#FOPLeave First Day of Period Leave Video: Is it really a step back for equality and feminism?

Recently, culture machine uploaded a video announcing their First Day Off policy. Many women lauded it. I think the video is brilliant on three counts. First off, it brings the period talk into the corporate domain. Second, it perfectly captures the sentiment of their target audience and therefore is a potentially viral video. And last, but definitely not the least, it is a commendable HR policy because it acknowledges and sanctions the need to rest instead of suffering through pain. Then why do some women, such as author Kiran Manral, feel the need to slam this on social media? Here’s the video in case you missed it. Please watch it before you read further.

Kiran says:

I’m going to stick my neck out here. Perhaps I’m the only woman who might think this way but seriously? First day of period leave? I’ve worked all my life with severe endometriosis, PCOD and bleeding that went into 15 days at a time occasionally. That too in a profession like journalism. I gave a client pitch a day before I was wheeled in for a C-Sec. I know many many other women who do the same. You do what you have to. When we ask for equality and equal opportunities as women, it doesn’t do us well to sit at home nursing our cramping uteruses. This is just urban privilege. Here’s a screenshot of the same:

The same argument is stretched throughout a woman’s life. “Come fever or cramps, I had handled my home and worked non stop, then why do these women sitting at home with a maid and cook complain?” Or, “I worked till the last day of my pregnancy, why does she need to take a break?” Or, “I pumped milk and went to office, why do we need extended maternity leave to breastfeed?”

This is your logic then: “I suffered through it so why can’t she?”

It is shocking to see intelligent women say things like, “I had bad period cramps, so do millions of women, so why should a few urban women get this privilege?” “It’s not cancer!” “Why does nobody give homemakers a day off?” Yes, homemakers should take breaks. In fact, I have seen my uncles cook, clean and do all the household chores before they went to work for four days of the month, every month, year on year. The Hindi movie Julie also shows the same thing. Had the movie been released now, would you then pan it by arguing how could they show the old man cooking when his wife had periods? Or, would you then say, “This is just rural privilege. Women, who take local trains and work 9 to 5 don’t get such treatment.”

Yes, there are women who work through debilitating pain and don’t let it show. But, the point is this: You need not do it anymore! It is ok to cut yourself slack when you are in pain. And why shouldn’t you? Don’t you realise that everything need not be a grave life or death situation like cancer for it to matter? I have seen cancer take a toll in my family, but that does not make it right for me to tell myself or others not cry if they get a paper cut, let alone period pains, or grit and bear any pain unless it is cancer like pain!

Don’t you realise that if some women take leave for a day, it does not take away from other women’s rights to take breaks? Some of the women expressed shock and disbelief that HR felt the need for such a policy. They went on to state that official leave existed for just this purpose and women should avail of it because it would affect the women’s equality movement. Really? What has getting equal pay or equal opportunity got to do with which headline your leave comes under? When my father passed away I realised that we had a leave policy titled “bereavement leave”, which meant that I didn’t use up any of my privilege leave when I had to take the week off. I know of work places that don’t have such policies. In fact, when I was working at another company years ago, there was a girl who came to work the day after her father died and she became a management hero and the team leaders often used that as an example of her dedication. It did not mattter one whit that she and her father had been estranged for years and that her work was shoddy. This incident was used to shame me because I took leave when my uncle passed away. My work was excellent and my grief was genuine and I needed time to cope. Again and again it was thrown in my face that this girl came to work when her dad died so how could use my uncle as an “excuse”? What has this got to do with the First Day Off policy? It is the same premise all over again. The women who hate the idea of such a policy cite examples from their own life where they have not been granted this facility and have managed without it. My question to you is, just because you did not have such a policy, why does it make the policy wrong? Then there are arguments about possible misuse and HR tracking it. I think that trust issues at work will exist with or without this policy. No matter how many ways of monitoring and tracking exist: attendance tracker, time spent at PC tracker etc., it is always possible to cheat and misuse any policy.

It is almost savage the way women put down other women who they think are being wimpy by showing their pain. It reminds me of an incident in my labour room when one of the gynaec RMOs told me to shut and bear the pain because my contractions were only 45 seconds apart and not 15 seconds like hers had been. What kind of a world are we in where self-professed feminists and educated women like doctors feel the need to shove the pain and suffering of other women under the carpet?

The running theme the responses to her comment is the same. These women are hating a good thing just because they didn’t have the same opportunity or they feel others are entitled to more. Or, they feel it affects their image of being equal to men? With all the gender issues that we have to cope with, this is the worst logic of all.

And this is the same argument that is seen every time a woman takes a step to protect her interests:  “I was actually molested, these girls were only teased  (because boys will be boys), so why should they complain?” Or, “She only got rape threats and the media went crazy, it’s not like she actually got raped!” It becomes much worse with, “I went through much more abuse in my marriage and still did not get divorced, why does she think her reason is good enough?”

If such arguments seem valid to you, then you must examine why? Why is it that a woman feels that pain and sacrifice must be glorified? Why must she continue to suffer just ‘coz other women have? And isn’t is better to hope that our kids will have a better life than we did? Why raise our boys to think that bearing pain is what a man does and therefore why should we raise girls who don’t complain when they are sick so that they can be equal to a such a man? Read about how we breed rape culture in India.

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