Health

100 Women 2016: Stories of period pain and 'manning up' at work

Woman holds her stomach Image copyright Thinkstock

Churan Zheng, an events organiser, works for a company in China that allows her and her female colleagues to take a day or two a month off if they suffer from period pain.

Her praise of menstrual leave - and suggestion that all women should be offered it - prompted a fiery debate among readers. Here is a selection of your experiences and opinions about the idea.

'Man up!' Those who thought women should work through the pain

How can we say we want equality over pay and employment and then ask for a day's extra 'holiday' per month just for being a female? That's not asking for equality, that's saying women aren't as able to work as men, which surely kills all argument for equality... Guess what, I'm a female who has a period every month and I am still able to work as well as any man! If some women can't then that's their problem and they need to see a doctor! Charlotte Rachael, Halifax, UK

Personally, I suffer, for up to two weeks straight, I suffer. I've passed out through temporary anaemia at work. I've had to stop walking and hold on to a wall or a fence when walking to work. But I don't consider it necessary to call in sick, nor do I believe additional leave days should be required... We don't need additional leave, those who are suffering so badly need to push with their GPs to see a specialist. To award additional days leaves companies open to being taken advantage of by women who aren't suffering and just don't want to go to work for whatever reason. Lyndsey Victoria Corp, Barnsley, UK

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Unfortunately, this is exactly why women make less money. Okay, well... it contributes. We are just gonna have to "man up" if we expect equality. Valerie Richardson, Oregon, US

The idea [of menstrual leave] makes sense to a degree, but surely unpaid leave will increase the wage gap (fewer hours means lower wages), which many people seem to take issue with. If it were to be paid leave, people who take the leave will either have to work harder to make up the time, or an earnings gap will develop, which is a much bigger problem than a wage gap, since fewer hours worked and equal wages means more money per hour worked for the same job, which is normally illegal. Obviously time off because of pain isn't a holiday, but it's simply not providing value to the company. I guess another alternative would be government subsidy, but I'm generally against too much of that in principle. Alex, Dundee, UK

I do sympathise with women who have a genuine problem. I'm a woman, I've been head chef in many kitchens, and don't think that I've never had to sneak into the walk-on fridge to cool down for two minutes because I might pass out. I have the same problems, I have the same pains. The difference is, I don't want to be taken the piss out of on an already male dominant role when I have worked so hard to overtake the next Gordon Ramsey chewing at my ankles! I am a reliable worker and I'm not about to be dropped at interviews "just in case" I can't give 100% every day. I HAVE spent 15 years in kitchens "manning up". Because whether you like it or not, the working world is NOT equal, never has been, probably never will be. And I'm happy working that bit harder than the men to prove myself. Jordan Glasspool Hewitt, Cornwall, UK

'Good idea'! Those who thought menstrual leave should be offered

I won't lie, I used to think women should just get on with it, not that we had the choice anyway. But after a miscarriage, on the first day of every period I'm crippled with constant back and pelvic pain, and mini contractions. I can barely walk it's so bad. I haven't taken time off work, but it definitely affects my work performance. Strong painkillers just leave me fatigued and confused. Now I'm more understanding. For some women, especially those with gynaecological problems, it can be debilitating. Unless someone has been in that position, they can't understand how bad it is for some women. Stacey Robertson, West Lothian, UK

Image copyright Thinkstock

There should be extra measures in place for those days. Also, some countries or companies don't offer as many sick days as others. This has nothing to do with gender equality. It's called being humane. Just because our grandmothers and mothers didn't have rights or privileges for their menstrual days, doesn't mean that we shouldn't benefit from societal advances and modern understanding! Marsha Thompson, New York, US


What is 100 women?

BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. We create documentaries, features and interviews about their lives, giving more space for stories that put women at the centre.

Other stories you might like:

'I married a man to keep my girlfriend'

'Adults are so obsessed with children they have no time for important things'

Who is on the BBC's 100 Women 2016 list?


I had to be carried to the doctors' on more than one occasion due to the pain, and regularly phoned in sick until my issues were sorted. I also had excessively heavy episodes. Luckily I had a very understanding (male) boss who put the days through as holidays. Sian, Manchester, UK

I think women probably should be given leave if they want it. How bad they suffer may be subjective to the individual but the option of leave should be given regardless. Punishing anyone by making them work while they are suffering is barbaric and ridiculous. James Todd, Renfrewshire, Scotland, UK

Luckily I work in an office with other women, with a female boss. When I have cramps so bad I'm throwing up, I can get someone to cover. And I return the favour when it's her time. We work together. Lesley Braden, British Columbia, Canada

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