Opinion: It is Time to Talk About Menstruation, Motherhood and Menopause

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It is not Only about the Painful Menstruation License or the Menstrual Subsidy, we must Normalize Talking About These Issues in our Daily Conversations.

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Column: It's time to talk about menstruation, motherhood and menopause

The news about the bill that would allow a work license for menstrual pain in Spain has traveled the international press. However, it is not the first country to consider this type of initiative and it will not be the last to reach a Congress. However, the uproar it has caused on social networks continues to amaze. Comments about how this will cause low hiring of women, how it is the perfect excuse not to work or how those who menstruate exaggerate their pain, number in the thousands.

However, it is not that every person who has menstruation stops working, but that it is made visible that there are those who even faint from colic and have the right to visit a doctor to be granted a rest day. However, period pain doesn't have to be normalized either because it shouldn't hurt disablingly. Endometriosis and other medical conditions are the daily bread of thousands of people. However, they also tend to be found in the shade.

We recommend you read: Endometriosis Day, an invisible disease

Thus, these measures should go hand in hand with research and public health policies of prevention and education. The knowledge that we have about our own body is so scarce that it is difficult for us to understand its correct functioning or to identify the presence of any symptom that indicates a dysfunction. The same happens with menopause or fertility problems: there are underlying factors that are causing dysfunctions, which are not remedied with a magic pill that masks the pain. What lifestyle, eating habits and toxic exposure are we having?

However, today I do not intend to reflect on legislation or health, but on culture and social imaginaries. The journalist Nuria Labari wrote a column in the newspaper El País pointing out how the presence of situations that affect women are invisible, and almost unacceptable, in workplaces. "The rule, abortion and motherhood visited me in the same work bathroom. Different issues with only one thing in common: they were all invisible," she said.

This is a situation that is replicated in most countries and affects people of all ages. We have been taught not to talk about certain topics so as not to bother, under the false premise that there are things that belong to privacy. But it is a double standard, because there is no objection to sexualizing our bodies and selling us impossible-to-reach ideals. That is not intimacy.

It is time that women can talk about what happens in our bodies. Our themes do not have to remain invisible or taboo. Yes, we menstruate, and yes, it is a natural process thanks to which life exists. I'm sick of hearing derogatory comments "like "if she's angry it must be because she has her period". It's time to understand the natural cycles of the body and stop stigmatizing. It is not only about solidarity and sisterhood, but about the right to be present.

On the other hand, Nature Magazine has written a report on menopause and why it is important in the academic workplace, which, in fact, is replicated in all work spaces. When menopause hits, women are expected to be at the peak of their careers. However, it brings a series of changes that are little talked about, beyond the (again stigmatizing) myths. Work spaces must be adapted to allow flexibility and well-being for those who experience these changes, which do not have to mean lower productivity or disadvantage. But silence and taboo hurt, and cause suffering. For this reason, manuals and guides already exist for universities and employers to understand how to be inclusive and address these situations.

Regarding motherhood and fertility, there is also silence. How many women, in the search to be mothers, have suffered spontaneous abortions? However, it is also an issue that should be kept quiet. You go home, you rest for two days and you don't tell anyone. Your coworkers think you have the flu, but inside, the pain overwhelms you. Or you arrive at the office and your breasts fill up with milk during the working day, until it hurts, because you have a baby waiting for you at home, but you don't have many possibilities to put your milk in a bottle in the middle of meetings and the little space to do it.

This is how we repeatedly face various unknown situations, which also make us blush to mention in public and mention in whispers to some other friend. I close these reflections with some questions. How many bathrooms have sanitary towel dispensers? How many offices have lactation rooms? How many bathrooms offer us the hygienic possibility of washing our menstrual cup? How much do we know about the stages of menopause or the menstrual cycle?

Initiatives such as the menstrual subsidy in Colombia, the Dignified Menstruation Law in Colima, Mexico, or the Menstruating Princesses project in Colombia, or La Mancha in Chile (among many others), should be celebrated and replicated throughout the continent. However, it is also time to start naturalizing these topics in our daily conversations. To put them in the public sphere and talk about them openly. It is time to take advantage of the public debate to vindicate and normalize things that have happened, are happening and will continue to happen.