I’d like to think critically about the way American society (and Western society in general) treats menstruating women. Every month, approximately 62 million women have a menstrual period. And these sixty-two million women, ages 15-44, lead very busy lives: they attend high school or college, play sports, work full-time, work part-time, and/or raise families. Once a month, sixty-two million women have a completely NORMAL human experience when they bleed for 2-7 days. However, menstruation is considered an inconvenience to the women and the rest of society.
I read an interesting article in Psychology Today, that everyone, especially women, should read. It offers a new perspective on periods, and made me feel a little better as I went through this month’s cycle. Then, I started thinking, it is time that our society reevaluates how it treats menstruating women like myself. Every month, our emotions may run amok and our bodies may become extremely uncomfortable, but we are expected to pretend as if it were any other day, as if we are not going through a physical and emotional experience.
Once upon a time, menstruating women were separated and given a time of rest and reflection. We were excused from our duties so we could return refreshed and capable. Nowadays, money does not stop being made just because a woman is on her period. Business is 24/7/365 (don’t tell me it’s not, malls opened for Black Friday on Thanksgiving Thursday). Why would a business care if a woman is on her period or not?
What I am NOT trying to imply is that women are less capable than men; we are just as capable, period or not. Menstruating is just something that comes with being a woman. However, the menstrual cycle changes a woman’s perspective on life. A woman’s worldview the week before a menstrual period and her worldview the week after a menstrual period are are completely different. Our level of introspection varies from week to week because of the way our hormones fluctuate during the month long cycle. There is nothing we can do about that.
The business world (and everyone else as well) needs to consider that women have different needs than men, and should adjust accordingly. As a future business owner, I wonder if it would be feasible to give women three paid days off every month (or some variation) so they could rest while on their periods. I know the men would probably cry foul, but if I offered men something comparable, maybe they wouldn’t care.
In Japan, Korea and Indonesia, women are entitled to Menstrual Leave, but it isn’t a widespread practice in other countries. Concerns over discriminatory policies often times prevent Menstrual Leave programs from being implemented. It is unlikely that we will see similar programs started in the United States, unless individual companies decide to start them. (Very few American women get any–even partial–paid maternity leave.) Our capitalist society doesn’t have a long standing record providing benefits that support an adequate work-life balance. Natural-life experiences don’t factor into a business oriented society. However, if I could take off two or three days every month while on my period, I would, even if I was in any amount of physical pain. It would be nice to look after myself for a couple of days: those are the days when I need self-care the most.
Nonetheless, having a period doesn’t make us ladies weak, it just makes us less concerned about business affairs, and more concerned about our personal affairs. We become introspective. American society needs to support its sixty-two million women during our “time of the month.” Society needs to allow us to be as we are, and support the types of changes we go through every month.
As it stands now, we ladies absolutely LOATHE “that time of the month.” Quite frankly, who could blame us? The way society treats women approaching our periods is deplorable. Often times women are considered “b*tchy” during that week leading up to our periods. And the over-sensitivity, that generally appears the same week, is approached with apprehension by our male counterparts (and close female friends and family as well). The term “PMSing” is often used in a derogatory fashion. In fact, PMS, officially known as Pre-Menstrual Syndrome is practically a medical condition that includes all of the physical AND emotional symptoms that appear before the period. And when we finally get our periods, we are considered disgusting and untouchable.
To solve our “period problem” we must obscure the fact that such a thing occurs. If we don’t, we are embarrassed and ashamed. In addition, to alleviate the “physical and emotional problems” associated with menstruating, we turn to drugs. Why is getting a period treated like an illness? The cycle is a natural process, not something that should be regarded with disdain. We shouldn’t have to completely obscure and medicate a normal female process just to keep up with the “business as usual” attitude that permeates our society.
A slow-paced lifestyle means attending your personal needs when the time and space is required. And for women that means taking especially good care of ourselves once a month for 2-7 days. If you own your own business, see if you can take that time off, and reflect. If you are an employee of another company, and don’t have the luxury for self-care at work, be sure to take the time off at home. Excuse yourself from being your regular productive self. Either way, consider what having a menstrual period really means. Read that Psychology Today article I mentioned earlier for ideas. Do what you can to listen to your body and take it easy. And guys, give the ladies in your life a break.
http://menstruationresearch.org/2010/12/01/should-women-get-menstrual-leave/ (Look at the comments for this one… very interesting)