Power and Periods

Those who are at the top of unequal power structures always develop a mythology to rationalise the inequality. Kings were Kings because of Divine Right, etc etc.

In the modern world of business-oriented hypercapitalism, the mythology is that of productivity. You will be rewarded in accordance with your productivity – what you contribute determines your compensation.

This is a mythology. Who determines productivity? By what metric? What opportunities are given to display productivity? What else is going on in an employment relationship besides productive labour?

Alasdair Thompson has been mocked and chastised for saying a small portion of women’s lower pay is because of menstruation-related sick days. The mockery shouldn’t obscure the fact that this has revealed how the mythology is maintained. Women across all employment are paid less; therefore, they must be less productive; therefore, reasons for their lesser productivity must be found.

Thompson should be given the boot, but more urgently, his ideology – shared in toto with our current government – should be exposed to sunlight and revealed as the mirage it is. Because even after everyone agrees that, no, menstruation does not limit productivity – well, the ideology will remain in place. It was never founded on facts, and it will shift to new ground. It isn’t menstruation, then. Well, it must be because women are more emotional and not hard-nosed enough to pursue their economic self-interest. I just invented that now.

Rationalisations are easy. Shifting an ideology is bloody hard. This is an opportunity.

4 thoughts on “Power and Periods”

  1. I’d have to fully admit that when I menstruate it does affect productivity – hence I haven’t done so for nigh on a decade. The day of gawking* was unmanageable. I am, absolutely, the exception not the rule.

    There’s no *reason* we’re paid less on a base. Only habit. We do miss, unfairly, pay rise programmes because of maternity leave (in Ireland, between paid and unpaid. it’s up to 50 weeks). Eventually I find people just say fine, whatever, I’ll work to the level you pay me for and make sure I make creche pickup every day.

    * vomiting, in Cork speak

  2. Elaine – yeah, all that sounds like sensible comment. (And – bloody hell! how unpleasant that must be) (And and – gawking in NZ slang is “looking” with overtones of staring – when you gawk at something, you are examining it not vomiting in its direction… heh)

    That whole second paragraph is a perfect example of the kind of structural effect + negotiating power inequality that really does drive pay issues.

  3. Gawk also used in that context. gawking at, instead of gawking on 😉 tho more of a nosy stare than an examination!

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