Company Gives Employees Time Off For Periods — Is It Fair? Is It Feminist?

the-cramps-band

The Cramps, the garage punk band. And what we think we look like on our “lady holiday.”

Do you take off from work during your period? Be honest! A company in the UK wants to give you time off during that time of the month, and what’s more is it won’t even count as a sick day.

“We wanted a policy in place which recognizes and allows women to take time for their body’s natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness,” Bex Baxter, the director of Coexist an arts venue based in Bristol, told the Guardian.

Yes! Menstruation is not an illness.

Baxter says they adopted the new policy which will kick-in March 15 because office menstruators should have the option to go home when they’re in pain. She also thinks it will boost productivity.

“If you work with your natural rhythms, your creativity and intelligence is more fulfilled,” she says. “And that’s got to be good for business.”

Totes. I agree this is kind of a revolutionary measure to acknowledge and honor menstruation in a way that it hasn’t been, especially in a professional setting. Bravo! But I wish it was less about the pain and more about the reflective, self-care aspect of the first days of the menstrual cycle. We’re working to educate everyone about menstrual health options and alternatives so that the crampy pain and discomfort we so closely associate with periods will dissipate (really!). To use pain as the primary indicator of whether or not you deserve a day off is somewhat disappointing — BUT at the same time revolutionary if you currently suffer from debilitating menstrual pain, which many still do.

There’s also the period paradox. Are we painting women as weak by giving them period breaks? Aren’t we trying to be equals? Is this anti-feminist? No. Yes. Not so much. And yet, these are important questions to keep asking as we enter a new phase in public perioducation and continued efforts to undo the taboo in our long-historied period-shaming culture. People may say drawing attention to periods won’t help the feminist cause. But so far ignoring them and pretending they don’t exist (keeping up with the patriarchy!) hasn’t done much for the cause, either.

If the policy remains open so privacy is still protected (as in, people won’t get “period checks” to prove they’re truly menstruating) and menstruators don’t take advantage of it (“lady holiday”=monthly vacay), something like this could work and could act in support of equality, not against it.

It’s true, there’s a whole huge segment of the population that does not menstruate and couldn’t possibly know what it’s really like. They might not be so keen on bleeders having free days off. But do people without penises and testicles really know what it feels like to be kicked there? Point being, it’s not for men to make the decisions, here, or continue to set the standards either. At Coexist, 24 out of the 31 employees are women and the policy is being introduced with a seminar called “Pioneering Period Policy: Valuing Natural Cycles in the Workplace” led by a women’s health advocate. The policy is intended to support menstruators, not embarrass or devalue them, so I have high hopes for a healthy precedent. (Plus, I’m so tired of people being made to embarrassed about periods, whether they have them or not.)

Personally, I know I’m typically more productive during Week 3 of my 28-29 day cycle because I’m all fired up and want to kung-fu my to-do list. In Week 1, when I have my period, there are times when I’d prefer to work by myself rather than with a group, or work from the couch rather than a rigid desk chair…wearing a pore-cleansing facial mask eating Coconut Bliss mint chocolate chip ice cream from the carton. (I hear that’s not exactly acceptable office decorum quite yet.) I’m lucky in that I’m not usually doubled over in pain, but I prefer the freedom to do self-comforting things like wear loose clothing (bringing muumuus back), have a lunchtime bath, or take cat naps here and there so I can focus better. Listening to the natural rhythms of my body and cycle doesn’t take away from my work, it enhances it.

We at Cycledork applaud the progress of Coexist’s policies, because it is progress. There will still be a lot of questions, but just by instating the policy they’re shedding yet another layer of menstrual stigma and patriarchal office culture. We don’t expect every office to follow suit. We’re still waiting for free menstrual supplies in public bathrooms.

Recommended further reading: An interesting view from multiple sides of the period policy discussion via Rachel Kramer Bussel at Salon.

JLHC is a writer and cat-lover living and working in NYC. Her past and current exploits include founding Cycledork, running a yoga blog called YogaDork, starting a creative co-working space called TASCbar, and discovering that she is a fringer. She believes in questioning everything and reminding herself that nothing is a waste of time. twitter: @jenniyoga. website: jennilyncarson.com

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*