Featuring Female Health II: taking the taboo out of talking about periods
We will be talking about periods in DJMs continuing effort to understand how female health issues can affect their employment and career opportunities. They are some of the symptoms, the spectrum, and how different women deal with them. Women aren't the only individuals who can have periods. It is essential to remember that trans men, intersex, genderqueer or nonbinary individuals can also have periods. They are often omitted or not considered for any period rights movements.
Periods are a taboo topic of conversation; they have been for as long as I can remember. It is a life event or occurrence that should be dealt with subtly and in quiet quarters, whether in school, university or a workplace. In certain cultures, it is known that periods are something shameful and disgusting, something that should be shielded away from public discussion. This narrative needs to change, so we will openly talk about periods and the impact they can have on women in the workplace.
To start, what is a period?
A period is a part of a woman's menstrual cycle. Essentially, a woman bleeds, shedding her ovarian lining and discarding the unfertilised egg from her body. These cycles can range between 21-40 days for many women, though it is essential to note that not every woman will have a normal process. For many women, the days of menstruation can last anywhere between 3-8 days, and some women can experience it for even longer. Various symptoms are external diagnoses to menstruation and periods that make menstruation a much more complex process for women. This will be covered further along in the blog.
What are some of the psychological, emotional, and physical symptoms associated with periods?
Certain conditions can affect periods and make them more challenging to deal with, including endometriosis, PCOS, and many more. Taking certain contraceptive pills or other medication that can affect your hormones can affect a woman's period. Certain women also get irregular or missing periods yet still have hormonal symptoms that can affect their wellbeing.
Some food for thought
Many girls start their period around the age of 11-12. However, there is a range some may start theirs much younger, and some may not get their periods until the age of 18. As many of these girls start their periods at school, there is an air of shame and scarcity concerned with how women should deal with their periods. Many girls are told to deal with their period quietly, as boys may be too immature to handle it at that age. This conditioning continues throughout their education at the behest of how boys 'may' react concerning their period rather than dictating that periods are a normal bodily function. This subtle culture of shaming and hiding continues when certain women enter the workplace, believing that it is shameful or embarrassing to take a sanitary product to the bathroom in a workplace. Of course, there is a converse argument here, some women may keep their hygienic product out of sight, as they believe it is a private matter which has nothing to do with being embarrassed, and that is an act that also has to be respected.
If periods are a somewhat bodily and private matter, why are we taking the time to talk about periods in the workplace?
There are many exciting regulations to consider when discussing periods in the workplace from extreme pains, days off, bathroom and sanitary products being available within the workplace. With all the symptoms besides the bleeding, periods can be challenging, mainly when the subject is considered taboo and embarrassing.
Is there a way to create period friendly workplaces?
One of the most expansive campaigns that women's rights groups are running is to ensure that one of the complimentary amenities included in all workplaces is free and readily available sanitary products. Many women believe that this should not even be considered an amenity, rather an essential requirement for employers to have them freely available in bathrooms for women to use. Employers would have to see whether they will be able to afford the product, but when this is a fundamental bodily function that most women and some trans men, intersex, genderqueer or nonbinary individuals have happened on a somewhat regular basis, should this not be considered a requirement to make it a more period friendly place?
In a previous article where I addressed menopause, I touched upon how workplace environments can affect a woman's disposition and behaviour and how it can make her extremely uncomfortable, which can affect her work output.
Another thing that certain employers are starting to consider is that certain women should get period sickness days because the symptoms are difficult to handle at times, particularly within the first few days of a woman beginning to menstruate. When looking at this from an employer's perspective, it is understandable why this may be undoable in some instances, as scheduling and rotating employees in shift work can be challenging and fragmented, but in the case of some of these more intense symptoms, what other benefits or amenities could be provided to women to ensure they have a more comfortable way of manoeuvring the workplace?
Some things to possibly consider:
Here at DJM we aim to be inclusive as possible, so we will be releasing a podcast later this week on Podbean for those who need or prefer audio material!