Improving the match day experience for women - Erin Slaven, Campaigning for free sanitary products at Celtic Park
It is no secret that the debate around period poverty is more prominent than ever before. I have admired the work done by Labour’s Monica Lennon MSP on tackling period poverty from afar, and it’s been great to see college’s, universities and other public spaces providing sanitary items for free. A pilot scheme has been introduced in my university for sanitary product provision and I was chuffed to bits when I seen it. “We’re making progress – yass!”
But the fight is not over! I am a season ticket holder for Celtic Football Club, and with my universities moves towards accessible sanitary products in mind, it got me thinking about why a similar scheme couldn’t be introduced in football grounds – or any sporting venues for that matter! However, focusing on football, its no secret that it has historically been a male-dominated sport. Whilst the number of women attending football fixtures has most definitely increased, we’re still the in the minority. It is important that we are visible and our needs are recognised. I shared a poll on Twitter asking about people’s experiences with accessibility to sanitary products at football grounds and a common answer was that they “couldn’t remember” if there was a sanitary items dispenser in the toilets that they used. This isn’t good enough. Women should leave sporting events knowing that their needs were well catered for, and I think this is something that access to free sanitary items would provide. The principle of being recognised and paid attention to is important – in addition to removing the financial obstacles to buying sanitary items.
It cannot be ignored that at the heart of this move is the knowledge that, as the price of sanitary products increase, not all self-identifying women and girls can afford them. It would be ignorant to assume that everyone can afford a sanitary towel or a tampon, especially when you’re using multiple a day for generally up to a week. We can’t have people compromising their health and hygiene by going without sanitary items because they can’t afford them whilst others can. So, yes, of course this is about making sure the products are easily accessible for everyone, but it’s not the sole aim of our campaign. A few other female season ticket holders and myself have put this campaign in place to promote women’s presence at the football, to make our needs visible and our voices heard. We also know in practice that sanitary hygiene in football grounds is harder than it may seem. We have heard from girls who said there was not a sanitary items dispenser in the toilet closest to them, or that there’s no access to sanitary bins. We hope that through this campaign and opening communications with the Club that we may be able to introduce a system where sanitary items are free to access and the comfort of the matchday experience can be optimised for female support.
This problem is not just specific to Celtic, to football, or to sport. It’s nation-wide and its roots can be found in the unequal gender balance upon which our society is built. Social attitudes mean that we are encouraged not to speak about menstruation or sanitary items, hence why little progress has been made in sanitary provision for women and girls. We believe that these products are just as necessary as toilet roll, which we don’t have to pay for. We want to break the stigma of talking about women’s reproductive health in public and we hope that through our campaign we will no longer see women and girls struggling to access sanitary products - we want a more comfortable match day experience for all who menstruate.