Simmer Down, Internet—Nobody Is Actually Advocating for Paid Menstrual Leave

“Feminists, start
asking for ‘paid menstrual leave’
and see how seriously you’re
taken,” a headline at the Washington
 trumpeted earlier this week. It was one of many
articles either a) expressing disbelief and outrage over the idea
of paid work leave for women on their periods or b) earnestly and
vociferously arguing against the idea.

The problem? No one was arguing for it. Among the
countless polemics and polls on the topic, I’ve seen nary a
writer—nary a feminist writer, even—suggest that
menstrual leave is something that U.S. employers or legislators
should consider. But let’s look at a few more recent

From Slate: “Thanks,
But We’ll Pass on Paid Menstrual Leave
From Fox News: “Should
the U.S. Have Paid Menstrual Leave
From The Irish Times: “Menstural
Leave? I’ll Pass, Thanks
From Forbes: “We
Don’t Want Paid Menstrual Leave Because It Will Increase the Pay

From WorldNetDaily: “HuffPost
Endorses Paid Menstrual Leave

The Huffington Post did not, in fact, “endorse” paid
menstrual leave, though its video arm, HuffPost Live, did
do a segment
on the topic. In said segment, prominent feminist
writer Mikki Kendall and “Skepchick” blogger Rebecca Kay Watson
both advocated for paid employee sick leave in general, though both
explicitly rejected the idea of women getting extra time for period

In fact, as far as I can tell, the closest we’ve come to an
“endorsement” has come from singer Macy Gray, who—when approached
spontaneously by TMZ papparazzi and asked if she supported the
idea—replied: “Yeah, I think so. It’s a little painful. It’s not a
good day at work.” The great feminist conspiracy to make you
subsidize our bodily functions, folks!

So…how did all this get started? An
article published last Saturday
at The Atlantic. It
was written by Emily Matchar, author of the 2013
book Homeward Bound: The New Cult of Domesticity and
someone whose work I’ve long enjoyed.Matchar writes like a reporter
and a sociologist, not an advocate. In this case, the most
inflammatory things about her article were the headline—”Should
Paid Menstrual Leave Be a Thing?—and the subtitle, which proclaims
that “some countries mandate a legal right to leave for women
during their periods,” and asks, “Is that reverse sexism or the
right thing to do?” 

The article, then, comes down pretty firmly against the idea
that it’s the right thing to do. Matchar highlights existing
menstrual leave policies in countries such as Indonesia, South
Korea, and Taiwan, and it’s not a pretty or enlightened

“These Asian menstrual leave policies appear to be based on the
scientifically dubious notion that women who don’t rest during
their menses will have difficulty in childbirth later. Some say the
laws are therefore more about treating women as future baby-vessels
than valued employees.” 

Then there’s Russia. Last year, a Russian
lawmaker proposed a law
 that would give female employees
two days off per month for menstrual leave. His reasoning:

During that period (of menstruation), most women experience
psychological and physiological discomfort. The pain for the fair
sex is often so intense that it is necessary to call an ambulance …
Strong pain induces heightened fatigue, reduces memory and
work-competence and leads to colorful expressions of emotional

The bill was condemned by Russian feminists and went nowhere,
according to Matchar. 

Now I know that some American feminists love to
advocate for government solutions to social, cultural, and economic
problems. So I guess I can understand why some people, especially
those who have very little exposure to actual feminists, might
believe that menstrual leave was a serious feminist agenda item.
But, for decades, equality-minded women have been fighting
against the notion that “the fair sex” is unable to
function for several days a month because of lady business and
lunar cycles. Paid menstrual leave, my friends, is a straw feminist
conceit of the highest order. Save your outrage—there
is always another cop
shooting another dog. 

from Hit & Run

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