it seems we just can’t find a comfortable co-existence for wombs and workplaces. If wombs aren’t growing new life, which results in months off work, then they’re holding the bodies they reside in hostage for a few days every month, sometimes forcing an awkward e-mail to the boss about ‘women’s problems’. The battle of the sexes in the workplace will always come down to a basic biological bias: women have ovaries, which tend to do their thing of their own accord. The latest debate on this front is whether women should be granted paid menstrual leave. The practice is relatively commonplace in countries like Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia. The intentions, I suppose, are good: allowing women a few days to let their bodies get on with their reproductive-system maintenance, away from their desks and diaries. But it seems a little strange to me too. The first thought that crossed my mind was, ‘Why is that necessary?’ but this was swiftly replaced by memories of days when I was barely able to keep myself upright. It may be nice, I thought, to stop pretending I’m fine when most of my attention is focused on not passing out from pain. But paid menstrual leave implies that getting your period and not feeling well as a result needs to be handled in a compartment of its own. Just as unavoidable as a backache or migraine, so, too, are the nausea and cramps that some women experience. You should be able to take a sick day, full stop; not a special lady one. But we are expected to be completely in control of our bodies, to the point where even acknowledging that your natural biological cycles are running as they should is a weakness. If we’re not able to simply carry on as usual, or pop a painkiller and pretend we’re fine, we are just ‘typical’ women who can’t handle what makes us a woman – or hide it enough to make everyone comfortable. The battle will not be won with a law that gives women special privileges. It will be won when you can pick up the phone and tell your colleagues that you are taking a sick day because ‘I am having a terrible period’ and that’s that.