Is the modern workplace encouraging silence around periods? A man’s perspective
In my previous avatar, I was managing teams in an IT company. Stressful as it is, it is also infamous for long hours. Of course, my teams had both guys and girls… high performers and very sincere. If there is one industry which treats men and women equally, it is IT industry, one can claim. Both get equal pay, equally long hours and in many cases, work over the weekends. By the end of the year, you always have balance leaves which means you slogged in the office most of the year! So yes, men and women are treated equally.
But are they equal in the biological sense? They are not. Every month, for 4 to 7 days, many women suffer from pain and discomfort. At home, as a married man, my wife would amply make it clear she expects consideration during her periods! But as a Manager, did I ever know if any of my female team members was having her periods? No. Never. I never got a hint of it. And no, it was not my insensitivity or tone-deafness. Now that I am so much intrigued by everything around menstruation, I can say without hesitation that it is the culture of silence promoted by many factors. And few females are able to break through it!
Let us understand what contributes to this silence and makes it deafening.
- Period is a non issue(?) In that TVC of the leading sanitary pad, a woman is seen enjoying her busy day, at the workplace, with friends, out shopping with a broad smile. Her smile is then attributed to the product she is using to manage her menstrual flow. It is such a uni-dimensional view of periods that brings the periods down to just one thing – menstrual flow! This is a huge disservice to womanhood! The pad only serves the purpose of managing the flow of menstrual blood. It cannot do anything about the cramps you suffer from or the abdominal pain that you experience or just plain discomfort of having a sheet of plastic between your legs! And none of it is normal. But the imagery planted in everyone’s mind (both females and males) is that of a perfectly happy, energetic woman ready to take on the world while on her periods. This puts those women who would rather take rest during those days, under immense pressure. Women have a right to be vocal about the discomforts they experience and demand rest. But they suffer silently.
- Periods as a Reason for Leave The modern workplace has a culture of going on non-stop. And you can’t fall sick every month! Ask for leave at your own risk! But nowhere it is taken into consideration that unlike men, women do have a need to be cared for their bodies, every month. How many women, while applying for a leave due to period discomfort, say so openly?
- Silence Rules! One thing leads to another and then it’s a circle. Because periods are never talked about at the workplace, most male manager would find it awkward to get a leave request with periods as the reason. At the same time, women, anticipating awkward reactions, never mention it as a reason for their half-day or a day off! I wonder, even with female managers, would a female employee feel comfortable to mention periods as a reason for time-off?
We are not even talking about paid Period Leave here, which is a needlessly controversial topic. We are simply talking about the need to foster an environment where grown-ups are able to ask for leave because of period discomfort and it should not go against them! But in the race to somehow show and treat men and women as equal, we are forgetting something which is so fundamentally natural! Sadly, the culture of silence grows unabated at the modern workplace.