Sup­port women with poli­cies that em­brace men­strual cy­cles

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - WORLD - Vicky Mochama Metro | Toronto Dear Ellen, I’m a nor­mal guy with a girl­friend who I’m se­ri­ous about and we get along great ex­cept for one area. She makes a lot more money than I do, and she in­sists on pay­ing for things more than half the time, which makes

Rid­dle me this: If a woman is bleed­ing but not dy­ing and yet feels like she is, what time should she get to work?

Women who ex­pe­ri­ence se­vere men­strual pain can an­swer this rid­dle in two ways: go to work or school, or don’t.

The real an­swer is that em­ploy­ers and the gov­ern­ment should pro­vide for paid men­strual leave. Cur­rently, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has sev­eral ways for work­ers to be out of the work­place: “Ma­ter­nity Leave, Parental Leave, Com­pas­sion­ate Care Leave, Leave Re­lated to Crit­i­cal Ill­ness and Leave Re­lated to Death or Dis­ap­pear­ance.” Added to that is a leave op­tion for army re­servists.

None of these ad­dresses a form of leave that Cana­dian women, with or with­out their em­ployer’s sup­port, are al­ready tak­ing. There’s scant data on Cana­dian women’s pe­riod ex­pe­ri­ence (a prob­lem in it­self) let alone on the work and money lost due to their men­strual cy­cle. We can draw some con­clu­sions from in­ter­na­tional re­search.

Up to 20 per cent of women re­port hav­ing se­vere men­strual symp­toms that pre­vent them from work­ing or go­ing to school. Women in the U.K. take 17 mil­lion days off an­nu­ally while women in the United States lose 100 mil­lion hours of work for their pe­ri­ods.

Per­son­ally speak­ing, I know I will be home one day a month fo­cus­ing on man­ag­ing my body. To my em­ploy­ers, how­ever, I’m “work­ing from home.” Hon­estly, I am watch­ing mur­der mys­ter­ies, sit­ting still and try­ing not to scream. That’s not an op­tion avail­able to a lot of women.

A prior gen­er­a­tion of women fought for paid ma­ter­nity leave that now in­cludes paid leave for both par­ents. The next fight doesn’t have to be one. There are young women who are lead­ing the way. They’re de­mand­ing a space for them­selves in work­places and in pub­lic pol­icy.

Dur­ing the Daugh­ters of the Vote day on Par­lia­ment Hill, stu­dent May­muna Mo­hamed spoke elo­quently on the need for paid men­strual leave in Canada. She said, “We shouldn’t have to bear pain for men’s com­fort. If these symp­toms were as­so­ci­ated with any other ill­ness, we all know we’d most likely get sick leave.”

Yet women who ex­pe­ri­ence de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­com­fort are not us­ing sick leave for the pe­ri­ods. In a work­ing at­mos­phere where women are paid less than men for sim­i­lar work and fe­male lead­er­ship is still sym­bolic in­stead of stan­dard, women sim­ply suf­fer in si­lence.

It is rea­son­able to worry that paid men­strual leave will fur­ther stig­ma­tize women or make em­ploy­ment harder for them. But the re­sponse to a cul­ture that shames women is not to en­shrine that shame. Rather, we should sup­port women as loudly as pos­si­ble with poli­cies that em­brace their most pri­vate needs. Dear DK,

There are al­ways rules. The trick is to pick which to fol­low (the one about driv­ing on the right side of the road) and which to ig­nore (the one about not wear­ing white af­ter Labour Day). More im­por­tant than rules are prin­ci­ples — which I ad­mit can be tough to fig­ure out af­ter so many cen­turies of pa­tri­ar­chal warpi­tude about how men and women “should” act.

Old rules of eti­quette dic­tated that a man paid for things, which used to make eco­nomic sense when men typ­i­cally had more money. But those old rules, and that eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion, were based in en­trenched sex­ism. The prob­lem you’re hav­ing is due to the en­trenched sex­ism that lingers in all our brains. You “feel bad” about some­thing that is ac­tu­ally re­ally, re­ally good: you have a gen­er­ous girl­friend who wants to share her suc­cess with you. As for the “im­bal­ance” in your re­la­tion­ship, there’s al­ways been an im­bal­ance be­tween men’s and women’s ac­cess to money and power. The only rea­son you’re notic­ing it now is be­cause you’re on the other side of the ful­crum.

As long as your girl­friend doesn’t abuse her power as the higher earner by think­ing she gets to make all the de­ci­sions she’s (mostly) pay­ing for — whether it’s choos­ing a restau­rant or a lux­ury des­ti­na­tion for your next hol­i­day — you could have a very good life to­gether.

For­get the old rules. Be nice and open and hon­est with each other, and go for a re­la­tion­ship of equals.

A prior gen­er­a­tion of women fought for paid ma­ter­nity leave. The next ight doesn’t have to be one.

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