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Menstruation: Let's Talk About It!

*I didn't write this. I'm not a woman, and I didn't write this. But I do understand it and agree with it. My lady, Luciann "2Feathers" Berrios wrote it. After various conversations about this issue, and bearing witness to it throughout my life, I asked if she could write an article about it for me to publish on my website. She obliged. I thought it would be a great idea to publish it today to kick-off WOmen's History Month. Her article is below. Please read and share it with others you think should read it. *

"Companies are required to accommodate the diverse needs of employees in many ways. However the only need that seems to be missing from the list of those given consideration, is the only one that belongs to one biological gender. Menstruation. Let’s talk about it. 

Menstruation is habitually not something that is openly spoken about in society, especially when it comes to work life. This natural part of a woman’s physical life, is too routinely ignored, and is still considered too taboo to acknowledge and isn’t given the space it deserves in how it impacts one’s ability to show up in day to day activities.  Women who menstruate are required to ignore their own bodies and processes in the name of achievement, work and demands. We must remember that menstruation affects those who experience it on a physical, emotional and mental level, thus impacting workplace productivity. Companies will often respond to this issue by saying employees can use PTO days or work from home days (if available) to alleviate the impact on work life. However, I would argue, why should an employee have to use vacation days for something that is a biological physical need EVERY MONTH? For many employees that would mean they’d barely be able to take any respite, or vacation time, with or without loved ones, and would have less emergency time off if needed than their biologically male counterparts, and more. For so many women, taking leave with no pay is simply not something they can afford to do, especially with inflation and the increasing costs of everything.

In many ancient and indigenous practices, menstrual cycles were something to be respected and nurtured. It was sacred. And shouldn’t it still be so? It marks a transformational period in a woman’s life, no pun intended. In ancient Navajo tradition, women would rest in a sweat lodge to encourage purification and spiritual well-being. In the Maasai tribe, from East Africa, women traditionally stayed in a designated hut during their cycles in an effort to maintain balance. Hopi women could choose to partake in specific ceremonies during their cycles to honor its sacredness. In this day, we use the term self-care; wouldn’t that in a way be considered ritualistic? Only thing is, we would need the designated time to do so, when nature calls. This is said, not to promote further seclusion, but to acknowledge the need for rest, restorative practices and honoring of the womb space, physical body, emotional body, and mental focuses that are all simultaneously being activated during menstruation. 

I myself have had a history of extremely difficult menstrual cycles since the age of 11. My physical symptoms included excruciating menstrual cramps, nausea, loss of appetite for days, headaches, extreme fatigue, limited concentration, heated body temperature, and pain so bad I would be bedridden for two days, barely able to stand up straight. I would have to call out of work for two days and receive no pay since I sometimes wouldn’t have the PTO to support it. At one point in my 20’s, doctors wanted to prescribe me muscle relaxers and pain killers; I do not take medication like that due to its impact on the rest of the body's organs. I say this to bring light to what the physical experience of a menstrual cycle can be like for many women. As I’ve gotten older, and learned more about natural herbal remedies for menstruation, I have been able to subdue some of these effects; however, we cannot ignore that it is a physical experience that affects women on multiple levels. We shouldn’t be forcing women to either take pain medications that have other health implications, or require them to adhere to holistic practices if that is not their way of life. The answer is truly, to treat this as a need of all women who experience menstruation and fertility issues/symptoms, including menopause. 

In a study titled; The Physical and Psychological Symptoms Associated with Premenstrual Syndrome and Their Impact on the Daily Routine of Women in a Low Socioeconomic Status Locality, published by Cureus, it was found that as “many as 213 (63%) women reported dysmenorrhea, followed by fatigue in 108 (32%), bloating in 64 (18.9%), and back pain in 45 (13.3%) women. Irritability and anxiety were experienced by 134 (39.6%) and 117 (34.6%) women, respectively.”  We know that hormones fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and this can lead to sleep disruptions or impact the quality of one’s sleep. Rest is a vital part of being able to show up in the world fully and proactively. Estrogen and Progestogen also affect stress responses and the perceptivity of stress. For many, work can be a source of stress, especially when overworked, or dealing with demanding work environments. 

Responding appropriately to this natural process would undoubtedly be a benefit not just to those who experience the symptoms but also employers. Providing women with dedicated days off during menstruation can contribute to both their physical well-being and overall workplace productivity. When employees are fully supported in managing their health, it’s been shown that they are more likely to be productive and engaged in their tasks. Some countries, including Japan, Indonesia, Italy and Taiwan to name a few, have already included a menstrual leave in the workplace. Its successes have been measured in the advancement of the work culture through promoting work life balance, improved well-being and satisfaction for women employees and the destigmatization of menstruation within the workplace. 

Incorporating a form of menstrual leave would contribute to reducing absence triggered by menstrual-related issues, ensuring that women can return to work restored and ready to perform at their best. It also sends the message that the workplace understands the unique needs of all those employed by them, leading to a workplace culture that is rooted in gender equality, inclusivity and overall well-being. As of right now, while women may make more per year than in recent history, there is still much more to be done to show that we understand and respect women entirely and all that they experience as a part of their natural makeup. My request is that this happens at a national and legislative level, supporting all women in their right to be seen, heard and protected. While women undoubtedly deserve the same opportunities as any other living person, they also deserve to have their unique and extraordinary form honored, cared for, and considered both outside and inside the workplace. We cannot continue to ignore this natural experience for a female body. There should be no more silence around this issue, no more ignoring the elephant in the room. She’s there, she has been for eons, and she isn’t going anywhere. It’s time with all our beautiful and necessary advancements on inclusion, that we take it a step further, for women everywhere. "

Powerful, huh? Connect with Luciann "2Feathers" Berrios by hitting the following link - . Let's all work together to make a truly equitable society, leaving no natural process out of the discussion.

Peace and Love,

Lashawn "Suga Ray" Marston

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