ELISE KEI-RAHN ’16
Kanye West is a bold artist who is the epitome of self-expression. West is the subject of my senior American Studies thesis on the revision of the American Dream through social consciousness. The root of my argument is that the past 30 years have demonstrated a dramatic shift away from the traditional whitewashed material-driven aspirations of being able to support perfect family living in a white picket fence home in suburbia. Rather, the new dream is to be able to freely express and define oneself to the greatest capacity. West, despite being a controversial figure and often disregarded as a jocular celebrity, poises himself as a valuable figure in today’s society. Ultimately, I hope this column, Lisi and Yeezy, will offer a humorous account of me analyzing current pertinent issues. So, let’s talk about tampons.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what tampons have do with Kanye West. To be honest, they have no direct association with him whatsoever. But tampons are easily associated with the female body, which plays a large component in gender expression, an issue that arises within Kanye’s discography. UNICEF reports that 1 out of 10 African school girls fail to enroll, skips school, or drops out of school entirely because of a lack of menstrual products and inaccessibility to proper sanitation in their area. This disparaging dearth of sanitary products in the continent’s developing countries constructs a major barrier to providing education to females. On average, the incapability of managing one’s menstrual cycle contributes to consistent absences of four to five school days each month, which is often dubbed the “Week of Shame.” Missing such a large portion of the school year poises these students in a position that will hinder their opportunities for economic growth through future employment opportunities.
But the sanitary product industry isn’t just a problem in developing countries. The United Kingdom’s tampon tax is a prime example of fostering gender inequality. The UK’s Value-Added Tax system marks tampons as a “non-essential luxury item.” Although Great Britain is only one of the nations composing the UK, this demarcation caused such an uproar with Brits that 250,000 of them asked Parliament to eliminate the 5% luxury tax. Upon voting on October 26, 2015, the tax is still in place. It’s essential to note that women Members of Parliament compose only 29% of the 650 seats. I have a lot of bad blood-just a tad more than Taylor Swift-with this issue. First and foremost, there is nothing luxurious about a tampon. The majority of tampons aren’t constructed from quality materials. LOLA, a new tampon brand started by two recent Dartmouth graduates, constructs their tampons from 100% cotton with no additional additives. LOLA’s commitment to creating a body-friendly product is an anomaly within the famine hygiene care industry. After testing various brands, LOLA’s entrepreneurs Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier came to the conclusion that the average tampon is made with a blend of polyester, rayon, and some cotton in addition to synthetic preservatives, fragrances, or dyes. Hey Parliament, my vagina wants to tell you that shitty tampons aren’t luxurious, their invasive to my well-bing. So if I want to pay for tampons that won’t do my body harm, I’ll need to sell an arm and a leg for them. I don’t really see this as a large problem because: I’ll just amputate my leg-the fabric tampon is bleached with chemicals that can cause a serious, widespread infection. Dudes, doesn’t this sound like a grand old time?
Looking at the prison system within our own country, we can see yet another case of tampon taboo. Many prisons and jail refuse to provide adequate feminine hygiene products to inmates. Last year, the ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight female inmates whose accusations ranged from forcing inmates to share a minute amount of pads or tampons, which routinely leads to bleeding though clothing because one pad per person per menstrual cycle is the equivalent of being sent to hell, to not being able to wash soiled clothing. Walk across most college campuses, with the exception of institutions who are opposed to contraception, which is another issue within itself, and you’ll find free condoms everywhere. On our own campus, I can immediately think of the Health Center, WGRAC, events on campus, and even your RA providing them. But alas, not feminine products. Most of the bathroom dispensers where one can pay for one aren’t even filled on a regular basis. Now I’m not saying that I can’t pay for them on my own, I’m merely suggesting that it’s less taboo to ask for a condom than it is for something that will prevent me from having an “All Red Everything” party in my pants.
Menstruation shouldn’t be an oppressive thing. Every healthy woman without medical issues that prevent periods is subjugated to an already miserable time of the month. In response to Caiytlyn Jenner’s transistion, Kanye mused, “Look, I can be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am. I can have the most beautiful little daughter in the world, and I have that. But I’m nothing if I can’t be me. If I can’t be true to myself, they don’t mean anything.” Ladies, let’s listen to our inner Kanye and embrace our uterus’s decision to be heartless to us each month. We can be BAMFS (Bad Ass Menstruating Females). Most girls at this college will never have to face being in a prison or drop out of school because you don’t have a tampon, but bleeding in your pants because you don’t have a sanitary product is downright degrading. Women can’t live up to their full potential if a portion of their being is deemed as a degrading part of society. Because—in the spirit of Yeezy—“Man, this (gender inequality) is f-ing ridiculous.”