Stop Crying ‘Sexist!’ – ‘Period Leave’ is Just Good Sense
Last March, when British company Coexist announced that they were planning to formulate a ‘period leave policy’ for their employees, my heart rejoiced. Most of all, I think my ovaries did. They probably did a whole jig and splashed around in red, because they can.
I let it sink in at the time that my joy was borrowed; that I was basking only in the reflected glory of a company miles away in a country not my own.
Which is why, last week, when Culture Machine Media Pvt. Ltd. – a company very much Indian, thank you very much – declared a first day of period (FOP) policy for all its female employees, I knew the fight had come, truly home. The company even put out a video on its YouTube channel Blush – one in which, Devleena S Majumder, President of Human Resources, can be seen saying –
Take a look at the video here:
Thank goodness someone’s finally thought to mainstream a regular (or not!) occurrence in a woman’s body, dissociating itself from the place of fear or embarrassment it is usually attached with.
When Bex Baxter, Coexist’s Director, had initiated their policy last year, she had had this to say:
“And this is unfair. At Coexist we are very understanding. If someone is in pain – no matter what kind – they are encouraged to go home. But, for us, we wanted a policy in place which recognises and allows women to take time for their body’s natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness.”
She also goes on to add how, for much too long, “there’s been a taboo surrounding periods – I have women staff telling me they’re ashamed to admit they’re in pain.”
This has to stop. But would that it were so easy! Have groundbreaking new rule that celebrates women? I can almost hear the internet trolls taking furiously to laptops and typing ‘You FemiNazi, you, what about the men…?’
Amidst all the predictable knee-jerk reactions, here are some myths that need debunking:
Women Who Don’t Take Period Leaves are Troopers
HERE’S what you need to know – and remember. Not every woman will have want-to-suckerpunch-nearest-pillow type of period pains; for a lot of women, it’s a mild inconvenience that warrants a box of chocolates and a slightly altered bedtime. And that’s great.
But, at least, three-quarters of women suffer pain at some point during their period, and one in 10 women have pain so bad they can’t carry out daily activities for one to three days a month. This is a condition called ‘dysmenorrhoea’ – a condition recognised by gynaecologists around the world.
The one-day leave policy is designed for these women – the women who’ve been up all night with cramps, who come in late mumbling about a cab breakdown when really, they’ve been desperately shooting down the last jar of painkillers.
Don’t segregate women into two groups – of women who don’t seem to need the day off and hence, must be real troopers – and those who need to. If you do, you’re just letting the stigma fester. And congratulations, those troll typists will probably hire you.
In the meantime, do take a look at this delicious video that shows how men will react if they menstruated (hint: not well):
Women Will Use This to Take Time Off Unfairly
Are you for real? Whether you’re a male or female employee, you already have the potential to do just that – with your regular sick leaves.
All the ‘official’ day will do is ensure women can just tell their employers the truth.
A Korea Times article (a country where many workplaces have incorporated period leave) mentions how the obverse is usually true:
Baxter’s spot-on when she says, criticism of ‘menstrual leave’ comes from “a place of fear”. By brushing this under the carpet, we’re supplementing the stigma – making sure more people can say, “let’s not talk about our period, because men won’t understand.”
Who made one sex the convenient framers of workplace rules?
Which brings us to...
Would You Still Rage if Men Could Menstruate?
Gloria Steinem used some brilliantly acerbic wit, when she wrote: “If Men Could Menstruate”. She imagined a world where men would find inventive slang (“Hey man, I’m on the rag!”) to describe their periods, have a world cheerfully gravitate around their periods and have it actually be a thing – a topic of real conversation at beer pong – because it’s a male problem. She believes this would happen because men are in a position of power – able, therefore, to empower conversations around periods.
Isn’t that what the FOP policy will finally be able to do for women? Not have to lie or mumble about ‘that time of the month’?
This policy certifies and gives it a tangible NAME in a workforce. One that de-stigmatises menstruation. One that enables you to brew a cup of coffee at the pantry and say, simply, “I took a period day” without shame.