By Aditi Baid
Thank you, Zomato. Period days are much more than worrying about stains.
Like so many young girls, I was unaware of menstruation till one bizarre morning when I came out of the bathroom screaming. I remember thinking that my worst fears had come true – I’d unwittingly sat on something pointed and now my lady parts would need surgery. Panicking, I ran to my mom and told her the gory details of the bloodshed. I’d expected her to freak out and rush me to the hospital. Instead, she was annoyingly calm and just handed me a sanitary pad. I was livid when I found out that this pain and bleeding would happen every month from now on. It felt so unfair.
This was also when I first took notice of the saga of sanitary pad advertisements on Television – the portrayal couldn’t be farther from my reality. Here I was grumbling in pain, bed-ridden, angry at my uterus and bleeding and there on television my counterpart was a bubbly young lass only concerned about stains, marching unhindered towards her ambitions and life adventures. How could we be going through the same thing?
Only now, an older-me understands how the on-air narrative side-stepped the stigma around periods. The ads play on the old parochial view that girls are embarrassed of their periods and want to keep their period talk to a hush-hush. So, the emphasis on how their product can battle the visible sign – stains and no mention of period cramps which according to some experts can feel as bad as a 'heart attack' for certain women.
Growing up, I was expected to tell my teachers, both male and female, that I had a ‘stomach ache’ when I wanted to go to the sick-room or take a day off. Later, at work, I found myself telling my male bosses I had ‘weakness’ or ‘am generically unwell’ when I looked visibly pained or needed to leave early/take the day off. Why was I keeping this natural biological phenomena a secret?
I blame it on my social conditioning and the media for building this narrative of secrecy and embarrassment around periods. Thanks to this cultural stigma and sanitary brands’ messaging, not only have I continued 'whispering' about my periods but also braced myself through discomforts and pains because it’s not a topic that can be voiced out.
Which is why I applaud Zomato’s very public and empathetic declaration of period leaves for its female and transgender employees. Not only is this a public acknowledgement of pain associated with menstrual cycles but also the start of a more honest narrative around this topic.
As a female employee, I’ve always felt the pressure (and bent over backwards) to prove that I deserve to be treated (and paid) as an equal. With a policy like this, I as a woman actually ‘feel’ like an equal. This move by Zomato management shows that they recognise their female employees as an integral (and equal) part of their organisation. The revised leave policy accommodates for biological realities and should be applauded.
Some days are just for resting. And that’s okay.