Beyond Akshay Kumar’s PadMan and documentaries about periods, it’s time to talk about the subject in workplaces.
My workspace is where I spend nearly ten hours every day.
It is my second home, and changes have to be made here when it comes to menstruation-related matters.
Let pads see light of day
For starters, it would be nice if my pad could see daylight on the long walk from my desk to the bathroom, instead of being crumpled up in a pocket or hidden under my kurta.
A way of upending this regressive practice would be to have open discussions about periods, which would then embolden more women to not hide their pads and tampons.
Freely available armour for periods
At many workplaces, at least in India, women don’t have access to their armour — sanitary napkins, tampons, menstrual cups — when they need it the most. In such cases, we have to approach other colleagues one by one and whisper into their ears if they have one of the armours.
Offices usually keep a first aid kit and a medicine box handy. But this list should also comprise sanitary napkins and tampons. It creates a more equitable workspace, one that recognises the many needs of women. It would make them feel acknowledged and create a safe space for women in the profession.
Senior journalist Barkha Dutt argued in an August 2017 article for The Washington Post that giving women a day off on their periods was a hair-brained and sexist policy.
While I am an advocate for a one-day leave during periods, I am acutely aware that all women’s experiences of menstruation are different. Some experience excruciating pain; others not so much. Someone has a longer one, while some may have a shorter one. However, it would be nice to have the choice to take a day off, instead of calling in sick and having to listen to senior colleagues recount the number of times they dealt with the pain by taking a pill.
We women are not competing for tragedy here, but an acknowledgement of periods only makes people at workspace more empathetic. Not all women may choose to take a leave on their period day, and while I may take a day off in a month, I might not do so the next month. The word here is ‘choice’, period.
Let’s talk PMS
Workspaces might not be able to discuss something as specific as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), but there is an urgent need to recognise it beyond the silly jokes that are cracked to poke fun at women about how they are not competent enough to be in positions of power.
For someone who has a more extreme form of PMS — Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) — the symptoms experienced in the week before periods can make one feel very low. It can suck you into a vortex, which can be extremely crippling for your mental health and land you into a state of confusion.
Acknowledging these realities will only increase productivity at the workspace because it would create an open and free space that would be more conducive for women to work in. I can cry in the bathroom one minute and be boss-like the next, or be boss while crying as well.
Also read: Don’t ask women the period question. Ever
How we view periods
As someone who has just started working after finishing college, I am extremely wary of people calling me ‘unprofessional’ and ‘weak’ or someone who ‘takes an off because she has period cramps’. So, I end up working through the pain because I don’t want to be seen as a kaamchor. My workspace is where I spend the majority of my day and I want to be taken seriously there.
However, the burden of being taken seriously shouldn’t extend to something so natural and intrinsic to a woman’s body.
An ally in other genders
Like our stories, popular culture, romance, and many other things, how we view periods is also dominated by the male perspective.
Twinkle Khanna had once said at an event that “If a male politician put a pad between his legs with blood dripping all day, I am sure pads would be freely available in public institutions”.
I’ll take it a step further. If that were to happen, men would be applauded for bearing the pain, it would be added to the list of the great things they do, period holidays would become a thing, and the conversation around periods would be a lot different than now.
I don’t need a gold star for dealing with my periods, but it’s exhausting to talk about it alone. An ally in men and other genders would be extremely welcome.
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