Is getting time off for your period helping women or humiliating them?
Remember how embarrassing it was to tell your middle school gym teacher why you couldn’t participate in class that day, thanks to lady problems? (OK, in middle school it was probably because we were still figuring out how to work a tampon but still.) Well now think how it would feel to tell your boss. Yet many women worldwide are lobbying to either keep or instate paid leave for the few days the crimson tide is more like the crimson tsunami.
Some countries, like Japan and Indonesia, have had long-standing policies allowing women to spend a couple of days a month communing with their heating pad and Midol without penalty. But for others, like the U.S., it’s never been an option. Indeed, many American women see the concept as insulting and demeaning to our gender.
Michelle S., a full-time worker and mother, sums it up saying, “This would be a huge step back for women — we want to be treated equally, yet we demand special treatment? Heck, no. If you need to miss work, then use sick time.”
In addition, some women worry it would give employers one more reason not to hire women. We’ve all heard of bosses worrying about hiring a woman just in case she should ever give birth at any point in the future. That attitude would be magnified times 12. Plus, nobody wants their personal business being broadcast around the office.
Yet on the other hand, it seems like this is an obvious difference between the sexes and acknowledging our hormonal fluctuations as normal seems like a positive step in making women feel comfortable in the workplace. Shark week is nothing to be ashamed of and asking for equal accommodation in the workplace doesn’t mean everything needs to be exactly the same. Plus, for about 20 percent of women, the pain, bleeding, bloating and other effects of periods can be just as debilitating as having the flu. Every single month.
Jackie P. speaks up for this group saying, “My periods are both debilitating, and draining physically and emotionally. They also include several days of flow that would make the Mississippi River drainage basin look like a rivulet. I think that employers deserve us to be at our very best, and when one feels as if one has been put through eight rounds of heavyweight MMA followed by an Ironman triathlon, there is no way that is conducive to sharp mental focus and an even emotional keel.”
The obvious compromise is personal time off (PTO). After all, isn’t this the reason it was invented — so that employees wouldn’t have to say where they were going, whether that be to a parent-teacher conference or a prostate exam? Then the question becomes should women get more PTO days than men?
I’m one of the lucky ones in this debate: Thanks to birth control that makes my periods almost non-existent and a flexible work schedule, I don’t have to worry about this issue. Yet for many women, especially in less-developed countries, this is one of the hardest parts of being female and being a provider.
What do you think — if you were offered paid period leave, would you take it?