Italian law considering paid menstrual leave cramps women’s progress
I’ll admit that for a hot second, I loved the idea of Italy offering three days of paid menstrual leave to women each month, as Japan and Indonesia already do. I suffer painful periods, and spending those few uncomfortable days in bed instead of hunched over a desk inhaling Alleve is certainly appealing.
But on second thought, giving every woman a period pass feels too much like cramping progress.
Sure, some 52% of women revealed they’ve suffered period pain that has affected their work in a BBC Radio survey last fall, and about one-third had taken at least one sick day while on the rag. I certainly have called out for severe cramps under the euphemism of “upset stomach” because I haven’t wanted bosses – male or female – to think I can’t handle my lady business. I’m sure they thought I was hungover, but I didn’t care. As any lady worth her weight in Tampax knows, a hangover is a cake walk compared to the monthly red wedding.
I’m not discrediting the women suffering debilitating menstrual symptoms, or those whose periods are severe from some underlying medical condition like endometriosis, which affects one in 10 of us. And I’m not period-shaming. Women should be able to talk about this time of the month, and sure, you should take the occasional sick day when you need it.
Actually, women need more sick days, period. More than half of working mothers (54%) don’t have enough paid sick days for when their kids fall ill. And moms are 10 times more likely than dads to stay home with a sick kid. So let’s start there.
Some women’s health experts agree. “This is nothing new. Women have been working through this for hundreds and hundreds of years. So what, all of a sudden now they can’t work with a period? That’s crazy,” said Dr. Jill Rabin, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.
We don’t want to stigmatize periods – but we don’t want to stigmatize women, either. Italian women’s magazine Donna Moderna shared this fear in a recent piece that suggested this legislation could backfire by making employers think twice about hiring women, since this paid leave would get expensive.
Women are not the weaker sex, but I’m afraid if we’re all given time off each month for our periods, we’ll be seen that way. We’re already struggling to overcome the gender pay gap and to break into male-dominated industries. The number of women taking paid maternity leave has barely budged over the past 20 years. In fact, less than half of American women – 47.5% – took paid maternity leave in 2015. We have battles to fight, and this period leave isn’t one of them.
“I believe that menstrual leave is ill conceived. It would be going backward. It would be anachronistic,” said Dr. Rabin. “We don’t want to put ourselves at more of a disadvantage than we are already.”
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