Born to Forcibly Fit


Spain just approved its plans to become the first European country to implement paid menstrual leave. Some reports suggested that women in the workplace would be offered three to five days of paid period leave but the Spanish government announced that the number of days a woman can take will not be limited. Will Spain be setting the trend for fellow EU countries to follow?

For as long as I could remember, my girlfriends and I have been required to show up at school and at work, with excruciating symptoms and a social stigma that loomed over our heads. One particular friend of mine would have symptoms so severe that she could faint throughout the day. Not only is it so extremely physically demanding for a lot of us, it also largely (physiologically) affects our energy levels as well as any other diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression.

And with this news about Spain showing up in my notifications, the longer I joked about what a relief that would be, the more I realised that our working systems have completely neglected some of our most basic physical needs. Almost everything we do, is not designed in line with natural physical or mental demands but rather, we tweak our bodily systems to forcibly fit.

No systems consider or work around menstrual cycles when most women experience, at least, prolonged fatigue and mental fogginess. Same goes for pregnancies but let’s assume we can count populating the Earth off as ‘optional’. We work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, and not until we need to visit doctors or hospitals with very apparent illnesses, we’re expected to function all year round as if our bodies never needed to dictate the pace of our work.

The reality is, just like many other systems dictating our socioeconomic standings, our labour systems are flawed and outdated. These systems were created and optimised for a different time and with different motivations. Of course, back then, women weren’t so prevalent in the workforce so naturally, the needs of about 50 percent of the population were overlooked and dismissed. The glaring question now is, are we willing to do something about it? And more practically, can something be done about it?

If you can’t already tell by now, I’m eagerly looking forward to see what comes out of this leap Spain is taking. Will we soon follow?

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