Fighting stigmas and the Pink Tax by ‘Going with the Flow’

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Fighting stigmas and the Pink Tax by ‘Going with the Flow’

Highlighting the importance of access to feminine hygiene products for all, sophomores Anna Newberry, Mira Nalbandian, Santi Lugo and Mason Paul model their future club plans. Newberry believes inaccessibility of products can lead to health issues, embarrassment and even a lack of belonging. “I want to stock bathrooms with feminine hygiene products to help reduce stigma and embarrassment that can come with having a period,” Newberry said. “I know [I] haven’t come to school before because I was embarrassed and wanted to go home, or I was in pain or didn’t have what I needed to have. I feel like everyone has a right to be here, and I feel like no one should feel like they can’t come to school.”

Highlighting the importance of access to feminine hygiene products for all, sophomores Anna Newberry, Mira Nalbandian, Santi Lugo and Mason Paul model their future club plans. Newberry believes inaccessibility of products can lead to health issues, embarrassment and even a lack of belonging. “I want to stock bathrooms with feminine hygiene products to help reduce stigma and embarrassment that can come with having a period,” Newberry said. “I know [I] haven’t come to school before because I was embarrassed and wanted to go home, or I was in pain or didn’t have what I needed to have. I feel like everyone has a right to be here, and I feel like no one should feel like they can’t come to school.”

Brinda Ambal

Highlighting the importance of access to feminine hygiene products for all, sophomores Anna Newberry, Mira Nalbandian, Santi Lugo and Mason Paul model their future club plans. Newberry believes inaccessibility of products can lead to health issues, embarrassment and even a lack of belonging. “I want to stock bathrooms with feminine hygiene products to help reduce stigma and embarrassment that can come with having a period,” Newberry said. “I know [I] haven’t come to school before because I was embarrassed and wanted to go home, or I was in pain or didn’t have what I needed to have. I feel like everyone has a right to be here, and I feel like no one should feel like they can’t come to school.”

Brinda Ambal

Brinda Ambal

Highlighting the importance of access to feminine hygiene products for all, sophomores Anna Newberry, Mira Nalbandian, Santi Lugo and Mason Paul model their future club plans. Newberry believes inaccessibility of products can lead to health issues, embarrassment and even a lack of belonging. “I want to stock bathrooms with feminine hygiene products to help reduce stigma and embarrassment that can come with having a period,” Newberry said. “I know [I] haven’t come to school before because I was embarrassed and wanted to go home, or I was in pain or didn’t have what I needed to have. I feel like everyone has a right to be here, and I feel like no one should feel like they can’t come to school.”

By Brinda Ambal, Parkway West High School

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Period. Any mention of this word will probably result in a flurry of teenage boys scurrying to distance themselves from the speaker as fast as humanly possible. 

However, sophomores Anna Newberry and Mira Nalbandian created the club Go with the Flow in hopes of destigmatizing periods, providing easier access to feminine hygiene products and lobbying for the removal of the Pink Tax.

Newberry hatched the idea when she visited a family friend who started a similar club at her school. She brought the idea to her friends, of whom Nalbandian agreed to help her co-lead the club.

“I’m really happy to do it because I care about the issue and I want to make a difference.  I already cared about the issue a lot and I have followed people on Instagram [who speak about it], but the idea of actually putting the period products in the bathrooms helped get things started,” Newberry said. “[We] have a very specific mission: reducing that stigma. It’s about empowerment through solving this problem.”

The club is in the beginning stages of planning, with the first project involving stocking bathrooms with feminine hygiene huts donated by local businesses.

“We are going to give [the huts] to local businesses that will donate the [feminine hygiene] products by filling them up. Then, we’ll put them in the bathrooms here. After that, it will become a routine of just collecting the boxes and restocking the bathrooms,” Newberry said. “Once that happens, we will focus on issues like taxes on products that can affect people’s abilities to access them rather than just sticking [products] in the bathrooms.”

Go With the Flow meets on the first Wednesday of every month, and reminders are posted on their Instagram, @TheFlow_PWest. Any and all students are welcome to join. 

“I feel like a lot of times guys are just really uncomfortable about it, and I think it’s important to educate everyone on the fact that it’s really just very normal. It’s something that women have to go through,” Nalbandian said. “I think that for men to understand would help to create a more comfortable environment so that women are able to share their experiences and not feel marginalized or made fun of.”

Sophomore and club member Santi Lugo believes that whether you have a period or not, everyone has a responsibility to empathize and help.

If we want to be able to coexist in a positive manner, and if we want to be able to understand each other and care for each other, we have to always look for how someone else might be struggling in some way.”

— sophomore Santi Lugo

“If we want to be able to coexist in a positive manner, and if we want to be able to understand each other and care for each other, we have to always look for how someone else might be struggling in some way,” Lugo said. “[A period] is not something I go through, but I know this is something that people struggle with that is a part of their life. I just think that it’s important to understand other people so that we can understand and connect with each other better.”

To sophomore Mason Paul, working together means having a space to talk openly, which he believes the club creates.

“It’s a topic that is just swept under the rug a lot. Bringing it out into the open can provide others with understanding so we can be able to empathize,” Paul said. “If we can understand what’s going on, [we] can be flexible with the situation.”

While she hopes to create change in policies through the club, sponsor Kim Hanan-West also believes that change begins with conversations.

“I’m extremely proud of all of the young people that have come together to talk so openly about the stigma related to a period and some of the self-consciousness that can get created during school,” Hanan-West said. “During my day and age, this just was not something that was talked about, particularly not between boys and girls, so I’m really proud of the openness, honesty and driven ambition that the members of the club have shown. [We] want to achieve the goals but also speak openly about this topic. It’s just amazing to me.”

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on September 27, 2019.