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by Margaret Taylor
16 September 2022
Ousting a male period dignity officer is no win for gender equality

Jason Grant was appointed to serve as Tayside's first period dignity officer

Ousting a male period dignity officer is no win for gender equality

Recess is over and here we are to welcome you back from what was, most definitely, a totally normal summer.

A totally normal summer in which the cost of living spiralled out of control with devastating speed; in which rubbish piled up on the streets as workers went on strike demanding a liveable level of pay; in which we endured seemingly endless hustings so Liz Truss could be delivered, as expected, as our next prime minister; and in which a man got a job that an awful lot of people thought should have gone to woman.    

In case you were off sunning yourself when the furore broke, let me bring you up to speed. In the middle of August one of those ‘world-leading’ laws the SNP government likes to bang on about came into force, with the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act – the result of some serious campaigning from Labour’s Monica Lennon – placing a legal duty on local authorities to provide free sanitary items to “anyone who needs them”. 

No sooner had we basked in the glory of being the envy of the world, though, than Tayside went and ruined it all by giving the newly created role of period dignity officer for the region to a man. Cue much consternation and the summer’s peace was shattered.

And now, in a twist that only the Age of Internet Intolerance could deliver, the man in question – former Dundee and Angus College wellbeing officer Jason Grant – has lost the job before he even got started, with his would-be employers axing the role in a thoroughly knee-jerk reaction. In the messed-up world of the Twittersphere the message was loud and clear – if a she can’t have it, nobody can, and who cares about the good the role was supposed to deliver.

To add insult to injury Grant is mulling legal action over the lost opportunity on the grounds of, yep, sex discrimination.

Putting all the ludicrousness of the situation to one side, it’s fair that the appointment of a man to a job focused on periods should raise a few eyebrows, but was it really such an outrage?

There’s no question that women have been – and in too many cases continue to be – disadvantaged in the workplace. It’s not that long since every job was a man’s job and, as pay-gap reporting has underscored – as if it needed to – the most senior and so best paid positions are still largely a male preserve. Men get the best jobs, the best pay, the best pensions et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

But while we’re probably all in agreement that there are certain instances – such as when female victims of sexual assault have to endure an intimate examination – when only a woman will do, we’re not going to redress any balances by making certain jobs female-only, especially if it’s roles that focus on the softer side of healthcare.

Part of the reason the gender pay gap exists is because jobs are thought of, however subliminally, as male or female, with the hardcore, life-saving, surgical kind of stuff seen as a masculine pursuit and the fluffier, lower level, cleaning up blood and dealing with emotions kind of thing saved for the women. But just as there is nothing to say a woman should be excluded from operating on a man’s prostate cancer, so there should be nothing to say a man cannot help boys and girls understand the supposed intricacies of menstruation. 

Was Jason Grant the best person for this particular job? The people who took the time to read his – and everyone else’s – applications, carry out interviews and take up references certainly seemed to think so, but it appears the rest of us will never know.

What’s worse is that the job he was going to do, normalising the discussion of menstruation in schools and colleges, has been scrapped, meaning periods will remain a taboo, women will continue to leave the workplace when they experience the menopause, and men will continue to dominate the senior jobs that are supposed to be open to everyone.

This is no win for gender equality; it’s a win for trolls and trolls alone.

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