Paid menstrual leave is being discussed in Italy and, naturally, all over Facebook. This legislation would be the first of its kind in the Western World, according to Business Insider, which allows women three days of paid leave if their menstrual symptoms are too intense to work. Menstrual leave is already implemented in some Southeast Asian countries such as Japan and Indonesia, with various success. According to The Atlantic, the women in these countries aren’t taking leave that is offered because of the stigma surrounding missing work. In the severely patriarchal and capitalist culture in a place like South Korea, women don’t take available leave because they fear the judgment of the men with whom they work.
This misogyny surrounded by women’s health is nothing new, especially in the United States. However, the myths perpetrated by the media and even some health professionals about menstruation do exist. Not all women want chocolate ice cream and certainly not all women are irrational, emotional wrecks. Some women (myself included) have issues with menstruation, and some women are totally fine running a marathon on those first few days. Women know what is best for their bodies. This policy doesn’t give women the excuse to get off from work, but rather the option to do what is best for them on a case-by-case basis. Writer Carla Pascoe from The Conversation believes that, “the problem with deciding whether menstrual leave is a good idea is that women’s experiences of menstruation are as varied as our fingerprints.”
As a person who experiences Dysmenorrhoea, otherwise known as painful periods, I wish a policy like this could be implemented. The idea that women should take an ibuprofen and move on is baffling.
In another article from an academic publication The Conversation, mid-twentieth century medical professionals and many second-wave feminists began to talk about menstruation as something that doesn’t detriment their work and as something that isn’t debilitating, but certainly isn’t empowering.
I disagree. As women, we are expected to constantly have the exterior of our bodies available for critique, while the interior is ignored or shamed. When we talk about menstruation and are faced with disgruntlement and perpetual eye rolls, it’s easy to feel like we are only allowed to accept our body when it is comfortable or convenient for others. Taking care of your body is integral to empowerment because of the struggle to regain our bodies from a society that wants to own or judge them.
Women are forced to hide their menstruation and menstrual issues. This is leading to a culture which invalidates the female body’s interior as much as its exterior. I agree with the implementation of a menstrual leave policy. While I am not sure if it will be abused or not, I think that the benefits outweigh the cons. When women go to work and they are feeling horrible, their productivity is down. When women are able to make the choice about what’s best for their bodies without financial repercussions, that’s feminism…and that’s important.
Abby Shepherd can be contacted at Ashepherd@kscequinox.com