Students in the Gender Communication (COMM 120) quietly sit as they listen to their guest speaker, Fresno State alumna Priscila Stanberry. They seem a bit timid at first — not something you would expect from a group of Communication students — but the topic is not something which is often talked about openly. As the conversation continues, the stories get a bit more personal. Some of the female students open up about the stigmas and difficulties around the topic. Even some of the male students joined in with what they have learned.
“I didn’t know how expensive it was to be a woman. I never went into that section of the store, so I never realized how expensive it is.”
Stanberry pushed the idea further to explain how access to period products can help lift menstruators out of poverty, something she is passionate about having come from poverty herself.
“A pad helps you stay in one more class so you can pass, or make it to a job interview, or actually make it to work,” said Stanberry. “Helping menstruators stay in school and work is one of the things I like to focus on.”
There is also a health risk for menstruators who don’t have access to period products. Stanberry explains that homeless menstruators who don’t have access to toilets or water “are having to use plastic bags, cardboard, rolled up socks,” which create ideal environments for bacteria to grow.
With help from friends and other passionate citizens, Stanberry runs the community initiative, “Better Period.” Her mission on the face is simple; she collects menstruation products or money to purchase those products and distributes them to menstruators in need through other community organizations.
“It’s great to see that Dr. Kartch and her students are addressing a huge need for local menstruators who struggle to pay their bills yet face this additional biological challenge every month, too,” said Dr. Honora Chapman, interim dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “With their help, menstruators will receive crucial support and also feel as if someone cares about their quality of life.”
Dr. Falon Kartch, associate communication professor, met Stanberry while she was tabling at ArtHop over the summer. Out of that chance meeting and a shared passion for de-stigmatizing menstruation, Kartch saw the opportunity for students to engage with the community create an opportunity for students to apply social justice in their community. Apart from a minimal structure, the initiative is entirely student-driven.
“[Students] have chosen locations for donation bins and negotiated the placement of them with various departments and programs. They have made flyers, contacted ‘The Collegian,’ solicited donations from businesses, and organized an event at the Sanger Starbucks,” said Kartch. “I love watching them take ownership over this project and make it their own.”
The students have set up donation bins around campus and the community, coordinated with other organizations, and worked to gain media coverage.
“Since becoming involved with this project, the most eye-opening realization I’ve had has been that so many women do not have access to basic necessities like menstrual hygiene products. This largely has to do with the fact that menstruation is something seen as taboo, and a subject that should not be discussed,” said Lauryn Flores, student. “However, as advocates, we must be willing to stand up and have the tough conversations, even if we’re the only ones talking about it. It’s about time someone started the conversation around menstrual health and I’m so glad that we could be part of that.”
Stanberry and volunteers combine donationed items to create “menstrual kits.” Each kit contains a one month supply of menstrual products which include tampons, pads, wipes, over the counter pain medication, travel-sized toiletries, and even new underwear.
“Not all women menstruate, and not all menstruators are women,” said Stanberry after describing a discussion she had with a transgender man during ArtHop in downtown Fresno. Stanberry went on to explain that by using inclusive language, it opens the topic for discussion beyond what is commonly known and better targets those who are in need. It also helps open the topic for conversations between those who don’t menstruate and those who do.
“Menstruation is such a stigmatized topic. One of the goals of this project is to work to de-stigmatize it. The way we de-stigmatize a topic is to talk about it,” said Kartch. “I am amazed at how many people have come up and talked to me about periods and shared their menstruation stories once they found out I was doing this project. [I] love that this drive is helping to raise awareness and bring into the light a topic that has been so taboo people have felt like they cannot, or should not, talk about it.”
“My views and the way I talk about has definitely changed,” said Giselle Hernandez, student. “I was never comfortable talking about this unless it was with my close friends and mom. Now, I’m talking about this at work and was inspired by Priscilla to have a small basket of femine products on my desk at work for other menustators to take. Usually it sparks a conversation.”
The project is ongoing, through Dec. 1, so the community has an opportunity to make students even more successful while providing those in need with products to get through their next period with dignity. Donation locations are listed below. If you have questions, contact Dr. Falon Kartch at 559.278.2878 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I am blown away by the support we have been receiving from the College and from the larger Fresno State community,” said Kartch. “People have been incredibly generous in housing donation bins, donating, and spreading the word. I have also received some really amazing emails from people who have been touched by this project. Because of the stigma around menstruation, I was not sure how well-received this was going to be, and it feels like the entire community is lifting us up and celebrating this cause.”
Flores has even been inspired to push the idea further on campus by setting up a student-focused initiative.
“I am currently in the process of starting a student chapter of the PERIOD Movements at Fresno State. This organization will continue to fight to end period stigma and period poverty through education, advocacy, and service.”
- COMM Dept main office – SA 15
- Child & Child Science main office – FFS 111
- Philosophy Dept main office – MB 102a
- Sociology Dept main office – SS 211
- Speech Arts women’s restroom
- MCJ Dept main office – McKee Fisk 236
- Women’s Studies Program office – McKee Fisk 243
- Student Union near the staircase on the second floor
- 4th floor of Henry Madden Library.
- Off campus: Starbucks at Shaw & West