For today's International Women's Day, organisers have called for #ADayWithoutAWoman, for women to back unifying principles by wearing red, ceasing work and avoiding spending money.
#ADayWithoutAWoman - a call for collective menstrual leave?
For me, having closely followed stories of female workers rights of late, this sounds like an explicit call for collective menstrual leave. And rightly so. Menstruation, I believe, needs to be at the heart of the new international feminist movement if we are to deeply understand the rights and needs of 50% of the world's population.
We can no longer ignore something that connects us so profoundly to nature, so profoundly to one another, and so profoundly to the power of the feminine.
Paint the town red for a menstrual revolution
So if, like me, you're wearing red in support of Women's Day, let's wear it for the beginning of a much needed menstrual revolution, to raise awareness and create a new shared narrative on menstruation. Red as a symbol of blood. Of violence, suffering, hope and faith. Of life, death and renewal - the intrinsic language of menstruation. Red as a reminder of the cycle of life, a reminder of the human condition and of being part of, not in control of, nature. Red because respect for the feminine begins with respect for the menstrual cycle.
For Aunt Flo
And let's wear red for our female ancestors, we can empower ourselves that menstruation is the origin of symbolic culture where, according to anthropologist Chris Knight, women of a hunter/gatherer tribe would paint themselves in red ochre in a menstrual display of solidarity, a ritual that enabled women to ensure that each of them were looked after and their bodies respected in a collective time of rest or, collective menstrual leave.
Menstrual Leave for the entire month....
International Women's Strike organisers also call for us to cease paid or unpaid work and avoid spending money today. This is not dissimilar to what Zambia, the first African country to offer monthly menstrual leave, recommended to women they do with their 'mothers' day' time. Debates rage - mainly amongst women -in response to the individual companies and countries that offer menstrual leave. Critics say it's bad for business and productivity, that women are given an excuse to 'be lazy'. Advocates say period cramps are debilitating and hinder work and productivity.
I say that the current debate around menstrual leave is important but is missing something - the positive impact on the rest of the month. Just as today's strike is not confined to one day and is intended to celebrate and galvanise action, and just as the moon is not always full, menstruation is not just about one day a month of physical symptoms. Menstruation describes the entire monthly cycle.
When nature rests during winter it enables productivity in spring, manifestation in summer, and a fruitful autumn. We all know that we need rest in our own daily winter, at night, ready for spring the next morning. In women, the cycle is monthly, as well as daily. 'Rest' is imperative in the winter of menstruation in order to capitalise on productive creativity for the rest of the month.
Free Period? What does rest look like in a 24/7 culture?
I would argue that, rather than seen as a day off, a period is very much 'a day on' (no excuse offered for the pun) - a day - or perhaps more realistically, simply an hour or two, every month, to ritually 'potentize', introspectively, the action from the previous month and prepare for the next month. Let's try this today. Let's take time to reflect, at least, on our achievements of last month and set clear and bold intentions for the new. Let's see the period as a period of rest from 'doing'. A time 'to be'. Let's start to see it as our human right to a free period.
Join the menstrual revolution
I call upon all of you joining the International Women's Strike today to #BeBoldForChange and openly embrace menstruation - learn a new narrative for it and ways it can empower us.
Lets wear red as a symbol of liberating the period from taboo - where we will collectively raise awareness of the menstrual cycle. Let's demand of ourselves, our families, and our employers that menstruation be considered a free and sacred period. Certainly it reimagines the UN's goal for their 'changing world of work' Planet 50-50 by 2030.
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