Almost every menstruator I know has at least one embarrassing story of the messy journey that is menstruation.
From the shopkeepers who wrap pads in a gazillion newspapers and a black plastic bag like we’re buying something illegal, to avoiding conversations about menstruation around men, most of us have been constantly shamed. For a completely natural process our bodies go through!
When you’re sick, you see a doctor. When you get periods, you’re ashamed.
Most spaces we come across are not period positive. In my experience, the first time a teacher ever addressed menstruation was in 12th grade. That is after I had already lived with the experience for almost six years! Most women I know still try to sneak in their pads on the way to the bathroom. It’s common for many of us to be ridiculed for PMSing or for being cranky. If this is such a universal thing, why do we still shy away from talking about it?
Period positivity is simply having a positive and healthy attitude towards menstruation. Chella Quint is the mastermind behind the #periodpositive movement, and we are glad she started it! In fact, it’s a great way to attain and maintain menstrual literacy.
According to this 2018 survey, of 1500 women, 58% were ashamed of being on their periods, and 42% had been actively shamed at work. Of the 500 men, 44% made a joke on the subject, and a looming 51% thought women shouldn’t discuss menstruation at work. The surprising lack of sex education leads to misinformation and disgust towards a normal body function and erases conversations on related health issues.
Education and discussion is the way to go about destigmatising periods and making spaces period positive.
Do people seem shy around menstrual talk? Do you catch yourself talking ‘too much’ about periods? Is menstrual literacy promoted among employees? Do your work friends discuss the discomfort and health issues they face? Do they take regular leaves or is this a big no-no? These are some questions you can ask yourself if you want to determine if your company is period-friendly.
Menstrual Rules To Follow That Promote Period Positivity In The Workplace
Heavy bleeding and painful cramps can affect productivity and concentration at work and make it unbearable. However, many steps can be taken to make menstruating at work a comfortable experience. Here are some menstrual rules to implement that can make your office period positive too.
1. Create Space For Conversations
Why not have an open conversation with everyone at any age? In fact, the results might surprise you! Not talking about menstruation makes it a taboo conversation filled with shame.
As if cramps, fatigue, and discomfort weren’t the only things we had to deal with, do we need to hide it too?
Creating space enables menstruators to ask for help openly, break down myths and misinformation about periods, and normalise it. So start talking to everyone at work and encourage a period positive environment; remember to include men as well. We need to stop treating it as something ‘that-shall-not-be-named’. Stop making a big deal about stains; everyone gets them now and then.
2. Educate To Destigmatise
Workshops and discussions on menstrual awareness and the effects of periods on health can get more people involved in creating period positive workspaces. This will improve the overall well-being of menstruators in the workplace.
Discussing menstruation means talking about everything that entails it. That includes health-related issues, mental health, PCOS, endometriosis, and several other conditions that need to be discussed freely.
Talk to your co-workers about these issues so they too become better equipped to understand and handle it should a situation arise. Unlike what ads tell us, menstruation is not a blue, breezy affair in white pants. If people want to go for “free bleeding”, that’s up to them too!
(Continue Reading Below…)
- Zomato Introduces Paid Period Leave for Its Menstruating Employees
- PCOS: Another Invisible Cost Of Being A Woman In India
- Here’s How You Can Support Women’s Rights In The Workplace
- 8 Ways In Which Companies Can Bring In Gender Diversity
3. Make Sanitary Products And Other Facilities Available
Equipping the workspace with adequate facilities is another way to go about promoting period love. Starting your period earlier than you anticipated means running around asking for a spare pad. Companies fall short in this respect and must make changes. They must keep a ready stock of menstrual products, back supports, heat packs, and painkillers to create a period positive atmosphere. Employees can even throw in some products or contribute money towards this end.
Ask your managers for hygienic bathrooms with consistent running water, along with sanitary bins. Going an entire day in stained clothes comes with its own ickiness. That’s why you can ask for a locker room to keep spare clothes in case the need arises. Having an on-site health clinic or a doctor-on-call can help employees feel at ease and reduce absenteeism.
Making these facilities accessible would also promote menstrual equity among those who can’t afford these.
4. Bring About Inclusivity
Make period positivity more inclusive instead of glorifying ‘femininity’ and ‘womanhood’. We don’t want pink products bombarded with flowers and hearts. Because not everyone who menstruates is a woman (trans, non-binary and intersex folks bleed too!). Menstruation is not just a ‘woman’s issue’. This enforces that trans men and non-binary people are women and that trans women are not ‘real women’. It also puts the onus of dealing with periods on women, leaving men out of the conversation about creating period positive spaces.
Unlike ‘girls and women’, terms like ‘menstruators’ or ‘people who menstruate’ are much more inclusive and do not invalidate anyone’s gender expression when using menstrual products.
Use these terms around your friends at work to make them feel safe and included. Remember those menstrual products we talked about earlier? Ask HR to put them in all the bathrooms. Like we said, not all who bleed are women!
5. Validate Feelings And Discomfort
Instead of promoting a culture where we lightly brush it off as “that time of the month” or tell menstruators they’re overreacting or that they should deal with it, acknowledge it. Understand what they are going through and make a conscious effort to make them feel comfortable to promote a period positive outlook.
Educate your coworkers on the various issues that menstruators face so that they understand the severity of the discomfort faced.
Many people have severe cramps (dysmenorrhea) that prevent them from going through with even regular work. Do not invalidate their discomfort, and train everyone else to handle such situations delicately.
6. Promote ‘Rest’ Culture
Why are we so keen on undermining our health and proving this pain as not ‘legitimate’ discomfort like other health issues?
Taking breaks, indulging in a comfy nap, or munching on chocolates and snacks sounds good, doesn’t it? Talk to your friends at work instead of letting them off the hook for invalidating this pain. Employers can provide a more flexible timetable for those who face extreme menstrual symptoms. You can also ask for a relaxation space at work to encourage a period positive environment.
7. Make Period Leaves An Option
Periods are painful, and silently bearing the pain at work should not be a compulsion.
A survey by Vitamin Stree concluded that only 1.87% of people worked in organisations with a period leave policy. Another study showed that 23% of people took leaves during their period, but 36% lied about the real reason. 46% of people admitted they were uncomfortable admitting to having their period as a valid reason to take a day off. Of these women, 67% revealing that they would rather be honest with a female boss. How far is that period positive?
Of course, those who don’t menstruate may argue about reverse discrimination, but that just highlights why we need to have more open conversations and awareness.
From Coexist, who first introduced menstrual leaves in the UK, to Zomato announcing their policies last year, we still have a long way to go.
These are some companies in India we found that have active period leave policies:
- Culture Machine
- Tata Steel
There are also several campaigns such as Whisper’s Period of Pride, UNICEF’s #RedDotChallenge, Times of India’s #CutTheShame, Boondh’s #UngenderMenstruation, and Project Muskurahat that you can support to promote inclusivity and break the silence around menstruation beyond a period positive workplace.
It’s okay to accommodate women’s needs into the current policies that are largely still based on the work behaviour of men.
Accepting that women function differently is not anti-feminist. Asking your colleague if they’re grumpy because it’s “that time of the month” is not cool, man!
Creating a friendly atmosphere does not take a lot of work; it’s the small changes that make a difference. A lot can be achieved by simply asking what employees need, in order to promote period neutrality.
It’s never too late to empower your colleagues at work by making menstruation less of a hassle and encourage a period positive workplace. It’s about bloody time we changed the conversation on periods, period. We’re going to be cheering and championing menstruation from over here; will you join us as well?
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