Having sanitary napkin vending machines installed in the ladies’ restrooms at a government building is big news in India, a country where millions of women still rely on unhygienic rags during their periods, where it’s not common practice for offices to supply an alternative, and where menstruation is veiled in shame and stigma. So making sanitary pads readily and cheaply available to employees is cause for celebration, but clearly no one thought to invite any women to the party.
In a perfectly “Hoffsome”, Dr. Saara Särmä All Male Panels kind of moment, this was the only image circulated to the media from the historic ribbon-cutting in the New Delhi office of the ministry of health and family welfare. And while all of the important guests were men, there were also some women present whom the cameras apparently managed to successfully avoid. As a female spokesperson told Quartz India, “The photographer was more keen on clicking the photo of the additional secretary” and his entourage.
While one could attempt to make a really loose argument that it’s nice (yet still totally odd) to see a group of men excitedly cooing over/staring zombie-like at a metal box that spits out pads and tampons, didn’t the health minister think that it might be even nicer, not to mention more impactful and logical, to feature the women who will actually benefit from such a progressive move? Don’t both answering… it’s a rhetorical question.
The four vending machines, which are called Vendigo, were installed last Friday. It was reported to be the first phase in a larger installation project that is being rolled out in women’s and girls’ restrooms at schools, colleges, hospitals and offices across the country.
In the immortal words of Paula Abdul, they take “two steps forward, two steps back”.