Jon Sundby, News Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday, Sept. 4, students who walked into the female bathrooms on campus found the tampon and menstrual pad machines had had their locks picked, all the products pulled out and a pad stuck to the machine with the inscription “Grinnell should provide for our bleeding bodies!” The culprit of this feat is Rebekah Rennick ’18, a student who is currently advocating for Grinnell to provide free feminine products on campus.
Rennick claims that the act was not pre-meditated, but that it was born out of a moment of necessity.
“It just was kind of happening,” Rennick said. “I literally had two bobby pins on me and I was in ARH, and I needed a product and I didn’t have a quarter and I was not at the time very financially solvent. I was like, well, these are my options.”
While the original act may have been spontaneous, Rennick decided to turn her situation into an act of protest, taping the written-on pad to the machine and proceeding to do the same to several other machines on campus. After news of the broken machines spread around campus, rumors quickly circulated that Rennick had broken into the machines to steal the money and tampons inside.
“There are rumors going around that I picked the locks, and damaged the machine and took money out of them, which is completely false. The machines are fine. If they want to go back to their capitalist market of charging us for menstrual products, great. They could, but I’m going to keep picking the locks, that’s where I’m at,” Rennick said.
Rennick sees the issue as part of a greater fight for equal access to education. She claims that paying for menstrual products can be a burden for women who aren’t of economic means and also for any women who forget to bring change or a product to class. These issues could potentially keep women out of the classroom, at least temporarily.
“Being in college, being in a financially difficult position and being in a place where we provide free condoms, we provide a lot of products to our students, and it just doesn’t make sense here at Grinnell to not just have tampons and pads readily available to students who might be unprepared in a moment’s notice,” Rennick said.
Rennick’s push for free menstrual products is not revolutionary. In the past couple years, numerous institutions have made similar reforms, including the University of Iowa.
“The move that the University of Iowa made is just another reason why it seems weird that Grinnell… doesn’t do it,” Rennick commented.
After the incident, a security report was written on the issue and key members of the administration, including President Raynard Kington, were informed about the incident. Rennick, however, said she is happy about the attention her protest is getting and already has written a personal letter to Kington to inform him of her reasoning. To Rennick, however, her fight goes beyond the scope of the administration. Its greater purpose is to start a conversation on campus around menstruation itself.
“It’s about breaking the culture, breaking the barrier about being silent about these things,” Rennick said. “Part of the reason that these industries are so successful, part of the reason that we so blindly go through these processes, putting 25 cents into a dispenser, is because we’ve been cultured … into thinking that it makes sense.”