It’s true that the first day of your period is usually the absolute worst. It’s different for everyone, but cramps, fatigue, and irritability are pretty common, and for some women, they can be crippling. That’s what the women of Culture Machine say, at least, in a new video announcing the company’s plan to give women the first day of their period off. Culture Machine is a digital media company in Mumbai, which makes this all the more progressive. In rural parts of India, women are often sent out to menstruation huts to wait our their period. The huts are very bare bones — no mattresses, obviously no air conditioning, and no running water. Recently, a woman in Nepal died in a menstruation hut.
So for a company in Mumbai to even be talking about periods is a pretty big deal. Devleena S. Majmuder, the President of Human Resources said in a statement, “The first day is obviously a not so comfortable day for most. It’s time we face the reality. This is not an embarrassment. This is part of life.” Ruchir Jochi, the Head of Content, thinks that if men got their periods, they would all be taking off, too. “The realization that we have to have is that we don’t understand the pain and we don’t go through it. If we were to have probably that kind of discomfort, we would possibly not be coming to office or not be doing work at that point of time,” he said.
Culture Machine also started a Change.org petition for companies across the subcontinent to offer First Day of Period (FOP) leave. Another Mumbai company has also followed their lead. Japan and Taiwan already offer this type of leave; Italy is currently debating paid “period leave” for women, too. It would be the first Western country to offer days off for menstruating.
It’s kind of a complicated issue. While it’s important for period to be something women shouldn’t be scared of talking about or feel ashamed of, giving women days off to menstruate can also reinforce the idea that women aren’t capable of doing the equal amount of work that men can do simply because they menstruate. Companies that want to increase productivity might think twice about hiring women if they know they’re taking a standard sick day every thirty days, much like companies used to (and likely still do) be wary of hiring a woman lest she go on maternity leave.
While taking a paid sick day isn’t the same thing as a sending a woman into a hut without food or water, it could reinforce the stereotype that women are impure or can’t participate in society because their uterus sheds its lining.
Instead of fighting for something that affects just women, better paid sick leave plans all around might be more useful for the feminist cause. That way, every one could get a couple more days to use if their cramps are making work impossible.