Many students walking through Frist Campus Center on Friday, Nov. 30 paused when they saw cupcakes decorated with labia and chocolate covered pretzels designed to look like bloody tampons.
The desserts were part of Princeton Students for Gender Equality (PSGE) and Princeton Students for Reproductive Justice’s (PSRJ) third annual Menstruation Celebration, an event that aims to destigmatize conversation about periods.
“It’s not just about raising awareness about several problems around menstruation like the lack of access to menstrual products, but also just trying to reduce some of the stigma around periods,” PSRJ co-president Mabel Felix ’20 said.
In addition to the creative food decoration, the celebration included a game of “Pin the Ovaries on the Uterus”, a “Tampon Toss” with the aim of throwing a tampon into an oversized vagina, and a station for watercolor painting.
“It’s a really important issue and I think it’s great that there is such an open platform to talk about it,” Kirsten Keels ’21 said.
There was also a box where students could donate menstrual products to homeless people who menstruate through Support the Girls, an organization dedicated to distributing bras and menstrual products to women in need.
After donating, people could enter a raffle to win a diva cup, cramp care oil blend, an echo dot, or the event’s featured book, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf’s Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity.
All of the activities were meant to educate University students about menstrual equity and the stigma associated with menstruation.
Organizers said menstrual equity is a movement for equal access to menstrual products for everyone with periods, especially homeless, incarcerated, and economically insecure people.
According to Felix, University students are less informed on the general topic of menstruation than some would think.
“The two previous menstruation celebrations, we had videos of some of the officers going around asking people — mostly men, who don’t get periods — asking them what menstruation was and it’s really shocking how little people know about periods,” Felix said.
To help educate people about menstruation, Michelle Schramm, Coordinator of Sexual Health and Wellness for the University Health Services, sat at a table to answer any questions.
Signs at the celebration included one supporting the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2017 (H.R. 972), one explaining menstruation, and another urging people to stop referring to menstruation as a women’s issue, since transgender and non-binary people get periods as well.
A more lighthearted sign deconstructed period myths like “You can lose a tampon in your vagina,” “Period week = blow job week,” and “PMS is not real.”
According to Felix, the language used when discussing menstruation is crucial to destigmatizing it. For instance, Felix said she encourages people to say “I have really bad cramps” instead of “I have a really bad stomach ache,” and to not hide tampons and pads when going to change them.
But she is aware that these adjustments can feel difficult.
“The fact that you acknowledge that periods are natural and there is nothing to feel ashamed about doesn’t translate necessarily into feeling more comfortable talking about them just because the stigma is such a socially pervasive thing,” Felix said.
Felix also explained that the University could do more for the accessibility of menstrual products.
“We’ve been trying to get the University to have menstrual products in bathrooms and they’ve been pushing back against that,” she said.
Information about menstrual product access at the event included a study that showed 54 percent of menstruating prisoners do not have enough pads and that menstrual products can cost up to $18,171 in a lifetime and they are not tax exempt.
The event also promoted involvement with organizations working towards menstrual equity, including PERIOD., Distributing Dignity, Pads4Girls, #HappyPeriod, #TheHomelessperiod, Days for Girls, and Free the Tampons.
The Menstruation Celebration was held on the main level of Frist Campus Center from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.