Hats off to Fu Yuanhui, the twenty-year old swimmer, for mentioning the P word at the Olympics. And I’m not talking about the P in Phelps.
When asked how she felt after her race, she responded with:
“My period came last night and I’m really tired right now … but this isn’t an excuse, I still did not swim as well as I should have.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be that honest in the workplace and our colleagues were mature enough to demonstrate some empathy rather than smirking patronisation?
No, menstruation is not an excuse for poor performance and women don’t expect it to be, but perhaps it should be? Other athletes concede matches due to injury such as inflamed joints or muscle strain. Picture the pats on the back when a guy comes into the office with his arm in a sling because he sprained his wrist playing rugby; then imagine the reaction in the photocopying room if a woman suddenly bent down in agony from excruciating period pain.
Why is there this expectation that women have to be stronger and tougher to be equal ie. Superwomen? They suffer through menstruation, giving birth and breastfeeding while working and are still not considered as good as their male counterparts.
I read a very funny article recently about the true, nitty-gritty symptoms of menopause – the bits we don’t talk about. ‘Clots the size of tennis balls’ is one of the descriptions that stuck in my brain – cue exit of all my male readers – and it made me laugh out loud, because every one of us has at least one horror story about birth and embarrassing period accidents.
So, even though I’m usually quite vocal about my demand for equal rights, it did cross my mind when I read that piece that too right! women should be given some concessions in the workplace for all the hormonal shit we have to put up with at the same time as doing our jobs. But we’re not. We’re expected to forge through it, which means that sometimes our life feels like our own Olympic competition to to see if we’re good enough to do ‘a man’s job’; as if what they do is what we need to aspire to.
Even though we push their babies out of our bodies.
At the same time we’re fighting the stereotype of women being complainers and moaners, so to counter balance that accusation most of us try to make as little fuss as possible in the workplace, even though no man has ever had to give a presentation while worrying about leaking from either boobs or vagina or being over-tired because they couldn’t sleep through period pain or the crying of a newborn the night before.
*Steps down from soapbox*