Have you ever been at work and had menstrual cramps so bad you couldn't think or sit up straight? Did you tell your boss?
Probably not. Why would you? He or she would probably just give you the too-much-information face.
But one company in England is trying to change that sexist culture in the workplace.
Coexist, a non-profit focused on education, is rolling out a new “period policy” in which female staffers can call in sick if their monthly cycle is causing them too much pain—instead of, you know, having to use the, "I think I'm coming down with something" excuse we all know so well.
"I have managed many female members of staff over the years and I have seen women at work who are bent over double because of the pain caused by their periods," Baxter told the Bristol Post. "Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves as unwell."
Women have been taught since the beginning of time that, to be “ladies,” we must keep our bodily functions to ourselves. And we oblige. It's our "dirty" little secret. I still text my coworkers—instead of asking them aloud—if I need a tampon.
But it shouldn't be considered "gross" if we talk about our periods or "weak" to admit that we're in pain. It's all natural.
It makes sense, though, that people are paying attention to Coexist's new policy, as 2015 was the year we started talking about periods. News and social media finally put menstrual activists on our radar. Celebrities like Lena Dunham and Padma Lakshmi opened up about their painful struggles with endometriosis, an often painful chronic condition of the uterus that doctors commonly misdiagnose as bad cramps.
But, actually, the concept of menstrual leave is not entirely new. According to The Atlantic, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia have had laws in place since as early as 1947 allowing menstrual leave. And today, Nike is the only worldwide company to offer paid menstrual leave as part of its code of conduct (go Nike!).
Baxter's proposed policy isn't mandatory, nor is are all the details figured out, but she hopes that when it's put into place that it will help people start talking about menstruation in a positive way.
“There is a misconception that taking time off makes a business unproductive—actually it is about synchronizing work with the natural cycles of the body," she said.
The reality is that menstruation is not debilitating for most women—but for up to 20% of women, period pain interferes with daily activities just as determinedly as a nasty cold or flu. So, for those women, this type of policy would be incredibly helpful. It's already something annoying we have to deal with—why pile shame and guilt on top of that?