Shit. You just woke up in searing abdominal pain and your crotch is full of clots. What’s the first thing you do?
Well, if you live in an area where paid menstrual leave has become a thing, you’ll get on the phone to inform your workplace that you’re taking a paid day off before grabbing some ibuprofen, a hot water bottle, and an industrial-sized box of chocolate snack cakes.
(Ain’t nobody judging you, girl. You go on back to bed with those cakes now, you hear? Crumbs in the sheets are the least of your worries today.)
Some Asian countries, including Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, have already legalized menstrual leave for its bleeding female staff. In fact, Japan’s seirikyuuka (which translates to “physiological leave”) has been in place since 1947.
Italy is currently considering a similar bill which, if it passes, will make it the first Western country to offer paid leave for women who provide their employers with doctor-written proof of painful monthly periods. The bill would force employers to grant three days of paid leave every month, which on the surface, sounds like every menstruating woman’s dream come true.
I’m rather torn over this idea, to be honest. Is the move progressive? Certainly. But will it help women’s progress in the workforce?
No, I don’t believe it will.
If anything, it feels incredibly anti-feminist. To remind you of what the term “feminism” actually means, the entire basis of the movement is equality for all. Women are no better than men, and men are no better than women. We’re all equals here.
I consider myself to be a feminist but the truth of the matter is, men and women are not created one-hundred percent equal on a physical level. We’re just not. That’s a fact. As women, we’ll never know what it’s like to wake up with a raging woody every morning. And, try as they might, men will never understand the physical trials menstruating women face every 28 days or so.
They will certainly never realize how fucking strong we are in spite of it.
That said, taking a short leave for menstruation would only act to further reinforce the belief that we’re somehow weaker than men. “Poor little babes have got it so rough, they have to stay home from work while the big strong menfolk pick up the slack. Again.”
Like we really need that shit, right?
Throughout the evolution of “gender equality” as we currently know it, we’ve got all sorts of anti-discriminatory laws hanging over the heads of Big Business. That’s just swell. For all the so-called protections those laws supposedly provide, however, companies would still find ways to avoid hiring women if they knew there was a good chance they’d be footing the bill for three work-free days every month.
And don’t even think about getting that job promotion, Susan. Marcus from Accounting is a far less risky choice because, unlike you, he doesn’t bleed for 5-7 days out of every month. The boss can count on Marcus to attend every meeting, every day, of every week. The same can’t be said about you.
Some people feel that menstrual leave will open magical doors to finally accepting and discussing menstruation as a natural part of a woman’s life. We don’t have any choice but to accept it, do we? It’s fucking right there between our legs, staining our favorite pair of underwear again goddamn it.
I totally agree with the discussion part, though. Everybody who’s hanging around the water cooler will be looking over at Susan’s empty desk, pointing and whispering and cracking jokes.
To make matters even worse for the Susans of the world, March Madness will be replaced by Menstruation Madness, a monthly game where office employees will wager on who’s taking leave and on what calendar days. The person with the highest number of correct picks wins the pot and everybody, especially Marcus knows what is going on between our legs.
Look, even though I don’t have periods anymore (please don’t hate me; I’m a cancer survivor but I vividly remember life with painful periods, I swear), I appreciate the sentiment behind menstrual leave. Really, I do. It just seems like it will inadvertently cause many more problems than it actually solves.
It’s an idea that is sadly ahead of its time; gender equality in the workplace still has too long a way to go.