This is one of those things that I’m learning is maybe just a bit Bristol. The company in question is based in an area of the city called Stokes Croft which, if I have this right, rioted when a Tesco threatened to move into the neighbourhood. Its main thoroughfare boasts that it is the longest stretch of independent shops in Europe. Just so you know the area we’re dealing with here. This isn’t The City in London, obviously.
It was one of those things that I read in the paper and thought, yes, actually, excellent, I’d like the week off when I have my stupid period because that is the week each month that I feel like death. Crohn’s and period together are a force to be reckoned with. I’d also fairly recently read an article about endometriosis, about which I knew nothing before, but after reading the harrowing stories of women who endure it… well I felt like they should be given awards of some kind. I mean, one woman has this disease, and it’s so painful that when she gave birth she didn’t think the giving birth bit was anywhere near as bad as what she experiences every month.
When I mentioned this news to The Mom we ended up getting to chatting about how periods, or at least the perception of periods, has changed from her generation to mine. In her generation it was all quite hush-hush, and from what I can tell a huge source of embarrassment. Which is not to say that it isn’t embarrassing nowadays, but I’d say, and I may be quite wrong about this, but I’d say it’s embarrassing for different reasons and that it’s less so.
I think nowadays it’s less weird to say, Period Pain in response to a question like,”Why do you look like you’re going to throw up and pass out?” As opposed to what I can only imagine was the universal previous response to women’s problems.
Somewhere on TV I heard about a woman who was embarrassed to put tampons on the weekly shopping list because her husband was getting the shopping in. The Mom felt this was normal. I was aghast! Seriously? It’s tampons. You buy condoms, you buy lube, your buy porn, you can buy tampons. The Mom, upon hearing my reaction challenged me: had I ever had a male friend buy me tampons? The answer was hell yes, and sometimes he wasn’t my boyfriend he was just a friend.
This topic of period-leave was much discussed in my office too. And after rather a bit of to and fro-ing, some bright spark piped up with this: I don’t understand why we need it. If you’re not well, you just ring in and take a sick day.
Which has got to be one of the more level-headed comments I’ve heard in ages. If you think of a period as chronic, like say Crohn’s disease, and as something that flares up now and again and renders you incapable of coming to work, then your employer makes reasonable arrangements. I work from home when I’m not well. It’s fine.
So while I liked the idea of women getting a break because we have to deal with something that is hideous each and every month, what I like more is that this already exists. I think the way we’re going to get closer to equality in this world is if we focus on what makes us similar, not different.
Oh, and one more thing.
This tidbit from Bristol even made the evening news. There were two women invited on to debate the issue and one of them quipped something brilliant. She’d been asked why women are making such a fuss about their periods and why they’d want to be treated differently from men in the office. Her reply: “Well, we’ve already got the gender pay gap, so you know, we’re already treated differently”. Which is a brilliant point and a bloody great line, but you know, I’d rather have the cash than the week off unwell each month.