Club Spotlight: Monthly Club Fights “Menstrual Inequity”
Bello (second from right) and club members running a drive last year / Credits: Marisa Bello
The School Without Walls bathrooms are free; the menstrual products within are not. If you don’t have a pad in your bag or any spare change, you must turn to a friend. This is a small-scale version of what Monthly Club founder and president Marisa Bello calls “menstrual inequity: everything that stems from the stigma that surrounds menstruation.”
The club is mainly devoted to fighting much more extensive, systematic menstrual inequity through drives and fundraisers (generating both donations and period products) for “menstruators in need in the DC area.”
Now a senior, Bello started the club at the tail end of her sophomore year in June 2021 after reading an article about a girl who wanted to bring changes to D.C. policy in the area. Since then, her club has grown impressively: they’re currently a chapter of PERIOD, an international organization that “strives to eradicate period poverty and stigma through service, education, and advocacy [...] through the distribution of menstrual products, promotion of youth leadership, and championing of menstrual equity in policy,” according to their website.
The club is also partnered with DC Diaper Bank, to which they’ve sent all their proceeds and over 26,000 period products. Women and other menstruators across D.C. often have to decide between period products and other necessities such as food or bills. When they can’t afford tampons, they may turn to unsafe options; the Monthly Club is trying to open another door. Their Instagram account, @themonthlyclubsww, regularly posts updates on drives and other club initiatives.
When asked how the school is doing in regards to period equity, Bello answered frankly. “Honestly, pretty badly,” she said. “But that goes for almost every DCPS school right now. Despite a law being passed by D.C. councilmember Brooke Pinto [D-Ward 2] last year that required free products in school bathrooms, many schools have not adhered to it, including Walls.
“It should be a given that every person in the building does not have to worry about getting pads or tampons during school,” she added. “In a way, it can thwart one from ‘demanding their education,’ as Walls loves to say.”
Bello was referring to the unanimously-passed Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021, which requires schools to provide period products in both women’s and men’s bathrooms. She argues Walls’s period inequality contradicts the bill’s aims and policies claiming to put students first.
Period inequity exists everywhere in DC, but the club plans to have free products in the bathrooms by the end of October for “all of us to use,” according to Bello.
The club seeks “menstrual justice activists” to welcome into their community, where students can “make meaningful connections within the club and outside the club with the people we work with,” Bello says, “not to mention the community service hours and the visible, much-needed impact on our local community.” The club aims to change the world, one tampon at a time.
The Monthly Club meets in room 327 at 8:30 a.m. every other Thursday.