Friday, March 4, 2016

Is allowing menstruating women time off from work discriminatory against men?

Every woman on this planet will experience the immense joy of menstruation in her lifetime. It is something she was biologically made to experience. But for a workplace to recognise the pain she experiences whilst on her period is quite revolutionary. This week a company in Bristol, UK decided to allow menstruating women time off from work in order to recuperate from period pain. Suffice to say, this decision was met with a mixture of applause and derision from both men and women alike. 

At first, I didn’t know how to react to the news. The feminist streak in me thought it was a brilliant idea and a significantly forward way of thinking about a perfectly natural phenomenon, but then I retracted. The realist in me started asking some logistical questions. How was such a policy to ever be implemented correctly? Would it not be revealing too much information about someone who might just want to keep that information to themselves?

Apparently it all comes down to productivity. The company’s director, Bex Baxter has stated that,

“When women are having their periods, they are in a winter state, when they need to regroup, keep warm and nourish their bodies. The spring section of the cycle, immediately after a period, is a time when women are actually three times as productive as usual.”

Those words made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. That statement made me feel that we are still living in a time when women are cave-dwellers and men are hunter-gatherers. What does regrouping even mean? Do all menstruating women get in a room and give each other hi-fives and hugs for surviving another period? Sure, period pain can be very painful but there are plenty of very effective pain relief medications that are available over the counter.

Taking time off every single month is just excessive and would, in my honest opinion, hamper a woman’s ability to move on up the career ladder. She may be seen as ‘weak’ or in constant need of a break, and when the number of days taken off for ill-health is taken into consideration when discussing promotions, career progression may stall.

In China, a woman is seen as ‘weaker’ or more ‘delicate’ during her menstrual period. The Chinese province of Anhui introduced such a policy in their labour laws from March 1, 2016 onwards, with employers being legally bound to give women two days off work as a result of excessive bleeding and painful menstruation that disrupts normal working. Such policies have also been around for many years amongst Chinese companies, especially for women who are working in tough outdoor conditions. Whilst I can understand that such policies are helpful for women in tremendous amounts of pain, I just don’t know how to react to such a policy if it was ever put in place at my workplace.

Also, in a society which is vehemently in favour of equal rights for women, are we beginning to forget the role of equality for men?

If equality demands that women and men be treated in exactly the same manner, is such a policy not discriminatory against men?

Should biological processes be legislated upon?

For the company in Bristol, this doesn’t seem to be a matter of great concern since the majority of the staff there are female, however, policies like these are going to lead to some serious questions where it is a male-dominated workforce or even in a workforce where there is an equal mix of men and women.

To conclude, every woman’s experience with periods is different. Some have very painful ones, some have no pain at all, some have very lengthy ones and some have shorter ones. I can see the wisdom in helping women out who are in immense pain; I just don’t see its practicality. Not to mention the fact that I would be seriously embarrassed if my male colleagues knew I took time off to recuperate from my periods. Maybe it’s better to just soldier on valiantly, period pain in tow.

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from The Express Tribune Blog

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