In 1978, Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in an address, “Western society [has] expanded in a triumph of human independence and power. And all of a sudden in the 20th century came the discovery of its fragility.” Today, we live in this society of fragility: we rely on bureaucratic structures to provide for us, and trust them to take care of us. Last Tuesday, students voted to pass SA Referendum 30 to provide free pads and tampons in all Cornell bathrooms. Although there are many positive aspects to the idea of “freeing the tampon,” the growing ideological movement against self-dependency and free economic choice is unsettling.
Society puts so much emphasis on individuality, yet is so convinced that what is good for one is good for all—and calls this fairness or equality. Yet, there is no dispute that everyone is different, and everyone has different needs. Why then, do we assume that everyone has the same needs when it comes to feminine hygiene—including a large population that is not in need of this handout?
Students are at the mercy of the administration to attend to our needs. We are being deceived by the idea that we control what happens on campus through our referendums and votes, but in the end, we are asking for services of which we do not fully recognize the consequences. They have the power to make students pay for these products and can choose which brand to provide.
Many arguments I have heard in support of this referendum rely on a hypothetical story along the lines of, “what if you are on your way to an interview and you get your period? Imagine that you are not with any friends, and have no quarters with you, what are you to do?” While parts of this argument can be validated, it depends so heavily on “what if” scenarios and the logical fallacy of division: that what can be true for one is true for all. Moreover, this enables a mindset that we are not responsible or capable of controlling situations that come unexpectedly. That we cannot or should not have to independently manage a problem that is, in reality, incredibly simple to solve—just remember to carry a pad, tampon, or even a quarter—remember, we’re all adults here.
On a larger scale, it is imperative to recognize that as we give more power to authority—either the government, or the Student Assembly—we lose parts of the human experience. Rather than reaching out to someone in the midst of an awkward situation, possibly missing the opportunity to depend on a friend or rely on human generosity, we place our trust in governmental structures—which, in a small way, diminish interpersonal relationships and the experience of human interaction.
Despite many arguments both for and against SA Referendum 30, it is clear that this movement is retaliatory against free, economic choice, and is a small contribution to a problem looming larger and larger as time progresses. It reminisces the image seen in childhood cartoons: unbranded products labeled “sugar” or “toothpaste” sketched blandly—this is becoming our utopic reality.