For everyone Women’s matters: not bloody fair

  • By Kerry Green
  • This article was published more than 4 years ago.
  • 9 Aug 2019
Illustration by Michelle Pereira for About Bloody Time: the Menstrual Revolution We Have to Have published by the Victorian Women's Trust (2009).

It’s 2010 and I’m having my monthly argument with my daughter.
“Come on, get out of bed and get going!”
“I’ve got my period, mum, I can’t!”
“Oh, my goodness! Do you think Julia Gillard can do this every month? No, she has to get up and run the country. Do you think she can say to Cabinet, ‘I’m not coming to work today; I’ve got my period.’ No, she’s got to make important decisions. If she can get up, so can you!”
“It’s not bloody fair.”
“I know. Here’s a Panadol… Up you get!”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had to drag themselves, their kids or even their students through the school day when hormones are raging, uteruses are cramping and linings are gushing. And you know what? My daughter was right. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that women still are expected to use their valuable sick, annual or personal leave during their periods. Menstruation isn’t an illness; it’s a normal bodily function – albeit one that, for some, can cause a lot of pain and stress.

That’s why we’re excited about the Victorian Women’s Trust’s new model workplace policy for people who are menstrual or menopausal. The policy seeks to support workers to adequately self-care during their period or menopause, and seeks to remove the taboo and secrecy around periods.

As unionists, we know that we can rely on each other for support – so, it’s time to have those conversations with your co-workers that lead to open and honest discussions at the sub-branch level.

The policy includes suggestions such as the provision of a restful working environment for menstruating and menopausal workers. That might seem like a pipe-dream in our education contexts, so we need to start thinking flexibly about what we need and what could be possible in our settings ‘Restful’ can mean more than just taking a nap; it could mean knowing that there’s another staff member on hand to allow you to go to the toilet to change your pad, tampon or Diva cup more regularly to ease period stress.

As unionists, we know that we can rely on each other for support – so, it’s time to have those conversations with your co-workers that lead to open and honest discussions at the sub-branch level.

Another suggestion is to introduce menstrual and menopausal leave: an extra 12 days paid leave per year. Many women already have less leave available, as we tend to use it for caring duties. Menstruation and menopause have an impact on the majority of the population for most of their working lives. The time for action is now – it will change your lives and the lives of the girls you teach.

It’s great that the Victorian Women’s Trust has started the conversation. It’s up to us to continue it. Period.

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