Skip to main content

17th November 2022

Up the creek without a pad

Are the free pads in the Students’ Union toilets enough to save you when shark week arrives?
Up the creek without a pad
Photo: Anna Nixon @ The Mancunion

Are the new pads in the SU enough to save the stress of a bloody mess? All of us who have experienced the endless joy that is the monthly period are probably all too familiar with looking down with dread at those first bloody spots. Sometimes, this stress can be cleared up with supplies sunk into the corners of book-filled tote bags or a favour from the pocket of a good friend, but this is not always the case. Not all of us can be pre-planned Pamelas, and I, for one, have found myself caught out many a time. So what can you do when you are caught in a sitch without a fix? Well, the new emergency pad dispensers may be just the absorbent ticket.

At the beginning of this academic year, I was pleased to see that the Students’ Union mixed-gender toilets had acquired some new decoration. Upon the wall between the sinks hung a glorious white box with tampons and pads for those of us who suffer the monthly bleed. These are provided by the company Grace and Green which partnered with the NHS to bring free period products to University of Manchester students. On the box, the phrase “it’s about bloody time” is written, and these pads could be just the thing to save you when that stressful time of the month arrives.

As well as this, the placement of pads in a public space, especially one seen by both men and women, is extremely beneficial to the destigmatizing of periods. Periods are (roughly) a monthly occurrence for around half of the student population and should not be something people feel embarrassed about or feel the need to hide.

So, the theory is great, but what about the practicality?

As an English Literature student, I am not usually one for maths; however, even I know that a bleeding person plus an absorbent pad should equal problem solved. But there are so many more factors, especially when we consider the differences between people’s periods and the volume we bleed. Whilst some of us produce just enough blood to paint an A4 sheet with a nice shade of red, others could paint a whole room to look like a murder scene. Differing levels of bleeding are completely normal (though if you could fill a whole room, you should probably get this checkout with a GP) and different women need different pads.

And this is where the problem occurs.

Although the pads in the SU may be suitable for some very light bleeders, they would not be suitable to hold much more than the bleed of a barbie doll. In fact, the pads provided in the SU are so thin that you’d probably be better off tearing out a few pages of whichever academic text is boring you the most and stuffing that in your pants instead.

So we are stuck with the same problem. Those with too heavy bleeds to be stopped by a literal panty liner either have to use a tampon (which, again, is fairly small, and some women cannot or do not like wearing them) or go home. This means that the natural bodily functions of half the student population may force them to miss out on education as they have to go home to collect pads instead of attending lectures.

If you are caught out in this situation there are a few places you can go: Milk and Honey café and the engineering building both have pads in the women’s toilets that are more absorbent and would last you at least a couple of hours. Be careful though; it might take you a while to find toilets that have period products in the engineering building as that place is a maze!

To conclude, the SU now has free pads (yay!) but they wouldn’t hold more than a fly’s wee (boo!). If you are caught out in an emergency, there are places with pads on campus, but pick the right ones as some like the Samuel Alexander Building have nothing. It’s a bit like pad roulette — the loser gets bloody trousers.

So, as much as free pads are a wonderful addition to campus and are acknowledging a far too-overlooked issue, we may have to keep bleeding for justice a little while longer.

More Coverage

Does the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award actually impact UCAS applications?

Is the beloved Duke of Edinburgh’s award deserving of the hype, or is it about time to accept that it is overrated?

Yes, there’s comfort in conformity – but it’s less fun: The internet is killing individuality 

How can we form our own identity if our self-expression is dictated by the internet?

‘No-No-No’: Manchester’s Christmas markets are back

The Manchester Christmas markets are overcrowded, overpriced, and miserable. Please don’t make me go again

Could David Cameron’s shock return be a lifeline for the House of Lords?

David Cameron’s appointment as Foreign Secretary is sure to ruffle some feathers; but is this the start of a better future for Britain and British interests, both at home and abroad?