As a woman which has known the pangs of severe period pain, my heart skipped a beat when I heard that Italy is thinking about bringing in menstrual leave. Just a few weeks before this the news reported that doctors have finally recognised period pain is sometimes as bad as a heart attack. But, not everyone thinks menstrual leave is great. In fact, some of the biggest nay-sayers are women themselves.
Anything you can do I can do bleeding.
The trouble with menstrual leave is that it sounds a bit like special treatment. Which implies we can't handle life while bleeding. Sadly we have a long history of science (shit science) being used to support sexist misbeliefs. Angela Saini writes:
By gauging and standardising, [scientists of the Victorian era] coated what might otherwise have been seen as ridiculous enterprises with the appearance of scientific respectability. (Saini, 2017)
Even Charles Darwin believed women were naturally inferior and justified it by looking at our smaller size by comparrison with men.
In 1931 Jane Katherine remarked that when endocrinology sought to discover the chemicals to blame for the differences between male and female. Oestrogen was connected to femininity and was said to make us "more passive, emotional and less rational... towards life" (Saini, 2017).
science has improved
But since then we've moved on. Science is a lot less biased than it once was and now we know there are more similarities between the sexes than there are differences. I think we should be able to embrace our differences with mutual respect and compassion for the opposite sex. This includes being able to take time off work without it negatively impacting on your earnings when it's being caused by a natural bodily process!
Sadly periods are still taboo and it's not easy for most of us to tell our bosses we need to have a day off sick for our periods. Things like menstrual leave help to break that taboo by acknowledging some people just need a little r+r.
The real trouble with the menstrual leave nay-sayers is that they see time off work as a sign of weakness. Which it is not. In fact, it's going to make you a super-charged mega-worker. Most of us get more work done in the morning after a good nights sleep than you do trying to stay up till the wee hours! We all need rest.
I would like to push menstrual leave a little further to say that men should also be allowed 1-2 days off work each month when they are getting run down. Preferably before they get really sick. I'd call it a wellbeing day.
When I do come to employ people I would like to have one paid wellbeing day each month for all employees and if my menstruating staff need time off for their periods that's fine by me. They won't feel embarrassed about it because they'll be working in a pro-menstruation-zone. But I think I'd expect them to show evidence that they are giving themselves the wellbeing treatments or medicines that they need to help themselves.
As usual, menstruation isn't the problem, society is!
Saini, A. (2017) Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That's ReWriting the Story. 4th Estate: London