Appalled by the accounts of homeless women struggling to cope with their periods, the members of Sophia Club decided to take action by holding the club’s first tampon drive at Seattle Pacific University.
Bustle, a femenist news source, released a video documentary last October that addressed how homeless women manage their periods without sufficient feminine hygiene products and inspired the Sophia Club to respond.
Ruth Rodriguez, a junior studying music therapy and an active member of Sophia Club, said she was shocked that “these women must ask ‘Am I going to eat tonight, or am I going to buy a box of tampons?’”
She also pointed out, “What’s the alternative? You can’t just freely bleed on the street. Everyone is going to notice that.”
Sophia Club Administrative Coordinator Celene Haque, also a junior and a political science student, noted how a woman in the documentary “deconstructed a pad and made her own tampon.”
From Feb. 27 to March 11, Sophia Club will place decorated boxes labeled “Sophia Club Tampon Drive” throughout SPU’s campus. The locations will include residence halls, the Student Union Building and Weter Memorial Hall.
Anyone can place donations of pads, tampons, and other feminine hygiene products in the boxes. The donations will be collected and given to the Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. The CCS will then distribute the items to individuals in need.
“The primary purpose of the tampon drive is to donate feminine hygiene products to women who are not otherwise able to access them,” Haque said. “We believe that access to these products gives women the dignity they deserve.”
The club’s mission statement says that Sophia “aims to empower others and promote equality,” something its members believe is lived out in their tampon drive.
As noted in an earlier podcast with The Falcon, the club came into being in 2006, when there was an online, march-madness style competition of the most attractive girls at SPU.
“Male students had a public website where they published female students’ pictures, full names and exactly where they lived,” Sophia Club’s president, senior Amanda Agrellas said.
Since the posts were not sanctioned by the targeted women, a group of female students brought it up to campus’s administration. They simply dismissed the situation, and, to fuel the already ongoing flames, Agrellas said, a local news source picked up and ran the story under the pretense that “women can’t take a joke.”
“After that, it was decided that we needed to have a place on campus to talk about women and equality,” Agrellas said. “It was named Sophia because it is the Greek personification of wisdom.”
Even though the social media fiasco occurred 10 years ago, Sophia Club members believe sexism still shows up today in subtle ways.
“On our campus it can be sneaky because there isn’t outright sexist behavior,” Agrellas said.
“In classrooms we talk about gender. So [should SPU students and professors] talk about men and women being opposites? Do we talk about God making women to be nurturers and caregivers and men to be leaders … is that really the kind of conversations we want to be having?”
She called to mind two experiences where she felt that sexism was shown at SPU in her own classes.
“In class, a friend asked my professor why we weren’t reading any books written by women, and he said, ‘there just aren’t very many women philosophers,’ which is not at all true,” she said.
She also said that “in biology, we talk about sex as if your chromosomes predetermine whether you like pink or blue.”
Outside of SPU, Agrellas and the rest of Sophia Club have observed the more blatant inequality presented in American society and government.
“The club has become very political since [Donald Trump’s] candidacy, inauguration and administration,” Agrellas said. “Donald Trump ran on a platform of masculinity, of being stronger and angrier. It is really important that Sophia club has valuable conversations, since we’ve been on reaction mode.”
Regarding the attitude of the Trump administration, Haque said she did not appreciate the rhetoric that has been used throughout the administration, calling it demeaning toward women.
Following Inauguration Day, the club organized a group of students at SPU to attend the Seattle Womxn’s March.
“Going to the Womxn’s March made me realize that there is power in numbers,” Rodriguez said. “It is important to call people out and acknowledge that gender inequality is a problem.”
By having important discussions regarding gender inequality, attending the Seattle Women’s March and holding the upcoming tampon drive, Agrellas said that Sophia Club is taking actions to fight for equal opportunities for the women within the local community.
“Sophia Club is focused on educating people about gender equality and intersectionality, as well as empowering women,” Agrellas said. “We create an open atmosphere where people can talk freely.”
Sophia Club meets regularly on Wednesdays in Weter 201 at 8:30 p.m. The club is also putting on an upcoming annual monologue night, “V-Day,” which will be held in Demaray 250 on April 21 and 22.