For the uninitiated, the First Day Of Period leave policy gives women the choice to take an off from work on the first day of their period. Much has been said and written about the FOP leave after two Mumbai-based companies, Culture Machine and Gozoop, decided to give their female employees one paid menstrual leave every month.
Now, I am all for a menstrual leave but if you ask me, I think it makes more sense if women get a period leave in general. Periods can be a bloody mess but they are different for different women. While some of us go through hell on our first day, others could have it worse on the second or third day.
The lack of provision for a period leave leads to most working women popping a Meftal, cursing themselves for being a woman, and getting to work nonetheless.
The FOP leave is being received with a lot of extreme reactions in our country but the one that is worth reading for its opinion, or the lack of it, is by renowned journalist Barkha Dutt.
Dutt wrote an article for Washington Post titled, I’m a feminist. Giving women a day off for their period is a stupid idea. As much I've looked up to her for her journalistic achievements, I absolutely do not agree with this one article.
And I'm here with counter arguments. So let me break it down for you:
She starts by stating facts about how menstruation has been used against womenfolk since centuries. How they're not allowed inside temples when they are menstruating, or not allowed to offer namaz. Point duly noted and agreed with.
But then, she says:
"It seemed like the self-indulgent mumbo-jumbo of so-called post-feminists. To my shock, the issue has become a major point of discussion. One media outlet has even adopted this harebrained policy for its female employees."
Miss Dutt, if educated women feel the need to hide their pads in crumpled papers or tell a white lie that they're not 'well' when they're on their periods, it means a woman's menstruation still cannot be discussed publicly. The sole idea behind FOP is to remove the stigma around it, and to get men and women talking about periods as a normal bodily function, instead of a secret disease that plagues every woman every month.
Now, the average woman goes through some 456 period cycles over 38 years, or roughly 2,280 days with her period. That's 6.25 years of her life! That clearly qualifies it for being classified as more than just a ''sickness.''
Dutt then goes on to say:
"Sure, our periods can be annoyingly uncomfortable and often painful, but this reality usually demands no more than a Tylenol or Meftal and, if needed, a hot-water bottle."
First off, no two women have the same kind of periods. And if you're putting down women who have a higher degree of pain and discomfort during menstruation, you're using your limited awareness about the topic and applying it across a wide population comprising women from all ages, with all kinds of health issues.
My mother's generation did not have the choice to stay at home during their periods. They waltzed their way through it with the help of a Meftal and a hot water bottle, but hey, that's not us.
A lot has changed over the years. Our lifestyles have changed completely, our work schedules are not the same, we have so many more health problems, and we're always on the run. So then, if I get the option to sit back on a day - which BTW I anyway would have, in the garb of a "work from home" or a "bad stomach" - what's wrong?
If we have the liberty to make that choice, aren't we empowered in our own way?
If this generalisation wasn't enough, you go on to say:
"Girls can be denied an education because of cultural taboos, relative poverty and lack of basic facilities during a period — and here are we, elite and spoiled women, demanding the right to stay at home. Does no one see the irony?"
Every individual is different and no two problems are the same. Lack of facilities in rural areas is as much a problem as the rights of working women living in urban areas. Caring for women who go through what they do in rural areas doesn't mean we can't be sympathetic towards women who cannot take the pain that periods bring along.
Is it fair to compare one person's pain with another's?
As educated individuals, residing in metro cities and towns, we're well aware of how things are in rural India. We know girls get killed in our country even before they're born. They're kept out of schools, their own homes, and married off even before they hit puberty.
We care as much as you do about all these things and as 'spoiled' millennial men and women, we're working towards causes like these. But can you really equate the condition in rural India and urban India? Should you call women who choose to stay at home because of their periods elite and spoiled?
"Female labor-force participation has declined in India despite economic growth. Only 27 percent of Indian women are in the workforce, the lowest level among the emerging BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); among Group of 20 countries, India’s rate is better than only Saudi Arabia’s. Instead of focusing our feminist energy on such alarming statistics, goofy ideas such as period leave create grounds for workplace discrimination or, worse, a denial of some roles completely."
While I agree that this new policy will rile up certain people and create grounds for workplace discrimination, doesn't every new policy have a bunch of naysayers? For women to prosper and come at par with men, there have to be certain policies in place to help them achieve the status they've been denied all these years.
Women have kept quiet for way too long so when they finally decide to raise their point, it's obvious that voices will be raised. But just because my mother and her mother were quiet because they didn't have the provision for something as basic as this, doesn't mean that I should happily adopt this as my way of life.
"But for women to use the fight against menstrual taboos as an excuse for special treatment is a disservice to the seriousness of feminism. Stop this sexism. Period."
We're not using our periods to get special treatment, Miss Dutt. In seeking the FOP leave, what we're really aiming at is normalizing something as normal as periods. What you're calling sexism is just us being human. You cannot deny that women are biologically different from men and that every woman is different from how you're made. You may have covered Kargil all through your menstruation and kudos to you for that, but every woman is not as badass as you are. And for a change, it'll be nice to have the option to choose what I want, myself.
Feminism is not about putting on a brave face and working through your periods to prove you're a badass. It's about having the choice to not suffer through a simple bodily function just to prove a point.
Because honestly, sometimes, we're not that badass, and we really need that day off. It doesn't make us any less capable.
While there will always be certain people who take advantage of our laws, we shouldn't let that stop us from helping those who're rightly benefitting from it. And make no mistake, we're talking about almost half of our population here.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and this is mine, on yours.
You can read Dutt's entire article here.