A day off is a day off is a day off. Isn’t that what some English poet wrote?
Apparently not. Today, in the 21st century, a day off is more than just a day off. It is likely a sign of a woman too disabled by her body to work. And in these politically and socially polarising times, two media companies, one based in Mumbai and another in Kerala, have got themselves fairly juicy airtime for giving women a day off on the first day of their period; no questions asked… or so we think.
It sounds more like we are laying the groundwork for sexist speculation, jokes and jibes that women must laugh loudest at to show we are too forward-thinking to be offended.
Which is the first day of our period anyway? A lot of women will be blissfully unaware their period has started till they notice blood stains on their knickers. For some women, the second day or even the third might be more uncomfortable than the first.
Kerala police officer R Sreelekha has reportedly said menstrual leave is in fact one step back for women in the workplace, packaged like a favour bestowed on women. So yes, while we would all – women and men – appreciate an extra day off every month, are we women actually saying we want to step back for a day because we feel our bodies are letting us down?
Hasn’t our fight over the last decades been about creating an atmosphere where we can work shoulder to shoulder with men? A more real concern for women in these days is whether we have clean bathrooms and water in our workplaces enabling us to hygienically manage our period. Maybe even an atmosphere of privacy where we don’t have to attract the attention of male colleagues while we ruffle paper and pad.
Isn’t it more laudable that Kerala became the first state to install sanitary napkin vending machines and eco-friendly disposal systems in all higher secondary schools?
If an employer really cares about being women-friendly — rather than this token gesture which some men have rightly pointed out could actually dent a woman’s employability — a woman could be asked what she needs really to have a happy working atmosphere. The answer is most likely to be ‘a creche’, and that sounds like something that would leave most managements sweating blood.