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If Cis Men Could Menstruate, We Wouldn’t Be Having This Misogynist Debate Over Paid Period Leaves!

Posted: August 13, 2020

The noise over the new paid period leave policy by Zomato, even from women, is nothing but internalised misogyny, and ensuring equity should be the aim.

If it was cis men who menstruated and had to suffer unbearable pain every first or second day of a 5-7 day period every month for 30 to 40 years of their lives, do you think we would even be having this debate?

Please be clear that this is not about taking taking leave when you have your period. It is about taking leave because of unbearable PAIN during your period.

Girls/women have still gone to school/college/work all these years even with pain or taken leave under other categories. Housewives have worked through the pain all these years without letting anyone know.

This is not just any pain, but the kind of pain that makes it impossible for you to even walk.

Equity v/s Equality

Which brings me to this: I recently found out the difference between equality and equity. ”Although both promote fairness, equality achieves this through treating everyone the same regardless of need, while equity achieves this through treating people differently dependent on need.”

I think the feminism that is fighting for equality, or ”fighting hard not to be gendered” (as Barkha Dutt put it) may be missing the point. We should be fighting for EQUITY.

Because it is a fact that women have different bodies and different biological processes, but that does not make us inferior to men. Addressing and meeting those needs should not be taken as treating us inferiorly or setting us back. Why can’t it be just taken as empathy?

The reality of period pain for many women

Here, the challenges faced by women who struggle with dysmenorrhea, PCOS/D, or endometriosis should be taken into account. Not every woman’s body is the same.

Even though I have none of the conditions mentioned above, ever since I got my period at the age of 10, I have been unable to even get out of bed without the help of painkillers on the first day of my period. That is how I have gone to school, college, and work till now, every month for 30 years.

At my current workplace, we used to get one WFH a month. I used to apply for that on my first day but still there were days that even with painkillers I could not even sit to work, so I had to apply for casual leave. That is 12 casual leaves a year if you are a person who is in debilitating pain the first day of every period. Multiply that by so many more if you have pain on other days too.

~ Why can’t it be normal to give women rest if they have pain?
~ How is it ‘being superior’ if we grin and bear it and work?
~ How is it ‘being inferior’ if we just want to stay in bed and rest?

Those who say that women were given these 5 days off in ancient days, please remember that it was not given them for rest but to ostracize them as they were thought to be impure during their periods.

The ‘bravely suffering, sacrificing woman’ stereotype

I have had women tell me not to take painkillers (which were prescribed by my gynecologist mom herself) and refuse to take painkillers themselves, choosing to grin and bear the pain, because they were afraid it would affect the cycle and even worse, they believed that pain is a part of being a woman.

Why should you live with pain just because you have a uterus? Isn’t that also a patriarchal glorification? Putting women on a pedestal who hide or ignore the needs of their body and and go to work bravely even in the midst of debilitating pain? Who benefits from this? Whom are we impressing?

Why should employers start discriminating against women by not hiring them because of this? Aren’t my brains, hard work, and talent the rest of the year enough to compensate for the meager 10 days of menstrual leave given to me every year, that I may or may not take?

The argument about “women will misuse it”

Not every menstruating person needs it or will take it and some may even ”misuse it.” That isn’t a reason to deny it to those who really need it. Maybe add it to the sick leave quota specifically for menstruating people so that it doesn’t have to be specifically known as period leave if that is nobody’s business but yours.

If men are saying that they will have to do extra work every month if women take this leave, I want to ask, do your women colleagues do extra work when you take your casual leave/annual leave, and if they did, did you have a problem with that? If people have taken all other kinds of leave till now without anyone else being bothered, why is only this a problem?

Did you know the following facts about menstrual leave?

  • Bihar granted it in 1992
  • A school in Kerala granted it in 1912 for students and teachers during exams
  • Nike granted it in 2017
  • Internationally
    Japan granted it in 1947
    South Korea granted it in 2001
    Indonesia granted it in 2003
    Zambia granted it in 2015

It’s high time we started asking for equity as womxn, and know that we still deserve to be treated as equal to men.

Image source: pixabay

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Karishma has been writing short stories since she was 8 and poetry since she was

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