(Disclaimer: The writer is a proud feminist. The views expressed below are personal. The author, however, doesn’t understand why everyone does not share her view point and would love to explain feminism and the necessity of menstrual leave over a cup of coffee anytime!)
*Take a deep breath*
Cultural Machine, a Mumbai based media firm, recently took a historic step and introduced their ‘Period-leave Policy’ wherein women employees will be able to take a paid leave on the first day of their period. In a country like India wherein talking about the menstrual cycle is still taboo and menstruating women are still considered impure, this is a huge controversy as well as a much-needed leap in the right direction. Even in 2017, buying sanitary napkins is nothing short of a mission wherein a packet of pads is wrapped more delicately than hand grenades. So when people started discouraging the period leave policy and calling it sexist, it was extremely frustrating but not the least bit surprising (something amazing for women is not criticized? Aise Kaise?).
So, for all those people who still don’t under how menstrual leave has nothing to do with feminism, let’s break it all down for you once and for all, shall we?
Every woman starts menstruating around the age of 12 and goes through the same experience every month until menopause that occurs around the age of 50. The amount of discomfort that one goes through during the 3 to 5-day menstrual cycle varies from individual to individual. Some experience severe cramps, backaches, body aches and extreme mood swings while some feel absolutely no physical distress at all. Thus, we can’t generalize or quantify the amount of discomfort experienced by women while on their period since no two women experience it in the same way. Nonetheless, Aunt Flo’s visit is not a happy one for anyone!
It is bizarre and almost comical how any mention, if at all, of the word ‘period’ is hushed down even though it is a normal bodily function that women have no control over and is necessary for sustaining life. So when this media start-up introduced this extremely progressive policy, it obviously grabbed everyone’s attention and got a lot of backlashes (just like everything else meant to improve the condition of women in this ‘modern and liberal’ country.)
According to Devleena Majumdar, President Human Resources, Cultural Machine, it is the duty of the company to provide a supportive work environment and considerate policies for women employees and this is a step forward in that direction. This decision was welcomed by the female employees of the company with open arms but their happiness was short lived (what did you expect? A happy ending?). Soon after the news went viral on various social media platforms, people started attacking the policy and calling it ‘sexist’. Barkha Dutt, an “esteemed” journalist, took it upon herself to explain why ‘Period Leaves’ are an extremely stupid and unnecessary idea. She went on to say that she covered the Kargil war while on her period and that people are giving a bodily function more importance than it deserves. What is even more baffling is that ignorant people, including women, went on to explain how this move actually makes women come across as the weaker sex and defies the entire purpose of the feminist movement. Apparently, it sends out the message that women are not as competent as men and “ghettoize” their bodies. Let me help you out here, dear reader. Firstly, feminism is NOT about forcing women to work through severe physical discomfort just to make them come across as “strong”. Secondly, menstrual leave provides women an “Option” to take a day off on the first day of their menstrual cycle if they want to! Nobody, I repeat, absolutely nobody is going to point a gun to their head or make them jump off a cliff in case they do not want to exercise this right. Another completely illogical and bizarre argument that was put forth against this policy was that it is against gender equality since male employees do not get such leave (excuse me, do they get periods?).
Women have been taught to be embarrassed, ashamed and secretive about the fact that they bleed every month. They have been taught to feel dirty and uneasy about something that is completely natural. But it is the time that we break the shackles and initiate “the” talk. It is easy to condemn a move from a privileged position but there are women out there who need such leaves and will benefit out of them. It is the time that we stop pretending that we don’t need to discuss this issue and open our eyes to this bloody reality. Now is the time, dear reader, that we educate ourselves and break the taboos related to menstruation. Let’s shake this misogynistic world and make people uncomfortable! Let’s unapologetically ask for what we rightfully deserve!
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