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

GorillaSushi/FlickrGorillaSushi/Flickr

"Feminists, start asking for 'paid menstrual leave' and see how seriously you're taken," a headline at the Washington Examiner 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 headlines: 

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 Gap"
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 purposes. 

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 picture.

"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 discomfort.

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. 

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Gee, I wonder why my posts aren't generating any comments..."

  • mr simple||

    Can we post again? Our long national nightmare is over!

  • ||

    The internet only overreacted because it was its time of the month

  • JWatts||

    "Paid menstrual leave, my friends, is a straw feminist conceit of the highest order."

    What? From your own article:

    "An article published last Saturday at The Atlantic. It was written by Emily Matchar, ... "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?"

    It's not a straw man argument to address something that's actually being written about.

  • ||

    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.

    Poe's law probably provides a better explanation than ignorance of feminist ideology, I think. But 'preciate the femsplain.

  • yanking your chain||

    The problem? No one was arguing for it.
    "An article published last Saturday at The Atlantic. It was written by Emily Matchar, ... "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?"

    You are literally the worst writer here and you're too stupid to see you contradicted yourself.

  • Response||

    Actually there may be another underlying connotation of such headlines is that if you are not paid to work then you are not really working.

  • Jeff R.||

    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.

    Oh, is that why the last sentence of Machar's article in The Atlantic reads "Perhaps we should start agitating for the Boxer-McConnell American Menstrual Leave Act after all?"

    It sounds to me like you are trying to say, without actually saying it, that Machar was just writing a faux-controversial clickbait article and she doesn't deserve the ridicule being tossed her way because people should realize she was just writing a faux-controversial clickbait article. Fair enough. I don't need to be told twice not to take people like her seriously.

  • Paul Spomer||

    I thought this was insane when I read about it a few days ago. I'm glad Reason proved that no oneis actually supporting this.

  • 21044||

    I read the Atlantic article and comments. Seemed to me that bulk of the responses that I appeared to come from females were against the idea of menstrual leave either for philosophical reasons - this is what sick time is for - or practically - I am going to tell my boss I am on the rag, right! The supporters seemed to come from very young women or from men. I am always surprised about men supporting extreme feminism. Do they really think that being an inside the beltway pajama boy mangina will get them laid? At best they will be stuck in the friend-zone forever or, more likely, be treated and used as the pussy they are.

  • Skip||

    Ten years ago, most liberals were saying gay marriage was ridiculous and they would never support it. Why should anyone believe what they say now?

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    When did so called liberals say this? Who exactly said it?

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    It's somewhat ironic that a woman's personal and private business has to be manipulated by anyone. If it's not some government bureaucracy involved, then some woman's group (usually claiming to represent the best interests of all women) are nosing around.

  • BambiB||

    Most "equality-minded" women are nothing of the sort.

    Poll your feminists and ask them if women should have to meet the same physical standards as men in the military. No? Because they're getting special treatment? Yes? Then something like 95% of the women in the military are OUT. If you look up the fitness standards for the Army (it's similar in all the services), the run standard for 19-year-old women is on par with 55-year-old men… except the 55-year-old men have to run FASTER! A 55 YO male has to run two miles in 14:42 to score a 100. The 19 YO woman? She gets 15:36! Same thing for pushups: A top score for a 55 YO male is 56 reps. A 19 YO woman? 42 reps!

    Now let's compare 19-year-old males to 19-year-old females. For the males, a 100 is 71 pushups and two miles in 13 minutes flat.

    So while we're talking about "equality" let's start right there. Come on, women. Are you really "equal"? Or do you just expect to be paid the same, even if you can't do the job?

  • BambiB||

    Addendum: In fact, the standards are so disparate that a 16 minute two-mile time for a 19-year-old male is a FAILURE, while for a 19-year-old female it's a 95! If ever there was a perfect example of women getting top scores for doing something that, among males, would be FAILURE, this is it.

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