Period leave not the answer for menstrual pain
Earlier this month, the British management company Coexist announced the creation of the “period policy” which will allow women to take time off or work from home while experiencing painful menstrual symptoms.
Through this policy, company director Bex Baxter aims to design a form of period leave that will differ from typical sick leave, deconstructing the shame and embarrassment surrounding female menstruation.
“Women do have cycles, it’s not about indulging it,”Baxter said. “It’s not about being victims to it. It’s about valuing the whole cycle and reconnecting to the power of natural cycles, rather than sitting yourselves in contrived, very male systems that don’t actually work for women.”
Although working around a woman’s natural cycle could very well lead to a happier and more productive work environment, the “contrived, very male systems” that Baxter refers to may not actually work for men, either.
Back in 2012, urologists from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found evidence of seasonal fluctuations in the testosterone-estrogen ratio in men.
While more research is needed to confirm these seasonal fluctuations, Jed Diamond, author of “The Irritable Male Syndrome” and founder of MenAlive, asserts that men go through hormonal cycles similar to those of women.
“The notion that men can be ‘hormonal’ is seen immediately as a joke,” Diamond said. “But the truth is, science says that men have hormonal cycles just like women. Testosterone levels are higher in the morning and lower at night.”
Along with these daily hormonal fluctuations, Diamond believes men also have monthly fluctuations that can leave them feeling fatigued and irritable. Though the concept of a “male period” may sound laughable, Diamond attributes this attitude to the lack of physical symptoms surrounding the male hormonal cycle.
Ultimately you cannot measure individual pain and suffering, even when there is blood to show for it. While Bex Baxter’s plan to lift the societal ignorance of menstruation and its symptoms is admirable, focusing on the hormonal cycles of women could be more detrimental than beneficial.
Policies that offer period leave for female workers alone may promote the outdated notion that women are weak, feeble victims of their hormonal fluctuations. Although nearly 90 percent of women report experiencing periods accompanied by some sort of pain, only about 20 to 25 percent of these women describe this pain as moderate to severe.
In a perfect world, workplaces across the globe would allow both men and women to decide for themselves whether they are physically and psychologically capable of a day’s work. In the real world, however, the closest we can hope for is ample paid sick-leave that doesn’t further the perceived divide between male and female hormonal cycles.
Opinion columnist Sonja Aune is a Spanish senior and may be reached at [email protected]