When Emma Cihanowyz was in middle school, she and her friends used code words to talk about their periods. If someone asked for a “missile”, it meant they were looking for a tampon. “Shields” meant pads. “We spoke like we were at war,” she said. “The biggest thing for us was making sure that we could take products to the bathroom without the boys seeing.”
Now Cihanowyz is 21, a senior at Penn State, and a student activist who campaigns for free sanitary products in all campus bathrooms. She’s no longer afraid of boys, or anyone, knowing she’s having her period. Cihanowyz calls herself a “menstrual fairy”, who walks around school with a bag full of tampons, liners, pads, and cups, just in case she runs into anyone who needs a spare.