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  • 執筆者の写真Mutsumi Gustavich

Influenza Can Get You a Sick Day, but Menstruation Can't: A Discussion

In my case, it's that time of the month that arrives at the end of every month – "period."

In Japan, when you say the word "period," you often do it in a hushed tone.

"Sanitary napkins" need to be concealed in your purse. When you buy "sanitary napkins," they are packaged so securely that their contents cannot be seen from the outside.

This is how much of a taboo and embarrassment surrounds the concept of "period" in this country.

In Japan, this culture of concealing menstruation dates back to the Heian period, stemming from the concept of "menstrual taboo."

Although "menstrual taboo" was abolished in 1872, over 150 years have passed since then, and the notion of "impurity" associated with menstruation still persists.

However, it's not just Japanese women who find it difficult to talk about menstruation.

In the UK and the US, 60% of women interviewed said it's uncomfortable to talk about menstruation or their symptoms.

But as women continue to make progress in society, the need to speak up seems to be growing.

In my case, I start experiencing the pain of PMS ten days before the onset of menstruation.

I think about "wanting to die" every day, a fog descends in my mind, my concentration wanes, I become irritable towards my husband, my digestion worsens, I experience lower abdominal and back pain, mild fever, headaches, and insomnia, and this lasts for ten days.

Then, when menstruation arrives, there are approximately three days of heavy bleeding, uterine pain, headaches, mild fever, drowsiness, stomachaches, and five more days added to my daily routine washing the menstrual products (period underwear).

This is my monthly menstruation routine.

I understand that the severity of menstrual symptoms varies from person to person, as I've had a friend who fainted due to menstrual pain, and there are cases where people have been taken to the hospital.

Nevertheless, almost all women go through this suffering every month.

However, recently, I was in a situation where my period had passed its expected date, and I was in an uncertain and unstable condition, with menstrual pain already starting.

I received a task from my boss to be completed by 9 am the next morning at the end of the working day. Of course, I said, "I will do it tomorrow."

But as soon as I finished work, I collapsed on the couch due to the pain in my lower abdomen.

I tried to think about how to do the job, even while taking painkillers, with my mind filled with the word "painful." But it was futile.

I had reached my limit! Tears welled up naturally, and in my mind, I cried out, "I hate this life."

Now, it seems that there's less of a taboo about talking openly about menstruation, not only in Japan but around the world.

Companies are also beginning to introduce "menstrual leave."

But can you actually take a day off due to menstruation? Perhaps, if I had said, "I'm in pain due to my period," my company would have allowed me to take the day off.

However, for some reason, I couldn't say it.

In an interview in the UK, 60% of the interviewed women said that they had faced disciplinary hearings due to taking leave for their periods, and more than half (51%) claimed they lost their jobs due to taking "too much time off for period-related sickness."

It's not just women, but it seems that many people have a strong sense that "menstruation is not an illness, so we must endure it."

In fact, data shows that even when over 50% of women have severe symptoms, most of them do not seek help from a doctor or other medical practitioner.

It's as if menstruation needs to be hidden from others, and sanitary napkins are carried around discreetly.

In such a society, which has been in place for many years, it seems that women are being compelled to endure.

Especially in Japan, where "endurance is a virtue" is taught. It may be difficult to change one's way of thinking in this society.

However, enduring suffering comes at a great cost. Therefore, while there may not be a need to boldly say, "I'm taking the day off today because of my period," being able to take time off due to health issues is essential.

Menstruation is not an illness like the flu, but it can significantly affect work and lead to a situation where one cannot work.

In such cases, it's okay to take a break.

Nobody wants to have their period, and they don't choose to have it. Society as a whole should understand this.

Moreover, menstruation issues are often intertwined with poverty issues.

For example, there are young women who cannot afford menstrual products due to financial reasons. In the UK, it is estimated that about 137,000 girls miss school each year due to a lack of access to sanitary products (2019).

If we, as women advancing in society, don't hesitate to openly discuss menstruation, could we potentially make the next generation of women's lives easier and brighter?




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