I got in trouble because my coworker saw maxi pads in my car, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I got written up because my coworker saw maxi pads in my car

One of my coworkers complained because she saw a package of maxi pads in the backseat of my car when she parked near me in our parking lot. I had stopped at the store on the way into work, and they were in a bag along with shampoo and toothpaste. I got a write-up for it by HR and my boss told me not to do it again and keep them private. I was actually shocked when I was spoken to about it. I want to know if I should push back on this and say anything and how I should do it? I would be curious to hear your thoughts.

You got written up because someone saw a box of maxi pads in your car??

IN YOUR CAR?

My head is exploding.

What’s going to happen if next time your coworker sees other toiletries in your car, like — gasp — toothpaste? Would she object to seeing a 12-pack of toilet paper too?

This is ridiculous and offensive and misogynist, and you should push back on it. Go back to HR and/or your boss and say, “I’d like you to remove that write-up from my file. There’s nothing inappropriate about having toiletries in my car, whether it’s a pack of toilet paper, a box of maxi pads, or a bottle of shampoo. There’s nothing dirty or shameful about feminine hygiene products, and we’re on awfully shaky ground in penalizing someone for having normal, everyday products in their car just because they happen to be for women. There is no reason that I should have a disciplinary note in my file about this.”

After I initially read your letter, I posted on Twitter about it because I was enraged and Twitter was full of excellent suggestions for you, but I think this one was the best.

2. Was I tricked into leaving?

I am an American citizen working abroad. I am the only foreigner in my large company overseen by the government of the country where I live, and my salary is paid by a grant from the government to my employer. Several weeks ago, a colleague asked me if I knew that the government had sent my employer a warning that they may not continue to provide that grant after this contract ends. I had not hear that, and was very surprised to hear it mentioned so casually. The colleague called over another coworker, who confirmed that it was true. On the next work day, I went to my manager to ask about it, She said that it was true, and they would not find out if they were receiving the grant for several months. I asked why I had not been formally told, and she said they hadn’t wanted to worry me.

For visa reasons, I could not wait until the timeline offered by my manager to find out if the position would be extended. I interviewed with several companies and accepted an excellent job. I am excited about it.

I gave notice at my current job to my manager’s boss. He was absolutely shocked, and said that there was no question at all about the grant being continued. They had already received the money. He got in touch the government body that funds the grant for me, and they confirmed that for me. There was never any question about my employment.

Today, I got a short message from my manager saying that they only found out today that the grant would be continued and that it was sad that I had already decided to leave. I have not replied to that, because I don’t know what to say.

As crazy as it sounds, I’m genuinely wondering if these three colleagues could have deliberately set into motion a plan to make me quit? I have been told that my manager is a bit uncomfortable with having a foreigner on staff, but all of my evaluations have been exceeds-expectations or above and I’m generally well-liked at work. Still, I can’t figure out what else might have happened here. Should I share these concerns with my manager’s boss? Ask my manager for an explanation (although she is very non-verbal and I’m not sure I will get a real reply)? Just let it go, because I have no real evidence of anything? It makes no difference to my future plans; I will start my new job soon regardless. But the confusion is really getting to me.

Wow, yeah, either your manager was pushing you out, or there was a major miscommunication somewhere. The latter is definitely possible — it could be that your manager’s boss wasn’t fully in the loop about the grant situation, or it could be that somehow your manager had her info wrong. But it’s alarming enough that it’s worth looking into — because if your manager did do this behind her own boss’s back, that’s a big deal and he should know about it.

Skip your manager because that will give her time to potentially concoct a cover story, and go straight to your manager’s boss. In fact, I’d just forward him the email your manager sent you and say something like, “See below from Jane. Given our conversation, I’m really confused! Do you have a minute to talk with me about this?” (Alternately, you could email them both at the same time and say, “I’m really confused about this because Bob told me last week that there was no question about the grant being continued, and he confirmed with Agency that the money was received a while ago. I of course wouldn’t have job searched if I’d known that, so it seems like there might be a major miscommunication here.”)

3. Can I approach my boss about things feeling off?

Recently my department has been undergoing a lot of changes that have led to my boss being completely swamped. There have also been changes in management that mean he’s helping to train and onboard new people above his head while still managing the rest of our team. He’s been noticeably exhausted and short-tempered, and his emails and other communication have been very curt.

I’m having trouble distinguishing actual displeasure with my work from all the general stress response of things being chaotic. I’ve been trying to speak up and step forward more, taking a more aggressive role (this has been part of my ongoing professional goals as discussed in reviews), and his responses to that have been blunt and critical — but always very targeted, so I’m not sure if he’s displeased overall or trying to give feedback on the weak points without bothering to include a general “good job.”

I know the obvious response is to pull him aside for a five-minute meeting and ask, but since he’s so swamped, I don’t want to add more on his plate in the form of having to deal with my feelings. On the other hand, these particular feelings are stemming from his actual job. Still, it feels wrong to bother him about it. What do you think?

If you’re feeling unsure about how you’re doing overall, that’s very much a work-related thing that’s worth asking your boss about. Don’t discount it by framing it to yourself as just about your feelings! If there are problems, you need to know about them so you can correct them — and if there aren’t problems, you need to know that so that you’re not expending energy stressing out about the wrong things.

So yes, ask! If he’s so busy that you can’t realistically get a separate meeting with him, bring it up the next time you’re already talking to him about something else. Say something like, “Can I ask how you think things are going overall? You’ve given me some really helpful feedback recently, but my sense is that you’ve had more criticism of my work than usual and I wasn’t sure if there might be broader concerns with my work that I should be tackling, or if you’re overall happy with what I’m doing.”

4. Can I put my “exceeds expectations” performance review score on my resume?

For the first time, I got “Exceeds Expectations” (an A+ at my company) on my performance review this year. I’m currently job searching because I’m likely to be laid off in a couple of months, and I was wondering if there’s any way to mention this evaluation on my resume. If not, do you think it would be all right to mention it during an interview if something comes up that makes it relevant?

Don’t put it on your resume. Employers won’t have any way to know how rigorous the performance review standards are at your company, and it could come across as giving too much weight to something that doesn’t warrant it. The exception to this is if you can contextualize it with something like “performance was rated in top 1% of employees in 2018,” and then ideally explain why. (But even then, I’d leave “exceeds expectations” off, because there are so many companies where loads of people score that.)

The same advice applies to interviews. The rating on its own isn’t worth bringing up, but if there’s a way to say that you were rated in the top X% of employees and why (because it doesn’t stand on its own as well as it does with context attached), that’s fine to do.

5. Including legal work status on your resume

I’ve had the privilege to review a lot of resumes recently, and it appears common (in the U.S.) for an applicant to state their visa or residency status. Would you advise all applicants putting that on their resumes? As a citizen I never thought to add it, but should I/we?

You’re more likely to see this in fields that typically hire a lot of foreign-born workers (where legal work status comes up all the time) or sometimes from candidates whose education or work history is outside the U.S. (and so they want to preemptively answer any questions about their legal eligibility to work here). But it’s not something you’re expected to include in general.

{ 1,226 comments… read them below }

  1. hiptobesquare

    #1: Not a ton to add other than my brain exploded too and I’m sorry you’re in this situation. This is ridiculous. Push back.

      1. Melody Pond

        This is a bit combative of me, but I’m so flabbergasted by this one, that… if it were me, I’d just keep leaving menstrual products visible in my car, wait for the disciplinary action to escalate, and then go talk to a lawyer.

        1. kb

          I’d start wearing a menstrual cup like a party hat or something. I’m just… is everyone working at this company a middle schooler??

          1. Melody Pond

            Oh man, even better. That is 1,000% something I would consider doing at this point, if I were the OP #1.

              1. Artemesia

                Yes. What was the co-worker doing snooping in your car. And on what planet is being a woman ‘icky’ and worthy of a write up. This is grossly sexist as well as incredibly stupid. I can imagine a boss asking an employee to keep personal products out of sight at their desk especially if clients are likely to be in the area but there should be NO interest in ordinary toiletries in a sack in the back seat of your car. This deserves a lot of pushback, but most of all it is a signal to start looking for a job with people who are not complete idiots.

                1. Beaded Librarian

                  What gets me the most with the whole thing is the OP says she so apparently the coworker who complained was a WOMAN! Seriously its bad enough that men can’t handle it a woman being unable to handle the idea of a coworker having pads IN THEIR OWN CAR feels so much worse.

                2. Michaela Westen

                  Having grown up in a fundamentalist area, I bet I can guess what your area is like and what type of person this is.
                  Unfortunately, if it’s like the area I’m from, it may not be possible to find better colleagues at another job. Maybe taking legal action would help.
                  If it helps, this woman who got you in trouble is probably so uptight and beaten down by chauvinism she’s really miserable.

              2. Not So NewReader

                If OP is wrong for “displaying” pads, shouldn’t the reporting coworker also be written up for “mentioning” pads? Just wondering… I am not familiar with this planet yet.

          2. Yvette

            Exactly, they were in her CAR!!! Not as though they were on her desk in an open cube farm. To be honest, I would feel that would be out of place, but I would feel the same way about a pack of condoms or a boxed enema, or a pregnancy test. I would not comment or complain to HR, but I would look at it and think “Really?, you couldn’t put it in a bag or something?” But again, I realize that is my personal hang-up and I wouldn’t force, or voice my opinion.

            1. LouiseM

              I think we did have a question where someone was reprimanded for having maxi pads or tampons or medicine or something along those lines sitting out on their desk, but I don’t remember the results.

                1. Tequila Mockingbird

                  Yes, there was a LW recently who asked about the “etiquette” of taking birth control pills at her desk. IIRC, Allison told her it was no big deal, and no different than taking Ibuprofen or anything else. I don’t think anyone actually complained about what the LW was doing, though.

            2. Engineer Girl

              It goes beyond the car. The pads were inside of wrappers that were inside a package that was inside a bag (with toothpaste and shampoo). So technically the coworker never saw the actual pads. Maybe just a corner of the package? So it was already private.

              It’s pretty clear someone went shopping and that the pads were one of several items in the bag. And it was left in the car, not brought into the office.

              I’d like to point out that you can have gender based harassment of the same gender. And this is so out of line that I might push back to HR with it.

              Was any basis given for the complaint? Was it considered offensive? Sexist? On what grounds was the complaint made? Because “I’m offended by that” is a weak justification.

              Really. I’d demand to know what was the basis of the complaint, how it violated the employeee handbook, and how it justified an actual write up. HR better be willing to back it up.

              1. Triple Anon

                Right. Politely ask for a logical explanation. That way you keep the higher ground and the ball is in their court. They have to find a rule that it violates and explain the reasoning behind it all.

              2. ErinW

                If an unopened bag of maxi pads is so shocking to witness, how does this person/people at this company handle going to the grocery store, where they are just stacked up on the shelves for the world to see?

                1. Evan Þ.

                  Stay out of that aisle?

                  Just walk past and resolutely refuse to take any notice? That’s what I do – but then, I’d do the same if I saw them in my coworker’s car, so no idea what this person would do.

                2. Michaela Westen

                  This reminds me of the episode of King of the Hill where all the other adults were away and Connie got her first period. Hank had to take her to (gasp) Aisle 8!
                  He survived, he did *not* punish her, and everyone was happy.

            3. CityMouse

              I do think that is a bit if a hang up. I keep tampons and pads in my desk drawer and have, on occasion, pulled them out when a coworker has asked for them. I do not think tampons or pads are even similar to condoms and sexualizing menstruation is absurd.

              1. PB

                Same here. I don’t keep them out in the open, for the same reasons that I don’t keep my bottle of aspirin, emergency bus fare, or chocolate stash in the open. Not because they’re dirty, but because there’s no reason for them to be *out*. But I’m not embarrassed to have them or try to hide them, per se. Menstruation is a biological function.

              2. Yorick

                I think Yvette just meant that they are so personal, not that they’re sexual (besides condoms, she compared them to a boxed enemea)

                1. SarahTheEntwife

                  But one doesn’t normally perform enemas at work. (I hope?) Menstrual products are a perfectly normal thing to use at work. It’s more like keeping a roll of toilet paper on your desk if the staff bathrooms keep running out — it looks kind of cluttered, but it’s not exactly TMI to know that my coworkers, in a general sense, probably pee sometimes.

                2. Yvette

                  Yes, that is what I meant. Thank you Yorick. I would also feel the same way about a box of Depends or hemorrhoid cream. And again, I realize that is MY personal hang-up and I wouldn’t force, or voice my opinion or go running to HR.

              3. Kalamet

                Indeed. My last company had baskets of tampons sitting out in every women’s restroom. They were lifesavers on occasion, let me tell you.

                1. TheCupcakeCounter

                  Same – large basket of a variety of tampons, maxi pads, panty liners, and other products available to all

                1. mialoubug

                  I have vodka in my desk drawer. A gift from my boss and alas, still unopened after four years.

              4. General Ginger

                Agreed. Menstrual supplies =/= condoms. Yeah, sure, they’re personal, but there is nothing inappropriate about them.

            4. PW

              I want to know why the co-worker was looking in her car windows in the first place. Especially since they were in the backseat which means the co-worker had to rally look for them. The busybody co-worker needs to mind her own business and I can’t believe the boss didn’t laugh her complaint out of his/her office.

              OP #1 – I hope this is resolved in your favor. What a terrible boss you have.

                1. Is pumpkin a vegetable?

                  I’m in HR, and I don’t even get what the OP was being written up FOR!!!

              1. Triple Anon

                Yeah, why didn’t the co-worker get in trouble for snooping? That seems worse than having a bag of hygeine products in your car.

              2. General Ginger

                I’m wondering the same thing. I feel like if you’re the one snooping, whatever offensive thing you find is on you.

                1. General Ginger

                  (that’s not to say menstrual supplies are offensive; I just think that pretty much goes for any instance of getting offended while snooping)

            1. Elemeno P.

              My coworker and I are cracking up about the warning sign one because we work with warning signs.

            2. Dweali

              I’ve got one similar to these in a bright neon pattern that says “Just a super secret way to carry tampons around” in different styles of writing….I love it :-)

              got mine from this site but it doesn’t look like they have this exact one anymore

              https://www.blueq.com/zipper-pouches/

              1. Stormfeather

                Yeah, IF I were still having my monthly visits from Aunt Flo, and IF I had used tampons in the first place, I’d totally have been getting the “Vampire Tea Bags” one

                1. Stormfeather

                  Er, just looked back on that and realized I should specify that “had used tampons” I meant in the sense of “if, at the time, I used tampons as my weapon of choice” not “if I carried around used tampons.”

            3. JeanB in NC

              I love the one that says “oh bloody hell”. But I don’t have to worry about that anymore, THANK YOU MENOPAUSE!

              1. SusanIvanova

                I’d want one that said #biologyfail; that was the shorthand my friends used back before menopause obsoleted it.

            4. Not a Morning Person

              It would be so tempting to get some of the pad ones, fill them with note pads or post it pads and leave them out on your desk. Then every time you need to make a note, you need your “pads” stash!

            5. Batshua

              I don’t super need one, but in solidarity, I might commission a waterproofed one that says “my endometrial lining is sloughing” in the dripping bloody font.

              1. Batshua

                Sorry, I changed my mind.

                s/endometrial lining/endometrium

                I think that sounds cooler upon reflection.

          3. Specialk9

            Did you read the linked Twitter suggestions? They’re thinking along your lines too. This whole thing is making me love people.

          4. Not a Blossom

            It can’t be that hard to make tampon earrings and to string one on a necklace, right?

          5. Graff

            I just spit my tea out at this —- YES THIS! So sorry you’re going through this OP, but you’re not going through it alone! We’re all here and mad on your behalf!

        2. namelesscommentator

          I’d ask if they’d prefer I free bleed.

          But I can also be a blunt asshole when people are being idiots.

          1. LouiseM

            LOL! Yeah, I can guarantee if I stopped bringing menstrual products to work my company would not be pleased with the results.

            1. KarenT

              The OP should stage a free bleeding protest! (OK, probably not really, but seriously!)
              I’ve read some outrageous things on this site but this letter officially takes the cake!.

              OP your boss, your HR, and your co-worker are INSANE!

              1. Specialk9

                Alison “I posted on Twitter about it because I was enraged”

                Why I love this site. The rest of you are so awesome too.

            1. Whoa

              There was! Back in 2015. I was just thinking about her yesterday, actually. Her name was Kiran Gandhi and it was her very first marathon. Honestly I don’t blame her… Running with a pad/tampon in is pretty awful.

              1. the_scientist

                Running a marathon while on my period sounds like my own personal hell, so she can do whatever she wants as far as I’m concerned.

              1. Elizabeth H.

                I grew up living in a dorm at a women’s college as one of my parents was a resident director. We would go to the pool at the campus gym a lot and in the women’s locker room they had an article clipping about Uta Pippig on one of the bulletin boards in there and how some people were shocked but she won. (It was right around the time that that happened.) I read that article over and over and over again. It was so inspiring and empowering to be in that environment of women athletes and reading this example of a woman who was tough as nails and admired for it. I’m sitting at my desk at work looking back at the articles from that time and actually started crying thinking about how powerful these images and examples are that there is no limit to what women can do even in the face of societal constraints on their bodies.

          2. Michaela Westen

            Or maybe she should stay home when she’s on her period, like when we were cave people.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago

          Isn’t art made with a menstrual blood a thing?

          OR, LW should suggest a charity drive that collects menstrual products for a DV shelter. And get the Cereal OP from earlier in the week to come in and build a tower out of pads & tampons.

          1. Savannnah

            I think it gets into shaky ground here with the coworker being a trans woman. I’d really steer clear of any of that as a reaction to her HR complaint.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              Nope. Sorry. Being a trans woman does not give you the right to punish cis women (or trans men) for a natural biological function.

              1. Savannnah

                I don’t agree with her making the HR complaint, but I also don’t agree with a transwoman having a tower of pads shoved in her face at work either.

                1. Just Employed Here

                  A tower of pads for charity shouldn’t be any different from a tower of cereal for charity. I realize that in many cases it would be viewed differently, but it shouldn’t.

                  Wherever the pads are — in a private vehicle or in a charity collection box — they’re not there being shoved in anyone’s face (I mean, unless they literally are shoved in someone’s face … which I don’t think anyone is suggesting). Cis women don’t have periods *at* trans women.

                2. Savannnah

                  I agree with your comment on the whole. I’m just trying to point out that the many suggestions in response to the complaint would in fact be cis woman targeting a transwoman with physical reminders of the fact that they aren’t woman enough and I feel that its unnecessary. I don’t at all agree with what the coworker did but I think we have the capacity to respond and be upset for the OP without the pitchforks.

                3. Myrin

                  Ah, I see now what you were referring to! I scrolled back and forth before replying and kinda lost track of the threading, my apologies!

                4. Just Employed Here

                  I dunno. When I use (or buy, or transport) sanitary products, I’m not targeting anyone with physical reminders of anything.

                  I just, you know, stop my own blood from going where it shouldn’t. It has nothing to do with my co-workers.

                  And a charity drive should be about those it’s benefiting, not about individual co-workers taking it personally.

                5. Savannnah

                  Yes- outside of a direct response to this coworker, without this context, I agree with you.

                6. Jesca

                  I think you are off base. Women’s shelters are notoriously lacking in pads and tampons. One of the reasons is because feel do feel embarrassed to donate them. It is actually a thing. Someone building a tower of tampons isn’t about shoving it in the face of anyone who wasn’t born biologically a woman, but more so showing awareness to the fact that women born biologically do bleed and need those products and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Lets not punish one group for the inferred sake of another, ok.

                7. Detective Amy Santiago

                  @Savannah

                  Yes, I feel the same way. Menstruation is a natural biological function and the need for menstrual products is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, cis, or trans, it’s a fact of life that you need to accept.

                8. Observer

                  @Savannah you write many suggestions in response to the complaint would in fact be cis woman targeting a transwoman with physical reminders of the fact that they aren’t woman enough

                  Except that this is totally NOT TRUE. These reactions would be a reminder that you don’t get to tell women that the fact of menstruation is a deep dark secret!

                9. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

                  @Savannnah, I see what you mean. You aren’t taking the side of the complaining coworker. You’re suggesting that, in light of new information about the coworker being trans, jokes about flaunting menstrual products in retaliation land differently. You’re not blaming OP for doing something wrong or suggesting that her coworker was justified, you’re saying that certain responses to shitty behavior are also shitty. Whether or not people agree, your point makes perfect sense.

                10. RUKiddingMe

                  That’s not what happened here. The coworker is attempting to silence the fact that the OP (a cis woman) even has periods.

              2. Circus peanuts

                Yes, the trans part is a red herring and I wonder if HR didn’t want to look insensitive to trans problems (and we all know that there are many but this isn’t one of them, jmo) and that might be why a write up in now in someone’s permanent employee record.

                1. Anion

                  Yep. So the feelings and *employment record* of the female OP are less important than the feelings of a transwoman who was peeping into her car.

            2. Anonymouse

              Wait, where does it say the coworker was a trans woman? I’ve read over the letter and response twice and page searched “trans” and i couldn’t find any reference to whether the coworker was cis or trans.

              1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

                Alison clarified in a comment that the complaining coworker was a trans woman.

                1. Michaela Westen

                  If a man had peeped into the car and seen the pads and done exactly the same thing, would that change this? IMO it’s even worse because there’s chauvinism (or more chauvinism, or culturally approved chauvinism)
                  Since this coworker used to be a man, maybe this chauvinist attitude is still with her?
                  I was imagining a miserable, uptight, beaten down biological woman, but this changes the story.

                2. Aeryn Sun

                  Michaela, just a heads up, this coworker didn’t “used to be a man”- she was a woman, regardless of if she was out or not. You don’t need to go through any medical procedures or change your presentation to be a woman. I disagree with the coworker here (dysphoria is horrible but people shouldn’t be shamed for menstrual products) but let’s not misgender her.

              2. Penny Lane

                I don’t see what the coworker being trans has anything to do with anything.

                Was the shampoo an insult to / offensive to bald coworkers?

                1. Just Who I Am

                  And the car itself is an insult to those who got their licenses taken away for drunk driving!

                  OK, time for more coffee..

                2. Liz

                  I once made a remark about my handbag strap getting tangled in my hair, and my boss, who is bald, chucked a sulk.

                  But he’s by no means an example of a reasonable human being.

            3. Specialk9

              So you’re saying a trans woman went out of her way to PUNISH a cis woman *for being cis female*, and we’re supposed to side with the vindictive snooping trans woman? Just because we generally sympathize with transgender folks?

              We should be pro human rights for trans people, but that doesn’t mean we should enable them to bully cis people for being cis. Your argument is making my own head explode. It’s infantilizing, and I can’t imagine any of my trans friends agreeing. Their lives are hard enough without a faux bullying pass that will turn people even more against them.

              1. Penny Lane

                Agree. Just because they are trans doesn’t make their opinions automatically a) valid or b) worthy of indulging. They’re people like everyone else and some of them are stupid or jerks like everyone else.

                1. Caitlin

                  Case in point: Caitlyn Jenner. Her being an awful person has nothing to do with the fact that she’s transgender.

                2. Oranges

                  @Caitlin. So totally true. I still feel like I’ll get painted with the same brush as the people who do the “I’m not racist but…” if I say how much I dislike her without specific examples. Which my brain can’t keep track of.

              2. Clare

                I cant believe some people are trying to justify this because the coworker is trans. I mean, how the heck does this coworker use the work bathrooms if shes this offended by the mere glimpse of sanitary products?

              3. Savannnah

                Nope. That’s not what I said at all. I’m not siding with the coworker- again, I’m agreeing that it was really not ok- I’m just not comfortable with the very specific nature of targeted response encouraged by some of the comments here.

                1. RoadsLady

                  No. Maybe I’m awful, but a snarky gesture using hygeine supplies would in no way be a trans target.

                  Two different things here: if OP had used her supplies to taunt Coworker, that’s one thing. But any cute/clever/snarky pranks with pads have nothing to do with the transgender issue.

                2. Yorick

                  “How so?”?????

                  The coworker being trans isn’t even something commenters knew when they suggested these things.

                  Also, the problem is the entire workplace. If you went to my HR and complained that I *gasp* own maxi pads, I strongly hope they would tell you to get over it, trans or not.

                3. Luna

                  I agree that the LW should not take it upon herself to engage in any targeted response, not because the coworker doesn’t absolutely deserve it for what she did, but because it could get the LW into more trouble. Clearly HR is terrified to the point of ridiculousness by any claims of transphobia the coworker might make.

              4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                Agreed.

                OP is no more buying menstrual products at the trans coworker than a pregnant coworker is being pregnant at someone who can’t have children.

                1. Jesca

                  Exactly. And thinking that this was some how some microaggression on the part of the OP against the trans woman sets back biological women’s rights even further than they are now. I mean come on.

                  Yes, me being born a woman is so aggressive. I mean do you not even see how that just feeds into sexism and also makes trans people look really out of touch with the issues biological women have to face in our society?

                2. Detective Amy Santiago

                  @Jesca

                  Cis women *and* trans men. They are hurting their trans brothers with this nonsense too.

                3. Jesca

                  @Detective Amy Santiago Absolutely! That was what I was trying to get across with my last statement, so I am glad you clarified.

                4. Anion

                  Yes, what’s next? “Jane had a hairbrush in her car, to brush her long, thick, beautiful hair! My hair is thin and frizzy so I must keep it short, and I have always wished that I too had long thick hair. Therefore Jane is harassing me by needing a product I do not need. I demand she be written up for this egregious offense!”

                  “I saw a copy of a brochure about travel to Australia on John’s desk. I can’t afford to go to Australia! How dare John be able to take vacations I can’t? HARASSMENT!”

                  You don’t get to punish people for having what you don’t have/something other than what you have.

              5. Tuxedo Cat

                I was thinking of my trans friends and colleagues.

                I get that menstruating can be a touchy subject for some transwomen, with how it’s so aligned with the experience of being female, but it’s not the OP’s fault she had basically a health/medical device in her car, in an area she wasn’t expecting people to be looking.

                1. Julia

                  This. And where do you draw the line? My friend with PCOS who doesn’t menstruate – does anyone care about her feelings? This seems like the equivalent of miusing the word “triggered”; if I were to claim seeing your menstrual products “triggered” me because I used to have debilitating period pain, I’m sure people would call me out on that.

                2. General Ginger

                  Menstruating is a super touchy subject for me as a trans man, too, but I cannot possibly rationalize making an issue out of menstrual supplies in a /coworker’s parked car/. That’s so out of the realm of reasonable I don’t have words.

              6. Anion

                +1.

                Biological women have the right to be biological women without being punished for it, regardless of the feelings of others.

                1. Theo

                  Hi Anion! You probably don’t know this, since a lot of cis people don’t, but referring to cis women as “biological women” is actually considered pretty offensive by a lot of trans people. It connotes pretty hard that trans women aren’t real women, and that chromosomes are The Most Important Indicator. I don’t want to get into trans 101 here, but I’m also a trans person, so please trust me — “cis woman” will do just fine, and reduce confusion!

                  (And yes, Jerk is not a protected class; this person is acting like a tool, and their gender is 100% irrelevant.)

                2. Jadelyn

                  Can we please not use “biological” women? The term is cisgender, or cis for short. Trans women (two words, by the way, since I’ve seen a number of people using “transwomen” elsewhere in the thread) are women, they are biological beings, therefore they are biological women just as much as cis women are, and the emphasis on “biological” as the distinction between cis and trans women is by definition implying that trans women are “biologically male” – and I hope we can all see why that would be deeply Not Okay. Also, “biological women” is frequently a dogwhistle for trans-exclusionary radical feminism, which is deeply transmisogynistic.

                3. Specialk9

                  Jadelyn, I know trans people who use transman and transwoman. I don’t think that’s a universal.

                4. Liz

                  No, it’s okay to say biological women. There is NEVER anything wrong with using accurate descriptions for women, their biological functions, and misogyny. “Cis” is a term that is neither universally understood nor universally accepted.

              7. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

                Did I smoke something? Savannnah never said anyone should side with OP’s coworker. She said certain responses being suggested here (albeit in jest, by my read) would be inappropriate. She didn’t say “don’t push back against HR, because coworker is trans” or anything even remotely close to that, and in some comments she clearly stated that she thinks the coworker was in the wrong. Whether or not most people agree with her point, this thread reads like a pile-on based on a strawman.

            4. Banana Pants

              No, it doesn’t. Being trans does not give someone the right to be a jerk about toiletries kept in a coworker’s CAR.

              1. RVA Cat

                TBH the only way this whole clusterfudge makes sense is that OP#1 is trans co-worker’s BEC for whatever reason, and co-worker and HR are conspiring together like middle school mean girls. We’ve seen this play out with plenty of cisgender jerks on AAM and it’s really no different.

                Equality means if you are unreasonable, you get told to pound sand same as everybody else.

            5. Buffy Summers

              I’m not seeing in the letter where there was a trans woman. I’ve read and re-read. Where are you seeing that? (Not being snarky – I genuinely want to know where there’s a trans woman)

            6. Lindsay Gee

              But should cis women have to go out of their way to hide their sanitary products in any other situation? I’m going to the bathroom, slip a tampon/pad into my hand, pocket etc. should I have a responsibility to go out of my way to hide that product because i may run into the trans coworker in the bathroom? It’s a biological thing we have no control over, as other comments have said- cis women aren’t menstruating *at* trans women. it’s just something that happens biologically (for most). I think there’s enough shame thrown at menstruating people to hide their products (which is ridiculous), we shouldn’t feel an additional obligation to hide menstruation from trans women as well

            7. Not a Morning Person

              I haven’t seen anything indicating the complaining party is trans. What did I miss? And even if so…what does that have to do with a regular, normal body function that most women need to handle for many years? Women don’t have periods AT other people.

              1. fposte

                It’s noted in a followup from Alison that that was mentioned in a second email from the OP to her.

          2. Kyubey

            There’re also people who make food from menstrual blood too… perhaps she could make red velvet cake or brownies with her own and offer them to her lovely colleague as an apology for daring to be a human being with normal biological functions. (This is a joke probably shouldn’t really do that without permission anyway)

        4. Jesca

          Honestly, I am at a point where I am so sick and tired of this crap, I would go get a lawyer right now. A really really excellent lawyer. It wouldn’t even matter if I would win either, because if my employer feels so embarrassed about me having to use basic hygiene products, think how embarrassing it would be form them to be drug through a court case about their reaction to their embarrassment. I would laugh the whole way through.

          1. Troutwaxer

            This. Because if a lawyer sends them a letter, the whole thing will escalate straight to the employer’s legal department, and a ton of hurt will crash back down on the HR dept.

          2. essEss

            This! The OP was written up for having a perfectly legal product in her personal car. A legal product, I might add, that has no reason for being vilified since it is simply a variation of a compression bandage. Either they are being written up for having a product used by women (which is definitely hitting the harassment laws about disciplinary actions for being female) or they are being written up for having personal hygiene products in their own personal vehicle so anyone with basic band-aids in their office desks must also get written up.

          3. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!

            Especially when it’s framed as harrassment and the attempt to harm future job/career opportunities because of the write up. However IANAL, but I’m sure there is a creative way to frame this IF the company decides to dig in and not remove the write-up and issue an apology. The OP could possibly have a suit.

        5. Arya Snark

          Same – and as a peri-menpausal woman with dysmenorrhea/probable endometriosis, I would have A LOT to display.

    1. Circus peanuts

      I am personally trying to stop gossiping in my life but this might be a good time to tell your coworkers what happened. The comment section here is exploding in outrage and I think your colleagues will have a similar reaction. You can cover your rear by saying that you didn’t want anyone else getting in trouble for breaking this rule (and please check your employee handbook to see if this rule is in there) and you wanted to give people the heads up.

      Also, is anyone else dreaming of having multiple employees getting pads and placing them on their dashboards as a show of solidarity? And if your company has a charity drive for those less fortunate than you, I heard that feminine products are desperately needed. Bring in enough to make a tower on the first day ;)

      1. Savannnah

        Seeing as how the coworker in question is a trans woman, I don’t think we should be encouraging the OP to gossip or looking for solidarity about this issue.

            1. Specialk9

              Savannah, you’re not helping the trans cause by siding with a vindictive bully just because she’s trans. In fact you’re actively hurting it.

              1. Savannnah

                Sing it with me: *I’m not siding with her.* We get to do both: be upset and help the OP and be concerned with the nature of the suggestions for responses. We have that ability.

                1. Tricia

                  But you are saying that the situation should be treated differently because the coworker is trans by not doing something (getting support from coworkers) that she would otherwise want to do.

                  As described she’s been the victim of a ludicrous complaint and her coworkers, especially the women, are entitled to know that not only do they have a coworker who is going to be snooping around their cars and God knows where else looking for things to be offended about but that also management is going to back that person up when they complain.

                2. Savannnah

                  I think the OP should do everything in her power to rectify the situation- she was wronged for sure. I think encouraging everyone else to put pads in their cars or show up with very visible tampons at work as some collective show of solidarity is a…response that’s unnecessary- no matter how good it feels to suggest.

                3. Guacamole Bob

                  If I’m reading your comments right, Savannah, I see where you’re coming from. The (mostly joking) suggestions to make a giant tower of sanitary products for donation like the cereal letter from earlier this week, fill the car with them, gossip about it, wear them as jewelry, etc., have the potential to make OP look… insensitive in her response?

                  The complaint itself is so over-the-top ridiculous that it’s obvious that the complainer has some sort of hang-up. If the complainer were a man, or even another cis woman, it might come across as funny to tweak them about that hang-up through showy public displays, which basically amount to public ridicule. But since the complainer is a trans woman (a group that has historically endured insults related to menstruation and whether they’re “real women” without a period) that sort of response comes across as much more mean-spirited and potentially really hurtful. Good comedy punches upwards in the power structure, not down.

                  This deserves firm push-back with HR, but respectful and professional is the way to go here.

                4. Jesca

                  Siding with the trans coworker here for her excuse is like siding with a man who says feminine hygiene products because the woman is purposely being disgusting AT HIM. Both of these share to commonality that women wear pads and maxis AT other people as opposed to just, ya know, needing them! You cannot side with someone who is upset that some women are born biologically and have functions that come with being biologically a woman. That would be like a woman who had to have her uterus removed complaining because other women around her have pads in their car. I think everyone is just trying to point out that coming up with an excuse to be angry at other people just because you do face hardships in other ways is never OK. The woman who turned this woman in is actually behaving extremely aggressive to biologically born women.

                5. Slartibartfast

                  In response to your assertion that putting feminine hygiene products in view as protest, let’s give it the gender test.
                  Would I respond the same if it was a male co-worker? Yes. Cis female? Yes. Gay male? Yes. Lesbian? Yes. Agendered co-worker? Also yes.
                  Race? Yep, wouldn’t make any difference if the co-worker was white, black, Hispanic, Asian, or purple with pink polka dots. My reaction would be the same.
                  Religion? Nope, that makes no difference either. And a LOT of religions consider menstruation “dirty”. If anything, might push back harder if that was the case.
                  Learning the offended party is transgender female is irrelevant. She’s still got no basis for complaining about a NORMAL product incidentally visible in a private vehicle.

                6. Savannnah

                  Slartibartfast- I agree with you that the coworker has no basis for her complaint at all.

                7. LilyP

                  Sorry you’re getting piled on here Savannah, I think you’re making a valid point. There are actual material differences between a cis dude who’s uncomfortable because ew cooties and a trans woman who may have complicated & personal feelings about menstruation. Like, obviously those feelings are hers to manage in a way that doesn’t impact her co-workers and she was out of line here, but I also think we can and should take that context into account in any responses we’re suggesting. I think some of the sort-of-joking suggestions like covering your car in pads or whatever ring as funny to me when the assumption is you’re “punching up” at a clueless cis dude but feel uncomfortable if you’re doing them in response to a trans woman. There’s just a lot more baggage in that situation.

                8. LBK

                  Yeah, I think LilyP explained it well – it does make a difference here that it’s a trans woman. The complaint is patently ridiculous, for sure, and that this woman might have complicated feelings about menstruation by no means justifies getting the OP in trouble. But I agree that I’m not especially comfortable even with jokes about what would basically amount to rubbing it in her face that she doesn’t menstruate, something I’m sure she already has to contend plenty among the other ways people probably try to discount her as not a “real” woman.

                  The fact that you would do the same thing if it were a man or a cis woman doesn’t matter because those groups of people don’t go through the same experiences and wouldn’t be coming from the same place with their discomfort about menstruation. We often do and should give minorities special treatment in certain ways by recognizing where their experience is going to be different than other people’s and adjusting our behavior accordingly.

                9. patchinko

                  i hear you Savannah, even if some other people don’t seem to. i think LilyP summarized things perfectly and anyone who thinks Savannah is siding with the complainer should read that comment.

                10. Just Employed Here

                  I don’t think Savannnah is siding with the complaining co-worker at all. I think she’s making case for being compassionate.

                  I do, however, think that the complaint as described by the LW is soooo far beyond reasonable, that the complainer has effectively cried “wolf” (or in this case “transphobic harassment” or “yuck, biological functions”, or whatever the actual complaint was) and has lost any credibility she may have had if the situation had been more debatable (like if there had been an actual tower of sanitary products coupled with actual previous transphobia).

                  Of course there’s still no need to actively hurt the feelings of the complainer, but it seems she’s so good at finding something to get hurt by that it doesn’t really matter how considerate her colleagues are trying to be.

                  So I wouldn’t bother tiptoeing around her either. I would certainly tell all my colleagues what happened (they deserve to know HR and the manager are bonkers) and would fight to clear my record.

                11. Ex-Humanities student

                  I get what you are saying, Savannah, and this is compassionate, but we also have no idea if the woman who complained did it because she is squeamish or a prude (as are a loooot of people about menstruation) or because it was a much more personal issue.
                  The OP might have some idea here, depending on the context.

                  Another thing is that she didn’t ask the OP directly if she would be okay to not show them, or even make a comment basically asking to keep them out of her sight (which would not be okay either, but it could at least be dealt with more directly). She WENT TO HR to get OP to be written up. That’s a very aggressive move, which impacts the OP in a professional life and I thing it really mitigates the compassion we might want to feel against any hypothetical feeling this woman has against menstrual products.

                12. Piny1

                  Look, Jesca, remember the LW who had a coworker flip out on her for using the word furbaby, and come to find out it was a touchy subject because she’d had a miscarriage or some similarly painful thing? Say the unhinged coworker had escalated that to HR. Would it be fair to push back against a ridiculous (and effectively sexist) punishment? Hell yes! But would it be okay for the LW to, say, cover her cubicle with cat photos in pastel baby shower themed frames, or buy a “PROUD CAT MOM” coffee mug just so she could flash it in front of her grieving coworker? No, fuck no. That would be really mean-spirited and unfair. And it would be deeply insensitive to the real and reasonable pain that is clearly a relevant factor in all this. The LW’s coworker did an extremely assy thing, but responding with an aggressive reminder that SOME women DO menstruate would inevitably create the same implicit shaming and harassing pressure to hide biological realities that you’re so het up about when it occurs in a context you personally relate to.

                  And for the record, no, nobody gets harassed for being cis. Women are harassed for being women, both cis and trans. And we still live in a world where trans women’s reproductive and sexual health is categorically neglected by care networks, where trans women must submit to irreversible sterilization in order to get usable identity cards, where until recently their trans status meant that in at least a few states in this country their rapists could not be convicted of rape, and where progressive people like yourself feel totally comfortable casually using language that implies that their bodies are artificial and contrary to nature, not “biological.” That context shouldn’t be handwaved away here, and acknowledging it doesn’t sabotage feminism overall.

                13. LBK

                  That would be really mean-spirited and unfair.

                  Yeah, I think this sums it up – the fact that she can’t menstruate would make responding with a grand showing of menstrual products not an act of defiance about something you shouldn’t have to be ashamed about, but rather a cruel act of doubling down on something that’s understandably sensitive to her.

                  If a coworker snapped and started screaming at you for talking about your pregnancy/baby and it turned out it’s because they were dealing with fertility problems, that wouldn’t excuse their behavior. But if you responded by posting 100 pics of your baby all over your cube and increasing how much you talked about it, you’d still be an asshole, too.

                14. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Yeah, I get that — I was thinking of the joke responses as targeting HR/the company for taking such a misogynistic stance, but if they’re seen as targeting the trans coworker, it does become punching down rather than punching up, and that’s not okay. My apologies for not more clearly delineating that.

                15. Guacamole Bob

                  @Piny1, thank you! I’d been trying to think of an analogy here, and yours is perfect.

                16. sfigato

                  Total aside, but the punching up/punching down thing bugs me. I mean, I get it, and I understand how shoving tampons in the face of a guy is different than shoving tampons in the face of a transwoman, but it often boils down to, “it’s totally fine to be a jerk to this person because I perceive them to be in a position of power/privilege” which is morally a little tricky to me, in that being a jerk to someone is rarely the best choice, and people you perceive to be in positions of power or privilige are often dealing with their own ish. Maybe the issue isn’t so much if you are punching up or down, but the fact that you are punching.

                  I just see that phrase used a lot in lefty circles as a way to justify being a frigging jerk. I mean, op should push back and push back hard, but it’s hard for me to see how being vindictive and crappy about this would be the right decision, no matter the gender of the complainer.

                17. Gazebo Slayer

                  @Piny1 and LBK: these analogies are great, thanks!

                  @sfigato: Punching down is definitely worse than punching up, but I’ve been deeply uncomfortable with the idea that punching up is *always* OK since seeing it used elseweb to justify stalking, harassment, and literal graphic death threats.

        1. Circus peanuts

          That may be why HR sided with the nosy one, fear of looking like they are not sensitive to trans issues. But this isn’t a trans issue. It is someone projecting their squeamishness into a write up in an employees record for having a normal item that was in a bag in a car in the parking lot.

          1. Savannnah

            I’m not sure it’s sqimishness- we don’t know why the coworker reported it. I agree the OP should totally be able to have pads/tampons in her car/desk/purse wherever without HR compliants. But I’m alarmed at the suggested response of the comments given the new information.

            1. Penny Lane

              Why? Is the world supposed to pretend that cis women don’t have periods just to avoid upsetting trans women with a reminder that they don’t?

              The person who reported the OP for products in her own car was in the wrong. Whether that person was male, female, cis, trans, white, black, or purple.

              1. EvanMax

                The coworker being trans doesn’t change how wrong they were to complain.

                But it does change the appropriateness of responding by wearing diva cup earrings, or creating a tower of tampons in your cubical, or various other responses suggested.

                Going on the offensive with menstrual products against a trans woman could be hurtful in ways that do nothing to resolve the situation, and only escalate it into a legitimate complaint for the coworker. The fact that “She started it” doesn’t justify what would otherwise be seen as a horribly offensive act (the targeting of a trans woman with menstrual products being the offensive part, not the menstrual products themselves.)

                1. Amber T

                  @Purple Jello I think it’s an overcorrection on their part here. From the coworker’s perspective, she’s being targeted because she’s a transwoman. In general, that would be a pretty serious offense. But instead of taking the time to really assess the situation, figure out if this coworker is being targeted because she’s a transwoman, and then attempt to explain to her that no, we do not believe this is an attack on you (which LEGAL BATTLE?!?!), they reprimanded OP, which was probably “easier.”

                  For the record, I don’t think this was right by any means and OP should absolutely, 100% follow Alison’s advice and push back (nor do I think she was targeting or attacking this coworker, less anyone take my comments out of context).

                2. Luna

                  The feelings of the coworker are really irrelevant, she is clearly an over the top ridiculous person. However, the LW should NOT do any of these jokey responses and start putting menstrual products everywhere- not to spare the coworker’s feelings but because it is bad advice for the LW and would do nothing to help her. The LW should focus on pushing back to HR and the manager and get them to remove any record of the reprimand.

                3. Jules the Third

                  Punch up, not down.

                  Push back with HR and the manager, because as Countess Bouchie says, OP is not having a period AT her co-worker and OP needs to be able to handle her natural biological function.

                  Don’t escalate with the ‘in your face’ retaliation jokes posted here. Context does actually matter. A cis-male or cis-female coworker would be punching up or at worst sideways; a transgender coworker is punching down.

                  I do think OP has the right to ask that HR / mgr handle any future complaints of this type by holding firm on the rights of people to handle their natural biological needs, even when they make coworkers uncomfortable, instead of trying to make it OP’s problem.

                4. essEss

                  This would be identical to a person being written up for having pictures of her children in her car when one of her coworkers is infertile and the coworker filed a complaint. Infertile people endure comments and taunts about their fertility but they do not have a right to police what a coworker stores in their own car as long as the item is legal and safe.

                5. Elara

                  Why is everyone saying punch up not down when this is a biological male/amab with institutional support behind her ludicrous complaint, against a woman for the sin of menstruating? It’s not punching down when it’s a male perpetuating stigma against female biology, where lacks of access to menstrual products keeps girls out of school and menarche often justifies child brides? The trans coworker’s womanhood is valid, but sex is a bigger access of oppression than gender identity. This is sexism. Sex discrimination is illegal. Keep that in mind.

              2. Anion

                Yes, the world is supposed to pretend that. That’s why performances of The Vagina Monologues are being/have been canceled in some places, because how dare women get together to discuss, or watch performance pieces about, common issues related to being women.

                1. Not willing to be attacked

                  Yes most trans women old enough to be in the workforce today grew up with male privilege whether they wanted it or not. The erasure of cis lesbians is a real issue in the queer community.

              3. mb13

                And what if another female employee got pregnant? Is the trans coworker going to be triggered everyday because of it? Is it reasonable for HR to disciplinary punish the hypothetical pregnant employment for being a living reminder that the trans coworker isn’t a biological woman?

                This coworker is being ridiculous and HR are being ridiculous for thinking that just because an employe is trans they have to bend to their every whim or they are considered transphobic.

                1. General Ginger

                  Please don’t use the term “biological women”. It implies that trans women aren’t really women, but “biological men”, and is transphobic. Cisgender is the preferred term to mean non-transgender folks.

            2. Tricia

              I am finding it difficult to think of any reason for the complaint that doesn’t paint the complaining person in a very poor light.

              1. Lynca

                Possibly the co-worker is experiencing harassment (not from the OP) or they have come from a very toxic workplace, thus have a skewed perspective.

                Both those would be reasons why this may have happened but don’t put the co-worker in a terrible light. I’d be sympathetic to that situation. And ultimately it was HR and the OP’s boss that made the call for a reprimand- not the co-worker.

                1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

                  That’s what I was thinking… If there has been a pattern of harassment at this workplace OR if the complainer has been harassed at previous workplaces, I can see her having an “alarm sensor” that has skewed too sensitive. This is still not a reasonable thing to complain about and it’s on the complainer to recalibrate that/manage their personal feelings, but I do think its a very different situation (and warrants a different response) than if the complaint came from an “ew, menstrating is gross and shameful. Hide all evidence of it” place.

                  I’m also wondering (and this is total speculation, but it’s the only thing that makes the HR response make sense) if the complainer might have painted a somewhat inaccurate picture when speaking to HR. Maybe they said something along the lines of “OP had menstrual products all over her car, clearly displayed to make me feel uncomfortable”. Obviously HR should have investigated further (if this were the case) before moving straight to a write up.

                  Again, though, if the complainer has been experiencing harassment at this workplace, and HR has been involved – well, I can see maybe everyone being a bit too quick to complain/issue write ups.

                  Still doesn’t make it ok, and the write up should NOT remain. It does make situation seem a little less absurd.

                2. Ex-Humanities student

                  You are really reaching, here. There is no evidence at all of harassment. And I tend to think that if the woman has no issue complaining about sanitary prodcust to HR, she would have done it about real harassment. And this HR would have done someething about it, considering how fast they are to write up people.

                3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

                  @Ex-Humanities student I don’t think it’s a reach at all. I live in a incredibly liberal/progressive East coast metro area and it’s still extremely common for trans women to experience all sorts of harassment – I’ve witnessed it and I’ve heard it about it first hand from trans friends/acquaintances

                  I think it’s very possible (maybe even likely) that the complainer has experienced or witnessed harassment – if not from this workplace than from another or in their personal life.

                  I’m just saying I think it’s a very feasible context that paints the complainer in a more sympathetic (though still not AT ALL acceptable or “morally correct” light). We can be sympathetic to the context the complaint was made within while still agreeing that the complaint was unreasonable AND that HR mishandled the issue.

                4. Ex-Humanities student

                  Oh, well, yeah, I think it is pretty much a given that this woman has experienced harassment, as a woman and as a trans woman.

                  My comment that you were reaching refered to this workplace specifically, and that we might imagine that she reacted disproportionately to something minor or innocuous after being targeted repeateadly, in a “straw that broke the camel’s back” kind of way. But that is being overly generous and based on nothing in the letter. And this person doesn’t particularly inspire sympathy, being so aggressively litigious, nosy and sexist.

                5. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

                  I do agree that there’s no evidence of harassment in this particular workplace, which is why I noted that it’s pure speculation.

                  I think I’m kind of looking at it from the opposite direction you are… Perhaps HR was so quick to write up the OP because there were other incidents of harassment (not involving the OP and perhaps even unknown to the OP). No evidence of it the letter – so it’s just a theory – just one that makes a lot of sense to me.

                6. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

                  Actually… let me re-word this. It’s the only explanation that I can come up with up that makes HR’s response make any sort of sense (again, not ok, but just like I understand what the thought process was) and it’s a reasonable theory given how likely transwomen are to experience harassment.

                7. Happy Temp

                  Respectfully, how would the contents of someone’s car be considered part of a pattern of harrassment? Why would someone being harrassed make a point of looking into someone else’s car? I guess if one is feeling vulnerable, one is in constant vigilance mode. (I’m also now curious how the coworker knew it was the OP’s car in particular, but that’s probably irrelevant.) Still, I cannot wrap my mind around this whole situation.
                  I’m curious if anyone here knows if any law about “reasonable expecation of privacy” extends to the contents of a car in an employer-owned parking lot..? Hmmm.

            3. Observer

              It doesn’t really matter why the coworker complained. When you go looking into someone’s car and complain about what you find there, having that thrown in your face is a reasonable reaction. Trying to protect someone because they may have “complicated feelings” is not compassionate at ALL.

              This is especially egregious because while the suggestions about Towers of tampons etc. are almost certainly a joke, letting people know what happened should NOT be a joke. And, it’s not something the complainer should be protected from, trans or not. This person is a vicious snoop and people have a right to know that.

              1. tangerineRose

                At least the co-workers should know that this is currently considered an offense that will be written up. Is that gossiping? I’d want to know.

                Also, seriously!???? What is wrong with the world when something like this gets a write up?

        2. Lux

          I don’t think it matters that they’re trans- they’re still really in the wrong for complaining about it & the other co-workers should show solidarity with the OP.

          1. Tricia

            Whether they are trans or not is completely irrelevant. It was a ludicrous complaint that should have been dismissed immediately, possibly with a warning to the complaining transwoman not to spy in other people’s cars.

            That the letter writer actually had to even answer this complaint let alone was written up for it is bordering on insanity. She’s fully entitled to seek solidarity among her fellow workers and if they think less of the transwoman because of it then I am afraid she fully deserves that.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale

              Yup. The response to the co-worker should have been, “So? What people buy and keep in their cars is their own business.” Trans shouldn’t even come into this equation. Would the complaining coworker have done the same for a man who stopped off at a drugstore and bought pads or tampons for his wife or partner? Yes or no, answer is the same. Some days, people infuriate me.

              I take that back. MOST days.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago

                This is a great comment. Someone else mentioned that their male boss occasionally buys products for his three teenage daughters. They are a biological need for roughly 50% of the population and there is nothing wrong with anyone buying them. Full stop.

                1. many bells down

                  When I read the letter to my husband last night, he pointed out that he might very well have had pads in HIS car, if it was his turn to do the grocery shopping.

                1. nep

                  (Actually I can’t really believe we’re all discussing this. I think it’s a hoax and someone’s having a good chuckle. Because REALLY?!)

            2. PW

              Agree with this wholeheartedly.

              I didn’t realize the co-worker was trans when I wrote my first comment (hadn’t seen Alison’s update) but that doesn’t change my thoughts on the matter. The co-worker had to have been actively looking through the windows of the OP’s car to see the maxi pads. That’s snooping and is wrong. It’s not like the OP is waving the maxi pads in the co-worker’s face and taunting them.

            3. Elizabeth H.

              Right I wish we didn’t know the gender of the coworker at all because it’s COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT. Is the idea that the person who complained is triggered by the sight of menstrual products? Does she ever go to a grocery store, a bathroom with a tampon dispenser, an airplane bathroom, a drugstore, or look at Instagram or facebook? (As a woman in the 18-40 age range I get about a million menstrual product ads on instagram and facebook on a daily basis!) I feel like being triggered by the sight of menstrual products is similar to someone who has a debilitating phobia of toothbrushes or some other generic, commonly found item. She can go out of her way to do all her shopping online so she never has to go to the drugstore or grocery store and see them by mistake, avoid donating blood, and avoid working in any kind of medical setting. But it wouldn’t be reasonable for her to demand that her coworkers refrain from ever displaying a bandaid on their skin in a visible location, or not display them in their cars, right? Nobody could expect that. It reminds me of the letter where to accommodate a coworker’s OCD, employees were asked to wear only symmetrical jewelry (needing to wear a ring on the other hand if you wore a wedding ring or similar), it is beyond absurd.

              1. Piny1

                Dysphora is real and something some trans people do struggle with and this comment is insensitive and transphobic.

                1. Lara

                  Dysphoria is absolutely real. But this comment is not transphobic. The commenter is talking about reasonable accommodations. If a person is experiencing dysphoria or mental illness they need to manage it, rather than push the impact onto their coworkers.

                2. Elara

                  Asking cis women, nonbinary afabs, and trans men to hide the truth about their bodies to make biological males comfortable is sexism. That is an unreasonable accommodation to request. Preferred pronouns? Fair. Preferred name? Fair. Access to women’s facilities? Fair. Hide the truth about menstruation from people without a uterus, who grew up perceived as not having one, someone excused from all the sexism involved in female healthcare, luxury taxes on menstrual products, and the overall stigma of being a “””bleeder””” is unreasonable. Making the excuse they feel bad they don’t have periods is not equivalent to the people with periods dealing with what comes with that. Dysphoria should be managed by a psychologist, not every biological female in the world.

                3. General Ginger

                  @Elara, please don’t call trans women “biological males”. Trans women are women.

                4. Elara

                  Trans women are trans because they’re biologically male. If you want to understand dysphoria and transition, please learn the difference between sex and gender.

              2. Elizabeth H.

                I realized I switched from toothbrush metaphor to bandaid metaphor midstream. Oops. Yes, my point is that I don’t think “don’t have your shopping that includes maxi pads visible in your workplace parking lot” is a reasonable accommodation.

                I would be potentially sympathetic to the coworker’s feelings (in general) if it had been explained as a phobia or a mental health problem, but it wouldn’t change the fact of the sheer outrageousness and absurdity of HR writing up the LW. Honestly, even if the coworker had a phobia or trauma associated with these products and the entire staff had been asked by HR not to display them publicly on the company’s grounds, I still find being written up over it unreasonable because it is such an unusual accommodation. As it is, we’re left with the assumption that the coworker was offended that menstrual products were visible in someone’s car. If we didn’t know the coworker’s gender, we would assume that coworker complained because menstrual products are shameful and vulgar to display (as has happened in previous letters) and that management shared this opinion, rather than that the objection was based on gendered products like menstrual pads being offensive to trans people.

                We actually still DON’T KNOW that this is the case (unless the letter writer has supplied more information in the comments and I missed it). The comments on this post are full of examples in which a woman expressed the notion that menstrual products/references to menstruation are inappropriate and should be hidden at all times, and full of examples in which a man expressed the notion that menstrual products are inappropriate and should be hidden at all times, so I think it’s completely plausible that a cis person or a trans person, of any gender, could also have this opinion.

          2. Jules the Third

            The fact that the coworker is trans doesn’t matter to OP’s response to HR / manager.

            It does make a difference in any non-official or social response OP makes. All the semi-serious suggestions about telling coworkers, and jokes about tampon earrings and iPads assumed the jokes would be punching up at a cis-male or cis-female. Now that we know it would be punching down, OP should limit her reaction to just the official pushback.

            1. Anion

              I don’t see it as “punching down,” at all. Not when the OP’s workplace has made it clear that they consider the co-worker, and the co-worker’s feelings, to be so much more important than the OP or her feelings (or her employment history or finances, since that write-up could potentially affect raises and/or promotions in future). It’s not “punching down” when it’s aimed at someone who is held above you.

              1. Lara

                Punching down relates to systemic oppression and social capital, not individual incidents. However – given other comments you have made on this post, I suspect you just hate trans people.

                1. Anion

                  I don’t hate anyone, thanks, and whatever happens outside the workplace doesn’t change the fact that in the OP’s workplace–as well as here, it seems–her feelings and career are less important than the feelings of an entitled snoop who has fits over the OP having perfectly normal items in her personal car. Women are also “systemically oppressed,” are they not? And that oppression often stems specifically from menstruation and the functions carried out by the bodies of biological females, which the co-worker in this case is happily propagating in order to punish a woman for being female in public? So who is “punching down”–the woman minding her own business and not contributing to any sort of oppression, or the person using that systemic oppression to punish a biological female for being biologically female?

                  As for the rest, I will not stoop to your level and tell you what my suspicions of you are, because unlike many here, I am not in the habit of being personally insulting to other commenters. But I will say that you know nothing about me. Keep your conjecture and personal comments about me to yourself.

                2. Lara

                  Anion; i will not, because in another comment you described trans women as ‘pretending’ and in this comment you are pretending to be commenting in good faith when you have already demonstrated blatant transphobia.

            2. Not willing to be attacked

              I don’t see how a cis female is punching up. Cis females have always been discriminated against and that discrimination starts before birth in these days of ultrasounds. Trans women by definition were erroneously labeled as male. They were afforded the privelege of being male whether or not they wanted it.

        3. Mr. Cholmondley-Warner

          Why not? What does being trans have to do with it? This is simply one idiot who was somehow offended by something completely normal.
          Some people just suck.

        4. Nea

          I think people are being distracted by “pads” and “trans” and missing the actual point here. This is the perfect opportunity for all the employees – including the original complainer – to gather in solidarity around a rule that personal items of ANY kind in a personal vehicle are off-limits for comment, much less complaint.

          And I say this as someone who once snooped around a coworker’s car because I was thinking of getting the same model… and saw leopard-print fur-lined handcuffs looped over the gearshift. None. Of. My. Business.

          1. Eplawyer

            Exactly. Its in a PRIVATE vehicle. Its legal to have. If youn are offended dont look in other peoples cars.

            I have to wpnder if the company would have done the same thing if it were a package of condoms. As noted the trans thing is a red herring. This is someone looking for something to be offended about and the company went along woth it because feminone prodicts are icky.

            1. Julia

              But then, what if OP had had the pads in her desk or taking them into the bathroom? I mean, of course cars should be private, but isn’t the actual issue that OP got penalized for visibly having items she needs due to her sex and biological needs, which is completely bizarre.

            2. Adlib

              “This is someone looking for something to be offended about”

              Yes, exactly. This is just so out there in searching for offense that makes me wonder if this person has something personal against OP. My brain just can’t compute a reasonable explanation for this otherwise. I mean, it was a package in a bag in the backseat! For the love.

              1. nep

                Exactly. Jeeeeeeeez we’ve got to have trigger warnings for sanitary napkins in our shopping bags in our car?! Seriously I want this to be a hoax — it’s just beyond…beyond…

          2. Not a Former Reality Game Show Host

            I can’t agree with the rule stated so broadly. If I saw an AR-15 clearly visible on the back seat of my co-worker’s car as I walk past my co-worker’s car, I would probably inform HR that the weapon is there and conspicuous (and I’d hope the co-worker merely forgot to lock it in the trunk of the car).

            Can’t imagine any potential safety threats from personal hygiene items or condoms or fuzzy handcuffs, though.

            1. Aitch Arr

              Having one’s AR-15 in their car would probably be a violation of some employer policy. Having condoms or fuzzy handcuffs wouldn’t be.

              1. Not a Former Reality Game Show Host

                “Would probably” does not equal “actually is.” I just checked my employee handbook, and while firearms are prohibited from the office building, the handbook does not discuss firearms in employee parking. Where I live, a person can legally transport their gun on the dashboard or backseat of their car if they choose to do so.

            2. Nea

              Apples and oranges. Having an unsecured weapon visible in a vehicle is two kinds of illegal in my state (unsecured and not in trunk) – making that a police matter, not an HR one, although I’d probably tell HR I was calling the police.

              1. Not a Former Reality Game Show Host

                “Apples and oranges” is my point; co-workers should ignore a colleague’s personal items in the colleague’s car that are visible through the car’s windows, unless the personal item is something that indicates the colleague poses a danger to the workplace. Empty vodka bottles might mean the colleague is driving (to work) drunk. Or maybe the colleague is sober and forgot to put the bottles in the recycling bin.

                In my state, it’s legal to transport an unloaded gun/rifle in a car. Of course, I wouldn’t know whether it’s unloaded by seeing it through the car window. I would rather contact HR than call the police for something that “seems off” but might have an innocent explanation.

            3. RVA Cat

              This. I can see there being issues if someone’s car has a bong clearly visible, or has a Confederate flag decal across the back window (note: my workplace is majority PoC).

        5. Marvel

          As a trans person: please stop.

          You’re putting us on a pedestal here. YOUR comments are the only ones that are making me uncomfortable.

            1. Lag Maggie

              This might be too late for you to see, but I’m a trans woman and I’ve appreciated the arguments you’ve been trying to make, Savannah.

              1. Marvel

                Thank you for adding your perspective–my comment came off very “AND I REPRESENT ALL TRANS PEOPLE” which wasn’t my intent.

        6. Yorick

          The fact that the coworker is trans is absolutely irrelevant to what OP should do about it.

        7. Observer

          Why?

          You keep on suggesting that somehow that fact that the complainer is trans should act as some sort of shield.

          The OP doesn’t need to get into trans or not. But there is actually very good reason for people to know that this person is a snoop. And the fact that she’s trans has no bearing on that reality.

        8. mb13

          So… stupidity knows no differences between genders.
          “Hey ladies I wanted warn you about leaving pads around, Lysa Arryn (thats seems like an appropriate name for the coworker) saw my pads in my car and went to HR and I got written up for it. I dont want anyone else to get in trouble” sounds perfectly acceptable.

        9. RUKiddingMe

          OP should absolutely encourage solidarity. Who will be the next target of this anti-cis woman bullying?

        10. JamieS

          You specify we shouldn’t encourage OP to look for solidarity because the coworker is trans. This tells me you’d find that an acceptable course of action if the coworker wasn’t trans. Is this true? If so, why do you think it’s acceptable behavior to treat a trans person differently than you would a cis person?

      2. LT

        There’s a post going around on social media about a boy in school who’s carrying around feminine hygiene products as a sign of solidarity because the school was forcing everyone to carry around clear backpacks after the Parkland incident.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Seriously. I know this is not evolved of me to say, but when I read the first letter, my brain went: “FUCK THAT MISOGYNISTIC NOISE.”

      And if you’re generous, pick up some Tampax pearls for your pearl-clutching busybody of a coworker.

    3. Rose

      Agreed. And this is when you bring out those three magic words: hostile work environment. This is discrimination against you as a woman. You’re a member of a legally protected group. And this is really really really not okay.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        This really isn’t a hostile work environment situation, though. It’s egregious and wrong, but it likely doesn’t meet the (very high) threshold in the legal sense.

        OP should start with Alison’s script, and if they don’t back down, then it makes sense to escalate by saying something like, “You do realize that your reprimand disproportionately punishes ciswomen for a normal and common medical condition that only affects women, right?” And then escalate accordingly. But starting with “hostile work environment” as an opening salvo is less likely to get OP results and more likely to encourage retrenchment.

        1. Specialk9

          Really? It seems like one of those perfect ‘letters from a lawyer on letterhead’ situations. This is classic gender discrimination.

          1. Runner

            Or it’s workplace harassment. The trans woman, HR, and the boss seem to believe OP is harassing a trans coworker.

            1. Observer

              Seriously? If HR believe that the coworker is being harassed, they obviously need to deal with it. But, dealing with by punishing her for HAVING PADS IN HER CAR is absolutely and completely NOT dealing with harassment. And, in fact, they’ve just insured that IF there is actual harassment, they are going to have a much harder time dealing with it because their credibility has just flown out the window.

            2. Luna

              Which is why the LW needs to push back and get this reprimand off her record. Having an official complaint added to her employee file that has to do with claims of harassment against a coworker in a protected class is a BIG DEAL.

            3. Luna

              Which is why the LW needs to push back and get that reprimand removed. Having an official complaint in her employee file that claims she harassed a coworker in a protected class is a pretty big deal.

            4. A.N. O'Nyme

              Which might make sense if OP had the pads out on her desk in full view, knowing the coworker would pass by often and see them (and, of course, has a track record of being transphobic). But for having them in her car? Most people don’t assume other people will look at the contents of their car.

            5. Jessie the First (or second)

              I agree – NOT that harassment is actually happening, but that it makes sense that HR for some reason would believe that’s the issue. Because otherwise writing up the OP makes zero sense.

              To emphasize: I’m not saying OP *is actually* harassing the coworker. If she were, there would have to be an entire an enormous backstory to all this, and somehow, someway, a normal hygiene product in the back of one’s car would have to fit into the pattern of harassment (magically). It’s just that I’m sure workplace harassment must be on the minds of the HR rep, and maybe the coworker is at BEC stage with the OP and so that’s the lens through which they are viewing this.

              OP needs to push back.

          2. Tricia

            I agree. Given the almost universal reaction in the comments here is one of incredulity and disgust I am hopeful that if she was to escalate this to higher management they would naturally side with her on this issue.

            1. Runner

              The response appears universal because the comments pointing out the trans woman, HR, and boss must believe OP is harassing the trans woman are being blocked.

              1. Julia

                What kind of inefficient harasser would OP1 be if they put pads IN THEIR OWN CAR on purpose, hoping the co-worker would seem them and be hurt?

              2. Yorick

                Also, this is a big assumption anyway. We only know that the complainer is trans, not that it has anything to do with the complaint.

              3. Someone

                My other comments here were published promptly, and I’m pretty sure that Alison doesn’t run some complicated learning algorithm on her site to parse out unwanted opinions…

                1. Gazebo Slayer

                  Yeah, I just posted a comment that got eaten by the filter for… reasons? It happens to me a lot. Sometimes I can figure out why (certain words alert the auto-mod) but sometimes I can’t.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            A stern letter is of course fine (and could be helpful if HR is stubborn), but it’s not a hostile work environment claim, so I don’t think it’s helpful to suggest that that’s the cause of action or theory of liability.

        2. Not a Morning Person

          I would use the term biological and not medical. It’s not a medical condition to have operating ovaries and uterus.

        3. General Ginger

          I wouldn’t go with “condition that only affects women” as it doesn’t only affect women.

        4. Rose

          I still would bring it up, though, because it’s at least approaching that issue. I wouldn’t sue for it…yet. But I would bring it up to HR.

    4. Glowcat

      I really can’t believe it! Alison, was it really an email or rather a quill-written scroll? It sounds a lot like “pull down your skirts, I can see your *ankles*!”

    5. Marketer

      My boss at my first job out of college was a man. One day when I had my period I took my handbag to the ladies’ room to change my tampon and when I came back to my desk, my boss came up to me and said (loudly, in our open plan office), “Ugh, I hate when women take their purses to the bathroom! It means you have your period and I just don’t want to have to think about that! Can’t you be more discreet about it?” I. Was. Mortified. And spent the rest of my time there hiding a tampon up my sleeve when I went to the restroom.

      That was 22 years ago. I wanted to believe we had progressed as a society since then, but clearly we haven’t. We’re still in the land of “Ewww…girls are icky!” Sigh.

      1. Grapey

        I had a very similar experience but I just said “Uteruses bleed. You might want to talk to someone about getting over other people’s basic biology.”

      2. General Ginger

        How does a woman taking a purse into the bathroom automatically mean period, anyway? She could be fixing her make-up, fixing her hair, applying deodorant, taking medication she doesn’t want to take at her desk, brushing her teeth, bringing in better toilet paper if the office paper is cheap, or any number of other things one could be doing in the bathroom.

        1. essEss

          I think I need to refresh this page every couple seconds because someone beats me to my comment each time, and usually phrase their comment better than mine. LOL

          1. General Ginger

            Every time that happens to me, I feel kind of encouraged, because I think it just goes to show that there are way more rational and reasonable people out there than jerks who make jerky assumptions!

      3. essEss

        It also means that they want to re-apply their lipstick after eating, they want to comb their hair or reapply their hairspray, they want to brush their teeth, or take their medication….

      4. KayEss

        I worked with a guy a couple years ago who enjoyed harping on and on about how gross periods are to the one other dude in the office, while all the women sat in silence. (This was one of several of his truly terrible social hobbies designed to make people uncomfortable.) During one of these tirades, I finally snapped at them, “Yes, vaginas are SOOOOO disgusting, curious how you’re all still obsessed with sticking your dicks in them!” Not my proudest moment, but at least it killed the line of conversation dead.

        Ultimately there wasn’t anyone at that job that I’d deign to spit on if they were burning to death, but that guy in particular was a real piece of work.

        1. Anne (with an "e")

          I adore how you handled this. The only part I don’t like is that you didn’t say that to the jerk earlier.

    6. Morgan

      Can you imagine having to pump in the car with this woman as a coworker? How many ounces did I get at work today??? Hmmm not sure I’ll just ask Brenda!

  2. many bells down

    They were private. They were in a bag in your PRIVATE VEHICLE. Maybe your co-worker should stop peering in your windows looking for things to be offended about. So mad. Can’t do words.

      1. Oilpress

        This is the first letter on this site that actually made me say out loud, “That can’t be real.” After thinking about it more, I still don’t think it’s real. There are too many people involved. Maybe I could understand one person being go special that they complained about such a thing to their manager or HR, but I can’t think of any situation where someone working in an HR department would take this complaint seriously AND write a note on someone’s file about it.

        That said, I would love to see proof of it. If it’s real, it deserves national media attention for being absolutely ridiculous. Of course, that would blow up the writer’s job situation, but I’d still want to see the public response to what is clearly an HR mistake.

        1. Julia

          Don’t you remember the poor guy whose co-worker got him fired for making his own – that co-worker stole – too spicy? That one seemed unbelievable as well, until we found out lunch thief had been having, er, special meetings with the HR lady who had fired the LW.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I understand, but Alison does ask us to refrain from questioning the “realness” of the letters because it can dissuade others from writing in.

          1. Anonymous Ampersand

            I believe I saw a comment from Alison last week saying she’d dialed back on that, but I can’t remember when or back this up in any way. I’m posting in the hope Alison clarifies whether or not I dreamed this (it’s possible, it’s been a stressful week).

            1. Lance

              Whatever may be the case there, the end fact is that questioning the validity of a letter isn’t really helpful, and doesn’t contribute to anything in particular. It would be far more helpful to have actual discussion or solutions about what’s there.

              1. Falling Diphthong

                I hate “this can’t be real” derailments. They are truly pointless, and there is no situation so mundane that the accusation can’t be whipped out.

                Exception for pointing out things that are literally impossible (e.g. There is no law in the US about visible menstrual products in a car), but usually the standard is “I wouldn’t react like this, ergo no one would.” It’s like arguing that polls are made up because they don’t say “100% of respondents agree with Cersei about Chet being a goober, because Cersei is RIGHT.”

                1. Jesca

                  I agree. A lot of people here didn’t believe that office poop spy letter a while back, but the same thing happened here a couple weeks later!!!! (I even wrote about in the open thread because the poop police here has had past issues with … ahem … appropriate behavior)

                  People are weird, as in, they don’t always react the way you would.

              2. EvilQueenRegina

                Yes, this – even if a specific letter isn’t real, there might be someone out there with a problem on similar lines that the advice might help, also in a situation like, for example, that guy who sent his boss to the wrong country that some people thought was an April Fool – if it made one person check to make sure they were booking a flight to the right airport, it was worth printing.

              3. Anonymous Ampersand

                Not saying I disagree! Just saying it’s no longer site policy in the way it was.

            2. Ask a Manager Post author

              Yes, that’s correct. I used to ask that because I felt bad for letter-writers when people didn’t believe them (and sometimes people were disbelieving of pretty non-sensational stuff), but I realized it was way too tyrannical to say “you can’t question these letters!” The comment rules now just say: “I have no way of knowing if the letters people submit or real or not. I assume all advice columnists get trolled now and then, but I don’t really care as long as the answer might be useful to someone.” But I will still jump in if it becomes derailing or unkind.

        3. Ann Furthermore

          You’re not alone. I don’t think it’s real either. There have been a few letters lately that I’ve found to be questionable.

            1. Not So NewReader

              Oh, so agreed. Just on what I have seen, I believe these OPs most of the time. But even if the letter is not true, we have lost nothing because we had an enlightening and informative conversation. I can’t think of a better response to prank letters, address it intelligently, learn from it and move on. The only person who did not grow themselves was the prank LW themselves. The rest of us are just fine here.

          1. LouiseM

            Me too. I actually assume a LOT of them are fake or even embellished, but agree with Alison that sometimes the advice would be helpful to someone in a similar but more plausible situation. In this case, there is basically no advice (just yes, this is wrong) so I don’t see how it helps anyone else because it’s so outlandish. The main point of the letter seemed to just be to get commenters to speculate on whether trans women are jealous of “biological” women, which is not what I hope to see on this site.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Half my answer is advice about what to say when she pushes back.

              My sense from emailing with the letter writer is that it’s real. I don’t print letters that I think are fake, although I’m sure sometimes I miss one. (But I also don’t think there’s a huge community of people sending in fake letters to advice columns. I’m sure it happens but I doubt it’s super frequent. I get a huge amount of mail at AAM and most of it is run of the mill, as is usually reflected here.)

            2. Perse's Mom

              How on earth would that be the point of the letter when there’s no *mention* of it in the initial letter, only buried in the comments section as a sidenote?

            3. Delphine

              That’s completely unfair. The LW didn’t even mention the coworker was trans, we wouldn’t know if Alison hadn’t informed us.

          2. Muriel Heslop

            You are so fortunate. I deal with the breadth of humanity in my job as a middle school teacher and I am actually surprised the letters aren’t more outlandish. People are astounding.

          3. essEss

            I think it’s very likely real. I’ve worked in some absolutely bizarre places where common sense has never made an appearance. I’ve listened to people try to file grievances over things that make your head spin. I watched a coworker storm into a C-level meeting and accuse the people in the room of deliberately sending electricity from their meeting into her keyboard to shock her at her desk.

        4. Technical_Kitty

          I once got in trouble for showing up at the office instead of going to site (I was instructed by my boss to go into the office, which was seconded by the VP) after I was on quarantine for a possible illness that was easily spread. It was one of the flu type virus’ that were especially bad to introduce to small communities but easily contracted in a an international airport, and I had a low grade fever after traveling back to the country I was living in at the time. I had a low grade fever for a couple days, stayed/worked from home a few more, got a doctors note clearing me and then went into the office. Then apparently someone freaked out and I got pulled into an HR meeting and reprimanded. HR people are usually fine, but don’t underestimate the incredible stupidity possible by humans.

        5. Annie Moose

          There have been multiple letters over the years about people getting in trouble for having menstrual products at work/needing to deal with their period at work. I don’t find it very unbelievable myself.

        1. Liane

          Next Act: Complainer and Unthinking HR open up a dialog on accommodating Complainer’s menstrual products phobia by transferring them to a building/floor where no employees are premenopausal cis women who still have uteri and/or female to male transgender who still have periods.

          1. Julia

            How would they even verify who menstruates and who doesn’t without causing an enormous amount of outrage? Would people have to disclose everything or do they just assume who menstruates? I’m 28 and female and I don’t because I’m on a special pill to help with my endometriosis – but does that mean I want to be moved into another office? I’d be talking to a lawyer before HR could even say “period”.

    1. namelesscommentator

      I am actually quite scandalized at the idea of leaving visible items in a car, but that’s city life for you…. (& could fully imagine somebody saying “please don’t partake in high risk activity for crime in a work parking lot … like leaving visible valuable items in your car”

      I’m a bit jealous you live in an area where the bag was still there when you got back, OP!

      1. Marzipan

        I know the cost of sanitary products is a real issue for many women, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them ‘valuable’…

        1. Not Australian

          Hey, our car was broken into and a bag full of *rubbish* (i.e. used tissues and sweet wrappers) stolen. Leaving anything visible can be enough in some areas, but in others you’d get away with it. Presumably the OP’s workplace has secure parking…

          1. Jady

            Completely unrelated but reminded me of this.

            A few years ago, I accidentally left my car doors opened. I’m usually pretty good about keeping them locked.

            The next morning someone had clearly been in my car. All my various stuff was thrown around. There was also my collection of CDs sitting in the passenger seat spread out.

            Nothing was stolen. Apparently my taste in music is that bad.

            1. Short fuse

              Ha! I had my stereo stolen out of my car once. The thief had obviously gone through all my cds but left them all behind.

            2. many bells down

              My sister-in-law used to have a really old Bronco that she stopped locking after the 3rd time her windows got broken. After that, it became clear that someone was sleeping in her car at night, but nothing else got stolen.

        2. Gaz112

          When my wife was at university, someone broke into her car and stole a bag of dirty washing……..

          1. Princess Loopy

            When I was in grad school, someone broke into my ancient, beat up old Honda, stole the (not visible) change in the ashtray, and drank the dregs of a 3-day old Frappucino. Never know what will tempt someone.

            1. FoxyDog

              Someone once stole the ashtray itself from my car. I think they were mad, because it appeared they had tried (and failed) to steal the car and the stereo.

          2. KHB

            When I lived in Chicago, someone broke into my friend’s car and stole an empty CD case.

            When my boyfriend lived in Washington DC, someone broke into his car and stole absolutely nothing. (He did have a bag on his back seat that looked like a laptop bag, but wasn’t.)

            1. SpaceySteph

              My mom always used to tell us to hide stuff not because it was really valuable but because replacing a car window is expensive.
              My friend’s grandfather wouldn’t even lock his car, for the same reason. He’d rather someone just steal his stuff than break the window to do it.

              1. SusanIvanova

                My brother had his window broken and his college textbooks stolen. Window was covered by insurance, the far more expensive books were not.

              2. DDJ

                Related: my sister’s car was broken into so many times (busted windows) that she stopped locking it.

                One day she went out to her car and everything was pulled out of the console and glove boxes, change scattered over the seats…but nothing was missing. Her sunglasses were still there, clothes, a few other miscellaneous items. She had $10-$15 in change in her cup holder, and it was all still there. Just tossed all over the front seat.

                But there were tampons (still wrapped) strewn all about, along with everything else. Near as she can figure, the would-be thief grabbed a bunch of stuff, then opened up the console to find tampons, threw everything down in horror and ran away.

            2. Kelly L.

              Yep, this happened to a boyfriend of mine too, though not in DC. He had a messenger bag that looked vaguely laptop-ish. The cops later found some pages of his homework fluttering around the street–they think the thief got pissed when they realized it was just papers and threw them everywhere.

          3. General Ginger

            This happened to me, too! And I wasn’t exactly dressing in anything nice in college — most of my stuff was thrifted. So, dirty, old, mostly heavily used clothing.

        3. Blah

          When I worked retail in a high homelessness part of San Francisco, toilet paper was, like, one of the biggest things that got stolen. We couldn’t keep the restrooms stocked to save our lives. Locked toilet paper holders would just get the locks broken.

          Knowing San Francisco, I have absolutely no doubt they’d smash a car window to get sanitary pads. Easier than getting through the shatterproof plastic lockboxes in the stores.

        4. essEss

          Ha-ha… when I was in college, some friends and I were going to go on an overnight trip in the morning so I packed a small backpack with a change of clothes and a small bag inside with some sanitary pads. I slept on the couch in their living room so we could leave early in the morning together. When I woke up in the morning, the apartment front door was wide open and someone had actually stolen my bag from right next to my head where I was sleeping, along with a friend’s wallet that was on the table near me. We went out into the hallway and there was my backpack with everything pulled out… the little bag was pulled out and had been dropped further down the hallway with all the pads scattered around. I think the thief was pissed when he opened that bag because it did look like a wallet.

        5. Not So NewReader

          Valuable. With the whole heroin epidemic we have a new value system. Things that can be sold for a few bucks now have more value than they used to have. A family member said in her area people take change out of the console of the vehicle. If you leave your change it WILL be gone.

      2. Specialk9

        I totally get that belief, but it’s not universal in all cities.

        I grew up in a city known for poverty, drugs, and violence and after I moved to a city with jobs and low murder rates, was aghast that my partner left parking quarters out in the open in his parked car. That’s just not done! Your windows will be smashed within minutes! But he’s never had any trouble with it, and over the years I finally started doing it. I wouldn’t do it back home though.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Yes, it does depend on where you live. I grew up in an middle-middle class area. We locked EVERYTHING.
          Where I live now, people lost the key to their house 30 years ago and still have no sense of urgency to find it.

          I so get the idea of hiding things in your car so they cannot be seen. But if I talk that way around here people look at me oddly.

      3. WillyNilly

        I live in NYC. I once had the doors to my car stolen – taken right off at the bolts. But my ashtray change, CDs, even a leather jacket on the seat, all were left untouched (by the door thieves and anyone who walked by between the theft and me finding my door-less car).

        1. Eye of Sauron

          Only two plausible explanations, either the walkers by felt bad for you and didn’t want to add insult to injury or they thought they were being filmed as some social experiment or really really obvious police sting operation by the police.

          Either way, holy buckets that’s crazy!

          1. WillyNilly

            Well the other plausible, and probable, explanation is, the majority of people are not thieves and the door thieves only wanted the doors.
            I have walked by vehicles with open trunks or doors, or empty running vehicles, etc, and never considered stealing. Considered closing the trunk or door, yes, grabbing contents, no.

        2. General Ginger

          One of my cousins got his hubcaps, windshield wipers and bumper stolen. This was in Moscow in the 1990s.

      4. mrs_helm

        Working in a small town in ’99, someone broke into my ratty VW Golf – while paskred at work – and stole my CD case. Jokes on them, it was full of Christian music CDs… Man, I miss Audio Adrenaline. (starts new playlist…)

      5. Jules the Third

        heh – at the university my dad taught at for years, one of his students had his old, broken down car stolen.

        They had to push the car to start it, and stole it anyway.

        He went to the police station to report it, an incoming officer said, ‘wait, I think I saw that in the parking lot’, and they found the thief was at the station paying traffic tickets.

        Some people will steal anything. I just don’t keep anything in my car and leave it unlocked, to avoid the window getting smashed. If they want my carpet dirt they can have it.

      6. Elizabeth H.

        I don’t think it’s that unusual? One of my family’s cars actually doesn’t lock at all and I park it on the street where I live (a safe, but totally urban) area. I don’t like leave my laptop in there, but nothing has been stolen including quarters and bags of bottles/cans for redemption.

      7. tangerineRose

        Where I live, my rule is to not leave anything that looks valuable in a visible spot. I’m not sure if that really works, or if I’ve been lucky. I wouldn’t have thought that these would be high theft items, but sounds like it depends on the area.

    2. Anonymous Ampersand

      I presumed that the LW had been giving the offended party a lift. I am flabbergasted.

    3. A.N. O'Nyme

      I would put a note saying “Nosy Nancy :) ” on the bag in the future. She can’t complain I called her that because how could I know she’d read notes that are in my car?

    4. Rincat

      In a lot of states, your car is considered an extension of your home and personal property, even when not parked at your residence, so…yeah. You can keep weapons in it, smoke in it, do whatever because it’s YOUR PROPERTY. So I’m boggled as to why she was written up for something on her PRIVATE PERSONAL PROPERTY.

  3. Jane D'oh

    If a man is so sensitive that seeing a package of menstrual products sends him into a tizzy and offends his delicate sensibilities, he shouldn’t be in any kind of position with authority. I’m surprised OP 1’s coworker can leave the house. He might be around a woman using said products.

    OP 1, is there a woman in HR or in management that you can go to about this? This is just wrong and I am angry on your behalf. Men should not be allowed to treat women this way. It’s a biological function, not the plague.

      1. Hills to Die on

        If only Alison could interview these people to find out What the Actual F@^k is going through their heads…

        1. Hills to Die on

          And I still cannot wrap my head around this. Are these people normal and sane in their other job-related duties because this is seriously odd and illogical.

    1. namelesscommentator

      The LW indicates it was a woman who lodged the complaint. Doesn’t make it right, but it does add a layer to it. I’m wondering if it was a clueless man in HR feeling uncomfortable questioning a woman complaining about visible menstrual products.

      This is all kinds of WTF.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I had a short email exchange with the letter writer, and the person who complained, the HR person, and her boss who wrote her up are all women. (For the sake of being thorough, she also mentioned the coworker who complained is a transgender woman, but I don’t think that changes anything.)

        1. JamieS

          So a woman who has never had a period and never will? I think it changes things. It doesn’t change your answer but it does makes more sense for someone who’s never experienced a period (or the joys that come along with it) to be put off by feminine products than someone who has. Not sure what HR’s problem was. Do they just write up every complaint or was the write up just an acknowledgement someone complained but not an actual disciplinary write up? So many unanswered questions.

          1. sacados

            I mean, I can definitely understand, in that context, how seeing those items could be painful for a trans woman. But that said…
            1) you should be able to separate those feelings from the logical reality which is that there is nothing wrong with someone having toiletries in their car, visible or not. Unless there’s some larger pattern of harassment and/or bullying that made the coworker think the LW deliberately placed the pads in view of Coworker in order to taunt her or something. But that’s a leap — and taking the letter at face value as we always try to do here, there’s nothing to indicate anything of that sort.
            AND
            2) As many people have mentioned, it seems astoundingly lazy and poorly judged that HR actually decided to pass the complaint along, rather than doing their job and explaining to the complaining coworker that people are allowed to have things in their car.

            1. Yvette

              ‘Unless there’s some larger pattern of harassment and/or bullying that made the coworker think the LW deliberately placed the pads in view of Coworker in order to taunt her or something.’ Could HR have thought that was going on? Or could they have worried about being perceived as insensitive to a transgender woman and may not have reacted the same had it been a man or a sis gendered woman?

              1. Observer

                If that’s what HR thought then the whole workplace is incredibly toxic or they are incredibly incompetent. The pads were in her car in a bag! So Ms. Complainer actually had to LOOK FOR THEM.

                1. Seriously?

                  I agree. If she were leaving pads on the coworkers desk it would be harassment. Having them in the backseat of her car is just normal.

                2. Mickey Q

                  My back seat windows are tinted. You would have to get up close and really look hard to see what was in the bag.

              2. many bells down

                Yeah I kind of wonder if HR got really worried about being perceived as hostile or discriminatory, and didn’t stop to consider that the complaint was meritless regardless of the genders (or genitals) of the people involved.

                1. Scarlet

                  Yes, it’s not just ridiculous, but also obviously a form of gender-based discrimination. I’m truly curious to imagine what the coworker was exactly complaning about? “A woman had her periods at me”?

                  Marginalized and oppressed people too can be bigoted. If coworker had deep-seated sexism issues before transitioning, they didn’t magically disappear. And we all internalize a lot of sexism unfortunately. It might be “painful” for coworker (but the what next… is she planning on petitioning to force supermarkets to hide tampons behind a black curtain?), but her reaction is rooted in misogyny and bigotry.

                2. Mookie

                  Agree with you there, Scarlet.

                  Not that I see a lot of it belowthread, but with respect to the case of the co-worker who finds tampons discomfiting, we don’t need to extrapolate from her identity debunked essentialism, where women can’t understand womanhood if they lack or have an excess of specific body parts or their bodies don’t perform certain functions. Trans women have long been demonized as oppressors who are Jus Jellus of pillow-soft cis vulvas and magical period blood, like these, along with sugar and spice, are what make us all women.

                  In this instance, I’m also going with Occam: we live in a culture that is performatively grossed out by menstruation because menstruation is coded as female. No one is immune to that, that includes women and includes people who menstruate but aren’t women. So that’s the likely explanation here for ALL of these women dropping the ball (the boss and the HR rep are also female), not that this one trans woman is a failure or an especially witchy witch with whom we need to be excessively, handwringingly disappointed in. Members of oppressed and marginalized classes are still human, still weak, still fall for the same toxic bigotry none of us are entirely immune to. I don’t know what this woman’s boggle is, but as a woman who’s known women all her life, I’m sure as shit not shocked at finding one in the wild who thinks pads should neither be seen nor heard of.

                3. Thlayli

                  I think there is a good chance that the complainer is someone who thinks that cis women are being cis “at them”. There are definitely people who think that way – remember the time a university in Britain wasn’t allowed to show the “Vagina monologues” because it was considered to exclude women without vaginas? Or the multiple complaints about people using signs on the women’s march that used images of female sexual organs?

                  I can definitely believe that there exists somewhere in the world a trans woman who believes their female coworkers should hide all evidence of menstruation to avoid reminding trans women that they can’t menstruate.

                  I can also totally believe that HR is so afraid of being accused of transphobia that they didn’t stop to think that they were being sexist by enforcing this ridiculous request.

                4. fposte

                  @Thlayli–it’s possible that I’m missing an event, but the only universities I can find that stopped performing The Vagina Monologues are Mount Holyoke and American University in the US, and it wasn’t forbidden but a choice of the theater company that presented it annually before. It *has* been forbidden by some governments, such as Uganda, but I can’t find a university that’s banned it in the UK.

                5. Thlayli

                  Fposte you are right, I made a couple of minor mistakes in my earlier post. I read an article (I believe in a British newspaper) that mentioned the play being banned (this was their word) for excluding transgender women at a university, and also mentioned students at a British university protesting a prominent feminist on the grounds that they considered her to be transphobic so they didn’t want to hear what she had to say about feminism. I got the two universities mixed up.

                  I’ve also googled it just now and found that the reason the play was not performed in the American university was definitely because some people felt it was offensive / exclusionary / unfair to trans women.

                  I don’t think it really matters whether this happened in the US or Britain, or whether it was “banned” or “cancelled after being performed for many years”. Either way, there are people in existence who actually think that cis-women talking about vaginas onstage is somehow offensive to trans-women.

                  Since people who believe that clearly exist, I don’t have any difficulty in believing that there are people in existence who that that cis women being open about their periods is offensive to trans women. A minority of trans people do actually seem to believe that cis people are being cis *at* them.

                6. fposte

                  @Thlayli–yes, I’ve no doubt that all kinds of people can have dumb reactions to all kinds of things. Just clarifying that no authority told the students they couldn’t present the plays; that the students, mostly cis women themselves, decided they didn’t want to do so.

                7. JB (not in Houston)

                  @thlayi
                  “there are people in existence who actually think that cis-women talking about vaginas onstage is somehow offensive to trans-women.”

                  I don’t want to derail, so I’ll just say that maybe you should read a little bit more about that issue before talking about it because I believe you are oversimplifying the complaint some have had to the point of misrepresenting it.

              3. Tuxedo Cat

                That’s the only way to me that would make sense. I feel like that would be really hard to prove in this instance.

            2. Tricia

              “Unless there’s some larger pattern of harassment and/or bullying that made the coworker think the LW deliberately placed the pads in view of Coworker in order to taunt her or something. ”

              They were in a bag in her car in the parking lot! You think she went out and bought them, along with other pharmacy products, put them in a bag and left them in her car all because she knew the coworker would go snooping around her car and wanted to discomfit her?

              1. One of the Sarahs

                If there was a wider pattern of harassment, THAT it what HR should be focused on. It makes no sense to only focus 1 incident that would be very, very difficult to prove – while presumably allowing the other harassing activities to continue.

                (I completely understand microaggressions, but this (a box of pads on the back seat of a car, in a bag with other materials) is a real reach, without other things to go with it)

            3. LKW

              Let’s unpack this issue for a moment since HR didn’t bother to: If one of the women gets pregnant, does that mean she can’t come to work for fear of upsetting this woman? What if one of the other women is infertile? Does she get to register a complaint too?

              HR panicked. This is absurd. Go back to HR. Get the file removed. Don’t discuss with your co-worker because she’s a little unhinged.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago

                The other thing is that we don’t even know if the nature of the complaint was being transphobic. LW only included the info about the complaining coworker as an afterthought, which makes me think it wasn’t the actual focus of the write up.

                1. Jesca

                  Yeah, I think you are right there. Internalized misogyny is a hard mindset to break! Every day, I am more enlightened to my own preconceived notions as well! Like how if women like a certain type of product, all of the sudden it is mocked. That NEVER occurred to me before until someone linked it here! I don’t know what is going through the heads of the people at OP’s job, because you would think that at some point some rational person would have went, wait, what exactly are we doing here?!

              2. mb13

                I wrote the same things above. It seems like the HR took the approach of “A trans employee had a complaint, we must do what ever they say with out a moment wasted on logical thinking, other wise well be viewed as anti trans”

                I hope the LW immediately goes to a lawyer and brings the hammer down on the company. The natural consequences will roll out from there

            4. LavaLamp

              Question; if pads in the car is taunting this woman, then what is the tampon machine in the ladies room, a full out attack on her lack of menstruation?

              Had I been in this situation I’d have pointed out that it’s really interesting that I can’t have in my car the same things that are in every public ladies room. In fact, you can probably use that argument when you tell them this is a baseless disciplinary action.

              1. Not So NewReader

                Great question, where do we draw the line here? I was thinking of private areas for women to pump their breast milk, do we get rid of those too?

            5. JamieS

              Honestly, and this is probably going to be insensitive but I’m saying it regardless, I don’t think it matters whether or not seeing the pads is painful for the coworker. If OP did something that specifically targeted the coworker that’d be a whole different jar of cookie dough. However, based on what we know, the only thing OP did is have something that she needed in her car and being sensitive to others shouldn’t extend to the point of being punished and/or made to feel ashamed for possessing something you need.

          2. LouiseM

            To me it still doesn’t make sense at all (not least because many trans people have themselves been subjected to obscene invasions of privacy, probing questions about their genitals, etc.) Many people might assume that trans women would never have use for menstrual products, but actually some people who have had bottom surgery do use maxi pads as dressings during the recovery period. So it’s not out of the realm of the possibility that this woman actually has some experience with maxi pads. In any case, this whole situation is so ridiculous, you can’t make this stuff up!

            1. JamieS

              Making more sense isn’t the same as making sense. I’m with you that the complaint is ridiculous. My point was, at least in my mind, it makes more sense for someone who’s never experienced a period to be less sympathetic and more prone to complain about a feminine hygiene product than someone who has. So starting out I was completely baffled on why a woman would complain about something like a pad but learning more I’m now slightly less baffled but still as enraged as I can be on behalf of another person.

              1. Scarlet

                But why would they be more prone to complain though? They never realized that women menstruated before?

            2. Cambridge Comma

              We all have strange coworkers and some of them make strange complaints on occasion. The actual problem is that HR ran with it.

              1. Juli G.

                This. People are strange as hell and complain about really dumb things sometimes. HR should coach someone politely as to why their complaint is dumb.

              2. Anion

                I suspect HR and the boss were so busy falling all over themselves to virtue-signal their “acceptance and support” for the transwoman, and patting themselves on the back for being so open and caring, that they neither noticed nor cared that they were throwing the LW under the bus. What do her feelings, finances, and career plans matter when there’s a chance to display their open-mindedness by punishing a woman for having menstrual products in her own personal, private vehicle, bought with her own money on her own time? She should take one for the team so they can make themselves feel good.

                1. Tea

                  That is a strange and presumptuous conclusion to jump to, and just about as likely as the prospect that OP is actually some mustache twirling bigot who fabricated this whole thing as an attempt to discredit trans people after harassing her coworker. Why imagine some wholly unlikely (especially given our current political climate and the virulent transphobia of our society) drama about backpatting and virtue signaling when it’s just as likely that coworker, HR, and co. are among the many, many people who consider menstruation taboo and unspeakable and unmentionable in all situations?

                  Did you consider all of the other instances where people wrote to Allison about being reprimanded for having pads an instance where their managers had “a chance to display their open-mindedness by punishing a woman for having menstrual products […] so they can make themselves feel good,” and get all up in arms about virtue signaling and discrimination against cis women so people can ~feel good about themselves~? I somehow doubt it. The situation isn’t wholly wildly different because of the genders of people involved.

                2. Anion

                  Actually, Tea, it’s the same hypothesis several others have expressed, just with different wording: HR was so busy making sure they seemed “inclusive” and “supportive” and “pro-trans” that they sacrificed LW without noticing or caring.

                  And no, I don’t think the other letters are situations where managers were doing that; the situations in the other letters had absolutely nothing to do with this situation. I would still think any HR that backed up someone complaining about pads in a woman’s car was completely messed up and ridiculous, and was going out of their way to coddle someone who shouldn’t be coddled. The mere fact that so many people in this discussion are talking about “oppressed classes,” and actually urging that we view the co-worker kindly and that the co-worker’s “identity” completely changes both the complaint and how the LW should feel and respond to it, supports my point more strongly than yours, frankly.

            3. Slartibartfast

              I haven’t menstrated in nearly a decade, but there’s pads in the first aid kit in my car for exactly this reason. They are excellent wound dressings. This tip was taught to me by a male search and rescue instructor.

              1. Susan Sto Helit

                A friend of mine sliced her hand open on a broken glass at a party once where we were all drunk, and couldn’t find where the first aid kit had been stashed. Guess what we ended up using to staunch the blood…

              2. Not So NewReader

                EMTs told me the same thing, too. I was very impressed with this information as at that time I always had a maxi or two with me. We are pretty rural here and it’s not unusual to be the first on an accident scene. I was pleased to find a way that I might possibly help if need be.

          3. Mookie

            Eh. Heaps of women have never and will never menstruate. As someone lacking testicles, I don’t get a shiver of disgust up my spine at the sight of an obviously soiled jock strap, so this unacceptable and invasive primness is probably not about this woman’s gender alignment or about trans women’s myriad experiences in general. No one is immune to cooties-style misogyny; that something is alien or unfamiliar to us does not make us automatically shrink from it unless we’re trained to, and we’re certainly trained to view the insides and outsides of girl’s and women’s bodies (cis and trans alike) as simultaneously up for grabs and extended discussion and also too dirty for public viewing.

            These people — boss, HR, corporate — need every available ass handed to them in short order.

            1. Thlayli

              I’d get grossed out by a soiled jockstrap! Soiled under garments are gross, regardless of gender or sex.

          4. Observer

            Anyone who is such a delicate flower that the sight of something that they went looking for(!) is going throw them into such a tizzy needs to stay home or get some help for their nosiness and hypersensitivity.

            The OP said that she was “written up”, told “not to do it again” and to “keep it private.”

            1. Lara

              Usually, a car is pretty private. Unless of course, people choose to peer through the windows.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale

                I have occasionally peered through a window or two. Usually by accident. Do I remark on what I see? To myself, sure. “Whoa, my co-worker’s car is SO DIRTY,” is a thought that has gone through my mind. But I also have the sense to keep those thoughts to my damn self, because that is what the most skilled of the nosy people know how to do, and because, as you say, a car is generally pretty private.

                1. Fiennes

                  Right. The only way I’d report something in a coworker’s car would be if it were a child or pet locked in and left there. I wouldn’t even report a weapon minus (a) previous troubling behavior and/or (b) the presence of a very large number of weapons.

                2. General Ginger

                  I’ve peered through a coworker’s car windows once, because I was considering buying the same car and wanted to see how roomy it was, but I can’t imagine then complaining about the contents of the actual car. I felt creepy enough even looking, and were I in the same situation again I’d probably just ask coworker directly.

            2. mb13

              If someone is in so much turmoil over seeing a common place item, I dont think they are ready for work environment (or really any social environment). They should probably take a considerable amount of time to improve their mental state that seeing a simple object would not send them to a dysfunctional spiral.

              1. Not So NewReader

                This. The world is not going to rally around this person to protect them from seeing pads.

          5. MM

            I mean, every kind of person exists out there somewhere, but in my experience trans women are exponentially more conscious about misogyny and every other kind of gender dynamic under the sun than just about any other group of people. The fact that it was a trans woman of ALL POSSIBLE PEOPLE who did this is really shocking to me.

            1. Scarlet

              I’m shocked too, but we need to remember that we all internalize toxic shit and oppressed people are not immune from it.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Feminine hygiene products have been used in some contexts to be explicitly transphobic, so I could understand someone feeling triggered only if there was a reason for them to think OP did it to attack their femininity or their identity as a woman.

              But if there’s no context other than the pads were in OP’s car (which sounds like the situation), then I don’t think there’s a transphobia issue, and the coworker’s behavior is out of pocket.

              1. CityMouse

                I find that odd too. There are plenty of cis women who don’t menstruate either (like a friend of mine with endo who takes medication). The idea of merely having feminine products being transphobic is absurd. Some people seem to think everything is about them.

                1. General Ginger

                  @Detective Amy Santiago (are you updating that handle to Sergeant soon? :) ) I should hope not, given that I am frequently that very man. I can definitely, unfortunately, think of a number of situations where menstrual products can be used in transphobic ways, but the idea that simply having them is transphobic is utterly ridiculous.

                2. Detective Amy Santiago

                  @General Ginger

                  Exactly!

                  (and maybe, we’ll see how the rest of the season goes lol)

              2. Mookie

                That’s a good point in the first para.

                From everything Alison and the LW say, this complaint has come out of nowhere. While it doesn’t apply to this letter, I’ve never really been directly involved in mitigating complaints or suspicions of bullying or harassing so I’m not sure: is it common to name the person complaining to the person being complained about? I’d’ve thought there’d be some privacy there, though obviously in this case there doesn’t really seem to be the need for any.

                As I said above, someone going bananas over pads is not novel to me, but it’s really bizarre that the boss and HR think this is somehow the LW’s fault. The only reasonable response would be to advise the complainer not to peer into people’s cars if she’s liable to be offended by the presence of commonplace items like hygiene products with the added warning not to bother the LW about this because it is not a discussion / confrontation they welcome in their workplace. Enabling this kind of nitpicking nosey Parkerism is not a good sign.

              3. Annabelle

                Yeah, I’m wondering if the pads triggered a painful memory/flashback for the coworker. That’s obviously no excuse for what she did, because holy hell it’s shitty, but I can’t think of any other plausible explanation.

                1. Mad Baggins

                  Same. I can only imagine the coworker going to the pharmacy, going down the aisle to pick something up that happens to be next to the period stuff, and some bigot yells, “Why do you even need that?” Then, as coworker walks back to the office, she sees the pads in the car. I can see why that would make her feel really awful, but that’s not OP’s fault/problem.

            3. Specialk9

              That’s been my experience too, with my trans friends being unusually dialed in on gender issues. If there’s anything that makes you take a protracted hard look at gender issues, it’s the feeling that you’re being misclassified and might want to switch sides.

              But of course, people will people. Some people are made vindictive rather than empathetic by suffering.

              1. Mad Baggins

                “Some people are made vindictive rather than empathetic by suffering.”
                Wow, this sentence just sums up something I was not understanding about the world. Thank you.

          6. Emi.

            No, it’s still ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to be “put off” by women just living our occasionally bloody lives, and it’s even more ridiculous to get HR involved. OP is being discriminated against for being female, and that’s misogyny, no matter who is doing it.

          7. Muriel Heslop

            So someone with a fertility issue should report a visible pregnancy test? Or diapers? In my car?
            Being empathetic to someone doesn’t mean we all stop living our lives – it means we act with compassion when dealing with someone face-to-face. It’s not like OP #1 came to work with a pad stuck to the middle of her forehead.

            My students are enthralled by this. They are all on the autism spectrum (high-functioning) and think this is really silly to be upset about. And they don’t understand why women – any women – would care about “that stuff” (None of the boys have been able to bring themselves to say “pads”. But they’re 13.)

            Good luck, OP #1!

        2. LittleRedRidingHuh?

          Oooh, I can’t even…the complain came from someone, who most likely knows from personal experience how hard it can be to BECOME/BE a woman and still….this is even sadder than I thought.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Yep. OP can get a new job elsewhere and this is over. Coworker’s problems run a bit deeper I am afraid.

        3. bunniferous

          Pardon me while I sit here and try to figure out what is so offensive about a feminine hygiene product in the back seat of a private vehicle……Is this in Colorado,because I want to ask what these people are smoking….!!!

          1. Sled dog mama

            Clearly not Colorado, I’m reasonably sure that this level of WTF doesn’t come from smoking that.

        4. CityMouse

          In my experience, people who are trans are pretty much the same as everybody else in that they are all individuals who are different. That means some of them happen to be jerks, just like everybody else. This doesn’t change my reaction at all.

          1. Tuxedo Cat

            I don’t think there’s any demographic of people where there aren’t at least a few jerks.

        5. Runner

          It suggests the trans woman, HR, and the boss all believe OP is harassing the coworker for not being a biological woman.

          1. fposte

            I think that’s the likeliest explanation for their reaction, but it’s still an inappropriate reaction to the OP’s having sanitary pads in her car. I can’t see any way to hypothesize that the car thing is made up without making the whole letter so fanciful as to be pointless to discuss.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              Or even anywhere on her person. People who have a functional uterus need to use menstrual products and should not be punished for that.

          2. Murphy

            In the absence of other evidence though, there’s nothing to suggest that that’s what’s happening.

            1. Juli G.

              Agree. If the OP is harassing her coworker, there has to be something better than THIS to write her up for.

            2. Jessie the First (or second)

              There is nothing to suggest harassment is actually happening, but it’s reasonable to think that HR, for some reason, *thinks* it is happening (because it’s either that they think there is harassment or they think maxi pads are horrific things that are so gross and they should never be seen anywhere). Which would be useful to keep in mind when OP pushes back, I suppose.

              1. swan.feather

                Or, perhaps, HR is scared not to do something with the complaint in order to keep HR from being labeled transphobic.

                1. Gazebo Slayer

                  Or they’re stupidly paranoid about lawsuits, as we all too often see from HR folks who claim they “can’t fire” a terrible coworker because “they’re in a protected class!!!1”

                  (Which actually perpetuates discrimination, because employers are reluctant to hire someone they think they “can’t” fire no matter what. Also, technically everyone is in a protected class, as Alison has repeatedly pointed out.)

        6. Cercis

          I had wondered if the letter writer was a transgender man and the coworker was offended at having to find out that he still menstruated. This was NOT the transgendered party I was expecting.

          But now I’m thinking about all the transmen and what they must go through each month hiding this normal biological function – especially considering that a lot of men’s rooms don’t have doors on the stalls (I’ve been in positions where I had to go check things in men’s rooms, I can say that at least 50% of the men’s rooms I’ve been in didn’t have doors on the stalls – in professional offices).

          1. A.N. O'Nyme

            So you get to see each other poop?
            Hell, if the mirrors are right in front of the stalls, do you get to see *yourself* poop?

          2. Jules the Third

            wait. What?

            No doors on the bathroom stalls in a professional office? WHAT?

            Mind. Blown.

          3. Piny1

            Hey Allison? Can you maybe clamp down on the casually transphobic language all over this thread? I assume you’d intervene if you posted a letter from a lesbian and your commenters made a bunch of references to “inverts” and “homosexuals” or started calling her a “gaywoman.” The above comment is on tgat level. This is really hostile, and like your gig is human resources, so…don’t host a discussion where a bunch of people say a bunch of bigoted stuff about a marginalized group they clearly don’t have much engagement with?

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I don’t always see every comment, especially on threads this long, but if you flag specific ones I can take a look. I genuinely don’t know if there’s something I’m missing in Cersei’s comment that reads as transphobic, and I apologize for that. Can you help me understand?

              1. Marvel

                Usually there is a space between “trans” and “woman/man,” and the word “transgendered” is not generally considered correct; “transgender” is.

                THAT SAID. There are actual trans people, especially of the older generation, who refer to themselves with both of the above terms all the time. So I think couching a lack of clarity as to what language is currently considered acceptable (which is rapidly changing as trans issues gain traction and the community becomes more mainstream) as rampant transphobia that needs to be shut down is… somewhat bizarre.

                Context: I am a trans person. Does “transman” bother me? Yep. But I don’t expect everyone to keep up with something that is still rather rapidly evolving, so I don’t think it’s a sign of rampant transphobia. It’s just an issue of language that can be corrected simply by explaining to the person what the more accepted wording is.

                1. Marvel

                  Also, it drives me crazy when people slam others for things like language choice when it is CLEARLY a case of being uninformed because these issues are really only just now finding their way into the mainstream. And frankly, most of the people who slam others probably didn’t know this a couple of years ago either. It’s so easy to fix. We’re all learning. Let’s explain and move on.

                2. Piny1

                  Allison runs a prominent blog wherein she gives advice about workplace issues to people who write in from all over the country and points abroad. She has provided advice about LGBTQ issues, at least occasionally. It is very much her job to keep abreast of all of this stuff up to a point more recent than a couple years (Chavez was 2016 IIRC), and “ it’s trans man not transman” is pretty Huffpo level. I’m sorry, but I think this standard is too low. And I think Allison holds herself and commenters to a higher standard with respect to other issues, like sexual harassment, maternity/parenthood/breastfeeding/adoption/fertility, and medical privacy/disability. I’ve seen that sensitivity, and I think it is based on an affirmative interest in learning and using correct, current terminology.

                3. Cercis

                  I’m sorry, I really didn’t know that it had changed, nor that there was normally a space. Like most people, I don’t personally know anyone at this point who is trans (or at least that I know – I don’t ask people the status of their gender at birth, it is, of course, extremely likely that I know a few and just don’t know it) and my closest personal relationship is with someone who is dating a FTM and refers to him as a transman (in texts).

                  I do attempt to keep up, I promise. Can you let me know your preferred language?

              2. General Ginger

                Alison, there are quite a few comments from multiple people using the term “biological women”, which is really uncool, and a commenter calling trans women “biological males”, which is even less called for.

            2. SoCalHR

              Yeah, actually her comment is expressing empathy for what some people go through. Perhaps you are taking issue to a particular term she use? in that case it would be beneficial to *gently* point out the error and not negate the fact that spirit of the comment was empathy.

              1. Piny1

                ….right, so if an LW wrote in with some question about being gay and the comments section cluttered up with a bunch of comments about “normal marriage” as opposed to her marriage, or “biological motherhood” as opposed to her motherhood, or “normal women” as opposed to…lesbians…and just in general a bunch of strong implications that women are basically all straight, het-partnered, and conventionally feminine, then the appropriate response would be toy point out how empathetic everyone is trying to be? Or, oooh, how about if an LW wrote in about a lesbian coworker who got unreasonably angry aboutLike, some office bridal shower or something, and then a bunch of commenters came up with fanciful ways to use the bridal shower to taunt and aggravate her? Like, would this stuff start to indicate a certain level of insensitivity at some point? Would context start to become more clear?
                I don’t agree. I think that some of this stuff isn’t undoubtedly new to some people, but all the more reason to not treat it like a minor issue.

            3. Gayle Davidson-Durst

              You’re going to have a lot more luck keeping would-be allies if you acknowledge the spirit of a supportive comment and, assuming good intentions, point out a problematic word to the person who made the comment.

              Loudly assuming the commenter is a bigot who intended to hurt you with their words, and without addressing them personally first, running to the moderator is not super helpful.

          4. Elizabeth H.

            Are you in the US? I know that it’s not unheard of for men’s rooms not to have doors on the stalls, but I would say most do. I just asked my boyfriend what he thought the rate of doorlessness in professional buildings is. He said the rate is 0% and that you only see it in subway stations and malls. I have seen doorlessness in, like, clubs or bars only. I will say that there are a number of men’s rooms I’ve seen where there is only one urinal and one toilet, and the toilet is separated by a panel without a full door, so it’s like a stall but without a locking door (and usually the bathroom has a self-lock on the inside, but people don’t always lock it). But those restrooms are the kind that are more or less intended to be single use like in low traffic offices or restaurants where you typically don’t have enough public use to require multiple-stall bathrooms. Is that what you’re talking about?

            1. Cercis

              Nope, specifically the men’s rooms in the City Hall in San Antonio didn’t have stall doors, 2-3 toilets and a bank of urinals. Nor did the ones in various attorney’s offices I’ve been in (I used to have to post flyers on the doors, and in the men’s rooms I had to post them on the walls).

              It’s one reason a lot of men I know don’t want gender neutral bathrooms – in their experience not a lot of stalls have doors (I’ve asked my kids and it holds true in their high school too). It’s not a good reason and quite frankly, their reasons are still rooted in homophobia and transphobia, and I don’t think adding doors will assuage their phobias, but it’s something they point out.

              1. Mad Baggins

                Oh my goodness, if they are picturing stalls without doors I can see how gender-neutral bathrooms would seem like a bad idea. I’m picturing stalls with doors that go to the floor, and also sinks with soap and warm water, a makeup/mirror-only area, and like, a couch.

          5. General Ginger

            Yeah, it’s. Not ideal. You kind of learn which are the OK bathrooms and which aren’t.
            I don’t know if this has changed since I last attended school in my Eastern European homeland (I currently live in the US), but none of the women’s room stalls in the schools I’ve been to there had doors, either.

          6. Gazebo Slayer

            No DOORS on the stalls?

            W. T. F.

            That’s just inhumane. Especially for trans men. :-(

        7. RUKiddingMe

          This is an issue. Basically what’s being said is, “I am unable to have periods, give birth, go through menopause…etc. therefore you can’t talk about it.”

          Periods, pregnancy, cramps, menopause are all things that are part and parcel to most biological women. Not all biological women and not all of those things, but they are not part of the reality of transwomen.

          By insisting that biological women stay silent and not talk about these things (or have products in our cars apparently) it is erasing our identities as women. This is problematic it is misogynistic at its core and an extension of patriarchy.

          This has to be a gender discrimination thing and I think LW needs to push back hard on this. Lots of biological women don’t use sanitary pads but I can’t imagine anyone trying to silence another woman in this way.

          1. General Ginger

            Please don’t use the term “biological women”. It implies trans women aren’t real women, and is transphobic. The appropriate term for a non-transgender person is cisgender person.

            1. Kelly G

              Look, I’ve scrolled past you saying this at least three other times. We are biological women. This is our biology. You can’t tell us not to use language to describe who we are. That is the primary way we have ever been able to push against our oppression as biological women. None of us consented to being called cis. That is what has been put on us. I am not cis, I am a woman. A biological woman. I bleed, I get pregnant. Those are biologically female realities. It’s not my job as a woman and has never been to hide my reality for someone else’s benefit. I need you to take a step back and realize you are asking women to remove language that is integral to our experience because you may find it, or someone may find it, offensive; this is not a word we use to harm others, it is a descriptor of our reality. Much like OP 1 who is being told to erase all evidence of her womanhood from sight, you are asking the same. I will never not use this term to describe my reality, because there are women & girls who are punished, assaulted, trafficked, sold, bought, & killed for being biologically female. Understand what you’re really doing when you attempt to police our language and listen to us when we say it is misogynist & harmful.

              1. Not a Mere Device

                I am cis, and I genuinely don’t understand why you (and other women who have said this) are bothered by “cis” or “cisgender.”

                Yes, cisgender women are punished, assaulted, trafficked, and even killed for being women. So are trans women: they’re at risk both from general misogyny, and are punished, assaulted, and killed for being trans. A disgustingly large number of people think “she didn’t tell me she was trans” is moral and legal justification for men to assault and even murder their lovers.

                Also, the term “biological women” is imprecise and potentially misleading. Not everyone you’re including in that category can become pregnant; not all of them have two X and no Y chromosomes. (How many of your friends have been karyotyped?) I know I menstruate, and don’t like it. I don’t know whether I could become pregnant, only that I never have: does that mean I’m sterile, or that my contraception has always worked?

                Women like me used to be called unnatural: I’m queer, I’m an intellectual, I’m child-free by choice, I never wear makeup. I don’t benefit by narrowing the definitions of “female.”

                (As a science fiction fan, and an occasional literalist, I find myself thinking “biological female” as opposed to what–a robot? An artificial intelligence? A Shakespeare character, who has been played by both male and female actors? As far as I know, all of us here, of every gender, are biological intelligences.)

              2. Detective Amy Santiago

                This comment is incredibly out of line and harmful.

                Biological sex = male or female
                Gender = man or woman

                Someone who identifies as a woman and has female sex organs is a cisgender woman. There is nothing remotely offensive about saying it that way.

    2. LittleRedRidingHuh?

      The offended coworker is female, if I read that correctly, and this makes it even worse in my eyes. As women, we’re sadly used to getting the side eye from men, who can’t handle the fact a vagina is more than just a mythical creature. But for this to come from a fellow woman makes is ultimately so much sadder and it feels like the 50s and I’m growing curlers and losing my right to vote just from reading this…

      1. all aboard the anon train

        I worked at a drugstore/pharmacy chain in high school and women would get really weird about menstrual products. They’d get embarrassed when they were buying them, act all furtive in the aisle and sometimes wait until no one else was around to pick up a product, or side eye women who had their products visible in their carts/baskets/arms and not covered up. And this was in the early 2000s. So I’m really not surprised.

        Side note, but a lot of people acted this way about toilet paper as well, which was just as baffling.

        1. Quoth the Raven

          Right!? I can understand it from a teenager (I know I was a bit shy about people seeing me buying pads when I got my first few periods), but I’ve seen women a lot older than that being completely mortified about needing pads/tampons.

          1. MeridaAnn

            This is something I’ve been consciously focusing on lately – not showing any sign of hesitation or embarrassment when I buy pads. Even if I feel awkward, I remind myself that it’s a normal hygiene product and it’s natural for me to need it and I’m not going to waste any extra effort hiding it under other items in my shopping cart or choosing self-checkout if I wouldn’t otherwise or any of the other silly things I’ve done before to hide the fact that *gasp* I need this very common, very necessary product. It still feels uncomfortable, but I am very intentionally reminding myself when I need to buy them that there’s nothing shameful about doing so.

            1. Specialk9

              Yeah! I’ve had that same shameful buying tampon feeling, it clearly is something women are trained in by other women. It’s a sad misogyny and we should all push back.

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

              Same! And it’s definitely something to overcome, which is really frustrating to me — like come on brain, why are we feeling embarrassed about this? MOST WOMEN BETWEEN 10 AND 50 NEED TO BUY THESE THINGS!!

              1. Detective Amy Santiago

                I went to the store after work yesterday to buy some and unashamedly also bought several bags of my favorite salty snack. Because yeah, I’m bloated and crampy and miserable and damn it, I’m going to enjoy a treat.

                1. Linzava

                  Lmao,

                  During my time, you can always spot me at the drugstore. I’m the so not embarrassed woman with regulars and overnights next to the party sized peanut m&ms.

                2. General Ginger

                  When I was younger, I would always feel somehow more self-conscious when I was buying the stereotypical chocolate or salty snack along with my supplies. Like, maybe if it’s just tampons along with my groceries, I could be stocking up, but if it’s with a bag of M&Ms, someone clearly needs those tampons NOW.

                3. Chinook

                  Considering one drug store I used had coupons for half price (good) chocolate on the shelf of pads, I learned to embrace the awkwardness if it meant chocolate.

                4. Sweet Fancy Pancakes

                  Several years ago I had a coworker come back from lunch-time shopping with 2 bags of mini snickers bars, a bottle of midol, and a box of tampons. She said the girl who checked her out looked at her stuff, and said “I know EXACTLY how you feel!”

            3. Whoa

              This. I used to feel the same way, like it was some dirty secret. It was definitely reinforced when I had an ex who was absolutely mortified by the just the thought of menstruation. After we broke up I was so stressed about the implied shame that I forced myself to start talking about it and acknowledging it as a natural, normal thing that happens and it’s been so freeing. And to be totally honest, sometimes I have a lot of fun teaching my husband about “period facts” because he’s been living in ignorance his whole life. Now he’s a lot more understanding about the symptoms and doesn’t get embarrassed about picking up pads for me while he’s out at the store. It’s a win-win. No more shame, so much more understanding.

              1. Nic

                My roommate and I have a great friendship, and I’ll give him “Reason number # you’re glad you’re not a woman” tidbits from time to time. Many of them occur on my period.

                You’re totally right about the feeling of freedom of being able to talk about that stuff.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago

                  I once shared a house with another woman in her 30s, a teenage girl, and a guy in his 20s. As tends to happen, the three of us with utereses synced up our cycles. Male roommate kept track of said cycle and would often stop on the way home to pick up everyone’s favorite snack. He was one of the good ones.

                2. bonkerballs

                  Yeah, one of my best guy friends and I went through a period of time when we only seemed to be able to make plans about once a month and for about four months it always ended up being that those plans happened to land on the 2nd day of my period (which is just the worst and I would complain about it endlessly). Now it’s just gotten to be a joke with us that one of his standard greetings whenever we see each other is to ask if I’m on my period.

            4. Julia

              I don’t feel anything buying them, but the clerks always look so uncomfortable, especially the men.

              1. CMart

                I’ve obviously been lucky, but I’ve never had a cashier look anything but vaguely bored with their life when ringing up my purchases–whether they be menstrual products, Plan B, or even that time I had a cart full of alcohol and ice cream for a party I was hosting along with a pregnancy test. I was actually looking forward to that purchase but alas, I’m surrounded by professionals.

                1. Kathlynn

                  There are only a few things I’m uncomfortable ringing up. And that’s 90% on me. 9% on I don’t know what to say and 1% on a coworker who buys his condoms at work. (he’s bought them often enough he should just go to a store before hand and buy one of the large boxes before hand, rather then at 2am. But making me uncomfortable is better then unprotected sex, so what ever). One of the reasons is that we sell things that make “have a good day” seem awkward to say, like condoms or pregnancy tests (and a couple types of lube and a vibrator. At a gas station). Otherwise, I’m just well shy? about these thing when not talking about them in abstract. And I don’t judge my customers for buying them.

                2. Julia

                  I guess the difference is that I live in Japan, and the poor clerks now have to not only interact with a foreigner, there’s also a culture of wrapping menstrual products and pregnancy tests into extra brown bags so no one can see them through the flimsy plastic shopping bags, and I just go “don’t need that, don’t need a bag” and throw them into my cotton shopper.

                3. Gazebo Slayer

                  *giggles at “have a nice day” to someone buying condoms, lube, or a vibrator*

                  Wait, a vibrator at a gas station?! The “convenience” stores where I live don’t even sell pads or tampons.

                4. Quoth the Raven

                  @Gazebo Slayer: I once had someone tell me to “Enjoy your day!” just as I was stepping out of a particular kind of shop with my boyfriend. It made me both laugh helplessly and lose all my cool.

                5. Mad Baggins

                  @Julia One time at the store, I noticed they had kindly pre-brown-bagged all the feminine hygiene products in the whole aisle… As if there was something shameful about it just sitting on the shelf!
                  Obviously I bought the wrong thing by accident, since I couldn’t identify what the heck I was buying!

            5. Flower

              It helps others to do this too. I was never too awkward about it (my parents tried to raise me not to be), but going to a women’s college that made an effort to make it clear that this was no big deal eliminated the remainder (only time I feel tentative these days is when my fiance’s conservative parents are visiting). There were different menstrual supplies available for purchase anywhere things were sold (coffee shop had tampons and diva cups on the counter) and every year there was one week with daily programming dedicated to menstruation and one week with daily programming dedicated to sex (the activity) of all sorts. At this point I’m about halfway between refusing to be embarrassed about menstruation, birth control, and sex, and forgetting I’m supposed to be embarrassed about those things.

              1. Flower

                Oh yeah bras. I forget so much that bras are supposed to be embarrassing that I forget it probably goes on the list of things to be awkward about. I don’t throw all this in people’s faces… I it forget it’s supposed to be awkward when it does come up.

              2. Whoa

                I had a coworker a few years ago who was struggling to figure out how to talk to her pre-teen daughter about her period and what to expect when it came. She wanted to be open and honest without overloading her, and she told me that it was a Big Deal because when she was young, her mother referred to it as “The Curse.” It gave her some serious shame issues until she was old enough to realize that it wasn’t actually a curse.

                1. Flower

                  Yeah that sucks. There is no need for shame – honestly, that gets in the way of dealing with problems with periods. My period is a bit of a curse, but that’s because my body does all sorts of awful things (from sleep issues and increased levels of my chronic pain to menstrual migraines and constant nausea) – but that all started after a few years of unproblematic periods, and if I’d thought of periods as a curse generally, I think I wouldn’t have so quickly sought hormonal birth control to manage my new menstrual symptoms, because it’d be shameful to talk about and I may not have even realized it wasn’t normal.

                2. Merida Ann

                  That’s so sad. My mom said that her mother never even had an actual conversation with her – she just left a package of pads outside her bedroom after noticing spotting in the laundry. So my mom always wanted to make sure I knew I could talk to her about it, which I am certainly grateful for.

                3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

                  I’m very glad I didn’t have a daughter because I’ve had horrifying menstrual issues all my life (cramps so bad I’d pass out, spent a good year teetering on the brink of needing a blood transfusion – had a hysterectomy about a decade ago and it was the greatest thing to ever happen to me). It would be extremely difficult for me to call it anything but The Curse. Not something to be ashamed of but something to be dreaded.

                4. Kendra

                  My mom planned ahead and made sure there was a supply of pads available to us (my twin sister and I) under the sink and that we knew how to use them. Then she bought me a present when I actually started mine. I was still embarassed, but I think she handled it well.

            6. Emi.

              me: *buying pads*
              male clerk: Do you want a bag?
              me: No, thank you.
              male clerk: Uhhhh *blushes*
              me: HAVE A NICE DAY

            7. Agent Veronica

              One time I had to make an early morning drugstore run for tampons, laxative, painkillers and roach traps. The guy at checkout asked how I was doing. I said, “I’m buying all this at 6 am. How do you think I’m doing?” I didn’t really say it to be funny, but we both cracked up and laughed until we had tears in our eyes. Since then I’ve never bothered being embarrassed!

              1. bonkerballs

                A few weeks ago I bought three boxes of tampons (different sizes for different days), a milky way, and four bottles of wine at 7 in the morning and my cashier, who was a boy who looked like he way maybe 16, just looked at me and asked if I needed a hug.

              2. So long and thanks for all the fish

                That’s so great! I mean, it must have been an utterly awful morning, but what a great story!

            8. Liz T

              Also: not being coy about asking a friend for a tampon. (I had too many experiences in HS/college of pulling a girl aside to ask discreetly only for my dude friends to leap in with “secrets secrets are no fun!!!” So now I just ask.)

              1. tangerineRose

                Did your dude friends change their minds about wanting to know once they knew? I’ve noticed some guys are really uncomfortable about the whole thing, and for other guys, it’s no big deal (which is appreciated).

            9. Chalupa Batman

              Having a teenage daughter has turned me around on this, because I’ve had to actively model not being weird about talking about and purchasing feminine hygiene products. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it turns a 30 second conversation (“Mom, I’m out of pads”) into a 20 minute ummm/errrr fest, but I had to walk the talk. I didn’t want her (or my son, for that matter) to see me using euphemisms when my husband asked why I needed to go to the store right now or trying to rush my tampons through the checkout. It makes me sad that people are still making scenes over this when I thought breaking that chain would make my daughter’s life easier.

          2. Annie Moose

            I used to be quite nervous about it, and then I realized that I don’t actually care. At all. Ooooh, I’m buying pads and tampons! So is everyone else in the world. Get over it.

          3. Reba

            I am reminded of a time, age eleven, when I wept with mortification when I had to tell a teacher that I had to be late to class because I had to go get pads out my locker. No, not paper… MAXI PADS! aaaahhhh! I had had a major leakage during the afternoon mass. What a mess I was!

            I would be infuriated if the people around me as an adult were like, “yes, that is how you should actually feel about periods, they are extremely shameful”!

          4. Not So NewReader

            I can remember back in the 60s women talking about pads being in brown unlabeled packages at the drug store. You would go over and whisper, “I need a package of sanitary napkins.” The clerk would get it for you.

            Can I just say, the UNmarked package really defeated it’s own purpose. Everyone knew what came in unmarked packages.

            While society as a whole is much more mature about all this now, we still have people who remember those days. And we still have people who were RAISED by folks who remember those days. I remember in the 80s telling myself, “Com’on, Self, throw the package in the grocery cart with the rest of the groceries and screw what everyone else thinks.” It did take a deliberate thought to pull myself through the purchase because of invalid reasons I had been taught.

            I was very radical. I kept my pads in the bathroom where it was handy for me. My mother hid hers in their bedroom.

        2. SusanIvanova

          Reminds me of those late-night ads that start with “you’ll never be ashamed to shop in the incontinence aisle again”. I have to eyeroll – I shop in that aisle when my 70-year-old mom comes to visit, and I’m sure the only thing the cashier thinks about when they see the package is “where’s the barcode”.

          1. Myrin

            Ha! I started working parttime as a shelf stocker in a local drugstore a couple months ago and the “cotton” aisles are “my” aisles, meaning, I’m responsible for stocking the toilet paper, kitchen towels, tampons, pads, q-tips, tissues, and, yes, the incontinence products.

            I literally could not care less about the people who meander up and down next to me looking for the right adult diapers. In fact, I’m very happy when people buy them because we somehow get so many of them some days and they take up so much space in the warehouse!

            The only time I kinda roll my eyes is when people make a big production out of how they absolutely aren’t the ones needing these products, nono, these are for my aunt who happens to have exactly my size and shape. I mean, I really don’t care if they really are for your aunt or you’re just embarrassed and use your conveniently shaped aunt as an excuse but maybe stop halting my work for fifteen minutes making a fuss? Doesn’t happen often, fortunately. On the other hand, I really loved the formidable and robust older lady yesterday who asked for my advice and then, when neither I nor my boss could tell her exactly how long a certain brand of incontinence pads is (weirdly, not all of them have measurements upfront), said “You know what, I’mma buy these no matter what so now let’s see how big they are!” and proceeded to tear the package apart and unfold one of the pads. We definitely know how big they are now!

              1. Mookie

                I would love to be somebody’s conveniently shaped aunt someday. That’s like the best job ever. Your sibling’s kid has a problem? Blammo! Let me shapeshift into something that solves it.

                Solicitors barking at their door? Allow me to become a door-shaped privacy screen until they bugger off.

                Bully giving them a hard time at recess? Watch me transform into Nelson Muntz, wielding a camcorder and ordering them to stop hitting themselves as I use their tiny baby fist against them.

                Stubbed a toe? Gape awestruck at my ability to… become a new toe?

                The possibilities are limited, but (slightly) amusing!

                1. Gazebo Slayer

                  Shapeshifting is a very, very useful power given sufficient imagination. Which you obviously have.

          2. Liane

            As someone who did retail customer service and cashiering, I can guarantee that I wasn’t thinking anything other than “where’s the barcode?” no matter the item. Because I swear those things moved! lol

            1. Not So NewReader

              Some retail establishments micromanage their clerks so badly that the absolute furthest thing from the clerk’s mind is which items the customer is purchasing. The clerk is more apt to be thinking, “Did I smile enough? Did I suggest a sale item? Did I invite the customer to return?” And 27 other useless things that they must do or be fired on the spot.” Pads, condoms, incontinence products, etc, are the very, very last thing on their minds.

        3. Nervous Accountant

          That is so funny this convo comes up. I’m not shy about buying them but at one point I kept a box of them under my desk (open plan office). A few times I was a little self conscious about it and covered it up with a bag. It was tricky to discreetly put one in my makeup bag through the day. Just not something I really think about too deeply anymore.

        4. Kelly L.

          Yep, when I first saw this early this morning and hadn’t read the comments, I pictured my grandmother, of the “everything in the bathroom gets a crocheted cover-up” stripe.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          How does that make a difference? The LW is not having her period AT the coworker.

          1. Luna

            I think it makes a difference because it helps explain WHY this complaint was allowed to get as far as it did- not one, but two other people signed off on it! Clearly they are terrified of accusations of transphobia. It also matters because it changes how the LW should approach the situation now. She should 100% push back against this (even more so BECAUSE the coworker is trans, having that kind of complaint of harassment against someone in a protected class in the LW’s file is pretty serious) but should definitely not engage of any deliberate displays of sanitary products as some kind of joke, as that will only help the coworker and hurt the LW. The LW should feel confident that what she did is in no way discrimination against her coworker and she needs to make that very clear to HR; and if necessary point out to HR that the discrimination here was in fact directed at the LW.

            1. tangerineRose

              Good point. To be fair, the LW should definitely not engage of any deliberate displays of sanitary products as some kind of joke no matter who was complaining – there’s no point in making the situation worse. As it is, the LW is clearly not being treated well. If the LW started doing something like this, it would muddy the issue.

        2. Screenwriter

          It makes literally ZERO difference. Why should it? In fact, if the coworker went to all that trouble to transition to being a woman, what the f** is her problem with a woman’s normal and natural toiletry products? The whole thing is utterly absurd, and disgraceful.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          It only makes a difference if there’s a backstory relating to transphobia. If it’s sinply that the coworker is trans, then it’s not reasonable for that coworker to police the parking lot and suggest that OP’s bag of toiletries was “offensive.” (Frankly, the fact that there were other supplies lends itself to the conclusion that there’s no underlying transphobia issues specifically related to fem hygiene products.)

        4. Banana Pants

          No it doesn’t. Gender identity is irrelevant when the coworker is out in the parking lot peering into colleagues’ cars and making complaints about TOILETRIES IN BAGS in said cars. What’s truly absurd is that HR wrote up the OP rather than telling the nosy coworker to mind her own business and stop making frivolous complaints.

        5. Xay

          No it doesn’t. No one, regardless of gender, should be reporting people to HR for having sanitary pads in a bag in their car. And HR should not write up anyone for having sanitary pads in a bag on their car.

        6. Turner

          I’m trans and it doesn’t make any difference at all. The OP has every right to keep menstrual products in her car, in her desk, on her desk, in her purse, in her pockets, etc.

        7. boo bot

          It’s not like trans women can’t be officious busybodies! She looked in a grocery bag in the back seat of the OP’s car and complained *to their boss* about what was in it. That’s obnoxious and weird.

          Full spectrum of humanity in every demographic! (Step right up!)

        8. Pollygrammer

          Maybe, MAYBE it would have been, eh, almost acceptable for the coworker to ask politely if menstrual products could be kept out of her view at work.

          To deliberately snoop in someone’s car? To try to get somebody in trouble for it? HELL NO.

        9. President Porpoise

          I think anyone who is using their genitals – regardless of whether they identify with them or they have been surgically corrected – to browbeat someone else into behaving the way that they believe they should act is reprehensible, full stop.

    3. JamieS

      The complaint came from a woman and considering how woman-skewed HR is (I think around 75% of people in HR are women but could be wrong) I’m guessing OP was most likely written up by women as well. Yeah, men shouldn’t treat nobody this way but it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened here. Although a man complaining does make more sense so I’m curious what the other woman’s problem was. Is she menopausal and bitter? Overly prim and proper who thinks feminine projects are obscene? Just a jerk?

        1. Specialk9

          Yeah I don’t know any menopausal women who are like, hey, wasn’t bleeding smelly blood for a quarter of my year fun? Man I miss it. Those lucky bleeders need to be taken down a peg or two.

            1. krysb

              I have PCOS, and part of my treatment is medically-induced periods. Like, that wasn’t the part of the problem that bothered me.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago

                I’m at the point where I am going to say to my doctor “please can we just rip it out? I’m not using it for the intended manufacturer’s use so it just makes me miserable.”

                1. NotMyRealName

                  Don’t be so hasty. Perimenopause (hot flashes and periods!) and menopause both have plenty of suck to them.

                2. tangerineRose

                  My periods have generally been OK, considering the whole leaking blood thing, and I’m still looking forward to not having them anymore.

                3. MA

                  NotMyRealName, you might have offended people who don’t/won’t go through perimenopause and menopause. Gasp! *rolleyes*

        2. Lora

          Can assure you that menopause, once the “flooding” part was over and everything had well and truly stopped, was a HUGE relief. Don’t know any women who really miss the hassle and mess once the symptoms are gone and it’s over.

          You know who was sad about it – men I dated who still were hoping for more kids and weren’t interested in adopting.

          1. AnotherJill

            Yep. Once I stopped wanting to snarl at people because I felt like my body temperature was twice the normal level, it was very nice not to deal with it all.

          2. Decima Dewey

            Postmenopausal for over a decade now. I certainly don’t miss the “guess if you’re going to have a period this month, and, if so, when and how bad” moments.

            It’s possible for trans people to be discriminated against and also be complete glassbowls. And workplaces to handle trans matters badly. One transwoman in my library system was suing a slew of people. One of the administrators she was suing asked my then boss, a gay man, to testify that he’d never experienced discrimination from Administrator. Which would do nothing to prove or disprove that Administrator had or had not discriminated against the transwoman.

          3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

            I had a hysterectomy for menstrual problems about a decade ago, and I still have nightmares about Aunt Flo coming back for a visit. I’ll be walking through the menstrual products aisle at the drugstore and say a little thank-you prayer that I don’t have to deal with that horror show any more.

        3. JamieS

          Yeah, that’s predominantly a woman who’s upset over no longer being able to have kids so overreacts to signs of female fertility like feminine products.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)

            I feel like that is more a cliche about women and how we are supposed to feel, rather than an actually common sentiment among real women.

            1. JamieS

              I’ve never heard of any such cliche nor did I say that’s how women are “supposed” to feel. I don’t know why you all are apparently taking offense over absolutely nothing.

          2. Max from St. Mary's

            Think about flipping it–those young women are so envious and bitter because they have to buy tampons and birth control, and older women get to flaunt their freedom…does that sound OK?

        1. Lynca

          I had other people’s moms tell me off for having tampons when I was a teen. They weren’t for ‘good girls.’ To which I rolled my eyes and thus was not invited back. Win/Win in my book.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago

            I was a dancer so tampons were commonplace among my peer group as a teen. People are ridiculous.

          2. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand

            I ran track and cross country in high school, and after my first attempt to run a 5K wearing a maxi pad, I decided that tampons were the way to go, and I never looked back. The idea that tampons are “bad” is one that needs to die.

          3. Environmental Navy Wife (previously Environmental Gone Public Health Gone Back Environmental)

            My own mother wouldn’t let me use tampons. I was in gymnastics – it is incredibly difficult not being super, super self conscious with a giant bulky pad all up in there and attempting to do any sort of routine.

            My grandma stepped in and bought tampons, then calmly told my mother to stop being (and I quote) “a moron, for f*ck’s sake!”. Thankfully my mom’s aversion to tampons didn’t get applied to my younger sisters, who are also in sports.

          4. Mockingjay

            That was my mom. “Good girls” don’t wear tampons. Good girls also don’t use birth control to control unbelievably horrible cramps. The kind where she had to pick me up from school EVERY month from age 13 until I went to college. Instead, “Here’s a hot water bottle, dear, and some [complete ineffective] Midol.”

            (But she was on the pill forever and used tampons herself.)

          5. many bells down

            My mom was shocked when I told her my daughter got her period and I showed her how to use a tampon. “But won’t that break her hymen?”

            Well, mom, I don’t plan to let her date anyone who cares about hymens so it won’t matter.

        2. JamieS

          In my opinion? They’re not. In some other people’s opinions? Different people find any number of things obscene the least of which is feminine products.

        3. smoke tree

          Obviously she should have wrapped them in inconspicuous brown paper, then sealed them in a wooden crate, then set the crate on fire, then thrown it into the sea.

    4. alsoanon

      This is the sort of sentiment that bothers me on this site. The fact that posters here reflexively assume it must be a “Man” and that the LW needs to find a “Woman” in order to help them. Is it assumed that all men are completely oblivious to the fact that menstrual products are not a big deal on this site and that all women will be sympathetic? How far do we really want to go with this subtle but very apparent sexism/bigotry (pick whatever word you want to use so we don’t get derailed by parsing terminology).

      1. Elizabeth H.

        I see your point but I will say it’s an easy misapprehension to make. There have been at least two (three maybe? I can’t recall details of a third) letters where the letter writer either had menstrual products, or had mentioned her period, and was disciplined or had consequences in some way for it, and in the comments for those letters (and the comments on this post) there were a ton of anecdotes from commenters who have had similar experiences. In virtually all of those cases the supervisor who had censured the letter writer was a man and the letter writer was a woman, although I will say that there are also a bunch of examples here of women who have expressed shock or disgust or censure at visibility of menstrual products – just not in a “disciplined at work” way.

      2. Delphine

        Many of us have a vast collection of experiences of men who are, at some level, put off by mensuration and menstrual products. Periods are a significant part of how men discriminate against women. It’s not bigoted to point that out.

        1. alsoanon

          I am not contesting that men period shaming women is discriminatory. I am pointing out the trend of AAM and the posters to automatically assume in that situation and many other similar situations that the person engaged in that behavior must automatically be a man. More troubling, it’s implied that the LW needs to seek out another woman because only women are capable of seeing the absurdity of writing an employee up for having menstrual products visible in their car. I don’t think the LW needs to find a woman in HR to go to in order to resolve this. She clearly needs to find someone in HR that she can reason with. I am not sure how much contact with the people in HR but it’s not a stretch to assume that she knows who she might be able to reason with man or woman.

          1. Anion

            Especially when the letter specifically said the complainer was a “she,” and especially when the assumption is incorrect a large portion of the time.

            And yes, I know what you mean, coupled with the also-seemingly-reflexive “If a woman did something bad it’s not her fault and we make excuses, if a man did something bad he’s obviously scum/if a man victimized a woman she should stand up for herself vehemently, because go girl! but if a woman victimizes a man he should try to understand her reasoning and we shouldn’t condemn her for her behavior and he probably did something to deserve it anyway.”

            In this letter, the women in HR and the female boss were happy to throw the LW under a bus and punish her to prove their “progressive” bona fides, and there are still women in this discussion here (not many, thankfully, but still) who are agreeing that it would be wrong of the LW to say anything to her coworkers or do any of the funny pad/tampon jokes suggested, because, again, the feelings of the ridiculous nosy jerk of a complainer are more important than those of the LW. It makes me sad.

          2. Mad Baggins

            I mean, based on allllll the anecdotal evidence shared here in the past on this topic, and the fact that women are more likely to menstruate and have an in-depth knowledge about periods than men, I think upon reading just the letter (not the update about the coworker’s/HR’s gender) it’s sensible to assume that the period-shamer would be a man, and that a woman would be more likely to be sympathetic/understanding. Clearly, as in this case, there are exceptions to this and of course there are many men (some of them doctors!) who know a lot about menstruation. But if the coworker was mad that OP had jock straps or penis-related medical products (?? I can’t even think of an appropriate equivalent, that is how little I know) I would assume coworker is female, and suggest OP talk to a male HR rep who might more easily understand. It’s an assumption, but it’s not baseless.

            I can’t speak to a larger trend of automatically assuming anyone who has harmed a female LW must be a man, because I have not noticed this phenomenon and that is not my experience with most of the comments on this site.

      3. Jessie the First (or second)

        “Is it assumed that all men are completely oblivious to the fact that menstrual products are not a big deal”

        No. Most men I know don’t care one way or the other about periods, are not embarrassed or awkward or mad or anything about the sight of pads or tampons, and don’t think for two seconds about a woman going to the bathroom to get a pad. They do not care.

        But of the people who have ever made an issue of it to me? 100% men. As the comments note above, there are *also* plenty of women who view it is embarrassing or shameful (particularly of older generations). But in my personal experience (yes, anecdotes or not data, of course) , though the vast majority of people in general don’t care, the ones who do care have been men. That does not mean “all men are completely oblivious” in any way, shape or form.

  4. Yvette

    Words fail me as well, other than agreeing with Alison and everyone else. Oh, and to beg you to provide an update if you do push back.

    1. MA

      Agreed. It’s ridiculous that a woman was shamed and written up for having a working uterus. I hope the OP can make HR and her boss realize that they were completely out of order for discriminating like this.

  5. Aphrodite

    Note that the nosy co-worker mentioned by OP #1 was another woman. So a woman took offense at another woman’s personal hygiene product. That boggles the mind even more.

      1. LouiseM

        Maybe she is a huge diva evangelist and was offended that the coworker used the environmentally-unfriendly maxi pad ;)

        1. Melody Pond

          Ha! I’m totally an evangelist for cups and cloth pads (not the diva cup in particular, that’s my least favorite cup out there), and THIS would actually make some sense to me. Not that the complaining co-worker was uncomfortable with the menstrual products, but with the fact that they were disposable. :)

          1. namelesscommentator

            +1ing the menstrual cup love (Diva Cup is mine of choice, though!) because the accidental cup evangelist life is real.

            1. LouiseM

              One of the most uncomfortable nights of my life was when I was at a very very long dinner party, my period came early, and I discovered that every. other. guest. *and* our host all used diva cups. There was not a single tampon or pad in the whole house! That said, I do now use and love my mooncup!

              1. Quoth the Raven

                That exact scenario is one of the reasons I always carry a pad/tampon on me even when I use a cup (Yuuki/MeLuna for me) — so I can honour the Girl Code.

                1. SusanIvanova

                  Huh, I’ve still got a box of the things that I’ll (fingers crossed) never need again. I hadn’t thought of it before, but I should toss one in my purse for Girl Code emergencies.

                2. AvonLady Barksdale

                  I haven’t had a regular period for several years (continuous bp) and I have a shelf stocked in the bathroom with tampons. I have a massive bag of pantyliners. No one has ever asked for one, but they are there! Last year I had a period, used about half of the bag of pads I bought, and made sure to keep several in my work bag because yes, you never know when you or someone else might need one.

                3. Flash Bristow

                  Right. I don’t have periods but I keep a range of pads and tampons – including an incontinence pad – in my spare room, along with all the other stuff like new toothbrush, pants & socks, a travel card and local maps and takeaway menus. Stuff you might need if staying over unexpectedly. And the pads have been appreciated by friends, even just to cover them before they get to the shop to restock. People usually do restock without being asked so there’s now a good variety in there!

                  Anyway – the pads, tampons and incontinence pads are mostly free samples which you can send off for, so you only need to spend 30 seconds on a web form. No hassle. Why not have these things in case people do need them?

                  I can’t have periods – or children – but I’m not exactly offended by those who can or do, even tho I’m not fond of kids in general.

                  I just can’t imagine why HR took this complaint seriously. Are they related to or having a relationship with the complainant? That’s been the answer in the past when HR were way off base.

                  I just… Boggle. Poor OP #1.

                4. Susan Sto Helit

                  Mine are in an open-topped glass jar on the shelf behind the toilet, in full view.

                  It’s convenient for me, it’s convenient for any of my female guests who find themselves caught out, and I figure it doesn’t do my male guests any harm to have something to look at whilst they’re standing there. My bathroom, so you can learn to deal.

                  Glass jars are also convenient because you can see at a glance when the stash needs restocking. And those pastel-coloured wrappers look a lot nicer than a cardboard box.

                5. KHB

                  Once when I was a teenager, I got my period unexpectedly while I was staying at my grandmother’s house. Rather than ask someone to take me shopping, I searched the guest bathroom, and fortunately found a 3-pack of maxi pads. I have no idea how long they’d been there – the package helpfully specified that they were “for the lady of the house.” But they worked well enough. I used them all and never said a word to anyone. Thanks, grandma, for honoring the Girl Code.

              2. namelesscommentator

                I feel so justified in the pouch of tampons I keep despite not having used a single one in 6 years.

                1. On a pale mouse

                  I guess I had the opposite reaction. My decision to have a hysterectomy was not without some angst. But I love not having periods and I really enjoyed throwing all that stuff out. It was like a little party in my bathroom. I don’t really have people over so I didn’t think about keeping any. Just “Yes! I never need these again! Woo!” (BTW, I didn’t literally trash them. I gleefully threw them in a bag but then they went to a women’s shelter.)

              3. Gaz112

                Being a bloke, I realise that it’s nothing whatsoever to do with me, but mooncup is a really clever name!

              4. T3k

                This is why I keep a box of disposables pads in the house, though I fully switched to cloth pads several years ago.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago

                  @SpecialK9

                  Yes, they are generally machine washable. I used them for a while and then got lazy, but they are nice for home use. I found that using them out and about was awkward because then I had to carry around soiled pads.

                2. T3k

                  Yep, completely washable :) I use a small wet/dry bag and can easily carry several pads in it (the pads I have can fold up into a small square).

              5. Annie Moose

                Being stuck at a social event without necessary pads/tampons is one of my worst fears. Some of my favorite people in the world are women who I’m almost entirely certain no longer needed pads themselves, but still had some in their bathroom for guests! They likely don’t even know, but boy, am I grateful to them.

                Read something recently from a (cis) guy who kept pads in his bathroom for guests who needed them–it was such a lovely thing for someone to think of who never has and presumably never will use them!

                1. Future Homesteader

                  My mom hasn’t needed a pad since, oh, about the time I started using them, and even though I lived across the country for years, she always had a supply for me. It’s one of the many reasons I still think of her house as my home (even though I’m married and own my own home now. I refer to going to either place as going home).

                2. Susan Sto Helit

                  A friend of mine was recently caught out during the ‘physical activity’ part of a hen do. You’d think that in a group of 20 women the odds would be pretty good that someone had something on them, but we’d all left our handbags back at the hotel so one discreet whisper turned into another…and another. By the time someone managed to produce a tampon I think EVERYONE knew what was going on, including the one guy present. It would have been easier just to make a loud request at the beginning and save all the muttering…

              6. JennyFair

                I use a cup, and have only sons, but when you have teenage boys, you also have teenage girls in your house, and so you a) keep disposable products around and b) show your sons where they are stored. Fortunately, that shelf was often stocked by samples I got in the mail, which meant a variety.

        2. many bells down

          Oooh she’d really hate me then. I’ve got a physical problem that precludes both tampons and cups. Basically anything that goes up in there ain’t gonna work. Pads until menopause for me (which please will be any day now Crone willing).

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            Yep.

            I need pad backup even when I’m able to use a cup, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        3. Detective Amy Santiago

          Reasons This Would Make Sense*

          1. LW works for Tampax
          2. LW works for Cloth Pad company
          3. LW works for the guy who created that vaginal glue stuff

          *even then it doesn’t really make sense but I’m grasping.

            1. Mookie

              [Don’t read further if you genuinely don’t want to know]

              Not just any vaginal glue. This vaginal glue you can piss away, but is seemingly impervious to menstrual tissue and sweat.

              Also, the dude what patented it called it “lip stick” (so women can understand and covet it, I guess) and the product logo is the very definition of cutesy, patronizing grossness, even people who say “va-jay-jay” without irony would find it ridiculous. He also seemed quite angry he had to “invent” it all, but that lazy broads were too emotional and distracted to have done so so he felt he had to step in and save them from themselves.

              1. Thlayli

                So you glue your lips together and all the blood etc stays in, and then when you pee it all comes out at once?

                I think that is genius! I’m thinking especially of women in developing countries that don’t have access to pads or tampons or clean water to wash menstrual cups.

                1. Bird

                  Sorry, but are you serious? Because this product comes with a whole host of problems, not the least of which is that genital anatomy doesn’t really work that way for many people.

                2. Thlayli

                  If it works it sounds great. I obviously have no idea if it would work or not, since I’ve never seen the product in real life and my only knowledge of it is what I read in 2 mins this morning. I’d assume that it could be used on the actual vaginal opening also, for women whose labias are not big enough to cover the entire vagina. Otherwise it would be kind of pointless. But even if it only works for big-labia’d women, it would still be beneficial to them.

                  Do you have any idea how big a problem lack of access to sanitary items is in the third world? It sounds to me like a single stick of this glue could work for months, if it actually does work as claimed. So yes, I am serious about welcoming anything that has potential to improve the situation of women in third world countries.

                3. sosoftness

                  I feel like the amount of pulling and chafing on the skin as a woman goes about her daily life would be nothing short of horrific, if this were real. Which it isn’t.

                4. Thlayli

                  Worse than the chafing from the crusty blood dried into pubic hair and dirty rags that many poor girls have to use in these countries?

                  I see that is it a parody though and doesn’t exist, but I still think it would be an awesome idea if it was made and worked as described.

                5. Kathlynn

                  Increased urinary tract infections increase toxic shock syndrom and probably other issues from having your labia and butt glued together. Because you would have to glue from you clit to your tail bone up. and that’s not safe.

                6. Bird

                  @Thlayli: Wow, condescending much? Of course I understand how difficult it is to menstruate in the developing world: it’s only been a major topic of feminist activism for my entire life. But gluing your genitalia shut for any length of time isn’t actually a solution, and I imagine that there would be difficulties akin to what women who undergo infibulation suffer. Especially since the inventor of this product is a chiropractor (and not a medical doctor). Furthermore, he appears to not understand that menstrual blood is a liquid, just as urine is, which renders the whole product useless. It’s not designed for the vaginal opening, just the labia, also. That whole area is delicate and sensitive. I don’t even want to think about what it would do to the skin and surrounding tissues.

                7. Thlayli

                  @Bird, I just read back over both our comments. It’s kind of amusing actually that you think I’M the one being condescending.

                8. Anion

                  FWIW, Thayli, you have every right to think this product sounds great and like something you would use or that other women might find helpful; everyone is different, and I don’t understand why you’re being yelled at and “corrected” for being interested in it. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but neither does the diva cup, frankly, and I don’t think anyone is “wrong” or should be berated for liking those, either.

                9. Thlayli

                  Thanks Anion. I suspect the reason I’m being yelled at is either
                  1 people dislike me because of previous disagreements
                  2 people think I should dislike the product because the inventor is a jerk.
                  I don’t think I personally would use it (though I’d prefer it to a mooncup which is really not my cup of tea) but in theory if it existed and worked as described I do think it would be great for people without access to clean water / tampons / pads. At least it would be better than what they have at the moment.

                  I also realise I haven’t replied to Kathlynn yet. This product claims to work if you glue your labia together with it. Did you know the “normal” range of labia minora (inner lips) is up to 10cm long? For many women glueing the labia minora together would be all that’s needed. I already mentioned that it would probably need to also work on the actual vaginal opening, because for many women the labia minora are not sufficiently long enough. I see no reason you would need to glue “from your clit to your tailbone” as you say. Very few women have such wide gaping vaginas that the actual vaginal opening couldn’t be pushed together.

                  Toxic shock syndrome also takes hours and hours to develop – it’s why you shouldn’t leave tampons in for too long. If this product were to last as long or less than a regular tampon then it’s not long-lasting enough to cause toxic shock syndrome. It probably wouldn’t be suitable for overnight use, but neither are tampons (or presumably mooncups).

                10. Mad Baggins

                  This is really concerning. I don’t think gluing skin together in the most sensitive part of your body is going to create a water-tight seal? That would be easily removed by some liquids but not others? And wouldn’t interfere with movement in any way? That sounds really uncomfortable and dangerous.

              2. Specialk9

                He really said that last part out loud, IIRC. It was this beautifully offensive flower of misogyny.

                1. Thlayli

                  I just googled it. The comment he made was hilarious. “Women are distracted by their period 25% of the time” lol.

                  But in all sincerity I think it sounds like an excellent idea. No need to turn down a great idea that could actually improve the lives of millionw of women (assuming it works as described) just because the inventor is an eejit.

                2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                  Thlayli… please tell me you’re just forgetting a /sarcasm tag here. This is a TERRIBLE idea.

                3. Thlayli

                  Countess if you have some information that explains why it’s a terrible idea, im totally open to hearing it. I think it sounds great, if it actually works as described.

                4. Oryx

                  Off the top of my head, urine comes from a different hole, there’s no guarantee it’s going to go where you need it to in order to unsdtick the glue.

                  Even then, what if you don’t have enough urine? So the blood just kind of continues to build up inside?

                5. fposte

                  @Oryx–alternatively, if you pee a lot, that sounds like a lot of gluing during the day. And I’m not sure I’d trust my ability to glue things enough to prevent heavy flow leaking, given that I can’t even get an airtight seal on a Ziploc bag.

                6. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                  Okay, it’s pretty obvious that you haven’t got a clue about anatomy in that area, so let’s put it this way: does gluing your asshole shut sound like a good solution for the need to poop?

                7. Thlayli

                  Haha countess thats hilarious. I haven’t a clue about anatomy of vaginas. Good one. What a humourous comment and an amazing argument.

                  If There was a type of glue that could be used to hold the anus closed and kept faeces in, did no damage to the user, and could be easily removed when it was time to let the faeces out, I have absolutely no doubt that it would be used by many people with faecal incontenence.

                  Have you heard of butt plugs? They’re not just for sex you know! Lots of faecally incontinent people do in fact use butt plugs to stop faeces escaping, and simply pull them out when it’s time to let the faeces out. Not much of a difference from glueing your anus shut when you think about it.

                  Anyway, other commenters have posted above that the vaginal glue product is in fact a joke and doesn’t actually exist, so this conversation is kind of pointless.

                  If a magic glue could be found that held labia and vagina together to keep in blood, was easily removed when it was time to let the blood out, that had no negative consequences and side effects, and was cheap, I would absolutely think it was a great idea.

              3. Alton

                The description of the product made it sound like you were supposed to apply it to your skin like you would lipstick, which seems very unsanitary to me if you use the same stick of glue over a period of days or months.

                1. Thlayli

                  You could wipe the dirty bit off though. The point is that it would mean you only bleed when you are already peeing – at a toilet facility. Needing access to a little bit of toilet roll a few times a day to wipe off the stick is better than needing a box of pads every month, or needing extremely clean water to wash something you are actually putting inside you (menstrual cup).

                2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                  Thlayli…. no. Menstruation means constantly bleeding. The blood is being pushed out of the cervix. All you would be accomplishing would be storing up the already-discarded blood and uterine tissue near the vaginal opening (if you glue the vagina itself shut, in which case the likelihood of opening it via urine would be VERY LOW) or within the labial folds (if you glue the labia shut).

                  Plus, when you release all that blood, you’re still going to have a horrible mess to deal with. Listen to all the vulva-having people who are telling you how much this wouldn’t work.

                3. KHB

                  @Thlayli: Of all the problems that limited access to extremely clean water can cause, hindering the use of reusable menstrual cups has got to be way down the list. I use a Divacup. You can take it out, empty it, and put it back in with or without wiping it a little. (I did this for years when I lived in a place where the sink was more than an arm’s length from the toilet.) When you’re done with it for the month, you can wash it with questionable water, since you’re leaving it to dry for three weeks, which is going to kill anything that’s on it. It has a smooth surface, which means it’s not going to harbor bacteria for very long.

                4. Thlayli

                  Countess I have a Vulva. I’m a cis woman and I’ve given birth to two living children and had two natural miscarriages through my vagina. I’ve done perineal massage using a mirror. I’ve watched every episode of one born every minute so I’ve seen plenty of vulvas. I thought you were joking before when you said I didn’t have any idea of anatomy.

                  Many many women do have labia that could cover the entire vaginal opening, and if not as I said above this type of product would only make sense if if could also glue the vaginal opening together. Very few women have such gaping vaginas that they could not be pushed closed. Your comment about it “storing the blood and tissue inside the vaginal opening” is not in any way an argument against this concept. That’s exactly what tampons and diva cups do!

                  I also don’t get what’s hard about getting urine on the labia – pee on some toilet roll and wipe it! How hard was that!

                  “Once the blood comes out you’ve got a big mess to deal with” yeah – exactly. That’s the entire flipping point. You wait until you are at a toilet or whatever you have access to to release the mess. Given that this is the place that you release faeces and urine, I’m gonna assume that it’s also a safe place to release blood and clots. Much better than having it drop out constantly all day when you live in a country without access to clean pads.

                  I get that this is a joke product and doesn’t exist – probably because the magic glue that can hold in blood but not urine doesn’t actually exist, but the concept is flipping genius!

            2. mb13

              Its most likely a prank as theres no actual way to contact the company and the guy has no prior social media history.

              1. Mookie

                He has a patent (which means nothing, other than he paid his fee and submitted his material), is a real chiropractor working in a real practice, he joined Twitter in 2009, his facebook pre-dates the widespread 2017 interest in his “lip stick,” and he’s been involved in dubious pseudo-medical schemes before (like his “weight loss” program). Are you thinking of someone else?

              1. KHB

                Oh man, I’d forgotten all about the best part – that he’d called the thing Mensez. As in, “Men sez you ladies are doing it wrong!”

      2. Just Employed Here

        Well, I would, if complaining co-worker was the one asking. I mean, I wouldn’t want her to complain about me again.

        I’m curious how that complaint was even worded. “Co-worker has completely legitimate product in her personal vehicle. I sneaked a peak into the car, and now I’m offended.”?!?

        1. Irene Adler

          I’d file a complaint that this woman was peering into my vehicle’s windows. She might be intent on breaking into my vehicle. That’s just as valid as the maxi pad complaint. And maybe the complainer was caught doing just that and had to come up with a reason for peering into the vehicle’s windows. Best defense is a good offence sort of thing.

        2. Kathleen_A

          That *is* a really good question. I mean, how would such a “complaint” sound? Everything I can think of sounds like a joke – a literal joke.

  6. Marcel

    I’m a man and I’m angry on behalf of the first letter writer. I don’t understand why so many men get worked up over this. I hope you can get this resolved LW #1. It’s not fair what happened to you. Your coworker is an idiot. He should be ashamed and so should your idiot boss for even entertaining this.

      1. Specialk9

        I feel like this is the *one* instance in which reversing the genders would actually make a difference. Dude walks up to HR lady, complains about lady things in a bag in a car in the parking lot offending his dudely sensibilities, dude gets written up. Instead a woman complains…

    1. Archie Goodwin

      I’m a guy, too, and I can’t even begin to wrap my head around the idiocy involved. I mean, nothing about the way this was handled makes any sense to me. Seriously…I’d actually like to hear what twisted reasoning HR is using. Because I CANNOT imagine how anyone viewed this as a legitimate complaint.

      My granddaddy used to say, “People are no damn good.” It’s incidents like this that make me think he had a point, sometimes.

  7. LouiseM

    OP#1, that is absurd. I have to write a check to my downstairs neighbors because my jaw dropped so fast that it broke through the floor! Your coworker has absolutely no business even looking in your car, and especially not to pass judgement and *report* you for the contents like you’re smuggling dangerous contraband. Something somewhat similar happened to my coworker Tanya at ToxicOldJob: she had her purse open on the floor next to her desk and our coworker Candy, who previously didn’t know she was a smoker because she didn’t usually smoke during work hours, noticed a pack of cigarettes sitting in there and reported it to our grandboss. Luckily, the grandboss was just annoyed with her for wasting her time. The fact that your HR department didn’t react the same way tells me there is something MAJORLY amiss with your company’s priorities. Good luck to you, OP!

    As a side note…Alison, can I ask what your reasoning was for including this in the 5Qs and not as a standalone? I understand that it’s a short answer because this is such a ludicrous situation, but you must have anticipated that there will be hundreds of outraged comments about this question that will dominate the thread. It can be a little tough to follow the comments when that happens (like yesterday).

      1. LouiseM

        true, but right now there are more than 20 comments and they are literally all about question 1. Nobody is arguing, but everyone is commenting on it.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I thought about it! But the vast majority of readers don’t participate in the comment section, and I factor that in too — that first and foremost I want an interesting mix of letters in the short-answer posts.

      1. caledonia

        I’m sorry Alison but I’m quite disbelieving of this. How can you not realise that most of the comments would be about 1, I have no idea. The remaining 4 would’ve been a decent mix and debate and post 1 could’ve been a standalone one. I mean, you posted it on twitter….

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’m confused by your disbelieving! Of course I realized that this letter would get a lot of comments.

          What I was saying above is that that’s not my top consideration in the mix of letters in a short-answer post. The vast, vast majority of readers aren’t commenters, and my first priority is an interesting mix of letters in any given post.

          That said, it’s true that twice (I think?) in the past I’ve separated out a letter after realizing that the comments on one would take over the comment section. But I don’t think it’s necessary to do that every time, and my thinking on it has evolved since looking at more data about how many site users are also comment readers (it’s a very small portion).

    2. paul

      Pretty sure if I complained about a coworker’s pads being visible in my car it’d be *me* getting written up…it’s absurd to complain about that. My snarky answer is to leave some used ones on your coworker’s desk…but don’t do that. It’d be bad.

      People have crap in their cars, who cars? Unless there’s bloody handprints and a “HELP!” sign visible…

      You’re not going to get a mix of answers; the comment sections will be 99.9% about the pad letter.

        1. Princess Cimorene

          I plan to, I promise, but I’m in such disbelief right now, I can’t even get to them!! LOL

          Just what the fufjafjaafhsa….

      1. Elizabeth H.

        I have actually worried a bit about the optics of my car when I park it right outside work or if someone were to see me with it. I am frequently carrying around a ton of STUFF and sometimes also a lot of bags of bottles and cans (I collect them, but mostly just from myself and my friends, not from other people’s trash) so my car often looks like a trash heap or like someone lives in it. So far no feedback though.

    3. LBK

      Heh, I literally forgot this was a 5 questions post while going through the comments because I haven’t seen a single one yet about another letter.

    4. SoCalHR

      I’ve been thinking that too – Allison probably knows by now which letter will get heated response so it does seem to clutter it up when its mixed in with the the 5 answers. I would agree with the suggestion to separate out particularly outrageous letters, but I also recognize its not my site :-)

  8. Kay

    I’ve seen my boss return from lunch with a bag that has tampons in it before. He is married with 3 daughters. I’m so glad I work for someone who doesn’t get upset at the mere sight of a package of tampons or pads.

    Your coworker is a moron OP #1. So is your boss. He should have shut it down as soon as your coworker complained.

    1. Erin

      I just want to add, pads and tampons are exactly like bandaids for different parts of the body. My husband took an advanced first aid class and they said for really bad wounds A couple of maxi pads are a really good thing to keep in your kit. I used to keep them by the first aid kit at my old job.

      1. This Daydreamer

        Tampons were originally developed to treat gunshot wounds during war. The nurses found them quite handy for their own use.

        1. Annie Moose

          Eh, women have been using various sponge-like things for periods for years. The ancient Egyptians used papyrus for tampons. The modern form of tampons might have origins like you say, but the overall concept is ancient.

          1. Liz T

            Nothing This Daydream said was inaccurate, so the “eh” seems a little unwarranted. We’re talking about the modern form of tampons.

      2. Emi.

        When a male EMT was showing me around the ambulance before my ride-along, he got to trauma dressings and made a face like Should I say this? I’m just gonna say it, and then said “It’s basically a giant maxi pad.”

        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          When I was involved in TV production, we used to use non-lubricated condoms to cover microphones when it rained and we were doing something outside.

          1. kayakwriter

            I’m not a hunter, but I have carried a shotgun as bear protection in some situations. When it’s rainy or muddy, I often slip an un-lubed condom over the end of the barrel to keep it from getting rusted out or jammed with gunk. (Feel free to have a field day with the Freudian overtones of condoms and guns if you like:-)

          2. curly sue

            We still do that in theatre for mic packs. It can get really sweaty under the stage lights, especially for dancers.

            1. Liz T

              In college I had to loan out our body mics to a group performing a religious musical in a church. They refused to use condoms! I didn’t see the show but am told there was some crackling.

              Also one time a show added a body mic at the last minute, because an actor had lost her voice, but no one had any unlubricated condoms. Someone had a lubricated one and we tried wiping off the lube…it did not work.

              1. Liz T

                Also I once ADed a regional production of A Christmas Carol that had a whole slew of child actors. It always tickled me to see the boxes and boxes of unlubricated condoms that were stored in the theater regardless.

    2. Kuododi

      Right there with you!!! One of my Dad’s favorite ways to harass me and my little sister when we were young silly adolescents was to go into the drug store, purchase the biggest, ultra-jumbo boxes of hygiene products and just walk out the store bold as brass with no bag for the purchase. He’d just tuck the box(es) under his arm and head out big as you please! Needless to say little sister and I were ducked down in the back seat of the car praying noone we knew would happen to be in the area!!!

      As far as this work situation is concerned…the mind boggles!!! Just when I thought I’d heard it all… I have nothing to contribute to the situation because I am trying to get my brains back in their proper location.

        1. Kuododi

          He really is…he’s always been committed to raising me and little sister to take advantage of all the opportunities life has to bring. I actually had him preach at my ordination service….(he’s not clergy)…there wasn’t a dry eye in the church. He’s absolutely cool!!!

  9. Troutwaxer

    Maxi Pads in your car! What cosmic maddening horror is this? Aiiiii! Yog Sothoth save me! The glowing vision of pastel boxes is driving me insane… Azathoth! Heed your humble servants call! Save me from the tentacled horrors inside the their abyssal barriers of cardboard and flowery prose! By the horror that is Glaaki… my mind is filled with hellish, chaotic vistas of feminine hygiene! Even my studies of the Necronomicon and the hideous G’harne Fragments have not – AHHHHHH I must make The Sign against them! Contamination! Irises! Pr’ctor and G’mble!

    Ia Ia Cthulhu, Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn! By the horrific visions of Georgia O’Keeffe… I am undone…

    1. Harper the Other One

      “By the horrific visions of Georgia O’Keeffe…”

      And I’m dead. My cat is looking at me wondering why I’m laughing like a loon.

    2. FD

      But I must try to tell what I thought I saw that night under the mocking feminine moon—saw sitting in the back seat of a Ford Focus in plain sight in front of me as I crouched among the painted lines of my employer’s parking lot. Of course my resolution to keep my eyes shut had failed. It was foredoomed to failure—for who could crouch blindly while a legion of pastel, cardboard-boxed feminine products glared arrogantly from a shopping bag, scarcely more than a yard away?

    3. Nolan

      For some reason, this is the comment that reminded me that my mother once successfully used a box of tampons to smuggle a couple Cuban cigars into the country at the end of a vacation. Apparently the men in customs were very keen to not investigate its contents.

      1. Troutwaxer

        I have to admit I stole that particular setup from Mark. E. Rogers, author of the Samurai Cat books. (I highly recommend the Samurai Cat books, BTW, to anyone who likes fantasy, science-fiction, or movies and loves to laugh!)

    4. Gayle Davidson-Durst

      The most merciful thing in the office, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all the contents of a woman’s purse. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of red seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated hygiene products will open up such terrifying vistas of feminine reality, and of our frightful relation thereto, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new man cave.

  10. Mookie

    I agree with Alison’s preferred twitter suggestion, re the appropriate response to the invasion of LW 1’s privacy and autonomy, but I think she ought to work a menstrual cup into the melange. Maybe sip fruit punch from it, very dainty-like, for the rest of the week.

    1. Troutwaxer

      I think there’s a classier alternative. The OP should get some Georgia O’Keeffe prints for her cubicle walls. Flowers, mostly, but maybe a skull or two as well…

  11. anncakes

    I’d just start leaving that coworker notes inside my car. Not anything mean. Just “HI [COWORKER], how are you today? I think it’s supposed to rain in the afternoon,” or maybe ask her to take a look at things like a new sweater and a “What do you think of this color? They also had it in red,” kind of note.

    Absolutely ridiculous.

    1. Verde

      I used to do this in one of my desk drawers, where I kept stuff coveted by another coworker. I put a piece of tape across the whole inside of the drawer with a note stuck to it that just said, “Close the drawer, Fergus.”

  12. Elizabeth West

    I. JUST. CANNOT. EVEN.

    What kind of weird mindset would lead this woman to complain about menstrual pads in another person’s car? And what kind of f*cked-up people in HR would write up the OP for this??????

    I would most definitely push back, OP1, and please, PLEASE update us. This is just bananacrackers all around.

    1. many bells down

      I mean, what’s next? Oh, I left a book in my car and co-worker doesn’t like murder mysteries? Or the profanity-laden CD she can see tossed on the floor? Or something I need to return to Victoria’s Secret after work and I left the bag in there?

      1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

        Sometimes I do Costco runs before work. I’d love to be reported for the industrial size ranch and salsa dressing bottles in my car.

          1. Julia

            You know, at least food appropriated by white people, I could maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe understand. But freaking menstrual pads??

            1. Anion

              No. The only way the “food appropriation” complaint would be understandable would be if the white person in question literally appropriated–i.e. stole–the complaining person’s actual personal jar of salsa.

              There is no other way that such a complaint is even remotely understandable, or is anything but ridiculous and offensive.

        1. Erin

          That’s where I buy my feminine hygiene products. I don’t want a nasty leak during the zombie apocalypse.

      2. Not a Morning Person

        Oh no! Toothpaste! She knows I wear dentures. How dare she flaunt her natural teeth! Hussy!

      3. Kathlynn

        I actually brought brand new underwear to work because I’d gone into town bus, fairly early for lunch. As it happened, I had time to spare and needed a new bra. So here I was walking into my gas station with a bag from a Victoria Seceret type store. And no one complained, because hey we are all adults and 90% females. Also kept it in the staff bathroom, where we are supposed to keep all our personal belongings while on shift (which I generally refuse to do. I have too many meds for that to work)

    2. EvilQueenRegina

      I’m wondering how the coworker even noticed them in the first place – would she not have had to go right up and be looking in the car window to see them?

      1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

        I think she had to slow down, peer inside and note the pads because they were in a bag with other items. How many other cars is she policing? The backseat of my car looks like a grocery cart sometimes. Many stores don’t use plastic bags anymore and if I don’t bring my own into the store then things get tossed into the back.

      2. XF1013

        People are giving the coworker a hard time for “noticing” the maxi pads, as if she had to deliberately put her face right up to the glass to seek them out. But her noticing them is the only human behavior described in the letter that makes sense to me. I park beside coworkers’ cars every day, and when I’m getting in or out of my vehicle, I cannot help but spot things on their seats like fast-food bags or cigarette packs or magazine covers, especially if it’s a vehicle with raised suspension that puts the contents closer to eye level. I don’t seek these objects out, I don’t stare at them, and I don’t care about them. I just move along with my day. But I cannot help but see them at an unintentional glance; that’s normal.

        1. Observer

          Except that they were in a bag with other toiletries. Which means that it would not be the kind of thing that just jumps at you.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Everything is fine and okey-dokey, UNTIL the Boss or HR has offensive items in THEIR cars.
      What-to-do, what-to-do. Will HR write themselves up? Will the boss turn herself in? Stay tuned.

  13. Bea

    Does your co-worker want you to go spend your menstruation time in a frigging hut as well. God help us all, the filthy maxi pads of doooooom!

    I would leave them there and let them fire me for it. Then enjoy looking for a new job while jacking up their unemployment payments because these people are off their rockers and can ef right off. They’re not suddenly going to change, they wrote you up for maxi pads.

    We keep a stash in our bathroom at work. How does this woman cope with seeing aisles of pads and tampons in every grocery store?!?

    1. KR

      Your last point – our offices with separate male and female bathrooms keep bins of sanitary products in them! I keep a huge box in my desk – if my coworkers go in there they will see it. It’s normal! It’s natural! I don’t flaunt my pads all over the office with my two male co-workers but many women menstruate and it’s not news! I am so speechless about wuestion 1, I will have to comment tomorrow on the others.

      1. T3k

        I remember starting at my last job and telling my mom how amazed I was at the bathrooms. Not only were they large, individual bathrooms, but they all came stocked with pads and tampons. The biggest kicker was that it was in an industry known to be very male dominated.

        1. Specialk9

          It always feels kind of like an unexpected holiday when there are free feminine products. Woohoo! (And side eye to hoarders who ruin it for the rest of us.)

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        They just instituted a big basket of menstrual products in the bathroom at my office, and I’m so happy!

      3. Eye of Sauron

        This is how it is in my office too. We got a new boss and he was the type that would try to get a rise out people for fun (in a good natured way) and one day he for whatever reason he realized that there were free feminine products so of course he started ‘ranting’ about it. “Gah… that’s why our budget’s off no more freebies here! That’s unfair there’s nothing free in the men’s room” That sort of thing…

        I just smiled through the rant and told him to go home and ask his wife about the merits of his budget saving idea and get back to me. He brought it up again in the next staff meeting and said that his wife told him to shut up and that he was being ridiculous. I told him that was what I was going to say too, but I thought it would be more fun to embarrass himself to his family. He laughed and said they were used to it by now.

      4. many bells down

        We have two all-gender single-person staff restrooms at the museum. Only one of them has a tampon dispenser. I’ve been talking to other women around the facility about why we don’t just have a basket in each restroom.

        Those tampon machines are always an absolute last resort, because no one wants the cheap cardboard-y products they’re stocked with. And then half the time they’re empty, or broken, and it eats your quarter which is just adding insult to injury. And you’ve no way of knowing until you put your quarter in!

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      I mean, I would not be against bringing back the concept of menstrual huts if they were equipped with wifi, plumbing, and chocolate.

      1. Specialk9

        Red Tent baby!

        As an aside, the author of that, Anita Diamant, used her author money to sponsor an amazing nondenominational and nongendered Jewish ritual bath (Mayyim Hayyim mikveh) and it’s amazing. I give her credit for giving back to the community like that, and for making it so inclusive.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)

        Can we have nachos in there? I’d like super salty and cheesy snacks.

      1. Environmental Navy Wife (previously Environmental Gone Public Health Gone Back Environmental)

        “Who the hell eats chips in a bathroom??!”

  14. Lynn

    OP 1: What the actual fuck?

    I’d be torn between hiding all toilet paper, tampons, etc. at work, posting signs that per my write up, these things cannot be present or viewed on the property, versus putting a copy of the write up everywhere with pads and tampons all over the office, since my car is not an acceptable place to store them.

  15. Vancouver Reader

    I’m curious as why HR got involved. I could understand if the OP had an open bottle or a joint showing, but pads? Is the co worker concerned about the OP needing more bathroom breaks than normal?

    1. Bea

      They’re poorly trained dingleberries. I once heard someone say that if someone is offended by ANYTHING AT ALL there must be an action taken otherwise the company is at risk of Anti-Pad Patty suing them. That person was a trained professional sadly and HR consultant.

      I know all my bosses even the most skittish one of them all would take their chances on that BS complaint.

    2. Try Again Please

      But, like… what was the write up?

      “LW1 kept personal hygiene products in plain view on site. Despite never being told this was a problem, and despite the fact that said items are used every month by roughly half the world’s population, coworker decided it was necessary to report that, indeed, LW1 menstruates or knows someone who menstruates. For that, we are formally entering into her record that she has made an error in judgment.

      Steps to resolve: Tell LW1 to be more discreet about normal bodily functions that I, coworker, and LW1 are all intimately familiar with because, like, who wants to be reminded about that when they’re casually walking across the parking lot peering into the backseats of other people’s cars.”

    3. MLB

      Clearly both the LW’s boss and their HR department are clueless and awful to even entertain this as a complaint. I could MAYBE understand a complaint if she had them sitting on her desk, but then just telling her to put them in a drawer would have been sufficient.

  16. Princess Cimorene

    #1 – I’m still blinking so hard in disbelief at this one that I can’t manage to even read down further. W.T.F.

  17. LizM

    I would call in sick next time I got my period.

    “I won’t be coming in today. I’ll be bleeding from my vagina, and I don’t want to risk offending anyone. Normally I’d use a maxi pad, but my understanding is those aren’t welcome. I don’t want to risk offending anyone who happens to dig through my purse when I’m not looking.”

      1. Future Homesteader

        OT, but that actually happened once to a female public defender in MA who was trying to get into a jail to see her client. No joke, the guards made her show them her pad, because they were worried she was smuggling….a blanket? Who the eff knows.

    1. Environmental Navy Wife (previously Environmental Gone Public Health Gone Back Environmental)

      Brilliant!

  18. What Is This Nonsense?

    There have been a lot of doozies on this site, but holy cow at letter #1. Would they have fired her on the spot if she had an accident and heaven forbid someone saw period blood? HR should have disciplined the snooper instead of the OP for the invading her privacy and having the audacity to complain about it. I kinda hope this goes the way of the spicy food debacle and the OP’s boss, HR, and the coworker who snooped all get fired for this garbage. Wow just wow…I can’t even.

    I feel bad for letter writer #2 as, and hopefully, it’s just a lot of wires getting crossed and not a case of malice.

  19. The Bimmer Guy

    #1: Assuming your coworker is a cisgender woman who also uses feminine hygiene products, I’m very surprised she had that reaction. But, absolutely you need to push back on that disciplinary file. How ridiculous that you have three different entities (your coworker, your boss, and HR) who think this is acceptable behavior.

    I might start looking for another place to work, too.

    1. LouiseM

      Alison said upthread that the coworker was actually a trans woman. Sorry to say, I think she may have fallen victim to a fake letter written by a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist)–they really like to focus on menstruation as one of their incontrovertible pieces of evidence that trans women a) aren’t really women and b) are orchestrating a sinister plot to victimize cis women. This seems like the kind of fantasy plot they would hatch (but I don’t want to derail us on a conversation about whether or not the letter is real)

      1. Observer

        If you don’t want to derail on a discussion of whether the letter is real, why did you bring up the question at all?

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I don’t think so at all; in our exchange, she was sensitive about it and concerned about not appearing transphobic. She also only included it in a second PS (not even the first PS) and said she wasn’t sure it was relevant. It wasn’t even part of the original question.

        1. Savannnah

          I think it’s possibly relevant only to explain the overreaction of the HR person perhaps. I could see a situation where the HR person overly reacts due to optics around how the company treats trans people.

          1. Technical_Kitty

            I can absolutely see the HR person being unsure of how to respond to this from a trans woman and immediately just taking their side in an effort to be inclusive. The HR person is still really, REALLY bad at their job, but I can see how it might happen.

            1. Positive Reframer

              That’s a common problem. Something that a lot of people struggle with. I know I don’t want to treat them worse so I treat them better, but in the end you are still basing your treatment on that factor. Its a fine and nuanced line to walk. How does one balance maybe this opinion reflects the opinions of this group but I don’t want to make assumptions about the group based on one individual and visa versa?

              1. Technical_Kitty

                What’s really annoying is that in their effort to be inclusive to someone they are being pretty awful to another. The HR person who did this is so, so bad at their job. The boss who let this happen is also terrible at their job.

          2. Cousin Itt

            I think it’s somewhat relevant to determining the motive of the complaining co worker as well. While the complaint is still ridiculous and merits pushback from the OP, her being a trans woman suggests she may be coming less from a place of ‘periods are shameful and disgusting’ and more of a ‘this is triggering to my gender dysphoria’ place.

            It would also mean the suggestions in the comments of parading menstrual products around the office in retaliation would be inappropriate.

            1. Joielle

              This is where I come down on it too. Of course, it wasn’t ok to make the complaint, but I can see why the coworker might have that initial involuntary triggered reaction. She should have exercised restraint and recognized that it was her own issue to deal with and not an objectively reasonable complaint, but as someone who has disordered thinking patterns from time to time myself, I can empathize with it.

              I think the real problem here is with HR, who should have kindly shut down the complaint.

              1. Cousin Itt

                I totally agree that HR are the ones who should be held accountable. The complaining co worker would have been a lot better served by a sympathetic HR department that nevertheless made it clear that this is not a reasonable accomodation.

      3. Cambridge Comma

        There have been enough menstrual product related letters for this one to be genuine for sure. However, Louise is right that this (including the writing of these kind of letters to get publicity) is a common TERF tactic.
        However, as Alison often says, the advice is valid even if the LW isn’t.

        1. Specialk9

          I didn’t know about TERF, but it did occur to me that that would be a good tactic for further oppression trans people. Look! They want to bully women for menstruating! What new laws can we write to harm trans people more – I mean protect people from the trans menace.

          Urgh.

      4. Marvel

        Guys, please. I’m trans and I hang out with a lot of other trans people, and let me tell you: Unreasonable trans people exist! The percentage of trans loons is roughly equal to the percentage of cis loons. Trans people can be wrong. They can be sexist and homophobic. They can be just plain totally off their rocker. We’re people.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          Whaaat? You mean trans people are not Special Magical Unicorns of Goodness and Light???

        2. LouiseM

          Did you reply to the wrong post? I didn’t say anything about trans people being more likely to have one type of personality or another. I do think this particular situation would have been extremely unlikely in any case, but once the trans coworker was added in it seemed obvious to me that it may be a TERF trick. If it wasn’t, the terfs should take notes because commenters who have probably never thought about it are spewing out terf talking points like there’s no tomorrow.

          1. Marvel

            I disagree with basically everything you just said, but yes, I was replying to your comment. We get letters about cis loons all the time, but as a commenting community we’ve agreed that sometimes people are loons and we’re not going to question the veracity of every single letter that comes in because fact is stranger than fiction and people are weird in a multitude of fascinating and sometimes horrible ways. To say that ONLY cis people are allowed to be loons or else the letter is fake, to me, is transphobic. Some trans people are honestly just loons. It happens. Someone being trans doesn’t always have to change everything about the situation.

            1. MA

              Please don’t use the term “cis” or “cisgender”. You are imposing an identity on me and invalidating my experience of gender.

              1. Emac

                No one is imposing an identity on you, just applying a label to an identity that, if you aren’t transgender (or intersex, or non binary (?)), you already have. Here’s the definition of cisgender:
                cis·gen·der (sisˈjendər/), adjective
                1. denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.

                I don’t see how that would invalidate anyone’s experience of gender if that’s an accurate description of them.

        3. Ray Gillette

          Yeah – the essentializing of transgender people in this thread is driving me nuts.

      5. Gazebo Slayer

        TERFs are horrible and that’s the sort of thing they would do, but if it were a fake letter to smear trans women wouldn’t the letter itself have mentioned that the pad-hating coworker was a trans woman? We didn’t find this out until Alison said the LW had mentioned it in their private exchange.

        Agreeing with the comments that say that some people in every demographic, including trans women, are unreasonable jerks.

          1. LBK

            Saying the coworker is trans isn’t saying there’s something bad about trans people. This would be a weird site to try to target with something like that since there’s a pretty good history of commenters being supportive of trans people.

          2. Delphine

            You’d rather believe that the LW didn’t mention it at all and was purposefully hoping that Alison would eventually ask for a follow-up so that she could sneakily add that little detail in, which Alison would then relate to all of us? That’s more believable to you than a trans women being a jerk?

          3. Not So NewReader

            When the dust settles though, it’s the boss and HR that look the worst. IF this was a smear, which I doubt, the smear missed the target. The boss and HR are the biggest losers here.

          4. Mad Baggins

            I mean, it’s relevant. It gives us some clue about the coworker’s/HR motivations. Yes, what happened is still inappropriate, but it might be coming from the coworker’s hangups and HR wanting to support trans people without knowing what that means (as opposed to a misogynistic dudebro who thinks ladies are gross). It doesn’t change what OP should do about it, but it does help us understand the fuller picture.

      6. Tea

        F…antasy? I’m sorry, but trans people are people, and just as subject to unreasonable, entitled, garbage behavior as anyone else. I have absolutely gotten shit on by transwomen for daring to mention my period (in a context that had nothing to do with them) and seen transwomen treating other women poorly for daring to reference other common feminine matters (who knew that a baby announcement was exclusionary and transphobic to one’s fb friends?) I’ve also been shit on for mentioning my period by dudes and cis women, and seen pregnant women treated poorly by the same, so this is an all around equal opportunity way to mistreat people, I guess.

        Putting trans people on pedestals and treating bad behavior from trans people as a ‘conspiratorial fantasy plot’ is exactly the kind of thing that feeds TERFs’ ridiculous garbage sentiments.

        1. Gazebo Slayer

          Yuuuup. That kind of thing – using a marginalized identity as a shield against any and all criticism and an excuse for bad behavior – is also a favorite tactic of some “alt-right” types. Like:

          Bigot (who is a gay man): [misogynistic/racist crap]
          Other people: Wow, that’s bigoted. Kindly STFU.
          Bigot: How dare you silence me? I’m gay! Homophobia!!1

      7. Kelly G

        For you to state that a very common experience women have (being shamed for menstruation) is nothing more than some conspiracy against trans women is literally so off-base & out of touch with the reality of women & trans men that I wonder if you really understand the world and what it’s like for women in it.

      8. Anion

        In this very comment section there are people instructing biological women that we are not to call ourselves such, telling us what words we are “supposed” to use to describe ourselves, and complaining to Alison that we should be Spoken To for it or have our comments removed.

        Yet you think this question is made-up propaganda?

  20. Observer

    #1 When you push back, please lodge a formal complaint against your coworker for getting into your car and groceries and for invading your privacy. You should not need to keep your stuff under lock and key to keep your coworkers out of them.

    Oh, and realize that A. your coworker is a major league snoop and the B. your HR are incompetent nincompoops who also apparently don’t actually understand what “private” means. Which means that if there is anything sensitive you need to deal with at work (personal or work related) protect it from these folks!

    1. Scarlet

      She could also casually mention that writing up someone for having maxi pads in her car sounds a lot like gender-based discrimination.

      1. Bagpuss

        I’d frame it s a quesiton. – “I need you (HR) to explain why I was written up, as it sounded as though I was being written up for having a packet of sanitary pads with other toiletries, in my private, personal car. On the face if it, that seems like clear gender discrimination, and invasion of privacy given the items were in my car.
        Since I assume that [company] wouldn’t want to behave in a discriminatory way or encourage its employees to invade one another’s privacy, I assume that there has to be another explanation for the way I was treated. What was it? ”
        I’ve been thinking about this one all day and the only thing I could think of was that maybe the complaint was abut something else – e.g. that the co-worker claimed that LW1 taunted her or something, and HR was working on a ‘you know what you did and we don’t need to go into detail’.. which would mean that the complaining co-worker is a loon, and presumably a malicious loon who was deliberately trying to get LW1 into trouble, and thast HR failed epically at communication, but it’s all I can think of.

  21. TootsNYC

    2. Was I tricked into leaving?

    I’d follow Alison’s suggestion to forward this email along with a “would you have time to discuss this briefly?”

    And then I’d say something like this:

    I’d explain the timeline and conversations.
    And say, “And now, from that email, Jane is still saying that the grant was nearly canceled. That’s in complete opposition to what you told me.
    “When she told me that the first time, I assumed that–as a manager–she wouldn’t be saying that unless she’d heard it directly from you.
    “Given that I only went job-hunting because of this information, which she specifically and directly told me, I’m concerned about this on your behalf.
    “Next year, will the person who has this job be subject to the same misinformation? I wanted to alert you so you could explore how and why Jane is giving incorrect information to the people who work for her, especially on such a crucial subject. Just as it did this time, it could easily lead to your company’s having to recruit a replacement unnecessarily.
    “I felt I owed it to you to alert you.”

    1. AbdiHR

      Something tells me this happened in the United Arab Emirates. If so, I would advise OP to drop it. Drop it. Let it go. Move on.

      Do not (in their eyes) humiliate a UAE local, or make them lose face. This may be blown out of all proportion. As far as the law is concerned, they walk on water.

      Not worth the drama.

      Speak to any UAE expat.

      1. AnonLW

        Hi, I’m the LW. I don’t want to be too specific about where I live, but it’s not the UAE or any country with a similar culture.

      2. Traffic_Spiral

        Dubai is 90% expat and most locals work for the government, so there probably wouldn’t be a company where LW was the only foreigner.

    2. David S.

      I’m wondering if everyone involved spoke English as a first language and actually knew how these grants work. If the grant has to be renewed every year it’s always in danger of not being renewed regardless of any other factors and these government letters tend to make things sound extra dramatic. By the later time OP went to the upper boss the grant probably was confirmed. It does seem to me like there’s a fairly good chance of miscommunication with people getting nervous about the worst possible outcome.

    3. Irene Adler

      I wonder though. Should the OP stay at this job should the grand boss ask them to? Given this was a plot by the co-workers and immediate boss to get the OP to quit, staying would make things rather uncomfortable-yes?

      If it were me, I’d follow your advice because I would want the truth of the matter to be known by the grand boss.

      1. Tuxedo Cat

        If I were the OP2, I would leave. They have a job offer that’s excellent and they’re excited.

        I think that they should say something to their boss, so that OP2 is still well thought of and so that the boss knows.

        1. Annie Moose

          Yeah, I wouldn’t be very comfortable working with a manager I strongly suspected had deliberately deceived me.

          I would say that the only reasons I would stay (if offered) would be:

          1. the current job had significantly better pay/benefits/environment/work than the new one (which doesn’t seem to be the case)
          2. I was moved to a different manager
          3. the response from the manager/grandboss makes it clear that this was actually a tragic misunderstanding where the manager was misinformed and in fact wasn’t trying to push you out at all and the manager is horrified by the mistake. (but if there’s one ounce of misinformation or weaseling out, I wouldn’t believe it)

          Of course OP2 understands their situation best, but I do think this is something to seriously consider, if grandboss asks them to stay. I definitely wouldn’t make any hasty promises.

      2. Amber T

        I wouldn’t want to stay. Only if I didn’t have anything lined up at all would I consider it (and OP says they have something great – congrats OP!). Even if it does prove to be a miscommunication… idk, call me paranoid, but I’d have a hard time still working with my colleagues and boss and not wondering if what they’re saying is true. Once that little seed of doubt gets planted, it’s really hard to shake.

      3. Reba

        No, I think the OP has learned something very useful, if ambiguous, about the company already.

        Speaking to the Big Boss will hopefully be more illuminating but I don’t think there’s anything she could stay that would make me feel comfortable staying on there.

      4. Emily

        I think OP should leave regardless – she has accepted a new job that she’s excited about! – but talking to the grand-boss might clear up whether this was a result of miscommunication or something more malicious (and let the grand-boss know, if she doesn’t already, that OP was given bad information).

    4. Isabelle

      I agree that LW2 should let the grandboss know so they can watch out for what happens next. This may be a case of nepotism where the boss or coworkers wanted to give LW2’s job to a family member of friend.
      Since several people got together to give LW2 incorrect information, it’s clear that they wanted him/her gone and there was no miscommunication involved. Thank goodness they found a new job!

    5. LBK

      I think the OP can drop it in the grandboss’ lap, but she doesn’t need to be so thorough in her explanation or follow-through on it. She’s out of the company now so it doesn’t really matter – it’s up to the grandboss to figure out what to do about it. She doesn’t seem to have any interest in getting her old job back so there’s no stakes other than her own curiosity of figuring out what the hell was going on (which I admit I’d love an answer to as well, but for the OP’s sanity I’d also recommend not expending much energy on that if the answer isn’t going to easily reveal itself).

  22. Observer

    #2 Someone is not telling you the truth.

    You should most definitely email GrandBoss because SOMETHING is very, very off. Either someone is lieing (and playing some serious hanky panky) or communications in this place a very badly broken.

    In either case, be glad you’re out of there.

    1. Chocolate Teapot

      Years ago, I applied for a job in another country. The interviewer (who also came from another, different, country) seemed to like me, but HR was less enthusiastic, saying I didn’t have certain educational experience, which would only have been possible had I been a national of the country in which I was applying. I think there was an element of non-nationals taking jobs from nationals.

      In this case, I wonder if there was a combination of crossed wires (“we are waiting for comfirmation the funding will be reviewed”) and the Manager wanting to get rid of the OP?

      1. Naptime Enthusiast

        My cousin’s wife had a similar experience, she was unable to find a job in her field in his home country because there was a bias against foreigners. They’ve since moved to a neutral country for both of them and have had better luck, but she was so frustrated to learn she uprooted her life and would never be given a fair opportunity.

    2. Sherm

      Yes, you found an excellent new job that you’re excited about, and your old workplace either has at least one backstabber or has a serious communication problem. Don’t feel bad (if you do). What happened is on them, not you.

    3. CityMouse

      Yeah, I think OP should take that new job, but should also tell head boss what happened.

    4. Is it Friday yet?

      I’d probably forward the email to big boss with a simple FYI and no further explanation.

  23. Laura H

    In. Her. Car. UNUSED!! JUST RECENTLY BOUGHT!!?!!!

    Excuse my jaw hitting the floor.

    I get the what you use to deal with the monthly visitor is your own business and no one needs to know kinda reason (that doesn’t hold ANY water when the package is in a privately owned car) – Dudette- there’s no difference of it being in a car or on a store shelf- except the former is paid for!!!

    It’s a biological function that indicates the female reproductive organs are doin their job. Said biological function produces an unpleasant… byproduct! There are things that make said bio function byproduct easier to deal with and dispose of. I don’t understand why that coworker (who knows what said items are for) finds catching sight of those objects (in a private car!) anywhere near offensive enough to go to the boss!

    Coworker is horribly in the wrong, and I’m horribly in support of being vindictive about it and suggest office wide denial of a pad or product when she needs one. (Don’t do this- it’s just as socially mortifying)

    Good luck OP 1.

  24. Kalkin

    Do we know that OP#1 works at a regular-type office? If so, that’s truly mind-boggling. But I’m wondering if this could be a restaurant or some kind of retail shop where the staff and management skew younger. I feel like this could have gone down at the Tex-Mex place I worked at in college, where our twentysomething supervisors (and even GMs) weren’t especially well trained in employment law and were prone to making decisions based on what felt right in the moment.

  25. Tin Cormorant

    #5: My husband was born in another country and has an obviously foreign name. He puts a little “U.S. Citizen” note in parentheses in the top header of his resume. I’d never even considered anyone doing this until I saw it on his, but I figure it can’t hurt just in case someone was wondering about his legal status.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      This is actually a good point. If you live in a particularly conservative area and have an obviously foreign name, it might not be a bad idea to include it. Sad to say, but it could make a difference.

      1. VioletEMT

        I wouldn’t even restrict it to specific parts of the country. You never know where people come from or what ideas they have in their head.

      2. The Original Flavored K

        Some part of me is twitching at “obviously foreign name.” Like, my family name is a common Spanish name — now that I’ve moved to the southwest, it’s far less unusual, but back in the southeast, was it foreign? What about somebody with an obviously German or Polish surname? Are those foreign? Do we really think that family names like McGinnis originated in a country that only exists because a bunch of people headed west across the ocean, to a “new” continent, or are Scottish/Irish surnames not foreign?

        We’re saying “foreign,” but I think we’re really saying “white.”

        1. VioletEMT

          We’re absolutely saying “white.” And it sucks. But I’ve got friends who don’t get interviews with Indian surnames because people assume they will need sponsorship when they won’t.

          I’m not saying that it’s right. I’m saying that it’s how it is, and it’s regrettable.

        2. JHunz

          You might be overthinking it slightly. I think “foreign” in this context probably means “foreign to this area”. I live in Chicago, so if I see a Polish or Italian name it wouldn’t even cross my mind that the person might not be a citizen. Also, there are definitely several ways for even clearly white names to sound foreign. I’m thinking some titles in particular.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago

          Oh, for sure it means “non white sounding name”. Which sucks, but there have been numerous studies about how you can submit identical resumes with different names and John Smith will get more calls than anyone else.

          I’m not saying it’s right in any way. Just that putting “legally authorized to work for any employer in the US” may make a difference when someone is screening a resume.

        4. Student

          I have an obviously foreign name. It’s white and European. In particular, I have a very unusual last name, so it sticks out like a sore thumb. I get asked about it a lot. People native to the country it comes from will actually ask me if I’m an immigrant more often than my fellow Americans do, but Americans do ask. They’re primarily bewildered as to where it comes from and how to pronounce it.

          The threshold is much higher for a “white” name to get this than a non-white name, but if it’s unusual and white it does still happen. The common theme is that if it’s very different from “normal Americanized” white foreign names – most “normal” ones have a Latin-root origin language – it’ll stand out that your family hasn’t yet “Americanized” it. It gives others the impression that you might be a first-gen immigrant. Indeed, most people with my last name “Americanized” it to something that stands out less when they immigrated. I’ll get called an Americanized version of my last name quite frequently, as people assume there’s a typo or just don’t believe what their eyes are telling them.

          I suspect that a lot of people with Polish or Dutch last names experience this, since those nationalities use many names that are obviously not Latin-origin. At least one American friend in high school with a very Polish first and last name went through this regularly.

          The biggest difference is that the people with white foreign names get treated with curiosity. They don’t make me feel unwelcome or like I’m not a real American. People with non-white foreign names are more likely to experience harmful, prejudiced “othering” about it, a cruel rejection of their actual American identity. Hispanic last names and Middle Eastern last names in particular have it rough this decade.

          1. Green cards are good

            A foreign sounding first name is a much bigger giveaway. I disagree it’s all about names sounding white or non white. This is a very Anglo centric view and it’s offensive. My name is European, I’m white, it’s a typical name for where I come from, so it’s a white sounding name because you can bet that 99,99% of people with this name are white. However, it does sound foreign to Americans.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger

      I’m not sure if this is a good or bad strategy on your husband’s part but it makes me really sad. There shouldn’t be something considered “an obviously foreign name” in the US – we’re such a nation of immigrants. Why are we still so racist?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        Why are we still so racist?

        I would attempt to answer this, but wouldn’t be able to without breaking all the site commenting rules.

      2. Try Again Please

        To be fair, citizenship is a very important question for an employer because non-citizen applications and employment are expensive and complicated.

        Making assumptions based on name alone is problematic, of course. But when you know your name is unusual within a community, it sometimes helps to hedge your bets, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

        I don’t think it’s malicious racism, in other words, so much as negligent racism. (Not that it’s better. Just… less malicious.)

        1. Discordia Angel Jones

          “non-citizen applications and employment are expensive and complicated”

          Is that true even when the applicant doesn’t need a visa from the company to work, and they already have a work-authorised visa independent of their employment?

          (I genuinely don’t know!)

          1. Foxtrot

            I think it’s only an issue if you require employer sponsorship, but I’m not sure you can ask until you’re handing someone an I9 what paperwork they need? I’ve seen some job postings that say they can’t provide visa sponsorship, so that’s out. It seems so aggressive to me though, even if there’s a simple answer like it’s a small company and visa legal fees are too much. I don’t know how it would be handled by employers who would jump through hoops for the truly amazing, one of a kind candidate, but not just anyone.

            1. VioletEMT

              My employer recruits at college career fairs and we’re in an industry where a lot of firms do sponsor. We do not, for various reasons. So we have a sign that says “We’re unable to sponsor visas” in our booth. Our postings all list as a requirement that applicants must be able to work in the US without sponsorship. It may seem aggressive, but those items were added at the request of candidates who needed sponsorship and got a ways down the hiring process before learning we couldn’t sponsor them. They didn’t want us wasting anyone’s time.

              1. Erin

                I don’t think that’s any different than having a sign that says must be 18 years or older to apply. Saves applicants time and energy and weeds out candidates who can’t work for you.

            2. Lindsay J

              For some types of Visas (particularly some of those that require employer sponsorship), it doesn’t matter how excellent the candidate would be.

              You can only hire these types of visa-holders for those positions if there are no qualified US candidates for that role. And for a lot of positions, that is realistically never going to happen. So there’s no point in accepting and sorting through applications from people you cannot legally hire.

              I guess if there was an amazing candidate, you could rewrite and post a job description tailored specifically to that person and their amazingness, so you could then say that you didn’t have any qualified US candidates, and then hire them.

              National origin is generally a protected class.

              1. Green cards are good

                Also, you can only apply for H1-B visas once a year (I forgot which month) and there’s a lottery. It’s really a pain. It’s not a simple process at all.

          2. Bea

            I’ve worked with so many immigrants who are American citizens that it outrages me to think people believe it’s expensive and they need sponsorship. If they have a greencard, they’re good to go only extra paperwork is when you make sure to get an updated card on file every 10 years!

            1. fposte

              Though if they have a green card, they’re not citizens but permanent residents; those are two different categories.

            2. Temperance

              It’s cheaper to file for citizenship once you’re eligible, and citizens, unlike LPRs, are able to vote, and are at significantly lower risk of deportation.

          3. Parenthetically

            My husband is a non-citizen with a marriage-based green card which entitles him to work. Hiring him doesn’t require any additional paperwork on the employer’s part, except for keeping a copy of his work authorization on file, and, in fact, employers are not allowed to refuse to consider him based on his immigration status. There are certain government positions that require you to be a citizen, but most jobs are open to anyone who has a green card or a work visa, and not all visas that allow work are conditional on employment.

          4. Green cards are good

            It’s actually illegal to discriminate based on what kind of work permit the person has, as long as they’re authorized to work in the US. You are authorized to work anywhere in the private sector without any restrictions as long as you possess the necessary documents, which could be documents proving your US citizenship, your permanent residence status or just an employment authorization document. An employer cannot deny you employment just because your work authorization has an expiration date. And no, there’s no need for the employer to be demand a new green card after the old one expires – as long as the employee can show two forms of ID (a SSC and a driver’s license for instance) as required by I-9, they’re good to go. An employer can always use e-verify to confirm that someone is authorized to work in the US.

            Visa sponsorship is a totally different process. If an alien doesn’t already have an employment authorization document, then an employer must sponsor him for a visa but this is a very long and expensive process and the employer must prove that they can’t find any US citizen or a person already authorized to work in the US for the job. The most common work visa H1-B is actually a lottery, so even if the employer does everything right, it’s still possible that the prospective employee won’t be selected.

            I have a green card, that’s why I know all of this

        2. Rick

          There’s a lot more on a resume than just a name that could suggest the need for visa status. In particular, recent education and employment in other countries.

          That is to say, employers may legitimately suspect a candidate would require sponsorship independent of the candidate’s race.

        3. Annie Moose

          There can also be industry-specific reasons why citizenship status is important. I used to work for a chemical manufacturing company that had some projects with the US government, and only American citizens could access certain information about the projects–e.g. the databases, which led to interesting issues because we outsourced a lot of development to an Indian company. They employed a handful American citizens specifically for these sorts of projects.

          Of course this depends on your industry, but it’s another case where it’s quite relevant.

        4. Half-Caf Latte

          But I’ve never filled out a job application that didn’t ask “are you legally allowed to work in the US”, so there is a mechanism for employers to get this information up front

        5. Student

          Actually, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of national origin.

          It is, in fact, illegal to discriminate in hiring based on whether someone is a citizen or not as a consequence of this law. You can tell people that they have to provide evidence they can legally work in the US. You can rescind a job offer to a foreign national who can’t legally work in the US. You can’t refuse to hire a foreign national because you’re worried about their future visa status or the paperwork burden on your company.

          There is an exemption for jobs that require US citizenship based on national security requirements – jobs where you need to obtain and maintain a clearance. If someone takes issue, we have to be able to prove those jobs require a clearance to do them.

      3. Jennifer

        I think genetically we freak out if anyone is different from us, at least until we get used to the idea, because of evolution and whatnot. That seems to be the science of why we freak when anyone is Different, for any reason.
        Hell, we can’t even deal with women also being humans.

        I think it’s a good strategy in this day and age and right now, though.

        1. Mookie

          Compared to other species, we are not particularly “genetically” diverse, and within so-called human “population,” clusters, or “communities” there is greater diversity than without. I don’t really see what evolutionary adaptation you’re referring to that explains bigotry.

          1. Mookie

            But in any case, not every human foible or behavior is a genetic expression or consequence of evolution.

          2. Thlayli

            There is a pretty obvious evolutionary advantage to being wary of outsiders when you live in a world with limited resources and multiple competing groups. Many many animals will drive outsiders away from their territory/resources. Lions, wolves, birds etc all compete for territory. “Bigotry” exists in many species. In areas where camouflage is important to survival animals with the “wrong” skin or fur colour are often shunned or driven away.

            Humans are the only species that even tries to overcome our natural instinct to be wary of outsiders.

            It’s possible to oppose bigotry, to think that we should work against our natural instinct, and to still recognise that the instinct to mistrust outsiders exists and was useful for survival in the past. Understanding evolution and science is not incompatible with being fair minded and opposed to bigotry in the present.

            1. Naptime Enthusiast

              I wish now that my Evolution and Human Diversity class in college talked about this more, I only vaguely remember 2 lectures on this topic and didn’t really appreciate what it meant for today’s society.

            2. Overeducated

              But I think the scientific and historical evidence is strong that “outsiders” are more socially than genetically defined.

              1. Thlayli

                What an intelligent and well-researched counter argument. Do tell me more, oh thou expert in evolutionary science.

      4. Zip Silver

        To be fair, you can have an obviously foreign name and still be part of America’s racial majority. Just have a non-Anglo/Latin/Biblical name. For instance, things like Hans Schmitt, Sven Bjornsson or Dmitri Vladivoski.

    3. CityMouse

      I participated in a hiring once that did require applicants to have US citizenship due to a clearance issue. Some applicants did explicitly put their citizenship in their resumes, usually in the bottom. I don’t think it ever caused a reaction either way. I don’t think it either hurts or helps.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast

        Due to our export regulations, employees that aren’t full US Citizens can’t work on certain projects. We have green card holders that work certain projects but not others, or even be in the room when technical data is being shared. We are not allowed to ask specifically about citizenship status during the screening process however, so a potential employee could spend a lot of time interviewing and be offered a job but at the last second have the offer revoked because they don’t have the right citizenship. It was explained as preventing us from making biased assumptions during the hiring process about whether or not someone would be allowed to work, and instead treat everyone as being compliant and hire them accordingly.

        1. ggg

          I am restricted to hiring US citizens. It is helpful for me to know that candidates are US citizens up front.

          I won’t assume anything based only on names (even John Smith could well be Canadian), but if someone studied at foreign universities and/or has foreign work experience in addition, and doesn’t specify US citizenship, I will probably not consider their resume.

    4. VioletEMT

      Yeah, OP5, I have seen nonwhite college students with “foreign-sounding” names (SMH that this is a thing) put their sponsorship need or lack thereof on their resumes. To the candidates, it keeps potential employers who don’t sponsor visas from wasting their time if they do need a visa, or skipping their resume because they assume sponsorship is needed where it isn’t.

      You don’t necessarily need to put your actual status (visa, green card, citizenship). Most of the resumes I’ve seen say “Eligible to work in the US without sponsorship.” That’s the only level of detail employees are technically allowed to ask. They’re not supposed to discriminate, for example, between citizens and green card holders. So this way you’re not telling them any more than they need to know.

      1. Mel

        Now I want to ask a friend of mine what his experience has been–he wouldn’t ping any “foreign” bells in most people’s minds–US university education, white guy, white sounding name, etc–but he’s a UK citizen here on a green card married to a US citizen. You can’t tell until you actually start talking to him (British accent obviously).

    5. Falling Diphthong

      That’s where I’ve heard of it: People with an Asian-sounding last name who couldn’t get interviews because somewhere, a screener had decided “Everyone with the last name Chen is an H1B Visa worker, and I don’t want to deal with the paperwork.”

      1. Anon for this

        It’s more to do with resumes being generic in a particular way, degrees being from foreign schools, and in many ways the jobs being poor fits (giving the impression that the applicant is applying randomly), than any particular last name.

        1. Tea

          Where are you getting these assumptions from? There is a huge population of people in the United States with the last name Chen (or other ubiquitous “Asian” last names) with wildly different resumes, degrees and schooling in the US, who are applying to jobs that fit perfectly within their experience. Some of them were born here, some of them are immigrants, some of them are foreign nationals hoping to be sponsored. There is literally no way to know any of that based purely on one’s resume.

    6. Sutemi

      I’ve mostly seen it as a footnote on resumes where the degree(s) or previous jobs were from a different country. I wouldn’t ask because of naming.

      1. VioletEMT

        Right, there are several indicators that may suggest need for sponsorship. It’s typically a combination of factors, including foreign work/school experience, often coupled with a non-Anglo sounding name or an accent.

    7. Probably Nerdy

      I’ve seen this a lot too, and no it isn’t racist – I work in a place where we have to get security clearances which can generally only be given to citizens. If people are applying for any kind of federal job that involves clearances, they will usually put their citizenship status on their resume just to make things easier.

      1. On a pale mouse

        Only hiring citizens because of security clearancesis not racist. Assuming someone isn’t a citizen because of a “foreign-sounding” name is usually racist.

    8. Lora

      My field is notorious for the H1b visa thing, and any given company is staffed by easily 1/3 – 1/2 foreigners in major cities. And there are some companies, particularly startups, who rely on defense department contracts for funding, so this information is helpful and technical staffing agencies usually attach a note to your resume before they send it out.

    9. Get out

      This is something I do to try to ward off the people who are looking for an excuse to reject my resume, but I’m rethinking it in the curent political climate.

      Also I want to push back on what we consider a “foreign sounding” name. I’m sure the same crappy (bigoted?) people your husband is trying to deal with would consider my name “foreign sounding.” This is othering people and is leaning into centering whiteness. Someone with my name (spanish language) could have family who has lived in the U.S. for generations. Maybe they’ve always lived in what is now the U.S. (“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”) And what about Native Americans, could their name be considered “foreign sounding”?

      I feel like we need better language to describe this.

    10. Candy

      I wouldn’t do this as a citizen, but my husband did when he first immigrated here. He’d note that he’s a permanent resident who’s legally able to work on his cover letter (but not resume). Since all his listed education and work history was from other countries, it, like Alison said, preemptively answered any questions about his legal eligibility to work here while also implying that he’s settled here permanently and not planning to move again to another country. He stopped doing it after he had built up some local work history, though.

    11. lost academic

      I was on a thread at work recently about an applicant and I wasn’t paying much attention until someone griped that the person didn’t say on his resume that he could legally work in this country. I was astonished. Only 1% less astonished when I looked at the applicant’s name because wtf, this is why you won’t bring him in for an interview?

      I kind of want our recruiters to start removing names from resumes now – my company is horrible for all kinds of hiring bias like that and you’d never think it if you knew who we were :(

    12. Anion

      Yes. My husband was born in the US but grew up in England, so all of his education took place there. Also, we lived there for the better part of the last decade, and only moved back to the US recently; of course this means his resume lists his most recent employer in England. So his cover letters and resume mentions that he is a dual US/UK citizen to avoid confusion and make sure he’s not missing opportunities because people see his education & recent employer and assume he is English.

    1. This Daydreamer

      I don’t think it’s really f’d up. The boss is only human and it’s understandable that his temper would be tested when he’s that overwhelmed.

      You did mean letter #3, right? ;)