BAE OF THE WEEK: Bex Baxter

My periods are awful, like truly terrible. I get pretty much every negative symptom of the period alphabet, from back pain to nausea. We shall not speak of the cramps.

So when I found out that the female CEO of a creative company was planning on allowing women with extreme period pain time off, I gave a little smile and thought, “Good on you, and good luck with the barrage of bs you’re about to be hit with.”

Bex Baxter is the director of Bristol based company Coexist. What the company does, how many women work there, and when Bex Baxter comes on her period is really of no concern here. All you need to know is that she’s decided to act upon an informal policy many companies already enact – i.e. you are suffering during your period, please go home – and raise awareness on the issue of women suffering from severe period-related symptoms in the workplace. She and her colleagues will raise the issue at the event Pioneering Period Policy: Valuing Natural Cycles in the Workplace, a seminar devoted to addressing the issues surrounding menstrual cycles and work.

It’s clear from reading what she’s said on the topic that she’s not only got great observational skills, but she’s taken the time to read up on some of the literature on workplace productivity, and plans on formulating a policy that takes both of these things into account. Here are some the things she has to say about her reasons for coming up with her new policy.

“There is a misconception that taking time off makes a business unproductive – actually it is about synchronising work with the natural cycles of the body.

For women, one of these is their menstrual cycles.

My team here have always been very generous – I’ve been able to take time off when I’ve needed it, but always put it back in again. But until now there haven’t been any formal guidelines.

For too long there’s been a taboo surrounding periods – I have women staff telling me they’re ashamed to admit they’re in pain. I want us to break down that shame and replace the negativity with positivity. Both men and women have been open to the ideas, especially from the younger generation.”

(Source, The Guardian)

The most common reaction to this piece of news I’ve heard first-hand from men is that they don’t quite understand why this is necessary. The beauty, of course, is that they don’t have to understand. This isn’t a rule for men, made by men, or involving men in any way. This is something that one woman has decided to do to help many others. It does not have to be contextualised in the realm of men, and men don’t need to get upset or think they’re being treated ‘unfairly’, because at the end of the day they don’t have periods, will never have periods, and therefore have no way of understanding how periods affect women. (Before you get butthurt, this isn’t an attack on men; don’t turn the words upside down, it’s purely a statement of fact.)

There also seem to be a lot of women out there who, because they don’t suffer any symptoms, seem to have lost the ability to read, and have summarised this policy as something that’s going to make them look ‘weak’ and lose face with their apparently wonderful male colleagues. I’m not going to go into all the ways in which having a period can be a distressing, depressing, or debilitating experience for women of all creeds, colours and countries, because the fact is that the people who are affected by periods already know. This policy is about pain, not the fact that you’re bleeding from your vagina; it’s about working flexibly, not about taking a day off so you can go shopping or start your weekend a bit earlier. It’s also NOT COMPULSORY. If you don’t need it, you obviously don’t take it. Duh.

And those people who do need it will be happy, and probably a little bit more motivated. Which is probably the whole point.

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