Paid Period Leave Sounds Like a Dream -- but the Patriarchy's Already Ruining It

woman tamponsWomen are still fighting for equality in the workplace, but at least one company in the UK is working to change that. Addressing what it feels is unfair treatment of its female employees, the company is planning on instituting a "period policy" that will allow women to take time off for painful periods without being stigmatized -- or penalized. Sounds like a great idea in theory, right? Unfortunately, the misogynistic backlash has already begun.

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Bex Baxter, the director of Coexist in Bristol, wants the women in her company to be able to take the time off they need without being characterized as having an illness, and she says she expects the policy will actually increase office productivity.

"I have managed many female members of staff over the years and I have seen women at work who are bent over double because of the pain caused by their periods," Baxter told the Bristol Post.

"Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves as unwell. And this is unfair. At Coexist we are very understanding. If someone is in pain -- no matter what kind -- they are encouraged to go home. But, for us, we wanted a policy in place which recognizes and allows women to take time for their body’s natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness."

More from The Stir: 13 Period Disasters & How to Handle Them

Seems like a no-brainer in a lot of respects, honestly. As a woman who used to suffer from pretty severe periods -- I've been in the position where I was forced to call in sick to work on multiple occasions (leaving fewer sick days for when I was actually sick) -- I believe this policy would make a world of difference for women with similar issues. After all, it really isn't fair to be punished professionally for a normal, unavoidable bodily function. And Coexist isn't the first company to try this out; "menstrual leave" started in Japan in 1947, and countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia have similar laws in place. (Nike is apparently the only worldwide company to include the policy as part of its official code of conduct.)

Of course, there are plenty of people (men, mostly) who don't agree with the idea, and they're already speaking out against it on social media. These tweets were in response to Time magazine's initial tweet about an article covering the story:

On the other (female) end of the spectrum, however, were tweets of approval:

 

And who knows -- if this works out for Coexist and profits do indeed go up, maybe more companies will be inspired to implement similar strategies. Until then, however, as much as I support this idea, I worry about how the criticism that's already raging will continue to affect public perception of reproductive issues. Clearly there are plenty of people out there who are taking this as just one more perceived example of "special treatment," even if it's not -- and they're going to use this development as ammunition to argue that women truly are inferior employees to men. 

More from The Stir: 20 Creative Ways Women Say 'I'm on My Period' 

It's a frustrating reality, but that doesn't make it any less real. Maybe companies simply need to offer more sick days, period, that can be used for whatever personal health challenges employees of both genders might be facing. Or maybe we need to get over the stigma of menstruation once and for all and recognize that while men and women are of course equal, they do have different needs in the workplace (as in life in general). 

I'm not holding my breath for either, but it's good to have goals, right?

 

Image via iStock.com/ShotShare

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