Any teenage girl can vouch for the necessity of accessible, affordable menstrual products. Getting your first period—at school, at home, or at a dance—is such a rite of passage that it’s an omnipresent trope in most girlhood coming-of-age stories. Remember Vada’s iconic line in My Girl (1991)? “I’m hemorrhaging!”
It’s no wonder that preteen girls will do everything possible to avoid that dreaded school scenario: changing from blood-stained bottoms to a borrowed pair of sweatpants.
Middle Schoolers Bake Tampon In Protest
With that goal in mind, a trio of middle schoolers organized an initiative to provide free menstrual products at their school. When their principal denied their request, the girls fought back in the most surprising way possible. Their choice of protest? Fresh-baked cookies in the shape of bloodied tampons.
In a viral tweet with over 50,000 likes, Ilyse Hogue going by the username @ilyseh shared a photograph of the infamous cookies. “My friend’s 7th grader goes to a school where the kids organized for free tampons in the bathroom. The male principal said no because they would ‘abuse the privilege.’ The kids decided to stage a cookie protest,” she posted.
My friend’s 7th grader goes to a school where the kids organized for free tampons in the bathroom. The male principle said no because they would “abuse the privilege.” The kids decided to stage a cookie protest. Behold the tampon cookies! pic.twitter.com/jz2KtbhOhS— Ilyse Hogue is @ilyseh everywhere (@ilyseh) October 30, 2019
Sympathetic commenters soon flooded Hogue’s replies, as well as retweeting the original post nearly 8,000 times. “When I see tweets like this, I know that the kids are gonna be alright,” wrote @RayRedacted.
Another user (@someonelizz) applauded the courage and audacity of these young activists: “When I was in 7th grade, I think I would have died rather than even utter the word ‘tampon’ to any adult cis male, so these kids are way ahead of me.”
“Girls, even in the 7th grade, should not be underestimated or undermined. Their response is beautiful, impactful, and brilliant! For humor’s sake, I’d love to hear an example of exactly how one can ‘abuse the privilege’ of a tampon. Tampons aren’t a privilege. They’re necessary,” opined @TheRealMSBlake.
Tampons are a necessity for girls on their period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend changing menstrual products regularly, every 4 to 8 hours (at least once per school day). “Wearing a pad or period underwear for too long can lead to a rash or an infection,” the CDC warns.
However, most users wanted an answer: how could a student ‘abuse their tampon privilege’? Did that involve, for example, using multiple tampons at a time? Maybe students were inserting them in their nostrils? Or did the principal believe that middle schoolers would steal menstrual products and resell them for a profit?
Abuse them how? Is there a high street value for them? Are they going to overdose? Use a super when they could have made do with a light? Are pads just a gateway? Next you know they will be on DivaCups!— mary alice carter (@MACarter73) October 30, 2019
One Twitter user (@JaLowe_) pointed out how other basic sanitary products were regularly misused, yet school administrators still kept them readily available: “When I was in school, it wasn’t uncommon for students to take toilet paper and decorate the school with it. Yet no one ever suggested toilet paper never be provided, in case it’s abused. Not ever.”
Multiple users highlighted the underlying classism that could be involved. “What they mean is poor kids might take some home, and they don’t want that,” insinuated @odetomedusa. Another user (@my_real_name) agreed: “Because menstruation is such a privilege— especially for poor kids from working-class families.”
Millions of Americans Cannot Afford Menstrual Products
According to a 2022 study on period poverty, approximately 11.3 million low-income women in the US cannot afford menstrual hygiene products. Half of these women are forced to choose between these basic necessities and food. Shame and stigma often prevent people who menstruate from speaking out on issues like period product accessibility and affordability.
Across most of the United States, tampons and other feminine hygiene goods are subject to taxation—unlike other basic necessities, like prescriptions and toilet paper. In total, women and others who menstruate will spend approximately $1,773 on period products throughout their lifetime.
Many Activists Rushed To Their Support
Fellow activists also joined the Twitter conversation, eager to know how they could support the girls’ efforts. “This is amazing. How can we help?! We do policy advocacy on period products in schools across the US and have lots of toolkits and resources we can share,” wrote @periodmovement.
Hogue, who is also the president of the non-profit NARAL Pro-Choice America, quickly redirected well-wishers to the girls’ website: “Update from the kid’s themselves. Honored to have been able to share these student’s stories and honored to be able to report back.”
Although the website is no longer active, the Revolutionary Girls’ Baking Society once featured a welcome banner with a picture of its founders. Three young girls facing backward, wearing denim and bandanas, and lifting up baking utensils in a power pose—an image reminiscent of the iconic Rosie the Riveter poster.
Through their website, they released a statement explaining their decision to remain anonymous: “Because really, we are Every Girl in Every Town across the U.S. and the world who is finding her way in a society that doesn’t want to hear us talk about our bodies and something that is perfectly healthy and perfectly normal.”
For those aspiring to recreate the sweet treat, the recipe appears simple. According to the online food magazine Delish, the baked goods appear to be “sugar cookies sandwiched together with red frosting, dipped in white frosting, and baked with a ‘string’ coming out.” The perfect dessert to serve on the next Menstrual Hygiene Day.
This article Middle Schoolers Protest by Baking Tampon Cookies For Their Principal After He Denied Their Request For Free Sanitary Products was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.