MENSTRUATION MATTERS

A small article in the Toronto Observer (apparently published last week but just showing up in my RSS reader today) reports on the work of Yara Doleh, an independent scholar who recently presented a lecture titled “Menstruation and Stigma” at the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education (CWSE). The content of her lecture is not available, but the paper reports that

Doleh wants to implement a menstruation leave in Canada; it would give women the option of taking a day off work when menstruating.

“A few countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and South Korea have already granted menstruation leave to their female workforce,” she said. “We’re only fighting for one day … and I don’t think it would be costly.”

I have a hard time supporting such a proposal. Certainly, women who are in pain or ill during menstruation should be able to leave work or phone in sick. But won’t current policies regarding sick leave and personal days accommodate all but the most intractable dysmenorrhea? I don’t know how it would be implemented in Canada, but under the U.S. legal system, menstrual leave might be construed as an unfair benefit, available only to one segment of the workforce, i.e., those who menstruate.*

Instituting menstrual leave seems a sure path to increasing stigma of menstruation, rather than reducing it, in the current cultural climate. It is not, however, as stigmatizing as the red bracelet one boss in Norway apparently requires female employees to wear when they are menstruating.

*Remember, not all women menstruate and not only women menstruate, so such a policy could not be restricted to women.

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