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







54 comments:

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

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    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.

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    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.

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  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.


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    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!

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    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.

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  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.

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    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 ! "

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

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  16. First of all best wishes for women cricket team for their performance. Now, coming to discussion we all men respect our axis of origin. I also tell you that women has immense strength to bring us to this world. We men can't take that...I agree this others don't . I also agree that emotionally they are way far stronger than us. What God has gifted to women we men don't , simple as that. But I also tell you that some women has other quality that kill their true strength ....bitching, too much manipulative , self-centeredness, showoff, double face,cunning, pretending. This is my honest opinion may be I am wrong but most will agree including women. Again I am jealous of women bcoz God gifted her with dexterity to love, warm and not getting the word...we men are very shallow compare to them, deep inside we all knew this.

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    Replies
    1. How is this discussion relevant to the debate about period leave?

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  17. Title can change but story remains same...does our society sees biological difference as inefficiency of women...I mean to say less capable for doing regular work or they see as there inefficiency get more prominent during cycles...

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  18. Workplaces need to allow more flexibility to female workers - flexi timings, work from home, etc. are practical options. And I agree, maybe females should be given extra leaves, but labelling them as 'period leaves' will backfire and make women come across as over-entitled for no fault of theirs.

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    1. Flexi timings and work from home is a much better option

      Delete
  19. Hey.I thought I left a comment here.Looks like it swallowed it up. Never mind, just had wanted to say, that this was one of the best takes I found on the topic. And when somebody asks for my view on the subject, I am just sharing your post. :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Blogger is getting greedy and eating so many of my comments

      Sorry about that

      Delete
  20. I agree with you Purba. Period leave sounds patronizing. And I'm the girl who has horrible time during periods—cramps, vomiting, and the rest. But, it doesn't mean, we can't function at all. We have managed without special concessions till now, haven't we? If period leaves become a routine, it will serve to underline the myth that women are delicate, and not consistent, or reliable as a work force. And we definitely don't need this, after years of proving that it isn't true.

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    1. Exactly my thoughts, Kiran,

      just let us decide how we want to utilise our leaves.

      Delete
  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  22. We have separate sick leave in our company that can be availed by anyone! So, a woman may use it for her period pain and a guy can use it to nurse his man cold (oops! So not PC!!)

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    Replies
    1. Exactly, let her decide how she wants to utilise it.

      Delete
  23. When something is offered with due respect - accept it with grace....why to be rebellious....on feminine terrain. Just an opinion.

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    Replies
    1. I think I have made it amply clear in my post that organisations have to move beyond token measures and do something substantive to make workplaces more women friendly.

      Delete
  24. I do understand your point that more needs to be done , rather then token things like giving the day off .. BUT this could also be a start of things .. a way towards it . Need not be taken as a insult.

    maybe if a Extra day off is given to MEN too then it will look equality.. what other name should be given ..

    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who doesn't want an extra leave! The more, the better!

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  25. I think bikram has made same point that i elucidated ... it should not be taken as token ....also if man has been in same position they would happily taken....on name of "s lick" day or any xyz

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  26. Very well written, Purba. You made no bones in letting the reader know that you feel strongly about this and you are not taking this in a stride. The tone was aggressive, as it needed to be, and the point was realized, as strongly as it could have been, with only words at your disposal.

    I, however, disagree with your point of view. As you say, this is an acknowledgment of the uneasiness and discomfort that only half of the population feels. To walk over it with eyes shut, would be ignorance. That a lack of a PL has never stopped anyone from working is more of a testament of a woman's strength and determination than the evidence of it being not required at all. Your concern that it will further the gender gap at large corporations is legitimate but thats still a little cynical. What needs to be done is to have an anti discrimination law that prevents employers from keeping women out for any reason, be it pregnancy or menstruation. To not take any step forward is not a solution.

    Yet again, a post by you has stirred something in me to write a lengthy comment and think about an issue. Such is the power of A-Musing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the nicest way someone has disagreed with me :-)

      The concept of PL has existed since the 1920s (specifically in Japan). That it has yet to gain wide acceptance says a lot about it.

      Not saying that women do not need PLs, but it's true for only a fraction who suffer from extreme pain,

      Delete
  27. Well written with correct blend of perceptions of both sides of coin. Let's let the lady overcome her natural up and downs on her own. She doesn need free lunches or I must say leaves.(a decent lunch she wudn mind though). Rather sympathy let's regard the sincerity.

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    Replies
    1. I wish workplaces give Vishakha guidelines as much importance to make workplaces safe and happy for women

      Delete
  28. Hi Purba - A truly A-mazing and equally A-musing article on " Woh Paanch Din" and it's associated aspects from various spheres.

    Well !!! I really wudn criticize d efforts of the Mumbai firm on their concept of PL as I see a sincere concern by them for their Female employees. But of course there are same concerns over the PL.

    1. It cud so happen that majority of PL falls on Fridays or Mondays and wat cud be better than overcoming d agony by short trip to GOA.

    2. How wud the HR confirm d genuinity of the leave applied for the elder staff for whom the natural phenomenon has paused?

    3. If some1 does avail PL for two months it might result in spinning d head of HR head as it cud be sign of ML (maternal leave). Long leave coming it's way

    .... So now the firm needs small teams called PITS (Period Investigation Teams) for ....
    So wudn it b better to let d female employee b FREE to decide her ways of overcoming any duress rather than granting FREE PERIODS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahahaha. So many points to ponder upon.

      Delete

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