooms.”
Commissioner David Arreola said he also supported a full roll-out to all municipal restrooms.
Interim City Manager Cynthia Curry estimated that the policy would require a one-time cost of about $20,000 to outfit all the restrooms and about $2,000-$5,000 annually to restock the restrooms. She said the money is not currently in the budget.
Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut said she would prefer a pilot, but “many, many restaurants” provide menstrual products in their restrooms already, and “We know that the restaurant model works; it works today, and it’s been going on for years.”
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos also supported a full roll-out.
Mayor Lauren Poe agreed with Ward that “This just simply needs to be a sort of baseline amenity… in all of our public restrooms… I just cannot think of a reason to not do it.”
Saco was delighted at the enthusiasm for a full roll-out and started to make a motion asking the City Manager to come back with a plan, but Curry said no plan was necessary; she could “just do it,” as Poe said.
So Saco made a motion to go ahead and put menstrual products in City-owned restrooms, “and I do mean all, not only women’s restrooms.”
During public comment, Gracia Fernandez said the conversation can be a bit awkward to have: “If I, born as a female, assigned a uterus when I was born, decided to transition into a male-expressing person, I will still have a period, and I will use the men’s bathroom but will still have a period. So it complicates the conversation when we try to gender it. And it’s not just a women/female-assigned-at-birth issue; it’s for dads who have teenage daughters, whose wives are out of town and need to go pick up a quick tampon for their kid… It’s for kids whose period started with no warning in the middle of the day at school and just need to take a quick detour to the park.”
The motion passed unanimously.
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