Today I was telling someone how I wished that women could be granted one paid day off from work per month to deal with feminine cycle issues. There is just way too much going on in our bodies during this time, and having to deal with discomfort, pain, headaches, nausea, multiple trips to the bathroom, bloating, and lack of focus really does equate to a sick day. However, if I used one day per month I’d be almost halfway through all of my paid time off (PTO, which combines sick and vacation days) for the year. Hence, we females should have an increase in the number of our personal days. Well, at least that’s my unofficial theory.
I can understand why some men think this unfair. They want more personal days, too, darn it! However, the response which I got from the man with whom I was speaking still managed to tick me off. The guy that I was talking to said, “Well, if women get this one-day-per-month break for feminine cycle issues, then guys will use that as a reason why they should get paid more than women.”
Screeeeech! That’s the sound of the brakes in my head as I’m racing toward a brick wall of “WHAT THE ?!?!” My first reaction was quite rude (something along the lines of when men bleed from a certain anatomical part for five to seven days every month, only then can they complain—verbatim it’s something I won’t repeat). Then I tried to be a little more logical: “Well since men depend on women to GIVE THEM LIFE and they wouldn’t be here on earth without their mothers, they can…” (wait a minute, never mind; sorry, that too is unrepeatable).
The man with whom I was debating is not a chauvinist pig. He is, in fact, very supportive of women and women’s rights, believes they should be paid equally, respects women of authority and would be proud of his wife if she were the major “breadwinner,” and etc. So why did he not blink an eye or hesitate to say that men would use that extra personal day to punish women by giving them smaller pay? In our glorified free country, in this 21st century, why is it that a women’s biology is still seen as a factor for her to get less than equal pay? I’m actually not disagreeing with his cause-and-effect explanation of how men would try and use that excuse; but why would they want to use that excuse in the first place? Being that once a month it’s a very difficult thing to deal with, is it such an unreasonable request? Will we ever be able to stop punishing women for taking on double duty?
Take maternity leave, for example. So many of my friends are under the impression that they get paid maternity leave at their jobs. I tell them to carefully check their benefits again to see if this is in fact true. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only guarantees that you can’t get fired for being pregnant and taking 12 weeks of maternity leave. UNPAID. FMLA does NOT say you get paid. A lot of employers will let you use your sick time and vacation time—and short term disability. Because having a child is a disability. And you don't really need that relaxing vacation or a sick day when you've just had a baby. Out of the question.
America, wake up and appreciate your mothers. According to Wikipedia, Sweden grants 16 months of paid maternity leave per child; Estonia boasts 18 months of paid leave. I scroll through a chart of paid maternity leave and see smaller/poorer countries in Africa, South America, Central America, and Asia all with paid maternity leave. What’s next to the United States for paid maternity leave? A big fat 0.
How are we still here? Why are we so behind the mark? America’s views on women scare me. We have some politicians who want to dictate what a woman can and cannot do to and with her body. We have some pharmacists who won’t dispense the emergency/morning after pill because it’s against their religion. We have some women who may not get that next promotion because she had a baby (God forbid the career woman does such a thing!).
I’m 26 and unmarried as I write this post. I’ve had people ask when I’m plan to settle down; I didn’t realize I lived in Victorian times and was considered an old biddy by society. I’ve had people warn me of a ticking biological clock; I didn’t realize the state of my ovaries wasn’t allowing them to sleep at night (oh dear!). I live with my boyfriend because financially it makes sense and we’ve been dating for almost three years, so while it seems to be the most logical thing for both of us, others are worried about our reputations, our relationship, and hell, even our eternal salvation. But are they asking him all of these questions and warning him of doom and gloom? No. Because I am a woman, because I have ovaries and therefore a ticking clock (“TICKING!” I shriek just like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny), because apparently a woman’s reputation may be tarnished but not a man’s, because people think it’s their business what a woman plans to do with her body and when, and because people may genuinely care about my feelings and want to protect me from potential disappointment, I am the one who is asked, advised, discouraged, pitied, and nagged. It doesn’t help that both of my sisters married young (and fast) and that I’m from the south. But more importantly, it doesn’t help me that I’m a woman. The woman is the one who wears the scarlet letter.
Back to my initial argument. Today I was incredibly productive at work, was sympathetic and positive during a mini crisis, and to top it off I worked late. I didn’t cop out, I didn’t curl up under my desk gulping down ibuprofen, I didn’t sneak in a flask (wine does wonders for cramps), and I didn’t give anyone attitude. Did I feel like doing all of these things? Yes. Was I miserable and wanted to go home? Absolutely. Maybe giving women a day off every month isn’t realistic, especially in a mostly-female workplace when they all start cycling together (unless they’re all on birth control). Maybe it truly is unfair to the men of the workplace. But I long for the day when men don’t immediately say, “Fine! We get paid more since you’re too PMS-y to come in and carry the load.” For once I want to hear empathy and other possible solutions offered. I want women and our biology not to be viewed as a setback to our nation and used as an excuse to promote gender inequality. I don’t believe it’s a punishment for original sin (I won’t even mention my thoughts on original sin—that’s an entirely different story). It’s a biological process and necessary for the creation of life.
I stick to the song my mom, my sisters, and I belted out in the car all those years ago: “I’m a girl and by me that’s only great…I adore being a girl.” But honestly, world? Lay off. Let us become the strong individuals we are meant to be not to be measured by or against men. We are our own entities.
And, while they appreciate your concerns and well wishes and hopes of a long and fertile future, please stop stalking my ovaries. Thank you.