BY: NADIA ZAIDI
Only a woman can understand the pains (and blessings) of menstruation. That’s a fact. You can’t understand something that you’ve never experienced. Periods are quite an enigma, and one of the biggest equity issues around the world. But now a proposed policy of paid menstrual leave might also make it an employer liability.
Italy has proposed a new bill that will offer three paid days off a month for women suffering from painful periods. If passed, it will become the first Western country to offer this. Many countries, and companies like Nike are discussing the potential of introducing similar policies. In fact, some Asian countries, including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Indonesia already offer paid menstrual leave.
If the bill is approved, it will require female workers to authenticate their dysmenorrhea (painful periods) with a medical note. This must be renewed every year to receive time off. While paid menstrual leave is step in the right direction, it opens a can of potential issues.
Societal misogyny has long precipitated the glass ceiling, which is why a workplace policy that caters to a sexual difference will further impede women’s progress. Its implications will give employers a reason not to hire females, award them promotions, and further disproportionate wages between women and men
It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality. We’re not able to accept, acknowledge and normalize femininity without linking it with sexism. Recognizing the biological dispositions of womanhood without bigoted sexual innuendo is going to take time. A period isn’t just menstruation. It stands for much more in the greater context of sexual differences. It is frequently cheapened, rejected, satirized.
Taking a period leave every month strips women of their right to privacy. It also perpetuates this jock culture, where immature ideas about behaviour-related changes during a woman’s cycle are used to shame her. The potentials of stigma in the workforce are limitless and should be considered before it’s proposed.
But all this aside, accommodations like this don’t only regress women. They also upend the frameworks of constitutional values whereby all people are equal. It inevitably prioritizes one group of people, while at the same time mistakably repressing them. A bill like this serves to spotlight a perceived weakness. Any condition, whether menstrual or otherwise, should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Who is to say that the man with Multiple Sclerosis three cubicles down doesn’t deserve days off each month to deal with his pain? Pain is relative and nobody should discount, or prioritize one over the other.
Let’s get one thing clear: there is nothing delicate about a woman’s period. In fact, its pain has been compared to the pains of having a heart attack, or passing a kidney stone. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that we want – or need – days off to deal with it.