Gender Equality

All that’s wrong about the recent movement for Menstrual Leaves.

July 21st, 2017. Let’s begin by drawing a picture of all what’s happening around the world today. Polar ice is melting, air is so much polluted that air purifier is a mundane household device, arguably the greatest nation is ruled by a man who believes that climate change is a hoax, half of the world is yet to recover from the economic meltdown, a major portion of the world’s oil resources are under terrorists’ control and yet the biggest demand of today’s Pseudo-Feminists is that women should get menstrual leaves. Period.

This is an article about women and yet I have already used the word ‘man’ and that too before using the word ‘woman’. So, before this analysis reaches any feminist let’s quickly start talking about women. There is no doubt that women have historically not been treated as equal and I am personally of the belief that gender inequality has existed and still prevails in all walks of life although the magnitude varies. I know of India and hence I speak of India. India’s development map resembles a white shirt with occasional black polka dots. We have some cities which have their own metro rail networks and may get the services of bullet trains in near future whereas the white colored base area remains almost as it was during the colonial era. There are women in these white areas who are married at 16, are mother of six by 24, spend the next 20 years in the smoke of social customs, women’s code of conduct and obviously firewood, and at 44 end up looking like 84. This is actually the best possible path of life. Let’s us add one unfortunate event in the middle. There are women who are married at 16, are mother of six by 24, are widowed at 25, are raped repeatedly in the presence of (and sometimes along with) their children and then are themselves blamed for their rapes because they couldn’t control their sexuality. These women keep suffering throughout their lives and die in sufferings without ever knowing how the word ‘Feminism’ is spelled. This is happening not only in the undeveloped parts of India, but in most of the undeveloped parts of the world and situation is even worse in the warn torn Mid-East. Ignoring all this, if feminism today has condescended to the levels where its biggest demand is getting menstrual leaves, then I don’t really feel proud to be associated with this movement and it might need some other movement to care about actual women empowerment.

Who are these women who ‘might think’ they need menstrual leaves? These are the women from the polka dot areas!! They are the women who went to the same school as their brothers, read the same books, had the same gadgets as their brothers (in addition to the jewelry), studied at similar (sometimes better/ more expensive) universities, got an equally paying corporate job, sit in their air-conditioned offices, sip on green tea while they ‘are made to’ discuss how they are   being discriminated every day. Even ‘if’ the demand of menstrual leaves is justified, a breathtaking amount of work needs to be done first in the white areas before we can come to the level where this demand should be given high priority. But in fact, this demand defeats both logic and principles of women empowerment. Let me come to the point now and start discussing it extensively.

From what I have read, some of the periods can be very painful and cause severe discomfort but let me first discuss about the regular case which I hope doesn’t have ‘very’ and ‘severe’ adjectives associated with it. In relation with the regular periods, the demand of menstrual leaves can be extremely perilous and has the caliber of stopping the functioning of the world. The advocates of this demand say that no man knows how much fear and self-consciousness a woman has to go through when she has to attend a meeting or worse deliver a presentation during her periods. The embarrassment and stigma faced by a woman if someone sees even a tiny bit of stain is of course unimaginable but isn’t that exactly what we want to eradicate in the first place and is locking yourself inside home going to help? will it not be backsliding? What happened to the rhetoric ‘Periods can’t stop me?’ which for me is what an empowered woman stands for. I am going to quote what women only have said again and again. We need to understand as a society that periods are a universal thing. Every female in the age group 13-55 years goes through it be it in Mosul or in San Francisco or in Bahadurgarh. She may be pilot, dancer, executive, university student, sportswoman, a strong independent gal who doesn’t need no man or a homely girl, if she is ‘healthy’ she will go through those 2 days every single month. Going by the logic of menstrual leaves FIFA must fix women matches while taking into consideration that none of the 30 women involved have their periods on that day, CBSE should decide school examination dates considering the menstrual cycle of over 1 million girls who sit every year on fixed dates for their secondary and senior secondary school certificates, Olympics should consider the same during women marathon events. Consider a conference of one thousand powerful women entrepreneurs somewhere in Munich, it will be practically impossible to get the 100% attendance because some of them will be at home to prevent the stigma on any given day. Women empowerment needs the women like Kiran Gandi who completed her marathon braving her period without any sanitary pad and not the people who make women believe that they need menstrual leaves. Menstrual leaves most probably will end up reinforcing the school of thought according to which the best workplace for a woman is the household which is not what a true feminist or proponent of gender equality will want to happen.

Coming to the case where for some woman, of the 11-13 periods she faces during a year, 3-4 are severely uncomfortable. We must also keep in mind that in most good organizations Casual Leaves allowed for women employees are more than that allowed for male employees. For ex- in government jobs in India women are allowed 20 casual leaves whereas men are allowed 10 which in my view is sufficient enough. But if some particular woman faces an abnormally high number of bad periods then unfortunately in the increasingly capitalist world of today she will have to suffer just like other people with medical conditions suffer. For ex- an asthmatic person is not allowed a leave for the reason that air quality is not good and there is no special option for diabetic people to eat in the office canteen. That’s unfortunate but that’s how it is and it’s certainly not because you are a woman. (P.S.-On careful after-thoughts and inputs from some erudite people, I feel it’s not fair to leave this category to suffer. One of the possible solutions for this and rest of the medical issues is the provision of flexible hours where the hours spent resting due to the medical condition can be compensated by working overtime​ on healthy days, if you don’t want to consume your medical leaves).

In fact, it is also put forward by certain experienced employers that such a move will hamper the women’s participation in workforce as it’s quite obvious that if you have to select between two equally talented, equally qualified people to work at equal salaries then you will hire the one who commands less leaves from you unless one of them is really beautiful and she smiles when the employer asks, ‘How you doin?’. Then of course nothing will matter. This again bolsters my point about menstrual leaves reinforcing the old school of thought.

Now we have discussed that this demand is actually going against the values of women empowerment. Then from where did it surface? Why would women ask for something that goes against their own empowerment? Let me turn up the steam now. Everything I have said till now was for the people who had been misguided. Now it’s time to expose the real reasons why this demand has surfaced. This is appeasement. First you create a false sense of insecurity in a group that has historically been treated harshly, then you instill in them a sense of new found strength and then the final blow, you give them the courage to take revenge. Sounds familiar? What? I didn’t take any names!! This is the Z generation divide and rule politics with the aim of hijacking the emotional support of a complete section. The emotional support related to religion and caste based conflicts has already been hijacked, how should a newbie make a career? Great I will create conflicts on the basis of gender.

There is one other category of people who have perennially milked the cow named ‘Feminism’. They don’t care about the women in the undeveloped areas, will never bat an eye on their sufferings, will never donate a penny for their skill development. Their only objective is to derive personal benefits out of the sufferings of other women be it these women from undeveloped areas or our female ancestors. They create a scenario where the society stops looking at them as individual persons and sees them as members of the group which has been unprivileged. It paints me in extremely bad colors for saying this but the immediate practical consequence of granting 2-3 menstrual leaves every month will be that most women will continue working through their periods like they are used to and you will see a lot of menstruations occurring on either Thursday & Friday or Monday & Tuesday and almost nobody will be having periods on weekends. Apart from this selfish motive I can see no other reason on why someone will argue that office going women should be given menstrual leaves while knowing very well that nothing can be done to avoid the clash of the periods of a marathon runner and her Olympic event for which she has been preparing day in and day out from the last four years. If she can run and that too without any leniency (like a head start), a presentation can be delivered as well and it should be that way if we want periods to be established as something natural, something healthy and something mundane.

It definitely is not a coincidence that the UNDP is working for the skill development of tribal women but it has nothing to do with the menstrual leaves. UNDP knows what feminism and women empowerment are! Be like UNDP!

Though, there is one very strong argument that negates each of the 1700 words written by me here: