Help a Girl Out. Period.


Danielle Martin


There is a secret language known to only half the school. Built on pantomimes, code words, and extended eye contact, this language communicates the same meaning at the same time of month to the same group of people. The speakers of this language do not use it with the intention of being exclusive— they use it for privacy purposes, to shield themselves from a social stigma all women face. Women at Latin use this secret language to communicate to their friends across the room that they have unexpectedly gotten their period and need feminine products.

Thanks to Olivia Long ‘17 and Latin’s Alliance for Women (LAW), the need for this secret language at Latin is slowly dwindling.

Since sophomore year, Long has stocked their locker with menstrual supplies. Located on the third floor hallway with the senior mailboxes, Long distinguishes locker number 3214 with a sign. The bottom shelf of their locker houses the supplies, which Long pays for with their own money.

“My locker is basically a place where you can get pads, tampons, and underwear, anything you need in case you get your period in the middle of the day and don’t have supplies. [My locker] is always open, and I make sure to have different absorbency of tampons and both medium and large underwear,” explained Long.

Long, like many others at Latin, faced the challenge of starting their period in the middle of the school day. The five-minute passing period is little time to find the supplies needed while managing to make it to class on time.

“The vending machines in the women’s bathrooms were always empty. The nurse would have pads and tampons, but they wouldn’t always be the best quality and sometimes the nurse’s office was closed. Most of the time, I would text my friends and ask if they had any pads or tampons, and sometimes they didn’t. So there were times when I would have to walk over to Potash,” said Long.

A box of U by Kotex regular tampons costs $9.49 and a box of U by Kotex regular liners costs $9.99, a high price for one emergency and an even higher one for monthly purchasing. Long recalls the trek to potash as “a hassle” and empathized with others at Latin who experienced the same difficulty. With the simple intention of easing stress, Long dedicated their locker to helping women at Latin when it is that time of the month.

While Long’s locker tackles the challenges that women on their periods face at Latin, LAW’s feminine product drive (March 6-8) aims to lessen the burden of homeless women around Chicago. Even being able to use the secret language that women at Latin have adopted is a privilege. Millions of women do not have access to feminine products and must choose between buying a box of tampons or a day’s worth of meals.

“We knew this was an issue that a lot of women experiencing homelessness face, and we’ve been really into making tangible goals and little changes to our community to make it a better place. So, the feminine product drive was born,” explained LAW’s Club Meetings Coordinator Layla Passman ‘17.

The drive required careful planning. LAW contacted the head of the Tampon Tuesday club at Parker for tips, and comfortably discussed the drive during their meetings. At first, LAW wanted to coin the drive “Period Product Drive” but, unfortunately, had to change its name.

“It’s true that we had to be careful with the wording of our drive,” said Passman. “Unfortunately, some people at our school haven’t reached a maturity level where they can say ‘period.’ Sad! But it doesn’t matter what it’s called, it’s really about accomplishing this goal and giving women who are homeless dignity and hygiene.”

Even after Long and LAW increased the dialogue surrounding periods, it still remains a taboo subject to some Latin students. And despite being a natural part of over 3.5 billion lives, some women still feel embarrassed while menstruating.

“I always look around before I go into [Long’s locker to get products],” said one senior, who requested to remain anonymous. “Personally, I think periods aren’t a big deal. But periods are something that is so taboo in society and considered gross. I don’t want [students and teachers at Latin] who still have that mindset to read this and then judge me when they see me.”

Anticipating this social stigma— not to mention the difficulties that come with attracting participants for any drive— LAW carefully strategized how to receive donations. The video at gathering both aimed to educate the student body on the lack of access to feminine products and to create empathy.

“It made a lot of us very sad. Sometimes pathos is a good way to get people to participate in your cause,” said Passman. “It shouldn’t be shameful, but rather a source of pride for women. We knew people might laugh at this, but it’s a serious issue that a lot of women who are homeless face, and we hope people consider that before they make fun.”

Both Long and LAW believe that no one should be ashamed of getting their period and hope that Latin students and teachers alike approach these conversations with maturity.

“We want to emphasize how women can support other women instead of tearing them down,” said Passman.

Long and LAW are doing just that: lessening the burden on those who get their periods and helping each other out.