COULD more employers be prompted to consider menstrual policies in the work place?
Ballarat author Karen Pickering said it made for good business sense in promoting inclusiveness and diversity but also helped to open up conversations and normalise talk about periods and menopause.
A slightly relaxed dress code, flexibility for where to work in the office and acceptance for women to sit at the desk with a hot water bottle are some options that have come into play for companies like Nike and in countries like Japan.
Ms Pickering said menstrual policy could be a key missing piece of the puzzle in Australia when it came to breaking down negative feelings about menstruation and menopause among women and girls.
Finding out exactly why menstruation and menopause were viewed so secretly and gross in Australian culture has been Ms Pickering's quest the past few years.
What Ms Pickering found, shocked her: women and girls were overwhelming confused about the bodily process and, in particular, how to improve their comfort and safety when symptoms hit.
About Bloody Time is what Ms Pickering hopes will spark conversations and blast barriers to get women and men, girls and boys, talking about what 'that time of the month' is really all about.
Talk is what Ms Pickering said was vital to improving foundations to improved body image and self-respect at home, when seeking medical help and in the work place.
The Ballarat author and her co-writer Jane Bennett, who lives near Bendigo, trawled through a survey of 3460 women and girls across the state carried out for Victorian Women's Trust.
Instead of forming a report or policy document, they wanted to start "the menstrual revolution we have to have". About Bloody Time aims to put what has long been taboo talk out in the open in a bid to normalise menstruation and menopause.
"We got a clear picture that many women and girls had a lot of negativity, fear and shame about periods and menopause. That's truly devastating to us," Ms Pickering said.
In the end, we're not saying you have to love it or celebrate your period as a special event each month. But, we want to understand why there is so much negativity to a process that affects half the population for about half their lives.
"What is the impact when women and girls view their bodies as disgusting? We have to have change and focus on menstrual well-being not just menstrual dysfunction," Ms Pickering said.
Ms Pickering said the book, which launches this week on a regional tour, comes in time when momentum is already gathering for women to speak out more.
Increasing awareness and understanding of women's rights and bigger questions on the environment are now game-changers.
With many women growing up in a highly disposable era, social and cultural movements to reduce waste have given rise to products like period undies and reusable pads that have women seeking more information and options.
"Menstrual taboo can be quite overt - people are generally more comfortable talking about the extremes, like girls sent to huts in Nepal - and it can be subtle, thinking no-one wants to hear about it," Ms Pickering said.
"When I would talk about the book I was working on, some people would subtly shut down the conversation but often, women would launch into their own stories."
I had an outpouring of people desperate to talk about it because I gave them permission to talk about it.
Among the authors' recommendations is also a call to action for greater education in schools and in the health profession. Too often, they found women were not believed or taken seriously when seeking help for pain symptoms.
Ms Pickering said better understanding about your body, and what is happening inside your body, is vital for females from a young age. She said often young girls got their first period at a time when they were starting to understand their sexual identity and feelings of being gross and disgusting each month could impact ongoing confidence in decision-making about sex.
Essentially, Ms Pickering said how we look at approach menstruation and menopause - culturally, socially or via policy - ultimately comes down to dignity.
- About Bloody Time Ballarat book launch is at Ballaarat Mechanics Institute on Thursday, 5.30pm and is proudly supported by Women's Health Grampians.
- More details: vwt.org.au. The book will soon be available via Readings.
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