This is over the top.
Harassment, inappropriate remarks, and hostile work environments are statistically more likely to be perpetrated by men against women, but that doesn’t mean that women are never inappropriate. As harassment becomes less and less tolerated, it continues to be brought to light that women have also perpetrated inappropriate remarks about men that should be taken just as seriously. However, this story isn’t an example of that.
When this woman complained about a perfectly normal and natural biological process, a man in her workplace was so uncomfortable and offended that he decided to take it to HR. And it’s not hard to see why she was infuriated.
Anyone with a uterus knows that once a month, no matter what, you’re going to get hit with menstrual cramps. For some people, it can be intensely painful; for others, not so much. The one thing that’s for sure is that they’re going to come every 30 days or so.
So when this woman decided to address her cramps, she probably didn’t think anything of it, and most people wouldn’t. One of her coworkers, however, was so unnerved by her comment that he decided to take things into his own hands.
Mumsnet user “Snuffalo” recalls that she was experiencing worse cramps than she’d had in a while. She writes, “Having horrible menstrual cramps, naproxen isn’t touching it, and I remember I have a hot water bottle in my desk drawer – I used it all winter in my freezing office, and a few other people, male and female, have one as well – we have a rule against personal space heaters so it can be nice to have under your desk next to your feet.”
It would be bad enough if this man was upset that she had complained about her cramps, but she never even addresses them. She writes, “I fill the hot water bottle, nestle it in my lap, and I’m back to work. My sort-of-supervisor* we’ll call Guy comes over to talk to me about something, notices the hot water bottle, says ‘there’s no way you’re cold today, are you?’ I say ‘um, no, just for the pain relief’. He looks confused and then literally horrified and then he walks away.”
After that, things escalated when she was reached out by her HR administrator. She writes, “Less than ten minutes later, I get a Slack message from one of the HR admins (HR is based in another office a few hours away) to say ‘Guy says you’re not well and should go home, everything OK?’ I say ‘I’m fine, this is sort of weird, he just looked a bit shocked that I had a hot water bottle, I’ve got cramps, you know how it is.’”
Taking It to HR
You’d expect that the HR administrator would be understanding and shut it down, but in fact, they escalated it. She writes, “She goes silent and then offline completely, ten more minutes later, the HR Director calls me and asks me if I can find a meeting room, which I do. She then tells me that I shouldn’t disclose my medical problems to anyone who isn’t part of HR as it can make them uncomfortable.
“I’m literally shocked, I explain exactly what happened, she says ‘yes I understand, if you’re so unwell you need a hot water bottle you should be home, Guy is extremely uncomfortable and it’s unprofessional.’ I say ‘this is weird, ok, anything else’? She’s quite breezy and professional – ‘No, that’s all, if you’re feeling better that’s great but if you need to, please do go home, OK bye!’”
She points out the hypocrisy of the HR representative, calling her unprofessional, writing, “I’m just completely flabbergasted. Especially considering that Guy has been known to take meetings with clients whilst laying flat on the floor on his back because of back problems – which seems to me both unprofessional and likely to make people uncomfortable, not that I really cared personally. I wouldn’t have had my hot water bottle in a client meeting or even if clients were in the office.”
She goes on to point out, “Other people have standing desks, weird foot rests, all kinds of chairs and special backrests for their back pain and wrist braces for their wrist pain and a hundred other things and I’m not allowed to have a hot water bottle for my menstrual cramps? Am I right to be completely f**king furious?”
Needless to say, her fellow Mumsnet users were livid. User Shadow666 wrote, “He’s ridiculous. HR is ridiculous. Most women menstruate. It’s a perfectly normal body function. My coworker complains every month to me about cramps. They both need to grow up.” User LucieLucie agreed, “Why on earth have HR even entertained what this ‘Guy’ has said?! I’d have thought it should have come via your line manager, certainly not HR. I’d have questioned them on it as in “you seriously want me to take sick leave for menstrual cramps?!” Bizarre.” Others encouraged her to report it to a higher up.
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