Last week, the Washington Post reported that, if passed, a new bill could make Italy the first country in the West to provide employees with paid leave during their menstrual cycles. Like Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia, Italy’s policy would ensure female employees three extra sick days a month to recover from their cycle.
Progressive or regressive?
It all started in Japan. After 20 years of push from the labor unions, law passed in 1947 allowing women to have a paid period leave. Today, most women in Japan refuse to partake in the policy, for various reasons. “If you take menstrual leave you’re basically broadcasting to the entire office which days of the month you have your period,” a Japanese professional woman told The Guardian in 2016. “It’s not the sort of thing you want to share with your male colleagues, and it could lead to sexual harassment.”
Another women noted that taking menstrual leave is a “sign of weakness” and, when trying to prove yourself in a man’s world, crying for special treatment of your uterus is not a good look. Many other Japanese women said they have taken sick days due to intense period pain, but just called it a regular paid sick day. Mostly, women denied using the policy because it drew attention to something they didn’t want discussed in their place of work.
In 2001, South Korea made legal one day a month of period leave, but most women there reported feeling uncomfortable asking their male bosses for the day off. In 2014, one 28-year-old Korean woman told the Korean Times she felt “guilty” towards her co-workers, knowing that they would have to make up for her not being at the office.
Marie Claire praised Italy for its potential period policy, calling the move progressive, while Donna Moderna magazine bet that the law would backfire.
Imagine a paid period leave in North America? Seriously. Imagine.
I think I participated in a total of nine P.E. classes during the 10th grade. Our gym teacher, Mr. Vipon, was an ex-prison guard turned high-school teacher with the red nose of an alcoholic and the discipline of a distracted babysitter. I loved Mr. Vipon’s class because I hated gym. While the other half of the students in our grade were stuck running sprints across the gravel field while their militant gym teacher, Mrs. Bolls, kept time, those of us in Vipon’s class were stoned and laughing as we sat in the bleachers, unable to participate because we wore sandals to school “by mistake”. I think I “had my period” for five months straight that year. This was the ultimate excuse with Mr. Vipon because he didn’t want to hear about that stuff. He would just wave his hand and tell us to sit out due to our women problems. My lazy girlfriends and I took full advantage. All the fake periods didn’t exactly pay off, though: I barely passed P.E.
My point is that upper-middle class, entitled little c—ts (like myself at a young, naive, annoying age) would take full advantage of a policy like this. Lazy and hungover, they would rely on this policy to recover from their GHB binges, while women with serious medical conditions like endometriosis would be told they require a doctor’s note to prove their suffering. We can’t have this policy here. Our nation is too spoiled. Furthermore, this mandate endorses special treatment in a business world that is supposed to be promoting equality for all workers. I believe most hard-working, discerning women would take the mindset of those Japanese and Korean employees. Perhaps the labor unions knew that back in 1947? That most women would be too embarrassed to ask their male bosses for a period break, so the policy was there as a gesture but never intended for actual use? Who knows. Either way, I call it regressive and pointless.