Attending Melbourne Law School is an absolute privilege. That being said, there are small inefficiencies and inconveniences which plague life at law school and detract from an otherwise exceptional academic experience. I’d like to draw attention to a problem that persisted since be-fore my time at MLS, and has be-come a pet peeve of mine.
This week I raised the issue with Dean Evans, and have been assured that it is to be addressed shortly. Still, I feel that it is an issue worthy of discussion and we as a cohort should note the fact that an easily resolved problem unnecessarily persisted for so long simply because nobody spoke up about it.
If I had to guess, I'd say the problem has gone unaddressed because it's not a pretty subject, and actually riddled with girl germs. This problem really has been, however, a glaring deficiency within the school.
So I had to ask, why the fuck aren't there sanitary bins in every female toilet stall?
I wondered, was this an environmental protest against the waste generated by us pesky gals always menstruating all over the place? Because when you need to use a tampon, you need to use a tampon. Not providing bins is actually not a deterrent.
Perhaps, this was a deliberate attempt at cost cutting? Sheesh, I fumed, thanks for singling out this 'expense' to fight that battle, MLS. The financial struggle at this institution is evidently real but come on.
Many of us already know too well the joy of rushing to the loo when you’re already late for class. Dashing into the nearest available stall, and wrenching a bloody tampon from the recesses of what a fellow De Minimis contributor once charmingly referred to as my 'temple of doom'. And there you are, left clutching at the thread of a crimson participation prize in your reproductive cycle.
In many stalls there are helpful signs instructing you NOT to flush your used sanitary napkins or tampons down the toilet (as well as not to attempt to perch atop the seat, as if that isn’t obviously a fraught under-taking). God forbid the pipes clog and MLS is inconvenienced. But then you search around and realize, great... there is no bin.
And so begins an unpleasant gift wrapping exercise in which you juggle bags and books, rearrange your underwear and precariously handle a bleak reassurance that your latest Corkman-related lapse in judgment, will not have lifelong ramifications.
To be serious though, this is just un-sanitary. The school's maintenance staff does an exceptional job in providing clean facilities for us all. It is simply insulting and dangerous that they are exposed to bloody pads and tampons, which belong in hygienic containers but are instead dropped in hand towel bins.
Most appallingly, I noted that even the very limited number of stalls equipped with support handles (assumedly intended to assist injured or mobility challenged students), do not always have bins installed. Apparently, having your period temporarily heals all ailments (but may also attract bears). You just don't require the mobility assistance you might otherwise need while Aunt Flow lends a supportive hand.
What’s a girl to do? Awkwardly loiter outside occupied stalls till one with a bin becomes vacant? Accept that you’re just not where you need to be in life generally right now, and shove this inconvenience back into the abyss from whence it came?
Based on my extensive research con-ducted by creeping around all of the law building’s facilities over the weekend (the ultimate in Admin readings procrastination), I’d say we’re at about 65% capacity in terms of bins in stalls. But because monthly internal bleeding isn’t enough of a cruel joke, they’re pretty much never there when you need one.
All gross jokes aside, there is a real consensus among the female members of the MLS community that our needs are not being adequately met. The physiological burdens of reproduction will significantly impact our careers and lives in huge ways in the near future and are even relevant to current students.
It is necessary for us all to acknowledge these issues, and demand institutional respect and an adequate accommodation of our needs now, if we’re to have any hope of reducing institutionalized discrimination and enjoying the equal respect we deserve from our community in the future.
It appears that this issue was the result of a breakdown in communication between MLS and the University’s maintenance contractor. I’ve been assured that health and wellbeing are important issues at MLS, but vigilance and feedback from the school community is necessary to ensure that our needs are met.
I hope that in the very near future MLS will be better equipped to support my lifestyle choice of menstruating every 28 days without humiliating me and jeopardizing school hygiene.
Though I feel that I shouldn’t have had to ask, if this issue is dealt with promptly, then I’ll be glad that I did.
Elizabeth Mahoney is a second-year JD student.