An unusual sight greeted visitors to the latest meeting of West St. Paul City Council on Monday evening – a huge pile of tampons and other feminine hygiene products.
The products had been brought to the meeting as a form of protest after they were used in an apparent sexist show of intimidation towards Mayor Jenny Halverson and local resident Samantha Green.
Halverson and Green had Carefree pads and a box of tissues left outside their homes respectively last month, following a contentious council meeting that sparked allegations of sexism.
At the meeting, Halverson saw her attempt to appoint Green – a property manager – to the city's planning commission thwarted in a 4-2 vote, as CityPages reported.
Halverson, the only woman on the council, pointed out what she argued was a sexist double standard, as members had previously argued that the mayor – when it was a man – had the right to choose whomever they wanted for commissions, and they would follow the mayor's lead.
The incident led to the protest seen in the council chambers on Monday, after a fundraising effort to buy feminine products was launched on Crowdrise.
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"Outspoken women in our community have had feminine products placed outside their doors as a form of intimidation," it said. "What they fail to realize is that we probably haven’t been intimidated by a pad or a tampon since before we hit puberty."
As well as being a rebuke to sexism, the protest was used as a learning experience to remind people that feminine products aren't covered by food stamps or any welfare program, making them harder to access for low-income women.
Green was among those who spoke at the meeting on Monday, saying: "Because of that vote, a lot of undue scrutiny has been placed on me, and on my qualifications, which is interesting because not a single person who voted against me has reached out to ask about my qualifications ... for planning commission."
The mayor and several more women and men spoke at the meeting, highlighting previous incidents of what they claim was sexist double standards at the hands of the council. You can watch the full meeting here.
The fundraising drive ended up raising more than $2,400 that was used to buy the feminine products, that will now be donated to the local group Neighbors, Inc., which will distribute them to women in need.
The Pioneer Press notes that Halverson is stepping down as mayor this year, and is urging more women to run for office.