The tampon share economy

Katie Thorburn looks at the new initiative addressing another kind of trickle down economics.

Artwork by Liam Donohoe Artwork by Liam Donohoe

Have you ever been on campus with blood trickling down your leg and nothing to stop it? A new initiative has been launched at USyd by a student to address this very issue.

Faced with the untimely arrival of a period, and unable to locate menstrual products in USU outlets, USyd Arts student, Jess Zlotnick, started a Facebook group where students can post requests for and in turn supply tampons: a “tamponshare”.

Zlotnick explained how it all began: “I sat down for a lecture on a Thursday morning and immediately knew I had my period. I’d given away my last tampon a couple days before to a friend, and when I googled “where to buy tampons on the USyd campus” nothing immediately came up.

“… I started messaging a couple group chats trying to locate a tampon”

That’s when Zlotnick thought “how much easier would it have been if I’d been able to ask a large pool of people beyond just my friends”. So she started the Facebook group: Tamponshare USyd.

Initially, the group’s membership was restricted to Zlotnick’s friends, but it grew quickly.

It now has 135 menstruating USyd students who can post tampon requests, and supply tampons to those in need.

Zlotnick hopes the initiative takes off. “I hope that it grows into a sharing economy of tampons; that if ever someone on campus needs a tampon they’ll be able to ask for help and receive it from strangers who are also on campus, that no one has to stress or worry about not having what they need when they need it.”

The group runs on the concept of “paying it forward”. If someone supplies you with a tampon when you’re in need, then it only makes sense to show some empathy the next time someone is asking for one.

One of the group’s broader goals is to destigmatise periods.

“We often just don’t talk about periods which keeps them as this kind of ‘taboo’ thing,” Zlotnick says. “But periods are just something bodies do and the typical ‘grossed out’ response is so tired and boring. I hope that in being open when a person has a period we kind of just start a discussion and make it something that’s about care rather than sanitation.”

The group has also been careful to stamp out cis-sexist language. Cissexism describes the set of norms that enforces the gender binary, resulting in the oppression of gender variant, non-binary and trans identities. So, instead of speaking in terms of one gender, the group acknowledges that many people menstruate: not just women, and not all women menstruate.

The great thing is, anyone can join! The group “is open to anyone who menstruates,” Zlotnick says. “It’s a safe space to ask for help when and if you need it.” Just look up ‘Tamponshare USYD’ on Facebook.