Monday, November 30, 2015

Once a Month

There are many areas where Japan seems way behind and way ahead of the US. One of the areas that seems to be caught in a gray zone with some are the monthly "menstruation days" that women are entitled to.

Typically, a company gives, say 10 PTO days, 10 "sick" days and a handful of other days that can be taken for bereavement and others. Most people do not use all of their days, and while sick days (byou-kyuu 病休) are available, they are not used for colds. They are used for, say, major surgery or cancer treatments...big stuff.

Women, however, are entitled to one "menstruation day" per month. As far as I know, most companies have this. I actually decided to use it today. Eekk...

I sometimes here mutterings about this day, usually from men, so I've decided to compile some of what I've heard and offer my view.

"It's not fair for women to get, what is essentially, an extra day of PTO!"

This is by far one of the largest complaints I've seen online. I can understand the sentiment. It's not like your boss can somehow check to see whether or not you are actually on your period. It is plausible that someone might use the day to go chill or something.

"My wife/girlfriend doesn't complain about her period, so I think this is bullshit!"

It's possible that your wife/gf has no pain and that's fine. It's also possible, and more likely, that she'd just not going into details because it's not really a fun topic. 

"Hey! Come look at my period chunks!," said no one who ever wanted sexy times. 
The truth is that the amount of pain one experiences is variable. In the US, I've heard of women that use birth control to help reduce/eliminate pain from their periods. However, according to various Japanese sites, such as this one, birth control (the pill) is taken by only about 1% of Japanese women. 

With my coworkers, touching my belly and making a face is enough to get the message across. 

"Do Japanese women even use this day?"

I know that the day is available, but I don't know how many women actively use it. At my workplace, for example, there is a website that we log in to to request time off. There are a large number of options available, from child-rearing to summer vacation. We choose the type of time off we need, the number of days, and forward the request to our boss for approval. 
For something seemingly innocent like a cold, this is fine. But really, who wants their boss to know that they're on their period? In fact, I rarely use the day because I'm not interested in announcing my flow to my two male bosses. Sure, they probably don't care, and I am entitled to the time, but I also don't plan on telling them when I have diarrhea, either.

"This makes Japanese women look weak! American women don't need this!"

Funny, this is one argument I've really only heard from western men. Western women seem interested in the concept. I don't really know if it makes Japanese or any woman look weak. What people have to understand is that for some of us, there's a huge amount of pain associated with having a period. There's dizziness from lack of iron, fatigue, period shits, etc. This probably isn't the most mature response, but if men had to deal with this, they'd be giving themselves a week off to recover. 

So, what do I do when I take this special day?
Well, today I went home, ate a small lunch, then curled into a ball on my bed with a heating pad pressed into my stomach and fell asleep. Nothing exciting. No screwing the man out of work. 
The benefit is that I get to return to work rested and happier. I also didn't have to sit in the office with stomach cramps while running back and forth between my desk and the bathroom. 

As for abuse? Maybe some people abuse the system, but it's such a private thing to throw out there. I feel like it could work in the US, but who knows?

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