There are two things you must know right away. First, that Mumbai-based digital media company Culture Machine recently announced that all its female employees can now take the first day of their period off from work each month. The company also plans to petition the government to make "First Day of Period" (FOP) leave national policy.
Second, you must know that as of this morning, I am bleeding. My Red Wedding has commenced. My ek chutki sindoor has asserted its keemat, Ramesh Babu. My red sea has waved ashore. Like Rajpal Yadav in Bhool Bhulaiyaa, I am redder than usual and losing my mind. I'm freedom-fighting the tyrannies of my uterus. Call me Lala Lajpat Crie.
What better day, then, to try to make sense of this policy that's been yaaass'd and poo-poo'd in equal measure in the bloodbath that is public discourse?
Here, I present: my first-day-of-period thoughts on first-day-of-period leave.
1. Periods suck. They suck differently for different people. For some, they bring crippling, debilitating pain. For me, mild irritation and a heightened need for snacks. For most, some hell between the two.
2. It's neat for companies to acknowledge that working under those conditions can range from impossible to at least kinda unpleasant.
3. This morning, when I discovered my laal chaddi malmal ka, I very much wanted to stay home. My back hurt, my mood was off, ditching office in lieu of a Handmaid's Tale binge-sesh was tempting.
4. I came to work anyway because I knew I'd feel better if I showered and entered the world. Now I'm at work and I feel chill AF.
5. But it's 1 p.m. Can I start drinking?
6. In contrast, one of my colleagues took the day off earlier this week because she got her period and she has endometriosis, a condition that makes period pain unbearable. I felt happy that she put her own health and comfort before some wild, unfair expectation of productivity. That was chill AF too.
7. I'm feeling Salaam Namaste Preity Zinta levels of ice-cream craving. It's very difficult to think through my brain's benandjerrysbelgiandarkchocolate refrain.
8. I've seen some women – especially older women – criticise the concept of FOP leave. They've been working for years through all manner of pain and discomfort, they say, and it's "normal" to do so. They've ranted that requiring a day off for periods is the grumbling entitlement of a younger, brattier generation of women who should suck it up, pop a painkiller, and get to work.
8. That makes me really sad. I am sad now.
9. Also, I think I'm leaking. Have to run to the loo and do a pad-check, brb.
10. Hi. No leak, just paranoia. Waste of fuckin' time.
11. Stupid uterus. Stuterus.
12. Anyway, imagine if every generation of women, when faced with an opportunity for better lives, had said, "No, no! We've had it bad. You should too! Whiny brats!" With that attitude, we'd still all be in veils and kitchens, not voting, not working, not opining. So STFU aunty. You're strong and awesome for having braved what you braved. But that doesn't mean the world shouldn't keep getting easier for women.
13. And how wild to say that working through pain is "normal".
14. I mean, let's be real. All of corporate culture is built around maleness. Working hours designed with the assumption that a woman will handle the kids have pushed women out of leadership. Stereotypically male traits (like aggression) are preferred in choosing leadership, even though stereotypically female traits (like empathy) are every bit as essential in a good leader. Man, science has found that even something as micro and ubiquitous as AC temperatures are regulated to suit the metabolic rates of 40-year-old dudes, often leaving women freezing.
15. So it's safe to assume that if men bled and cramped once a month, a monthly "period leave" would be the norm in corporate policy and culture. It wouldn't even be a question. It would feel like the standard way of life. Women colleagues would plan meetings around the male boss's menstrual cycles. Super chill.
16. I CAN HEAR A COLLEAGUE CHEWING AND IT IS DRIVING ME INSANE.
17. TO BE FAIR, I AM ALSO CHEWING. I WONDER IF EVERYONE HATES ME. OH GOD.
18. I NEED A NAP AND A MASSAGE AND A JOINT AND A PUPPY.
19. Whoa, sorry. Hi. Hey. I'm fine. I'm good. I love you. I'm so sorry. Please don't leave.
20. So uh. Let's not do this "it's bratty to want a day off" shit. It's nice to have the option. If your pain isn't awful, or if you want to work through it like I chose to this morning, nobody's insisting you stay home. K, aunty?
21. There are other arguments against FOP leave too. The most compelling one is that this policy, while well-intentioned on the surface, could be used against women at work. The additional 12 annual days off could justify lower pay to women. The fact of women's absence could be used to push them out of decision-making. It could contribute to the notion of women as weak or less able than male counterparts to handle work. Ultimately, that perception of weakness is what keeps women on the lower rungs of corporate ladders.
22. True, true. All true.
23. [Pause to Google "ice-cream delivery Juhu, Mumbai"]
24. I got distracted and the #7 puppy on this list is so cute I kinda teared up.
25. Anyway, since when do we assess a policy by its hypothetical worst-case application? Every rule and law will be exploited by some dumbasses. So? Cancel all the laws?
25. In other words, if your employers try to pull that sexist shit, they're sexist assholes who will likely remain sexist assholes even without the guise of this policy. If they use this as an excuse to keep women out of leadership, they're probably already keeping women out of leadership.
26. So, overall, there are pros and cons and I'm confused, though I think I'm mostly pro-this policy. The Quint has done a nice job laying out all the possible arguments here.
27. Here's what I do know: Periods suck. Sexism sucks. Corporate culture designed to view people as products measured by productivity sucks. Taboos and stigmas suck. Being in pain sucks. Not being able to tell anyone you're in pain sucks. Working through pain sucks. Having to use a "sick day" to stay home when you aren't sick, you're just menstruating, sucks. The fact that some people may misuse this policy to bring forth their latent sexism sucks. Biology used as a weapon with which women are branded "weak" sucks. So much sucks.
28. Also, some things are good. Painkillers. Naps. Surprise parties. Candour. The option to take days off for period pain, or for your mental health, or to take your puppy to the vet, without any of those reasons being judged over the others. Pakodas. Benandjerrysbelgiandarkchocolate. Friends who carry portable chargers and let other people use them. Hydrating and moisturising. This GIF: