KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Residents of Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, a few Chinese provinces, and Zambia have menstrual leave. Recently Nova Scotia removed taxes on tampons and pads, with much public approval. Paid menstrual leave is the logical next step.
Employees’ productivity increases when they are happier and healthier. For half the population both productivity and happiness are greatly affected by menstruation.
Being 31 years old, I have spent lots of time hiding that I have my periods for the past twenty years. It is only relatively recently that I can say I genuinely look forward to bleeding every month.
When puberty arrived and bleeding started I was quickly convinced that this rather than special was more of a drawback. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms were a reason to medicate and power through, as if slowing down to rest and feel somehow was a bad thing. After much self-directed learning I now have come to see every phase of my cycle as a constant to embrace. From the high energy phase of ovulating, to the recuperating and reflection of menstruation there are always positive benefits to experience.
Societal norms bear some responsibility for people not experiencing those positive benefits, and we have a long way to go. Ads for period products on TV promote shame and confusion about periods by showing blue liquid instead of a realistic red. Colour company Pantone, which releases a highly publicized yearly theme color, responded by creating a Period Red shade in 2020.
Menstruation is not a shameful secret, it is an intense and empowering time. If we openly discussed periods we would all know ways to alleviate PMS symptoms, such as modifying diet, exercise and medication for extreme cases.
Never having discussed periods at length with my parents left me and many others to learn about menstruation in the sterile way taught at school that generally reflects dominant cultural attitudes.
The notion that menstruation is an aspect of life that must remain hidden is now is completely opposed to my lifestyle.
Learning to reclaim the emotions that accompany menstruation can be done by tracking cycles, following period coaches online, and fully leaning into and embracing periods. I love free bleeding at home into a towel instead of using tampons, a practice which reduces my risk of toxic shock. On my heavier days I look forward to having a long bath with candles, swaying my hips in the water to stretch.
Celebrating menstruating is a good thing, and feels good. There is so much to gain for a society that values non stop work from learning this. Being aware of an external reminder to take time to relax is beneficial to everyone who might otherwise be cruel to their bodies and minds.
As a mom it is so important for me to normalize menstruation, so the next generation can look forward to a time of enhanced emotional depth and self care. Having the option of taking one or two days off (likely the heaviest most intense days) would alleviate so much suffering, and lead to widespread acceptance of our bodies, our emotions and open us up to a healing process.
It is time Nova Scotia and Canada joined other countries in instituting paid menstrual leave.
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