This Teenager Got Free Period Products For Her Whole School

by Gillian Walters

It's no secret that period products are expensive. According to HuffPost, the average woman will spend $2,216 on tampons and pads in her lifetime. If you think that price tag is daunting for a full-blown adult, try to comprehend the number from a teenager's perspective. Although many teens who have periods in America are lucky enough to have parents who supply them with period products, there are also plenty of people that rely on places like school to help them get through that time of the month. Unfortunately, schools aren't always well-stocked with period products, which is why this teenager's plight to help students who need period products is so important.

Cordelia Longo, an eighth grader at Islander Middle School in Mercer Island, Washington, is a super star. There is really no other way to describe Longo, a rising teen activist who recently petitioned her school to provide free period products to its students. According to NBC News, Longo was compelled to make a change when she found herself without a sanitary pad during the school day. Unfortunately for Longo, she experienced embarrassment and frustration after not being able to find a working sanitary napkin and tampon dispenser at the school. To make matters worse, one empty machine ate up her change, an experience which ultimately got her thinking about how she could make a difference.

Shortly after Longo's frustrating battle with the napkin and tampon dispensers, she drafted a thoughtful letter to her school's administration petitioning it to fix and refill the dispensers. In Longo's note, she pointed out how the school's failing dispensers were discriminatory against people with periods. As anybody with a working knowledge of biology knows, people with periods can't control the fact that they have periods. One can't help but wonder then: why are period products so expensive if menstruation is a natural bodily function?

In Longo's letter, she addressed these exact points, according to NBC News:

Why are tissues and toilet paper provided free at school, but not sanitary pads and tampons? As toilet paper and tissue are used for normal bodily functions, sanitary pads and tampons are also necessary to address normal bodily functions that happen naturally. The only difference is that only girls need pads. Girls do not choose to have periods. So girls are being penalized and made to pay for a bodily function they cannot control.

What Longo's intelligent petition hits on is something called a "Pink Tax." A Pink Tax is when "personal care products marketed to women cost an average of 13 percent more than those marketed to men," according to Vogue. It's an especially confusing and maddening phenomenon when you consider on average, "a woman earns 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, and women’s median annual earnings are $10,800 less than men’s," according to an April 2016 report from the Senate Joint Economic Committee Democratic Staff.

Luckily for Longo's fellow students, she took this Pink Tax injustice to heart. While Longo's school administrators reviewed her letter, she used her allowance to fill baskets with period products which she then distributed throughout the school.

Oh, and if you're not already obsessed with Longo's admirable efforts, it's important to note that she adorned the baskets with quotes from women's rights champion Hillary Clinton. One particular poignant quote came from Clinton's 1995 speech at the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women, when she famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights. Human rights are women’s rights," according to the New York Times.

After school administrators had discussed the letter, they decided to not only fix the dispensers, but they also agreed to provide all period products for free. Obviously, this decision was a big win for Longo and her fellow students.

In an emailed statement to NBC News, Longo's school administrators said:

We appreciate Cordelia bringing this issue to our attention, we are very proud of her for doing that, and for putting into practice the skills she gained in the social justice class. We have repaired any broken or empty machines and they [no] longer require any coins for feminine hygiene supplies. Ample supplies are also available in the health room and locker rooms.

In addition to Longo earning respect from her peers, she has also garnered a ton of support online:

Summing up her fight for free period products, Longo said, according to USA Today:

Normalizing and showing respect for women’s bodily functions is about humanity, empathy, and equality. We should want our boys to grow up with respect for the women in their lives, and for our girls to respect themselves.

Although Longo's act might seem small in the grand scheme of gender equality, her decision to stand up for her classmates who have periods is actually extremely important. By petitioning her school administrators for fairness and respect, Longo set an incredible example for young people everywhere. One can only imagine how Longo's impressive activism will influence others to enact change in their own schools and beyond.