Sanitary napkins line campus


Activists posted sanitary napkins across campus as part of the global #PadsAgainstSexism initiative. Each pad was emblazoned with a feminist message or statistic about sexual assault from RAINN or the Human Rights Campaign. Taylor Telford and Taylor Telford Buy Photos

As discreetly as possible, five women blanketed the Bloomington campus in sanitary napkins.

They posted in bathrooms. They covered trees and walls. They marked signs and bike racks and staircases.

When she completed her mission, recent graduate Katelynn Dockerty’s purse smelled like Kotex Sport panty liners.

Between 6:30 and 9 a.m., women plastered campus with nearly 400 feminine hygiene products as part of the #PadsAgainstSexism movement. Each pad and panty liner bore a message condemning patriarchy and rape culture.

Dockerty, 23, created the notes on the pads.

“I used the original message from the German feminist who started the #PadsAgainstFeminism campaign,” Dockerty said.

The German campaign posted in public spaces pads that read, “Imagine if men were as disgusted by rape as they were by periods.”

Dockerty changed the message to replace “men” with “society” because she saw rape culture as a larger problem. She also printed several additional messages to address period stigma and the prevalence of campus rape.

“I’ve had several friends who have been assaulted,” Dockerty said. “The administration doesn’t do enough.”

Last spring, Dockerty said she had to rearrange her schedule because she shared several classes with a friend’s rapist. She said although her department heads were mostly accommodating, one administrator told her to drop her classes, despite several being required.

“It should be hard to go through your day when women are being stigmatized, raped and assaulted,” Dockerty said.

Peter Johnson, a graduate student, paused on the steps of the Indiana Memorial Union to look at a panty liner attached to the handrail.

In 12-point Courier font, it read, “Imagine if society was as disgusted by rape as it is by periods.”

“I thought it was wonderfully eye-opening,” Johnson said. “It’s awful that some people are disgusted by materials but not concerned about actual bodies.”

Everett said the group also posted pads the Thursday night of Little 500 week, but campus maintenance staff swiftly removed all the group’s work.

“They followed us as we posted them,” said Emily Buis, a 2015 IU graduate. “It was bizarre. They didn’t even approach us.”

This week, they chose to work in the morning to create the largest window of time before staff removed the pads.

“We wanted to do it in April because Little 5 is notorious for creating a culture where sexual assault is more common than other times of year,” Everett said.

In Dunn Meadow, a maxi pad attached to a tree read, “4 women reported being raped between April 15th and April 17th and the Bloomington Police Department considered it ‘an abnormally mild Little 500 Weekend.' This is unacceptable.”

“We’re hoping people feel as infuriated as we are,” Everett said. “We hope it sparks a conversation about rape culture on campus.

Buis said she hopes #PadsAgainstSexism will begin a discussion about how to combat sexism and sexual assault. She and Everett said they welcome criticism and encourage others to suggest alternative methods of spreading the message.

“We would rather hear criticism than nothing at all,” Everett said. “ If they think this project is wasteful or rude, how should we go about it? If not this, then what?”

Everett said the Bloomington Pads Against Sexism group will donate twice the amount of pads used for the initiative to local homeless shelters. They are accepting donations at Rainbow Bakery.

By mid-afternoon, many pads were missing. Wispy tendrils of cotton lingered on the lampposts after people tore the pads down.

Dockerty said she didn’t expect the remaining pads to last very long.

“It’s supposed to rain tonight, and they’re really absorbent,” she said.

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