Despite the fact that most of us (and our children) would not actually be here if women never menstruated, periods remain a largely taboo topic. When they are spoken about, it’s usually in whispers, or with an accusatory tone that indicates there’s something untoward about the fact that our uteruses shed their linings each month.
Let’s not forget, it was just a few months back when Donald Trump infamously accused Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly of “having blood coming out of her … wherever” after she drew his ire by asking him some tough questions during a Republican presidential debate.
Yet while his aim may have been to try and humiliate Kelly for not being a man, Trump unwittingly did periods (and Kelly) a favor. Instead of pushing women even further into hiding every 28 days, afraid to offend anyone by the process that our bodies involuntarily go through, Trump’s obnoxious comment did quite the opposite. In fact, it made many feel as if even more of a spotlight should be shone on a time of the month when many women could use additional support, not belittlement.
And times, they are clearly changing.
One company in the U.K. is making headlines this week for taking steps to openly acknowledge and accommodate women who endure painful period cramps — and the world has taken notice. Instead of telling women to drink tea and lie down with a hot water bottle, according to People magazine the Bristol company Coexist has a policy whereby women can take time off of work during their menstrual cycles as part of its new “period policy.”
The director of Coexist, Bex Baxter, thinks that having a period leave will help eliminate any kind of stigma attached to something that is entirely out of anyone’s control, while also not assigning it a stigma that means the person suffering from period cramps is somehow sick or even just wrong.
“I have managed many female members of staff over the years and I have seen women at work who are bent over double because of the pain caused by their periods,” Baxter told the Bristol Post. “Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not classify themselves as unwell.”
For women too embarrassed to be frank about what they’re experiencing physically, having a period leave grants them the appropriate time and space to take care of themselves, and feel more cared for by others. As Gloria Steinem once said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” Likewise, imagine if men could have periods. Trump would probably campaign to make heavy-flow days a national holiday.
Believe it or not, though, Coexist’s period policy isn’t the first of its kind — Nike offers paid period leave to its employees worldwide and some countries, including Japan, South Korea, and China, have long had laws in place granting women leave during their menstrual cycles.
However, while there are a smattering of policies granting women a reprieve from work while dealing with what can be a painful physical issue, there’s still a long way to go. It would seem as if many other companies — and countries — should accept at long last that that women do in fact bleed red (not blue) each month, which means nothing more than our bodies are working.
That’s a good thing. In fact, it’s a thing that some even celebrate.
Even still, somewhere in between a young woman’s first period and an older woman’s last one, there’s a figurative stain projected on women who menstruate, with an implication that it somehow makes her dirty or weak (remember when there was an argument that women couldn’t be president because of our hormones?). It would seem that the people — specifically the men — in power positions who believe that periods somehow make women feeble would do well to have period pain and labor simulated on them, and then we can talk.