Monday, July 17, 2017

Period leave – Yay or Nay for Empowerment


I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods

A Mumbai based firm in their attempt to be more women friendly has granted first day period leave to all its women employees. Yay! This should start making men wish they had periods too - the mythical condition that makes perfectly normal women turn into raging monsters. This monthly ritual of shedding eggs is much like the short skirt – the most popular defence for rapists and their many sympathisers. Every time a woman creates a scene, screams her lungs out, gets into an argument because she’s tired of taking shit, it is promptly attributed to the big P or her sis PMS. Either this, or she is menopausal, or may not be getting enough sex.

So deep is this rot in the mindset, a Trump voter went on to say the reason why she’ll never vote for Hillary is because a woman should never be the President. Her hormones that play hide and seek make her so volatile that she can start wars, totally ignoring the fact that both the world wars were started by leaders who were men.

That the future of world peace depends on the mental health of our vagina is a huge responsibility to shoulder. Phew!

Despite menstruation taking the blame for all the ills that befall mankind, it’s funny to note how little men know about it. Or rather choose not to know about it. Never mind the fact that they had taken the same path as period blood to slide out into the world.

Ah, well!

Thankfully we have come a long way from the time when menstruation was thought to make women periodically dangerous. The reason why we were kept in isolation, away from public space and temples, lest we desecrate its holiness.

Period is no longer the condition that renders us bechaari and immobile. We can choose what we want to do – run, swim, scale mountains, barge our way into temples or even go to office, Hell, I can go to my neighbourhood chemist and walk out with a pack of sanitary napkins without its soulmate, the brown paper bag!

No one but us gets to tell us what we can or cannot do. So a Serena Williams wins the Australian Open when she was 8 weeks pregnant. A well into her fifth month Gal Gadot plays the warrior princess in Wonder Woman and slays.

We are no longer shy from talking about what we go through when we are menstruating. Something that was unthinkable for generations before us.

So forgive me if I feel confused when a period leave is hailed as a giant leap for womankind.

Yes, I get it. It is an acknowledgment of what we go through, the uneasiness, the cramps that come and go like electricity in Gurgaon. For some women it’s worse – fainting spells, vomiting, debilitating pain that brings life to a grinding halt. But the lack of a period leave has never stopped us from staying home when it was too much to bear, right?

If we are okay with taking a holiday earmarked as ‘period leave’, what’s stopping us from going to our boss from telling, look, I am about to get my periods, the pain is unbearable. I need to go back home. And if PL is the new normal, why not make provisions for pre-menstrual syndrome as well? Bar women from being part of key decision making, meeting high-value clients, closing business deals, because hey, it’s that time of the month when her mood swings faster than a movie star’s sexual orientation.

I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods?

Let’s not fool ourselves into believing that we are more than just a good investment for our organisation. In my last stint as a high-school teacher, my employee, a woman herself made sure the school did not renew employment agreement of teachers who had joined on probation, the moment she found out they were pregnant.

It was as if they were being punished for being productive. Pardon the pun.

But this is how the world functions. How much a company values its employee depends as much on their merit as their reliability. When we are expected to deliver, meet deadlines, we do not let cramps, mood swings, relationship mess-ups come in our way.

There’s no disputing the fact that an average woman does a lot more than her male counterpart. Besides office, her schedule is expected to make time for Rohan’s soccer practice, Tina’s rashes, Kantabai playing hooky, MIL sick days. Add to it the struggle at office space dominated by men who refuse to take women and their work seriously.

If organisations are intent on making workspaces more women-friendly, they should go beyond tokenisms. Take women who complain of sexual harassment more seriously, give equal pay to their female employees and stop assuming men know more than women. And finally, ensure you hire more women.

The larger the number, more the voices that cannot be muted.

But if PL becomes the norm, this is exactly why corporates will hesitate from employing more women.

So let’s not get riled if certain women refuse to share your excitement for PLs. They are definitely not against feminism, they just happen to have ideas that are different from yours. They are baffled how empowerment has been taken over by things that were once considered trivial pursuits. These days, everything a woman does from getting her head shaved, to wearing anti-fit clothes, to buying shoes she cannot afford, is hailed as some sort of triumph for womankind. It is not. It is simply self-indulgence. This trivialises feminism and what it aspires for. (1)

Is special treatment what we aspire for? Nay.

Just because our foremothers were treated unfairly, doesn’t mean we start demanding special privileges as some sort of penance. We know how that works. It only leads to resentment.

What we need is to be treated as equals, with dignity, respect and empathy. Is that asking for too much?

Extra leave? Sure. Just don’t call it Period Leave. We could do without yet another urban legend that surrounds a condition that is still celebrated as a young girl’s coming of age in certain parts of the country. (2)



(1) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/19/from-shopping-to-naked-selfies-how-empowerment-lost-its-meaning-feminism

(2) https://www.thequint.com/health/2017/07/11/why-period-leave-is-a-bad-idea







29 comments:

  1. Last para sums it up nicely. In 2017, make it optional and call it anything but Period Leave.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Till then please call it Token gestures

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  2. Wonderfully written
    I came to know about the PL only from your blog post
    Btw I had this weird exp where I was not confirmed as and they knew am preg
    Ofcourse that reason was not given. Then work was not impacted too much drama and they confirmed .I worked till my labor day and shut some mouths but still I m unhappy how ppl think women r unproductive due to women issues. Yes like u said grant leaves .any leave is leave. If needed provide more rooms to rest take break , provide dispensaries, creches and respect their work in general with out just believing that a menses or pregnancy would lead to lack of productivity

    Actually I have a lot to say on this as I recently fought over this issue just before my maternity leave ! Provide them some privileges if u can rather than undermining the abilities. Sigh very few do it.

    I don't feel good about PL too and have a lot to say but may b some other time on my blog :)

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  3. Ignore the typos or missed words& periods :-p! Was in a hurry ;)

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  4. You make some very valid points, Purba. Frankly, I don't really know what to say. I have worked through periods and before that all of us studied in school and colleges. Now shall this extrapolate to giving study leaves as well because girls also deserve it? Like you pointed out, will this make corporates shy of employing women? Very possibly. And then I know of friends who undergo really horrible pain, fainting, vomiting etc. And I wonder if 1 day of leave will even suffice for them. I am not in favour of period leaves at all. We have been managing our discomfort this far and when needed we do take sick leaves. I think that can continue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those women need medical help. And yes, one day leave is not enough for them.

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  5. Perhaps what one should do is what some companies (including mine) have done in the US. They have simply taken all caps from number of leaves. No restrictions of 10 days for this type of leave and 20 days for that type. Sick? Take the day off. Family emergency? Sure. Holiday? Yep, take the week. You know how much work you have, you have a Manager, so go plan together.
    Finally, adults being treated as adults.
    Hopefully, we will see that here sometime too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please employ me in your company. Promise, no more blogposts.

      Delete
  6. I do get your point about this backfiring on us. It’s also true that most of us do take leave when we have to because sometimes the pain is too debilitating. Frankly PL might just save me 12 leaves a year :-P
    Honestly the best solution for this would be more flexible hours/ accommodating work places.
    The key here is flexibility and more understanding and not mandatory leave.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree. This is the reason why so many women are forced to leave their jobs!

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  7. About the - ensure you hire more women part, I do not agree. Why to hire specifically more women than skillful people? And also the leaves, whether PL, ML or PL( paternal), should be seen as a sign of productivity. Quality of work is needed and not the quantity in most of the corporate jobs or am I wrong?

    While I agree that you have raised a good point on not worth the excitement at looking at such privileges as privileges! These are something which would in the coming days be more common and trivial. That's a sign of progressive society, an equal society!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because I know for a fact that many corporates are hesitant in employing women because of the facilities they will have to add to the office to accommodate their needs.

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  8. Thank you for writing this one. Echo your thoughts totally!

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  9. There's nothing like free lunch. It is another way of telling the same story that women need to be saved.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I echo your thoughts on the post - first, the name itself is just another form of discrimination. I think what Rickie commented made sense too. Perhaps, it's easier to offer everyone a few extra days of optional leave to be used as what they sometimes call 'casual leave' - use it for sickness, health, taking care of someone, whatever. Just don't designate it for one thing or the other specifically.

    Not preferential treatment - just equality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We could all do with extra leaves but the fact remains that men can devote more hours at office because they have a clean house and warm meal waiting for them.

      Delete
  11. That is an epic essay on women empowerment. Your blunt, in-your-face style should numb many into their senses. The analysis is total, weighing in the pros and cons to hilarious conclusions leading eventually to the final observation. I too feel the extra leaves shouldn't be given particular labels. It is certainly an infringement of privacy and will make many women uncomfortable. Without you, who would have had the women equivalent of balls to say all that and with such an equanimity?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My chest just expanded to 56 inches.

      Delete
  12. 'Bar women from being part of key decision making, meeting high-value clients, closing business deals, because hey, it’s that time of the month when her mood swings faster'. I agree with it so much. My question is, Is it really a privilege by calling it PL? That way aren't we treating women differently rather an equal in decision making. This post throws open some very thought-provoking questions and PL is more a bane in spreading this inequality that doesn't benefit women. As you say, a woman can always claim holiday or various leave scheme that is part of her job contract.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And there are many more reasons than periods when we need that extra leave.

      Delete
  13. Never seen working disparity as far as women's are concerned. Women breath same air as we do, but I feel sometimes they themselves gets into the whirlpool of feminism without any reason. Not against it just an opinion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you think disparity doesn't exist, it's time to move back from Planet Denial.

      Delete
  14. We have two sets of women one taking on men in every walk of professional lives and others being denied even basic rights! Treating them as equals like in most parts of developed world is perhaps the answer rather than bestowing some fringe benefits without intruding in their privacy. We have a long way to go.... Sigh!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But women are no longer silent. They cannot be taken for granted anymore.

      Delete
  15. "Never mind the fact that they had taken the same path as period blood to slide out into the world." That was a wow statement . :) I don't think we even need extra leave Purba .... this irks me just like reserved seats for women on a bus ...these guys should be told "we are different from the male species but don't make our biological challenges as the basis of our identity ....God ! "

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What irks me the most is women expecting men to vacate seats even when it's not reserved for them.

      Delete

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