my boss freaked out when he saw my menstrual products and called me unprofessional

A reader writes:

Every month, I get my period. Every month, I have to carry around my pads. Nothing too surprising. Some early mornings, I forget to bring my pads because I’m in such a rush, blah blah blah.

One day, I left my pads at work in the back office under our computer desk. As I go back to grab it, I find the pads shoved all the way to the back of the little shelf. I think it’s just an accident So, I grab it and pull it back towards the front of the shelf.

I leave for a bit and come back to grab (and use) it and find it all the way pushed to the back of the shelf.

As I’m grabbing it, my male manager comes up to me and tells me I need to put them away. I tell him that I have my period and I’d like to leave them there so I have them when I need them.

Things got out of hand. He told me I’m “gross” and “unprofessional” for bringing them to work and putting them in the same area where he works, and because he saw them.

When I told him I’d call and ask HR if I could have them (in my work space) in the back office, he raised his voice and said “CALL HR! CALL THEM!” And he then said “Know your place! I’m above you!”

I haven’t called HR. It’s been about a month – month and a half. This still really bothers me, and it makes it difficult to work with someone I have no respect for. Or should I just put in a two weeks notice and quit? Is it considered sexual harassment if my manager is calling me gross and unprofessional because I have my period and brought pads to work?

It’s weird that your company is hiring 11-year-old boys into management positions. Was it bring-your-kid-to-work day and then they forgot to tell him to leave, and someone accidentally moved him into a real job?

The gross and unprofessional person here is your manager. He is immature and ridiculous, and I wish I could write to every woman in his life and tip them off to his behavior so that they could shun him.

That said, I can’t tell you if you should quit over this. It depends on too many other factors, like what he’s like aside from this, how much you like your job, and how well you’re paid. But if you do decide that you don’t want to work for this young child, find another job first before you quit, because it can take a while to find a new job and you shouldn’t have to be unemployed because of this tool.

Personally, I wouldn’t quit unless this was representative of his behavior and thinking in general, but I’d lay down the law with him about this if it comes up again. As in: “It’s not gross or unprofessional. It’s part of having women in the office. I’m sure HR would be happy to talk about the legal issues it would raise for the company to continue complaining about this.”

To be clear, I doubt that one instance of this would hit the legal bar for sexual harassment or discrimination, but it could be part of a larger pattern, and it sure doesn’t hurt to raise the specter of it when he’s giving you a bunch of crap for having ovaries.

{ 1,253 comments… read them below }

  1. The Cosmic Avenger*

    “It’s weird that your company is hiring 11-year-old boys into management positions. Was it bring-your-kid-to-work day and then they forgot to tell him to leave, and someone accidentally moved him into a real job?”


    Also, as a guy, idiots like this are a large part of why young girls are embarrassed to discuss their periods. Maybe I'm not typical, but I was an EMT, so as far as I'm concerned, we all have bodies that do stuff that we can't consciously control, and even the stuff we can control, it's part of being human. F*** that attitude. (I'm censoring myself, but I had to express that somehow that isn't too harsh.)

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      Another great AAM quote! Right up there with “Black Magic is one of many occupational hazards.”

      Maybe giving the boss a book on human anatomy would be the thing to do. Well not really, but the thought is there.

      1. Mandy*

        This isn’t the first time he’s been disrespectful. This time just really got to me, & I just can’t stand being around someone who can’t respect me, but expects the highest respect from me?

        1. fposte*

          That latter is pretty much part of working with other humans, so I’d try to let that go and focus on the fact that his distaste is inappropriate and may be a harbinger of something illegal.

          You can’t make him respect you, but you may be able to make him put a sock–or a convenient absorbent product–in it.

          1. Kyrielle*

            …I adore you right now. Also, I’m glad I didn’t have a mouthful of tea when I read the aside in that last sentence. PERFECT.

          2. TempestuousTeapot*

            Love that last line!!

            No doubt. Boss is an absolute dimwit. I feel for you, OP. I keep a shark week box right on my top shelf of the bookshelf beside my desk, complete with an Eye of Cthulu plushie right on top. Seriously? What a nut job. It’s a bodily function hygienically handled. And he doesn’t deserve your respect. You deserve your respect, your job and coworkers deserve your respect. Boss only deserves your properly completed work in a timely fashion.

          3. Anna*

            I’m not sure I agree that it’s the price of being around humans. Most people I know give respect and so get it in return.

            However, I agree that you win at commenting. :)

        2. Artemesia*

          I don’t know your workhouse and his position of power but I’d be inclined to sit down with HR and discuss the pattern you see and get their advice on how you should deal with it.

          FWIW I am old and come from a time when women and especially girls were very private about such matters. I can remember being miserable with cramps and needing to change a pad and not being able to do so in the 4 minutes between classes and being far too embarrassed to ask a male teacher for a pass for the bathroom. I would never have had menstrual products on an open work shelf without them being in a box or bag. I think a more accepting and relaxed attitude about this common need of half the population is a great step forward. Even if the boss doesn’t want a box of tampons being visible in the workspace or to clients, suggesting they be kept in a drawer is a more graceful approach than to declare all women disgusting for being women.

            1. paramilitarykeet*

              That’s funny! I used to keep pens in a tampon box in my unlockable desk drawer to keep the other (mostly male) grad students from stealing them!

            2. JessaB*

              This. When I had a period, if I left stuff anywhere where people could see it, people borrowed like crazy and did not return. I very quickly lit a fire on the other shifts that they had better NEVER leave me at the end of something I paid for without replacing it (I worked overnights, I could not leave the building.) In the case of feminine products the boss finally got a box and stuck it under the bathroom sink. Sometimes he was kinda reasonable.

      2. AMG*

        The American Girl (like the dolls) Company has some great ones. They are also written for 11-year-olds.

    2. KR*

      Yes! What if this asshat has daughters!? It’s okay to be uncomfortable with it as a guy. Frankly I would be uncomfortable with coworkers seeing my tampon stash and knowing the details of my period – but periods are not “gross”. (Okay, they are, but that’s not an appropriate thing to say in work.)

      1. many bells down*

        I mean, they’re gross, but we’re not gross for HAVING them. It’s not like we can control it!
        (Which, I have read, is apparently a thing some men think? That it’s like peeing and we can just … hold it?)

        1. Alex*

          I had a male friend who honestly thought that! He actually thought we could stop and start it at will 0.0

            1. SusanIvanova*

              I had a female friend in college whose periods lasted *less* than a day. For about 3 hours a month, we all hated her :)

              1. Tara*

                As a woman who *does* have a period that mostly lasts only a day. Don’t be jealous. I have to wear both tampons and pads of the most absorbent grade, and then still change them very frequently. I hate that day…..

                1. Laura*

                  Have you tried Thinx?? They may be a life-saver for you. It sounds like they alone wouldn’t be enough, but they provide fantastic back-up protection so you may not have to change things quite as frequently. Seriously, when I first read about them I thought it was all market-y BS*, but I finally caved and bought a pair, and they work like magic.

                  *(No, I don’t work for them or get any money for endorsing them, just a very satisfied newer customer!)

                2. Chairs*

                  So, I’ve been looking at those – how do you clean them? are they hand wash only? Line dry? How long do they take? (If this is too off topic, just delete this.)

                3. Dot Warner*

                  @Chairs: Rinse off, then throw in the washer on cold. You’re supposed to line dry them, but I accidentally threw a pair in the dryer with no ill effects. Usually takes a few hours for them to get dry (but I live in the Pa-drippic North-wet, so YMMV).

                4. Kathlynn*

                  I had wash them (well rinse them out0 then was them in the machine, then dry. Machine dry is okay so long as you don’t use fabric softener or (I assume) dry sheets. I prefer to hang dry mine, due to the elastic in the legs. It shrinks a little in the dryer (just a bit, and it stretches out, but I prefer not to deal with that at all). My only complaint is that they are too low for me in the front. But their butt coverage is awesome. (I use them most of my period, so it’s not the end of the world for me)

                5. Connie-Lynne*

                  Warning, if you’re large (and not that large, but not small), Thinx doesn’t make your size in their heavy flow pants.

                  I wear L to XL underwear, and my husband bought me their XL size in the one style that has heavy coverage as an option. They feel like they are constantly falling off my butt.

                  When I sent them feedback (becAUSE my friends said they were open to it) I got back a super passive aggressive note from their customer service rep.

                  I should have guessed; they don’t have even one large model on their website and most are skinny. I expect more from $40 underwear.

                6. Miss Herring*


                  Hey, an alternative is to be like some of us who can soak through all protection in an hour AND it lasts for multiple days. Seriously, I would much prefer your abbreviated timeline!

                  Also, to all ladies I would recommend getting a menstrual cup. There is a learning curve, but they make your life SOOO much better. No TSS risk, safe for overnight use and lighter flow use as well as super heavy flow, cheaper in the long run, okay for those for whom tampons are excruciating (*raises hand*)…

          1. SystemsLady*

            This belief seems to be shockingly more common than you’d expect, as this is definitely not the first time I’ve heard that remark. Fortunately, never IRL.

            1. Hotsteak*

              It’s not surprising, really. Most men’s formal sex-ed consists of a few hours learning about the female anatomy as teenagers. Unless they had sisters or a mother who talked about this stuff, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t know until they had a serious girlfriend who was kind enough to correct them.

              1. Middle Name Jane*

                True, but I’d rather eat the chocolate and not have to put up with the intense pain I get every month from my waist to my knees. Not to mention other unpleasant things I won’t mention.

              2. JennyFair*

                Oh, I was being sarcastic. Not that I don’t also whine, moan, and eat chocolate and potato chips, just that some men might think we’d ‘allow’ the period so we could do the others.

              1. Kelly O*

                + All the internet

                Also, let’s be clear, the male of our species can be pretty whackadoodle hormonal sometimes too, but since it’s “manly” that make it okay, or something.

            1. Chatty*

              So we have an excuse to run out of class and throw up?

              I’m so glad I grew out of that.

          2. Artemesia*

            Well plenty of men think women pee and menstruate from the same exact place too; lots of hilarious information out htere.

              1. Pineapple Incident*

                Seconded. Basic anatomy is a lesson that unfortunately escapes a lot of secondary schools, even in the U.S.

              2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                There was an episode of Orange is the New Black, entitled “A Whole Other Hole”, that addressed that. The transgender character, who had designed her own genitalia for reconstructive surgery, educated the other women about the urethra vs. the vaginal canal.

                1. Rebecca in Dallas*

                  Haha, I loved that episode!

                  I had more than one friend who didn’t know we had “a whole other hole” until we were like juniors or seniors in high school. And I’m sure some others that thought that for way longer. O_o

                2. Sad Kitty*

                  This episode of OITNB was hilarious to me because when we were 18/19 I had to educate my cousin in the same way.

                  She commented about how expensive her periods were every month because she had to buy several boxes of tampons and I was confused. I pointed out I really only need one box every month and the box usually lasts two cycles.

                  She was floored… then mentioned I must be holding my pee a lot? Confused I asked her what she meant – and she explained she was removing them every time she used the restroom.

                  I BEGGED her to squat over a mirror after I left and get familiar with her anatomy! She’d never looked at herself but was sexually active.

                  All the to say that even 13 years later she still doesn’t know much about her anatomy (she recently didn’t know difference between her ovary and cervix after an abnormal pap) and she suffers from medical conditions now and doesn’t do herself justice in educating herself. I’m constantly following up with her – as she decided to stop taking meds for MS because she hasn’t had any changes on her recent MRI scan…


                  anyhow… /end rant

        2. Elsajeni*

          To be fair, this is the impression I was left with after the first attempted explanation someone gave me when I was a kid — not that it’s at-will, exactly, but that for a few days every month you would have an additional Bathroom Need that operated exactly like your other Bathroom Needs, i.e. you could hold it for a while and then you’d have to go to the bathroom and have your period. But things like “the existence of tampons” did eventually clue me in.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            Yeah, that was my first impression too! It was a disappointment to learn it was pretty constant for several days.

            1. Bibliovore*

              Oh And the stupid film that they showed in 6th grade said that a women”loses a tablespoon of blood” during her period. Hah, I thought I was dying when I got my first period .

        3. Anxa*

          Are you referring to that internet post about the woman who worked for a congressman (I think) who thought tampons were sex toys and that women who weren’t excused to run to the bathroom could just hold it instead of goofing around in the bathroom?

          1. many bells down*

            I did think of that one, but I’ve also seen other posts about guys thinking we have some control over the flow. Boy if only I did. That would have saved me a lot of trauma around 7th-8th grade.

        4. A Teacher*

          You’d be amazed at what people ‘think’ they know. I teach medical terminology at the high school level (dual credit) and at the college level. I’ve had adults not realize that you urinate out of your urethra (the third hole as some of my students call it), they seriously think women urinate out of their vagina and men out of their penis. I had to have a sit down with my juniors and seniors last week so we could talk about types of basic birth control (as in they thought you spray a certain type right onto the skin) because it wasn’t covered in anatomy or health ed. I find it appalling too but parents and many in the community aren’t willing or able to talk about the human body and the changes it goes through or the reproductive cycle.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Wait. Men do urinate out of their penis. I mean, right? (I do not have a penis, so suddenly I feel unsure on this.)

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Yeah, I wasn’t sure what A Teacher meant by that. The urethral opening (or urinary meatus in anatomical terminology, or pee hole in the vernacular) is (usually) at the tip of the penis.

              1. A Teacher*

                yeah,sorry I went back and read it after I posted it, urethral opening for guys in penis, I should have said guys don’t think they have a urethral opening at least this years group didn’t.

                1. Bryony*

                  ‘guys don’t think they have a urethral opening’ – what? What do they think they have?

                  I had to educate several guys at school and university about the fact that women don’t pee from their vaginas, but this is a new one on me.

          2. Rebecca in Dallas*

            My public school taught us shockingly little about our reproductive organs. I actually learned the most about it at my church. Every year they had a whole “human sexuality” weekend aimed towards 7th-9th graders. That’s where I learned about how different forms of birth control worked, STD’s, all of the anatomy (men and women), plus we talked about the social aspects of sexuality.

            Thinking back now, I am so glad my church stepped up where our schools didn’t. (My parents talked to me about the basics, but let’s face it, I was way more comfortable talking about it in a group of my peers than one-on-one with my parents.)

            1. JennaLynn*

              My sex ed was in Catholic school and taught by a nun. I only remember 2 things from it: 1) that I couldn’t understand how a nun could possibly know anything about sex, it’s like a vegan teaching how to cook steak and 2) in our anonymous question box that the nun read and tried to answer, someone asked if there was a bone in a boner

              1. Cedrus Libani*

                I remember the anonymous question box. At my school, the history teachers got stuck with it. My 11th grade history teacher was an evangelical Christian, and visibly uncomfortable.

                Somebody put in the box that they were a dendrophile – that is, their preferred sexual partners were trees – and wanted to know if they were at risk for STDs. We had a serious discussion about the ethics of sex with trees, whether this counted as bestiality or masturbation, suitable protection methods for when the tree was shared with others, etc, while the teacher just stood back and prayed for a stiff drink to magically appear. It was amazing.

      2. neverjaunty*

        I don’t get “it’s okay to be uncomfortable with it as a guy”. Women’s bodies are not weird, creepy things whose functioning should be understandably upsetting to men.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I think KR ‘s point was that it’s OK to feel a certain way, but what matters is how you act on it; like the discussion yesterday on acting emotional at work. People who were raised in repressed households may get not be able to avoid being very uncomfortable with discussions or displays of emotions or bodily functions, but they might also work their whole lives to fight that.

          1. neverjaunty*

            But KR said “It’s OK to be uncomfortable with it as a guy“, not “it’s OK to be uncomfortable with it” (and many women, as we see from the comments, have different degrees of comfort about seeing a box of pads sitting out as well”. Perhaps I’m misreading, but what about being a guy makes it specially OK to be uncomfortable with menstruation, if not the feeling that it’s a Mysterious Woman Thing and thus quite natural for men to find off-putting?

            1. KR*

              I don’t think it’s natural, but I was thinking that like it’s okay to feel uncomfortable knowing all the gory details or thinking that it’s something you’d rather not think about – some people are squeamish or not interested in the bodily functions of others or some people would just consider bodily functions TMI to share with someone else – but it’s not okay to act on it and freak out and shame someone else for something that personally makes you squeamish (the you being a guy in this case). I added the “as a guy” because I was replying to someone who was male and also used that phrase.

        2. Artemesia*

          I don’t want to hear about the details of a man’s trip to the rest room to take a dump either. Natural yes. Gross yes. TMI yes. I feel the same way about menstruation. Not something to discuss in the workplace unless necessary (to assure adequate breaks, availability of supplies or whatever). Men’s bodies are not weird and creepy because they have to poop but it is still TMI.

          1. Bookworm*

            Right. But we also don’t freak out because they’re storing toilet paper in the workplace. In fact, even though hearing about poop is TMI, most people can see a roll of toilet paper and not have to think about poop. It’s just a fact of life.

              1. insert witty name here*

                I see a roll of toilet paper and think about knitting a little cover for it!

                1. Stranger than fiction*

                  My dog sees a roll of toilet paper and thinks “yum food”. And tampons and pads and paper towels…

                2. Megs*

                  Raise your hands if you’ve ever had a used tampon/pad removed from your boyfriend’s trash can by his dogs within your first few weeks of dating!

              1. wee_ramekin*

                And many smaller companies too!

                I am an office manager at a small company, and you’d better be DANG sure that I make sure there are pads and tampons available for public use in our one, unisex restroom.

                The items are stored in a little open-faced cabinet that faces the toilet, so anyone – man or woman – who is sitting on the toilet can see them. I refuse to hide them behind the toilet rolls or anything like that; I want the women of the office to know they’re there, and the grown-ass men can certainly handle seeing feminine hygiene products.

      3. Honeybee*

        My dad was a little bit like this. I grew up believing that a proper girl/woman should always hide her bodily functions. To this day, out of habit, if I throw away a wrapped pad or tampon I’ll make sure it’s buried under other trash so *quelle horreur* no man has to see it. I was actually pretty shocked when I grew up and had male friends who didn’t freak out when discussing periods.

        That said, he would dutifully go to the drugstore and pick up a pack of pads or tampons for us, and would even get it right if you meticulously wrote down the exact brand, type, and number. (If you didn’t, you’d get something weird.)

        1. Middle Name Jane*

          Wow. As a teenager, I would have died before asking my dad to buy me menstrual products. One time he had to take me to the drugstore to buy pads because my mother was working and I didn’t have my driver’s license yet. I made him wait in the car, and I wouldn’t tell him what I was buying even though I know he knew just because of how weird I was acting.

        2. KTB*

          My dad would probably have preferred to be like that, but he wasn’t given the choice. The dog I grew up with love to rummage through the trash when we left the house, so we were generally pretty careful to close things like, say, the bathroom door.

          Inevitably, my sister and I (both teenagers) would forget to close the bathroom door, and the dog would rummage through the trash. And would then leave the remains of whatever she got into in the middle of the living room floor, for one of her humans to clean up. I do not want to think of how many shredded feminine products my poor father had to clean up during my high school years. Obviously, my mother, sister, and I cleaned them up too, but I always felt worse for him, because it’s not like he was ever the one responsible for generating them. His only complaint was that he wished we’d close the door more often.

        3. Karyn*

          And to think, my father, being the only one at home the first time I got my period, was the person who showed me where Mom kept the pads.

          He was also horrified to find out that instead of explaining how our bodies worked, Mom handed my sister and me copies of “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret.”

        4. Jaydee*

          My dad was not the type of guy you would have expected to be cool with things related to menstruation. He was, after all, the same man who fainted when he saw someone get their ear pierced. And he still called bras by their full name (brassieres). But he did all the grocery shopping, so he got the honor of buying all the feminine hygiene products. And he was actually really good at getting the right kind and even not getting thrown off by packaging changes and stuff (because heaven only knows why feminine products need their packaging revamped every other month, but I digress).

        5. many bells down*

          I text my husband a photo of the package. That’s the only way he buys the right one. To be fair, there’s a lot of options and he doesn’t have to think about it himself!

          1. Windchime*

            When I was married, it was pre-cell phone. I would write down the exact name, package color, and location where it was on the shelf in the store so he could just stride in, get it, and quickly check out. He was happy to pick up supplies but he didn’t want to stand there looking and trying to figure out the right thing.

          2. Connie-Lynne*

            I explained to my husband that it’s just like SCSI drives, (long, ultra, thin) and ever since he’s been able to bring home something acceptable!

          3. Joline*

            When I lived with my parents I’d put tampons on the grocery list and paperclip the box top (I’d rip it off my old box) to the list. Then my dad would go and buy the corresponding item.

          4. JennaLynn*

            My mom needed supplies once so she sent my dad, but he dragged prepubescent me with him, but I had no clue so we ended up getting my mom some things that apparently require some sort of old school belt thing to hold them. My mom had to jury-rig them to work until she could get her own, and my dad was so proud that he’d got her so many for such a good price.

        6. Kelly*

          My father had the misfortune to be the only parent around when I started getting my period. My mother was gone for the weekend and we had ran out of pads. He went to the grocery store and was on his cell phone while I told him where to go and what to buy. I found out that he had never bought female sanitary products before because my mother took care of it. He also bought back several types of ice cream and stuff for sundaes. He did that for my mom so he thought I’d appreciate it too. He didn’t bring back the margarita ingredients that he also got her because I wasn’t of legal drinking age.

        7. B*

          My dad was oddly ok with it. He would go pick up tampons for my mom if she asked, and when I got my period at 12 he was upset I was growing up and went to my grandpa’s work to tell him about it! I was horrified. It’s turned into a family joke by this point.

    3. moss*

      I think it’s a little unfair. I am the mother of sons and they would not freak out like this over menstrual products, no matter their age.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That’s true, this is unfair to the many sensible and kind 11-year old boys I know/have known (now older).

        1. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

          I’m happy to hear that some males have matured. I was once married to a 35 yo pharmacist who wouldn’t bring home feminine supplies for his wife. Everything else his drug store carried that we used was purchased there (toothpaste, deodorant, hair care, etc) but I had to buy feminine supplies at the grocery store. I guess his female employees didn’t think I had a uterus.

      2. KR*

        I was just thinking of men who might feel uncomfortable with menstruation – not all men in general. I realize that there are many men out there who don’t care about periods or the products associated with them. My point was that it’s okay to be squeamish about blood or bodily functions or even the badassery that is the female reproductive system as long as you don’t freak out or become a raging misogynist or shame a woman for her period or whatever.

    4. KatieBear*

      I want to leave this right at the top. Why is asking for pads to be pushed to the back of an accessible shelf so hurtful? I can’t think of an analogous male product, but we’re talking about what, 16 inches of space? I don’t want to know much about male wet dreams or unexpected boners. So why is it such a problem to leave them on the back of an accessible shelf? I truly don’t get it.

      I’ve never been made to feel bad about my period by men in my life. But at the same time, some people can’t handle a nose bleed or a bleeding cut, which is gender neutral.

      1. Gabriela*

        I don’t think that’s really what people are reacting to. It sounds like most people would agree that “can we move these back a couple of inches?” would have been a reasonable request. However, the vehemence with which the OP’s manager responded coupled with the reaction of many commenters that the appearance of sanitary napkins is unprofessional (which isn’t really what was asked) have pushed people to defend the OP’s right to have access to something she needs without having to go to extreme measures to hide the something when there is no real expectation of privacy to begin with.

        Also, no one is suggesting she be able to free-bleed in front of people, so I don’t think the nosebleed or bleeding cut analogy really stands here.

        1. KatieBear*

          Those are good points, thank you. I just have sympathy for people who are blood averse, no matter the source. I pass out more times than not from having my own blood drawn, so that’s where I’m coming from it. Thank you for the informative response. I get how it’s a difference kind of thing

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            You do realize we’re talking about a box of unused sanitary pads, not used ones, right? There’s no blood anywhere near them. Plus, even if there was something to freak out about, the real problem is that the boss was irrational and scream-y about it instead of being the grownup and discussing the issue, as managers are paid to do.

          2. L McD*

            Yeah, unless you’d feel queasy looking at a box of band-aids, there’s no reason to have an issue with a box of pads either.

            1. KatieBear*

              No haha I get that they are clean and unused. I just wonder *why* they have to be pushed to the front of the shelf if it makes someone uncomfortable. It seems like the objection is having them front and center, not just having them on the shelf period. The same way I would find a roll of toilet paper on a work desk unprofessional, even if it were for blowing your nose during allergy season. It works, but that’s what Kleenex are for.

              My phobia really is that strong, even the mention of blood in most contexts makes me feel ill and queasy. And I hate seeing gauze packets, since I know what they are used for. But I appreciate the auxiliary information I didn’t catch the first time, like his over the top reaction.

              Is it weird that I think there was overreaction on both sides? All I can think is that whole spontaneous erections are natural, I don’t want to see them in the workplace. Or if you’re on birth control the Nuba ring doesn’t belong in the break room fridge or your pills displayed on your desk. Or let’s say you need incontinence products. Do those belong in full view because it’s natural? It seems reasonable to treat it as natural, but use discretion.

              1. Int*

                Erections, wet dreams, and birth control are related to sex. Pads and tampons are related to cleaning up body fluids. Would you object to toilet paper or deodorant being out in the open?

                1. Yup*

                  Or bandaids, for that matter, which also are generally used for blood?

                  That said, I’m torn on this one. Obviously his reaction and things he said after-the-fact are completely inappropriate and unreasonable. He clearly has issues. But honestly, if someone kept leaving their toothpaste in a shared area, it would annoy me and I might move it out of sight. I don’t think a shared area is the place for personal items and it would be weird to see someone keep toothpaste they were planning to use (but not immediately) on their desk so I get the impulse to put it out of sight – it’s a bit unprofessional to keep your personal care items out like that.

                  But his words negate any impulse I have to say he’s in the right – I just want to point out that generally this would be unusual and a bit weird in most work environments. Not that you should be embarrassed about having a period. Just that any personal products really don’t belong in conspicuous shared locations.

    5. Annonymouse*

      I’m more upset at the “Know your place! I’m above you!”

      I can get guys being a bit queasy about special women’s issues (I work in a predominately male industry). I don’t get the possibly sexist message and full on freak out. (Is he above just because he is your supervisor or is there an extra gender issue in play?)

      If he had just said “I’d rather not see them, do you mind putting them at the back?”
      That’d would be reasonable but insisting you can’t have then and that simply being a functional adult woman is unprofessional leaves me going WTF?

  2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    I presume that if he does not like to know that you are in possession of pads at the office, he would be very displeased indeed with the consequences if you did NOT have pads available.

    What’s more, I’m pretty horrified that he shouted “Know your place!” That’s blatantly awful and has no place in any type of work environment. Period.

    1. Juli G.*

      Yes! Know your place is just terrible.

      If he had an awkward, embarrassed conversation with you about keeping pads hidden, it’s immature and silly. But his crazy, over the top, demeaning language is what’s actually gross here.

      1. LQ*

        Yes. Like oh he’s immature and whatever, then you get to the know your place line and it is just all the double done on what is that even!?! (I’m not sure what it says that I’m much more shocked that someone would say that than that some guy would be immature about pads.)

      2. Jeanne*

        I think he realized he was digging a hole. Rather than admitting he went over the line, he decided to yell at her to know her place. More immaturity.

    2. (different) Rebecca*

      It reminds me of this:

        1. (different) Rebecca*

          Yes. Seriously, we are failing people if we let them think like this into adulthood.

    3. Liane*

      The “Know your place!” is sufficient reason to discuss with HR, including a sentence or 2 about how comments like that, regardles of volume, have often been used about ethnic groups as well as women.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, indeed.

        It does indicate the high possibility of a pattern that HR should be concerned about.

    4. Paige Turner*

      Right, just when I thought the dude couldn’t get worse, he upps the Awfulness Ante…

    5. Mandy*

      We did get into an argument once he raised his voice. Which then led to him telling me to lower my voice. Haha, funny how that works -_- but the whole time, I was being told I’m over dramatic, that’s he’s my manager and that I should just listen to him.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        Yeah, I’d try to remedy that situation as fast as possible. (the part where he’s your manager)

        1. The Strand*

          Ding ding ding!

          Not that you can’t approach HR, but this type of asshat does not improve.

      2. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I have no patience for any of this BS even in a casual acquaintance, there’s no way I would be able to pretend respect for them. If it were me, I’d be intensely job hunting.

    6. AMG*

      “That’s blatantly awful and has no place in any type of work environment. Period.” = Pun intended?

      I think that the ‘know your place’ comment is worse than being scared of pads. I’d definitely talk to HR.

      1. Koko*

        You know, I wouldn’t mind having the option of secluding myself in a women-only space for a few days a month. As long as the hut has WiFi.

        1. Honeybee*

          WiFi, a heated blanket, ice cream, and an Xbox. I don’t even get my period anymore* and I’d like to spend a few days there.

          *The magic of an IUD!

      2. Audiophile*

        Has anyone seen the NPR article about the girl who has to sleep outside in a hut for the duration of her cycle? It really is interesting. I can post the link if anyone wants to read it.

        1. Chickaletta*

          Yes, I’ve heard of this. Many girls living in other parts of the world drop out of school when they reach puberty because they don’t have menstrual products. I remember a story about how a non-profit started supplying pads to the girls living in these villages so that they could complete their education.

          1. fposte*

            Then there’s Arunachalam Muruganantham, who found a way to produce inexpensive sanitary pads for Indian women.

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          Once I realized what menstrual banishment was really like in the modern world, I stopped making niddeh jokes. It’s so awful.

        3. Amy UK*

          They have a similar thing at temples in Bali- you aren’t meant to enter the temple complex if you are menstruating, and there are big signs up asking you not to.

      3. AnonEMoose*

        There’s an act at our local Renaissance Festival – a guy who goes by “Arthur Greenleaf Holmes,” who does “Wildly Inappropriate Poetry.” Believe me when I say, this is truth in advertising.

        One of his poems is entitled “I Built My Love a Menstrual Hut.” For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT GOOGLE THIS AT WORK. Trust me.

    7. Sans*

      That’s what I was thinking. The day a boss shouts “know your place!” is the day I update my resume.

    8. INFJ*

      I see what you did there.

      I am now giggling to myself at work every time I read “treatment period” in the CSR I’m reviewing.

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    You should remind your manager that if women didn’t have menstrual cycles, the human race, including him, wouldn’t exist. If this is embarrassing, fine, but it’s only embarrassing for him, not you.

    And yes you should let HR know about his juvenile outburst.

    1. Mandy*

      But, what I’m worried about is… Is it too late to call?
      Also, would I be the one fired over this?

      1. KR*

        I believe if he fires you it might count as retaliation. You could call HR and raise it as a pattern you’ve been seeing and bring up that incident as an example. From the sounds of it, he has some sexist tendencies and if you have enough incidents to prove a pattern I would think HR’s next step would be to tell him to cut it out.

        1. fposte*

          It’s legal to retaliate for complaining to HR, though. It’s just illegal to retaliate if you’re complaining about something illegal. While you could argue that his comments suggest the possibility of discrimination, it doesn’t seem that cut and dried, so I don’t think a company would be at great risk of getting penalized for a firing here.

          But I also don’t think a firing is likely. People complain about stuff like this all the time and nobody gets fired.

          1. Amber T*

            Splitting hairs here, but if OP complains about sexist behavior (if it exists prior to this) and cites this incidence as the most recent experience, that would be considered illegal. We don’t have all the facts so we can’t say definitively yes or no, but OP’s boss is definitely crossing into not safe areas there.

            The “know your place” is EXTREMELY troubling and could most certainly be perceived as sexist. I have trouble seeing a male manager saying that exact phrasing to a male subordinate. It’s one thing to point out you’re the authority figure (which, if you have to say it as such is problematic itself), but to say “know your place” to a female subordinate? Many, many red flags are flying.

            OP, if he’s still acting like an asshat to you, I’d talk to HR to let them know. If you’re contemplating leaving a month and a half after the fact, there’s clearly something larger (like his behavior overall) troubling you. Work with HR and keep your own records!

            1. Mandy*

              There’s definitely more that’s happened besides this. I’m also not the only one who has or has had a complaint about him. Workers and customers have all had a problem with this guy. But, nothing really happens except maybe a slap on the wrist.

          2. sorrykb*

            >It’s legal to retaliate for complaining to HR, though. It’s just illegal to retaliate if you’re complaining about something illegal.

            If you’re making a good-faith complaint about harassment due to your sex, even if the complaint is not upheld, they can’t legally retaliate against you. At least not in California where I work.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That’s true! If it’s a good-faith complaint of harassment or discrimination, they can’t retaliate even if they determine there wasn’t actually harassment or discrimination.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Well, they can retaliate, it’s just illegal to do so. But companies do illegal things all the time.

                Most companies would do the right thing and not retaliate.

          3. Observer*

            No. It’s illegal to retaliate for a complaint of illegal harassment (of any sort) even if the complaint turns out to be TOTALLY unfounded. The second you get to gray area, forget bout it.

            Competent HR / Counsel know this.

      2. addiez*

        I don’t think it’s too late at all – fine to say you’ve been thinking about it and seen a pattern that puts the exchange in a new context. Also, there’s no WORLD in which that makes sense to be a fireable offense. If you really wanted to be more passive, you could say something to HR like Manager has been acting this way and I could use some advice on how to deal with it since he’s my manager? Curious what others think though.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Or, do employees have safe areas to store their things, like lockers? The whole being squeamish about bodily functions bit aside, I can see going to HR with a “My manager is uncomfortable with the fact that I have been storing my feminine hygiene products on a shelf in the back room. He is repeatedly moving them, claiming he thinks it’s unprofessional to keep pads/tampons there but they are out of sight from any customers. To be honest, I would prefer it if I could store them somewhere safe but we do not have any lockers/my locker is far away. Do you have any suggestion on where I could safely store my personal items to avoid this in the future?” If HR requires further information, relaying that story of the gross/mind your place would provide them with all they needed to know.

      3. Always Anon*

        It’s not too late to call. And I would phrase it as asking for help. Ask them how to handle this situation moving forward, as I suspect this won’t be the last time this issue comes up.

          1. AnonT*

            Ha! Good point. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to point out to HR that this is likely to be an ongoing situation, and you are concerned about getting that reaction from your boss again (and again and again… every single month for as long as you work there).

      4. Joy*

        It’s not too late to call. Explain what happened, tell them what he said to you, and admit that it’s left you feeling uncomfortable around him since then. I’m sure a good HR department would want to know!

        You shouldn’t get fired unless your company is bonkers, but if you’re afraid of retaliation from your boss if he finds out, definitely explain that worry to HR as well, and ask them to keep your complaint confidential if possible. They may want to address his behavior though, which wouldn’t be easy without the context.

        I’m sure it’s not an easy call for you to make, and I’m sorry you have to deal with this!

        1. Mandy*

          Yeah, even if it was anonymous he’d know I called. But just asking for advice type thing could probably work too. So I’ll try that

      5. Nobody Here By That Name*

        Situations like that are good for the “Hey, I’m wondering if you could give me some advice…” approach, I find. Go to HR and say this incident happened, you were too taken aback at the time to know what to do, but it’s still staying with you all this time later and you’re not sure how you should handle it – what would they recommend?

        Now if you work for a bad company you could indeed get in trouble for that, but a bad company would have you get in trouble for picking chocolate milk to go with your lunch or parting your hair on the left side, so hopefully your boss is a significant outlier at your company.

        1. Analyst*

          GREAT approach, especially to get around the “but it’s been a month” feeling about this.

      6. BRR*

        It’s not too late (and if you are asked why you are bringing this up now I would answer with something like, “I am not quite sure why the timeline is important?”) and any HR department would be flat out idiots to allow him to fire you over this. My gut says it’s unlikely anybody is going to be fired over this unless there’s something like a history of sexist behavior and your HR department decides to do a full investigation.

      7. Sean*

        I agree that it’s not too late to call, and any retaliation firing would be problematic for them, though a hassle for you :( .

        The biggest risk is if he pre-empts your complaints by raising issues about you or the quality of our work. Then you look like you are the one bringing this up now. So I would suggest doing this ASAP, actually. What about the NEXT time he has this type of issue? The sooner you get out in front of it with HR, you have more protection for subsequent conflict with this same jerk.

        Also, he was basically daring you to go to HR, and if you do not, it reaffirms that he can act however he wants to disrespect you and there won’t be consequences or push back. Not complaining to HR won’t make this go away, unfortunately.

      8. Alice*

        It’s not too late to call, and if he fires you for that I think that would be grounds for a lawsuit. I’m so sorry this has happened to you!

      9. CAA*

        I’m wondering what you expect HR to do about his attitude. Why not talk to your manager’s manager first and give him a chance to counsel his subordinate?

        Holding HR over someone as a threat is rarely helpful.

        1. neverjaunty*

          It makes a record of having gone to HR over sexist behavior by one’s immediate boss, which is what you are supposed to do.

          1. CAA*

            Actually that totally depends on your company policy. It’s pretty normal to talk to the offender’s manager first.

        2. Mandy*

          The manager didn’t care much. She only said to respect his work place and to not have them out anymore. so… Yeah idk of HR would do anything

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Even if they don’t, it makes a record of his behaviour (hopefully), and I doubt you’re the only one having issues with him.

            I seriously hope you consider beginning a job search, though. A company that won’t do anything about potentially illegal and problematic actions by a manager isn’t one I’d care to remain at long-term.

          2. CAA*

            If you do go to HR, I’d just encourage you to have a goal in mind and be able to say what you’d like them to do. Do you want them to document in his personnel file that he yelled at you, or used sexist language; do you want them to have a counseling session with him, or put him on a PIP? Whatever you ask for, be aware that unless it is something like a mediation session between the two of you, you probably won’t find out what action, if any, was taken.

            1. BRR*

              I was about to comment to have a goal. That you at least want to be able to keep pads at your desk without being harassed about it.

      10. Eden*

        I don’t think it’s too late to call – an additional perspective I’d like to raise is that unless this is his first management role (and even if it is, if he managed people before you), it’s entirely possible that this is not the first complaint of this nature. Human behavior is all about patterns, and I think it’s important to start documenting that pattern, even if you do turn out to be the first. Because while you may leave, your successor may have the exact challenges and patterns documented longitudinally will help establish the pattern to HR.

  4. JMegan*

    Oh, gross. Not you, OP – your boss.

    I’d be so tempted to tell him all kinds of stories about what periods are *really* like – if he’s so put off by the idea of seeing unused menstrual products, imagine what he’d do if he ever had to deal with an actual period! I mean, don’t actually do that, because you probably need your job. But honestly, this guy is a tool. At minimum, I would make sure you have documented this incident somewhere, just in case you need to show a pattern down the line.

    1. Mandy*

      I’ve told our other managers about it, which didn’t do much. I was just kind of told to respect his work place because he works in the same area and I. Even though, I wasn’t waving this thing in his face, or sticking my pad on his computer screen lol. It was placed on a small shelf. That’s it! A shelf! It’s still so insane to me how things had gotten so out of hand.

      1. Sparrow*

        Even if you were waving it in his face, there is no rational way to explain a phobia or disgust with what basically amounts to fresh gauze, come on. You’re absolutely not the one being disrespectful or unreasonable here. I completely agree with Alison.

      2. Jeanne*

        They weren’t used. He’s afraid of cotton wrapped in plastic. But other managers will support your manager before supporting you. It’s a management thing unfortunately. I agree it seems ridiculous it blew up into this situation. I don’t know what I would do.

      3. Observer*

        I don’t really have a problem with asking you to be a bit more discreet with this. BUT – and this is important – that’s totally not the issue. The issue is that he touched your stuff with our permission and without business need; he called you inappropriate names for perfectly reasonable behavior; he yelled at you; and he told you to “know your place”! How is that an acceptable response?!

        Is there a convenient place you can leave your stuff where it’s not so visible? If the answer to that is no, then it really is a big issue. You can’t be expected to keep stuff discreet if you don’t have a reasonable place to put things. “Then just don’t bring them / keep them in the office” is not a reasonable response, obviously, and also something to bring to HR.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Are the other managers male? Can’t imagine the women wouldn’t back you up, unless they’re afraid of this guy for some reason.

    2. INTP*

      You raise a good point about what he would do if he had to deal with an actual period. And now I feel tempted to advise the OP to rub a little ketchup or red wine into the seat of some light-colored furniture that the boss will see.

    3. ginger ale for all*

      He is immature but I suppose if it is a shared workspace and the pad was out there it in it’s individual state, it would make some people uncomfortable. Do you have a make up bag or something that can ‘disguise’ it that he would have to open before he had a hissy fit?

  5. Roscoe*

    Not that I’m condoning the behavior, but I’m a bit confused. You said you put this in the back office under our computer desk. So is this like a public space or what? If so, I can see asking you to keep it in your personal area and not out in the open. Not because its a feminine product, but because its a personal product. But if it is “your” area that he just happens to see, its a bit different than if its just sitting out there

    1. Us, Too*

      Right, kind of like not leaving your purse or umbrella or lunch in a public area. But his reaction? Ridiculous!

    2. Bend & Snap*

      This is my question; I’m head tilting this whole thing. I can’t imagine having this stuff out in the open or letting my boss know I have my period.


      1. FunnyDay*

        I keep my products in my purse until needed, or in a make-up bag. But I’m imagining these were unwrapped and just sitting there. I don’t want to sound like a prude, but it would be a bit unnerving to go to someones desk and see feminine products sitting in the open. I don’t want to know that level of intimate detail about my co-workers.
        Of course the manager’s explosion was over the top.

        1. Koko*

          I actually think they were in a box, because although LW uses the plural “pads” she also repeatedly uses singular pronoun “it” when talking about moving them around (“I grabbed it” “I found it” etc).

        2. Honeybee*

          You don’t want to know whether or not they have periods? I assume that at least 90% of women walking around have periods. Just because there are pads around doesn’t mean that they are having their period right that second.

          1. Observer*

            Well, I don’t want to know if you have periods in general, though I’m not going to faint if I happen to find out in the normal course of events. I certainly don’t want to know that you are having your period TODAY. Just TMI – just like I really don’t want to know the details of any particular bathroom visit.

            I’d not be too pleased if someone left his “tucks” (hemorrhoid wipes) sitting out in full public either, if he had a convenient space to stash them. No one needs that level of information about anyone’s bodily functions.

            1. Honeybee*

              I think it’s more like toilet paper. Nobody complains about seeing toilet paper out in the open, or Kleenex. It’s a simply bodily function that eliminates waste and happens regularly. I’m assuming we’re talking about clean, wrapped pads she’s keeping in a spare drawer or something – I honestly don’t get the controversy over that.

            2. Anna*

              You know it by knowing they’re a human. Everyone using the toilet paper comparison are spot on and it’s far more accurate than a tucks, but even so…you realize humans are a walking bodily function, right?

      2. Rafe*

        Agree 100 percent. I can’t in any way condone the boss’s behavior — but leaving tampons or maxi pads in a public space at work seems to cross basic professional boundaries, as would leaving out a box of condoms or whatever.

        1. KR*

          I don’t want to turn this into a huge derailing mess, but pads and tampons to condoms is not really a good comparison. Condoms are used purely for sexual purposes, but there is nothing sexual about pads or tampons for most people who menstruate. They’re necessary hygiene products to prevent women from bleeding all over everything and ruining our clothes.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            There are so many hygiene products that aren’t typically in view in an office though; that’s the whole point.

            I keep spare underwear and pantyhose in my desk but I certainly wouldn’t have them out in the open. They’re personal items.

                1. fposte*

                  I think I would strongly resist requiring women to bring in tampons for that day’s use every day rather than allowing them to store a box under a shared desk.

                2. fposte*

                  @Bend & Snap–okay, fair enough. I don’t really see an alternative to that other than her keeping the box there, though–what were you thinking?

                3. Sadsack*

                  Overall, I think the manager was juvenile and disrespectful in his response. If Mandy has no where else to store these things, then it shouldn’t be a big deal to do what she did, especially since she explained that this was on a rare occasion.

                4. Hotsteak*

                  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask they be kept at the back of the desk, but OF COURSE the way the manager acted is horribly inappropriate. I would think you could put them in a drawer, or a whicker basket or small handbag that you leave at the back of the shelf.

                  The best non-gendered example I can think of would be catheters or colostomy equipment. Even if I know you use that stuff I don’t want to see it out at work! If it goes under your pants, please don’t keep it out in the open.

                5. Angela Harris*

                  Still this is childish, its not like the pad was used, it was underneath a desk and she was having an emergency, every woman has had that one time where she forogt her pad or tampon and those card board cheap things in the ladies room, if there are any left, aren’t comfy.

                  This man needs to grow up and know his place. He needs to know how he got here.

                6. Hotsteak*

                  She seems to have left her hygiene products in a visible area because she felt that was an okay thing to do, not because she thought she was having an emergency. After all she did move them several times throughout the day.

                  And of course his reaction was childish, but she can’t change his behavior, she can only modify hers (and I think reasonably so).

                7. Hotsteak*

                  To me, that is like saying that having a pair of underwear on your desk is the same as having a pair of gloves. Practically speaking they are both pieces of clothing, but socially and culturally they are two entirely different things.

                8. Observer*

                  I don’t like it. But the solution is to give EVERYONE an option to a modest amount of personal items in a discreet and safe place. Forbidding women to keep their personal items in the only available space is NOT a good solution.

                  Especially since the OP described even more gross stuff that the manager is leaving in that space.

            1. Triceratops*

              I don’t have any enclosed spaces at my desk — just open shelving, no cabinets or drawers — so yeah, I have a box of tampons in plain view. I think of it like tissues — no one wants to see what goes into the tissues, but it’s not offensive to have a box of tissues on my desk.

                1. Tracy*

                  Yeah, me too. But that’s just me. I don’t feel the need to share my menstrual cycle with the world! :)

              1. Triceratops*

                I mean, sure, if I had a drawer I’d keep my snacks/tea/tampons in it (and I did at my old desk). But I personally don’t feel the need to hide these things when there’s not an obvious place to put them. I also work in a pretty casual environment and only very rarely do people outside the org see my desk, FWIW.

          2. sunny-dee*

            Yeah, but I also wouldn’t want to leave out, say, Depends or a laxative or hemorrhoid cream. It’s a necessary but icky personal process. I wouldn’t really want to advertise it. (Like another poster said, I tend to keep feminine products in my purse or a makeup bag. I just don’t want anyone else to know.)

          3. Christine*

            I think we are getting a little caught in semantics. We all agree that obviously, women have periods and keeping pads/tampons available at your office is going to happen. The question is…where? Some women prefer to keep them in their purse and just have what they need. Ok. Others prefer to keep a stash in their desk. Personally, I think it is wise to have a small stash at all times…I always carry extra tampons in my purse and if I had a dedicated office space, I’d keep some in my desk too. You never know when accidents could happen.

            That being said, I also agree with the sentiment that they shouldn’t be kept out in the open in public spaces. Even if the shelf was her space, it isn’t something that should be kept available for public view. Not because it is gross, women are gross, and periods should be kept hush-hush. But, as others have said, these are personal hygiene products and yes, it is unprofessional to display them publicly. Anything of that nature should be kept in a drawer, such as deodorant etc. Even other personal items like snacks or gym bags etc. should be kept out of the open. Open shelf space is reserved for work items that need to be quickly accessed. You are at work. This isn’t your bathroom or closet. Sorry.

            That being said, of COURSE his reaction was over the top and borderline sexist (unless this is a pattern, then for sure sexist)! He should have just said “hey, sorry…but is there anywhere else you can store those? I like to keep personal items and hygiene products stored out of site, as it feels more professional.” If this was a one-time freak out, brush it off. But if it is part of an overall pattern of behavior and this happens again, definitely approach HR. Be prepared now to be watching for this and how to handle it.

            1. Viva L*

              +1 his reaction was way over the top, but the male/female dynamic is masking the issue of professionalism here.

              It’s very unprofessional to have personal hygiene products in shared space. It’s ‘personal vs. professional’ boundaries issue – not a male vs. female one, imo. Any personal hygiene product would be unprofessional – toilet paper, hemorrhoid cream, wart remover, syringes, prescriptions ….. doesnt matter. If you dont have personal space, only shared space, I think a box or bag would be appropriate to keep these kinds of things in.

              I wish people were more open about this topic in general/life/society, but that doesnt mean being open changes the boundaries of professionalism.

              1. Stephanie*

                The problem with “It’s ‘personal vs. professional’ boundaries issue – not a male vs. female one, imo.” is that too often “professional” is defined as whatever is “normal” or usual for men. Even if the professional standards are gender-neutral on their face, they may have a disparate impact on different genders.

              2. WIncredulous*

                No. It wasn’t in a “public space” – it was on a shelf below the desk/under the desk from what I read. If I’m wrong, sorry. It’s not like it was on display.

          4. Donna*

            Pads and tampons are in the same category as toilet paper, Kleenex, and Band-aids, but no one seems to have a problem with a box of Kleenex on top of a desk.

            I personally wouldn’t leave pads and tampons in a shared space because I don’t want people inferring my mental state from their presence (i.e. that I would overreact or get emotional at bad news).

            1. Christine*

              No, we don’t have a problem with tissues being open on desks because they are A) often provided by offices for their employees use and are thus technically belonging to your place of employment and, B) they are an item that, when needed, is needed ASAP. They keep everyone else around you more healthy and productive by not passing germs around from uncovered sneezes. Same for hand sanitizer. If the office doesn’t supply them and they are personal, the same health logic applies for why they should be taking up open space. Band-aids? In the drawer for yourself and in the first aid kits that are clearly and strategically placed in the business, per regulation. And why would you have toilet paper on your desk? Why?!

              ANYTHING that is not business related and/or absolutely necessary to be accessed easily and quickly on a regular basis by the general office staff should be tucked away. That’s how you keep things organized and professional looking. The only exceptions are if you have a personal office space, you may have a small variety of personal decorative items like family photos, plants, etc. so long as they are in good taste, don’t interfere with the cleanliness of your space/ability to get work done, and don’t take up too much room.

              I simply cannot fathom why this is so hard.

              1. Honeybee*

                Number one, pads perform exactly the same function. They capture waste. People would be less productive and healthy if women didn’t have ways to capture their bodily waste and discard it. Women often need to have them at hand to run to the bathroom. I don’t see what harm having them on the desk does to people or why anyone would have a problem with a box of tampons sitting out. Personally I might prefer to put them in a desk drawer, but there’s nothing inherently shameful about menstrual products.

                Secondly, the rigid rules you set out aren’t quite so rigid across spaces – it really depends on the workplace. At my job, full personalization of personal spaces (office or desk) is really common and people have all manner of crazy toys, games, snacks, decorations, and all kinds of other stuff on their desks and walls and space. We prefer to work in that kind of environment.

            2. Alix*

              I’d be pretty annoyed at a roll of toilet paper or a box of bandaids (unless this is a job where you expect to cut yourself super-frequently) on top of a desk, though.

          5. Turtle Candle*

            The repeated comparison with condoms makes me think that there’s some element of thinking that women’s bodies are inherently sexual in this reaction. (Like, well I guess you can’t help carrying that sex toy you call a vagina around with you all day, but common decency means you should at least maintain the illusion that you don’t!) Because otherwise it makes no sense to me at all.

            1. Amber T*

              “Like, well I guess you can’t help carrying that sex toy you call a vagina around with you all day, but common decency means you should at least maintain the illusion that you don’t!”

              I snorted at this particular part, but plus a bajillion to your comment overall. Yes. Yes a million times this. Condoms = fun sexytimes by choice. Pads/tampons = unavoidable reality for ~50% of the population.

              1. Amber T*

                Also, condoms have no reason being in the work place unless you’re in a very specific profession that’s illegal in most of the country. You can’t compare them to pads and tampons.

              2. Turtle Candle*

                Right! It is, by implication, saying “menstruating on the job is as inappropriate as fucking on the job.” Which is just so wrong that I have to assume that the people making the comparison are just not thinking.

          6. Observer*

            That’s why I used the example of hemorrhoid wipes. The issue that most really personal hygiene products don’t really belong in full view.

            Not to excuse the supervisor – he really did sound like an immature child.

            1. Amber T*

              Here’s where I play devil’s advocate… let’s say you saw someone carrying hemorrhoid wipes down the hall to the bathroom, whether if fell out of their pockets or they’re carrying it out in the open. How does someone seeing the wipes affect them? What would your reaction really be? I get that people are uncomfortable talking about medical things or “gross” things, but my reaction is always “why?” No, I don’t want details on Fergus’s hemorrhoids, but he gets them and I notice wipes… poor Fergus, it sucks that he’s going through that, and I hope he feels better soon.

              (This is where I curse you for using the example of hemorrhoid’s because I can’t for life of me type that correctly on the first (or third) try.)

              1. Alix*

                For my part, I don’t want to talk about these things or have them openly laying about because of this thing called personal boundaries. Some things are private. That doesn’t make them shameful; it also doesn’t mean I’d react in horror to someone accidentally dropping his hemorrhoid wipes or antifungal cream or Sudafed or whatever. But it does mean that I don’t want my coworkers all up in my personal business, nor do I want to be all up in theirs, and there’s little that’s more personal than your own body.

                I have to admit, I’m having trouble comprehending the idea I’m seeing here that saying something is personal/unprofessional = saying that it’s somehow shameful.

                1. Honeybee*

                  OK, you like to keep your periods private – that’s great. Other people don’t care so much. It’s not really a violation of anyone’s personal boundaries to have to see a wrapped pad lying around occasionally.

              2. Observer*

                Eh. Someone’s wipes, pad, tampon fell out of their pocket? “Hey Jane! I think you dropped something.”

                Any of those sitting on someone’s desk? Internal “ew.” If I had the right kind of relationship with the person, I’d ask if they had a better place to keep it. If I knew they didn’t an internal sigh would accompany the “ew”.

        2. Jinx*

          OP says it’s a shelf under her computer desk, though. That made me think it’s one of those desks that has alcoves instead of drawers, so she may not have options other than a purse. And it’s a pain to carry a bunch of pads in your purse while remembering to restock (I haven’t used pads in a long time, but it was never one or two a day for me, it involved several). I store tampons in my purse and I forget them all the time, I might bring a box to stick in my work desk drawer.

          1. Mandy*

            Yeah, it’s just open area really. There’s a bunch of weird things on that shelf area to begin with. I don’t have my own personal spot where I can have these things away from people.

          2. vivace*

            Pretty sure this is why OP mentioned forgetting them in her morning rush in the past. Entirely reasonable to keep some at work for that reason. And if you don’t provide a personal space for employees to keep such things, they’ll visible to other people.

          3. Artemesia*

            I would never leave personal items like this showing in my office or desk or whatever. How hard is it to stick the box in a larger more anonymous box or keep it in a shopping bag of some sort so its purpose is obscured? In shared space personal items should be kept concealed. But then I do come from a very prudish time.

            In any case, this guy’s reaction of disgust is ridiculous.

            given the reaction of other managers, I’d probably keep my head down as OP and be looking for a less icky place to work.

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              How hard is it to stick the box in a larger more anonymous box or keep it in a shopping bag of some sort so its purpose is obscured?

              You know, I have a feeling that period-phobic manager guy would then see the box and think “what is this box? Why is it here? I didn’t put it here and I need space for $MyMoreImportantThing,” open it, see what’s inside and proceed to freak out and clutch his pearls again.

              1. Roscoe*

                Wow. You must be psychic since you can predict the exact behavior of someone you haven’t met. Having an adverse reaction to something in plain sight is a very different thing than going rummaging through things that don’t belong to you.

                1. Roscoe*

                  I’m never defended his actions. However, I always find it ridiculous on here how people take 2 things that have NOTHING to do with each other and try to find a correlation. It would be like me saying “My manager is making me jump through hoops to take vacation” then someone else saying, “yeah, they are probably the one stealing your lunch as well”. They have nothing to do with each other.

                  As I said, he may be someone who has a bad reaction to seeing feminine products, but there is like 0 reason to think he would actually go through people’s things.

                2. The Strand*

                  No, I think the language he used to criticize her, the fact that he pushed her item below the desk back where it was hard to reach. and the comment he said about her knowing her place, *does* indicate someone who does not respect boundaries. He called her unprofessional for bringing an item that almost all women of reproductive age must have on hand in case of an emergency; its like telling someone with regular digestive trouble, who has Pepto Bismal or Alka Seltzer on their desk, that they are gross for using this product, rather than a request to put it out of sight at a shared desk. He was freaking over pads that were not on the desk, but on a lower shelf. A person like that would be more likely to rifle through a box.

        3. Lindy Hops*

          This is an inappropriate comparison. Condoms are associated with sex which is why they are not work appropriate. The same is not true of sanitary products. They are closer in nature and function to a roll of toilet paper or a pack of paper towels. Would you feel it was unprofessional to have those in a public space at work?

          1. Elysian*

            I mean… maybe? It would depend on the area. I think part of the reason we’re confused is because we don’t have a good sense of where the OP put them. Like, if I brought toilet paper and put it in the office kitchen on the counter, or in the copy room with the extra paper, yes, that would be weird and unprofessional. If I brought my own toilet paper and put it in a drawer in my personal workspace, that it not unprofessional. If I put it in on my bookshelf in my workspace when I have drawers available, that would be weird. If I put it on my bookshelf when I don’t have drawers, well, you just have to live with that if you don’t give your employees closed storage spaces. So I think it depends on context that we’re missing.

            1. Mandy*

              Okay, so we have a long desk. We have our computers on this desk.
              To the very right of the desk there’s a small shelf right beneath the desk.
              It’s a good 5in tall and 3ft wide.
              Under it everyone puts the most random things there. For example – my manager has (and still has) crusty spoons that have been there way over a year. I’ve even found rock hard food.

              This is where I had put my pads.

              1. Elsajeni*

                So it sounds like there’s really no case to be made that you “should” have put them somewhere more discreet — this is a space where you, specifically, work, not some kind of hotdesking situation where someone might reasonably say “Hey, can you carry those with you when you move to a different workspace, instead of leaving them on what becomes my desk?”; it sounds like there’s not a drawer or cupboard in the same area where you could stash them out of sight; and people, including your boss, put WAY GROSSER things on that shelf than wrapped, unused menstrual products.

              2. Observer*

                Then you need to ask the manager who told you to “respect the shared space” where you are supposed to put the box of pads? And also, why is it ok for him to leave gross cutlery and old food (which are not just disgusting but an attractive nuisance)? If this is about respecting shared spaces, that goes both ways, no?

              3. afiendishthingy*

                Yeah, I’m confused by all the people saying you shouldn’t have any sort of toiletry “out in the open” – it’s underneath the desk. Hardly the first thing one sees when entering the room.

                1. Mandy*

                  Exactly. It’s not like it’s poking people in the eye, and screaming HEY LOOK AT ME! Haha
                  this would’ve been way easier if I could show everyone a photo for a better understanding. But, it’s just kind of funny that someone called me Gross, when I literally only had a “sanitary napkin” in its wrapping. I don’t have trash there.

              4. The Strand*

                That is seriously ridiculous! His crap is disgusting, dried food and used utensils crusted with debris, tracking bugs and vermin that bring dirt and disease (eg cockroaches). You have stuff that most women of a certain age require to function, which does not attract bugs. And it’s out of sight! But he calls *you* gross?! Personally I would update my resume first and start reaching out to my network. This guy is a hypocritical loon.

          2. Connie-Lynne*

            Exactly. It’s like having toilet paper, soap, or paper towels in the copier room that doubles as storage for office supplies.

          3. INTP*

            Yes, exactly. Simply needing condoms at work is evidence of inappropriate activity. Menstruating is not.

            That said, I do understand how it would be preferable to keep them private, like you might keep your hemorrhoid cream or your Depends or spare underwear. But it’s certainly not worth such a crazy outburst, and if there are no convenient out-of-sight places to put those things, no one should complain. (I wouldn’t complain regardless, but might silently note it as odd.)

          4. Just Another Techie*

            I actually would. I want toilet paper, etc, to be in a cupboard or something. The manager was definitely horrible and unprofessional, and IMO that definitely warrants a chat with HR, especially if it’s part of a larger pattern of sexist behavior, but I also think OP should find somewhere else to store her supplies. Especially since it sounds like it’s a shared workspace.

            1. Missy*

              You want to have to fetch toilet paper from a cupboard evey time you use the restrooms? That seems… Odd.

              1. Marzipan*

                I imagine it would also make it rather more obvious where you were going. And WHY you were going, depending on how much you took!

              2. Tracy*

                It’s not… Odd. The restrooms would be stocked with paper and the extras would be in the supply closet or whatever.

                1. LQ*

                  I think it is odd if there is no cupboard in the ladies room only the men’s room, which is what it sounds like.

              3. Just Another Techie*

                Obviously I meant extras for replenishing when the roll on the holder runs out. I don’t want to see a bunch of spare rolls sitting out on the breakroom counter.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              I also agree with this. (Manager completely inappropriate and off-base, but storing any hygiene products in a shared space is also off-base.) I was thinking deodorant as a parallel. I always just brought the days’ supply in my purse, but there were some people in my office who put a decorative box in the bathroom filled with their bulk supplies. And then proceeded to bitch when other people used their supplies. There were probably ~20 women in the office at that time. Who knew who put them there? It could have been a community supply, like at gyms.

              Anyway, my vote if the OP doesn’t have a private desk or drawer, and has to lock away her purse or backpack during the day would just be to keep them in the same place in a bag or box for privacy. That’s what I would do with deodorant, aspirin, or extra food stashes.

                1. LALA*

         – Change it/wash it twice a day from the privacy of your own home; you won’t need to deal with it in the office. I wish I’d discovered this product 30 years ago instead of only five years ago — it works really well!

                2. Miss Herring*

                  (Replying to LALA’s comment)

                  YES YES YES! This is not to justify anything that jerk said, but I recommend menstrual cups to all women who have periods. BEST. THING. EVER. If you are a heavy bleeder (like me), you will need to empty it at the office, but you can wipe it out with a bit of TP and stick it right back in. Menstrual cups have been around since the early 1900s, have no risk of TSS, and save you money (and purse space) in the long run. I can’t wear tampons (they hurt so bad, even if I’ve chosen a light absorbency for a heavy day), but my cup (I also chose DivaCup) is just fine!

                3. JennaLynn*

                  LALA or Miss Herring, I’ve heard of those cups, but how do they not like tip and spill if you move wrong? I also can’t do tampons, but wouldn’t shoving a cup in there being even harder to do?

                4. Miss Herring*

                  NOTE TO ADMIN: If this is too graphic for your forum and you feel the need to remove this post, would you please send JennaLynn my email address somehow? (I’m not going to ask for hers without her consent.) My menstrual cup has made such a improvement to my life; I want to tell every woman who is willing to listen. I really wish that these cups had been discussed in Health class in school, but they don’t send out free samples the way the tampon and pad makers do.


                  If you look up a couple pics online, you should be able to see that the cups are longer than they are wide, which prevents tipping. (Can I post picture links here? Better not risk it. You can look at the menstrual cup Wikipedia page for a variety of pics.)

                  Sometimes they leak if they are overfull (more than 1 oz of blood). To give you a bit of perspective, the majority of women don’t lose even an ounce a day during their periods. (Heavier bleeders, like my family, can lose an ounce in an hour when things are bad, but that is not common.) Once you start using the cup, you can figure out your flow rate (many have measurement markings, or you can estimate) and know that you have 1 or 4 or 24 hours before you need to worry about leaking (once you get through the learning curve {usually one or two cycles} to know when it is sealed). Even overfull, it doesn’t tend to start leaking unless you flex your kegel muscles. I’ve only ever heard of one woman having hers flip sideways (no one I know – internet story), and it was someone doing yoga/gymnastics and turning her entire body upside down while rotating her torso. It was a pretty extreme move, apparently (I wish I could remember the source!). but most women have no issues with athletic activities while wearing cups. It was a fluke.

                  The vaginal canal is an elastic tunnel (not my original description!), so it kind of hangs onto the cup really well. The cup is open at the top, but then the canal narrows as the cup does. You really don’t feel it when it is in place.

                  So, my guesses as to why tampons do not work for me and cups do? From what I’ve heard about tampons, they are worn very high in the vaginal canal. Menstrual cups are worn much lower. The end of the cup is usually very close to the vaginal opening. Tampons are absorbent. Cups are not. When you go to remove a tampon, its fibers (which may not be fully saturated with blood and may have started to dry out the canal) are dragged along the full length of the canal. The cup is pinched to release the seal. The cup’s lip of smooth silicone is dragged across just the lower part of the canal, which remains appropriately lubricated.

                  To insert the cup, you fold it, stick it in the lower canal, rotate it as needed and tense/relax your muscles until it opens fully (you can find better instructions online). You can use it on light flow days as well as heavy flow days and overnight. It does not hurt to use at all, and it is really easy to use once you are used to inserting it. (Just don’t wear it during penetrative intercourse.)

          5. Navy Vet*

            Well, aren’t y’all lucky? You are about to get a Navy story. :D

            My second ship was commissioned in the early 90’s built for an all male crew because at the time females were not yet allowed to serve on combat ships. Well, I reported aboard as one of the first female crew members when it was intergrated.

            The male complaints about our presence (Beyond the standard “women do not belong on ships” mentality that is still so very alive and well) included, but were not limited to.
            1. Needing to shower more (I don’t even want to know)
            2. Not being able to watch porn in any space with a tv/vcr/dvd player.
            3. Tampons and pads being in the ship store

            My mailbox permanently had a box of tampons in it just to be difficult, if I’m being honest….in my defense I was 22 and very feisty. My attitude was we are all adults, you mother’s, sister’s, girlfriends and wives do it. Time to deal with it. After all, it’s not as if they were used. In fact one of the guys used one on a bloody nose once. LMAO. That was really the turning point on Tampon acceptance.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              I wouldn’t use the word ‘feisty’ about myself because I’m just in-your-face aggressive and don’t have a problem with that word. I think I would have gone to great lengths to impress on my shipmates that there was nothing wrong with their porn as long as I got to watch mine…and I’d make sure it was the rawest Bear action I could find.

              Kudos for you and pushing back. Rock on.

            2. AnonT*

              As a guy, I’m actually a little concerned about the “needing to shower more” complaint. Like… what were they doing before? Did they just not bathe? Or did they not do as good of a job washing up? Was the entire ship just constantly engulfed in a miasma of unwashed guy stench?

              I have so many questions, most of which I am absolutely sure I do not actually want the answers to.

              1. The Strand*

                Yes, these guys can stink. Bad. I wonder if its one part what you think it might be (cold showers), but another part vanity. When you’re understaffed and underway, you might not have time or the opportunity to take a shower as often as you would, or for as long as you would like. You might pull a double shift, drop off to sleep, then not get the chance to bathe thoroughly because you ran out of time before your next shift. If you’re lucky some nonrate wakes you up with a flashlight in the berthing area with enough time for you to clean up good. But now you’re serving with women and your vanity bothers you, whereas talking about your “swamp ass” with other guys before wasn’t a problem.

                1. Navy Vet*

                  So by shower more, I assume it meant at all. And yes – There are times when the potable water goes down and the only fresh water available is used for essential engineering tasks, cooking and washing the helicopters. But when that happens the whole ship smells and there is nothing to be done about it until the water is fixed. Trust me…there are some stinkers on the ship and they weren’t all male. I chalked it up to not being taught proper hygiene when younger.

                  For the porn thing….They *tried* putting a dirty lady photo up in the transmitter room. My response was to get the “big issue” of playgirl (if you get my drift) and put my own dirty picture up. When they complained I told them I would keep putting those up until the lady picture came down. Or they can both stay up…either way. The dirty lady photo came down pretty quickly. Snicker.

                2. Zahra*

                  Oh, I could hug you, Navy Vet! I love the “hang up a Playgirl centerfold right next to a Playboy centerfold-like poster” move. And, hey, if they don’t mind, I don’t either. :D

            3. WIncredulous*

              My stepson played rugby in college and some poor young man used a tampon for his bloody nose. It really swelled up.

          6. Q*

            Actually, yes. Just last week I had to talk to an employee because she had a roll of toilet paper on her desk. Turns out she ran out of tissues and was using that in the meantime. She put it in her drawer and we all lived happily ever after.

        4. neverjaunty*

          “Or whatever”. I have a box of facial tissues on my desk. Nobody thinks that’s unprofessional even though their obvious use is to catch mucus.

          1. Candy*

            Would you keep your Fart Be Gone Flatulence Deodorizer Pads or your Preparation H cream next to the facial tissues?

            1. neverjaunty*

              You’re right, I should be hiding the facial tissues in my desk along with Preparation H and wrinkle cream.

              1. Tracy*

                See? I’m glad you understand that. The top of the desk is for work; the drawers are for…other stuff.

            2. Honeybee*

              Menstrual products are, IMO, far more comparable to Kleenex than they are to Preparation H cream.

          2. Hotsteak*

            You use those on your face, which is visible all day long. A better example would be specialty butt wipes for the bathroom, which I hope we can agree would not be kept out in the open all day.

            1. Stephanie*

              Facial tissues are used for all sorts of things and in all sorts of places – not restricted to faces or mucus. Tissues are just bleached cotton. They don’t explode if you use them on some other part of your body.

              Plus, we do have “wet” wipes out and about. Nice ones with non-toxic substances. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been used beyond counter wiping.

            2. neverjaunty*

              So it’s OK for me to store a tube of Super Acne Blaster Spot Treatment for Faces and a blackhead-removal tool on my desk next to the Kleenex, since those are to be used on my face which is visible all day? Or are those more like Preparation H?

            3. Q*

              I had a guy who kept his butt wipes on his desk! He was back in a corner though and only a few internal people ever had to go to his desk so I never said anything.

        5. Engineer Girl*

          I came here to say the same thing. It is unprofessional to leave any personal care product out in the open. Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, it all belongs in your desk. If you don’t have a desk then keep a day’s worth in your purse.
          We put our personal care items away at home, so why should you think it is OK to have them out for the office?
          Your bosses reaction was over the top, but the core of his argument is correct. Pads and tampons are no different than used toothbrushes.
          I disagree totally with Alison in this instance. You don’t have a right to keep your stuff all over the office public area even if it is associated with women’s functions.

          1. Nikki*

            Just throwing it out there, I leave my box of tampons out on the bathroom counter when I’m on my period. My boyfriend doesn’t care because he’s an adult (and also grateful for the monthly confirmation that I’m not pregnant, I assume).

            1. AnotherAlison*

              TBH, I would be annoyed with you. You’re supposed to put things away, not leave things in plain sight. That goes for tampons, toothpaste, and the box of Splenda that my husband always leaves out on the kitchen counter. If you have a home with limited storage, everything is supposed to have some sort of decorative container that shows it is supposed to be left out. That’s just the way it is! (I’m kind of serious, because that IS how I run my house, but I know others aren’t as particular.)

              1. Bookworm*

                I would be annoyed too…but I think in both our cases it’s a reflection of how we want things to feel. (I feel cramped and chaotic if there’s a lot of things not in their place.) My tampons are in a brightly colored floral bag; I actually take them out of the original packaging and transfer them because I think it’s prettier.

                But yeah, I know plenty of high-functioning people who have less tidy restrooms.

              2. AnonEMoose*

                Mine sit out at home, too. My husband couldn’t care less. And on the rare occasions we have guests I’d rather have some readily visible and available to a woman who might need one. So far as I’m concerned, no one who doesn’t pay the mortgage gets a vote. Neither of us is wrong in how we run our homes, and I personally don’t appreciate the judgement.

              3. esuohllod*

                You’re welcome to come into my tiny bathroom in my overpriced 500 sq ft home and try to find a way to fit any kind of storage into my bathroom. Tampons live on a shelf under the sink, along with my hair dryer, extra body wash, my husband’s hair clippers, etc. It’s just not realistic to think that everyone can live their lives like they are in a hotel.

                Also…toothpaste?? Doesn’t everyone keep the toothpaste with the brush, in a cup or little stand or wherever?

              4. Elizabeth West*

                My home has very limited storage and I do not have the room to have decorative Hyacinth Bucket-approved containers for every single frickin thing. That doesn’t mean I’m not “particular” (as though I’m a filthy slob–seriously, I hope that’s not what you meant). It only means I prefer to have stuff out where I can get to it. Obviously if someone else lived in my home and my things were in his way, we’d work something out. But I’m not getting a special box for my toothpaste tube.

                If anybody came to my house and had a problem with the [packaged] menstrual products neatly arranged in plain sight in a basket on the shelf over my toilet, I doubt they’d be anyone I’d want to hang out with long-term. Would I put them away if I had a better space, or a cabinet? Sure, if only to reduce clutter in my abysmally small bathroom. Do I care if someone sees them? Nope, not in the least. Their pearl-clutching is not my problem.

                As for the OP, her manager was way out of line with his remarks. I do think the OP could put the products into a small box or something, if nothing else to keep them corralled in one place so they don’t end up all over the shared cubby. But if she did that and the manager were still pushing it back, then all bets are off.

              5. Honeybee*

                Toothpaste? Where on earth am I supposed to keep my toothpaste if not on my bathroom counter for easy reaching so I can brush my teeth? I am super baffled. I mean, I keep it in a holder, but it’s still out in the open – as is my BB cream, my makeup brush quick clean spray, my toner, and the other things I use in my morning toilette. A decorative container would take up more space and not fit.

          2. Mandy*

            The thing is, I’m not leaving it everywhere. This was literally one time. I don’t always have spare pads on me. Especially, if I have to wake up before the suns out. I’m kind of like trying to get to work and not trying to pack my things in my bag for the week. Having pads, in their wrappers, under our computers shouldn’t have been an issue.
            This guy literally leaves his dishes and old food there for weeks/over a year. Those things really shouldn’t be in the office. Heaven forbid one of those food grow mold and turn into a little creature lol.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              I don’t get the wake up before the sun’s out comment. Many (most) of us do that. I find that prepacking things the night before has a huge effect on my getting out the door without chaos.
              I understand that your boss is setting a bad example and is a bit of a hypocrite in this instance. That said, he is correct that leaving personal items out is unprofessional. Take the high ground on this one and behave more professionally than him. That takes away any arguments he could use against you.
              If I were you I would get a cute bag, box, tin and put a few personal items in there. Write your name on the box. Then they can’t complain if they look inside it and see tampons etc. “Why were you looking in a box labeled mine?”

              1. afiendishthingy*

                But they’re really not “out”. They’re under a desk, on a shelf where things get left to be forgotten. If food or dishes are getting left there for months at a time, it’s not a high-traffic area. I don’t see a reason for Mandy to Bejazzle her Caboodle just to be “more professional” than Boy Manager.

                1. Megs*

                  Bejazzle her Caboodle FTW!

                  For reals people, all these comments about getting a “cute” whatever to hide your lady stuff in kind of tweak my butt. If you want to keep your stuff in cute color coded receptacles that’s great, but I really don’t think we need to hold this up as required for all women.

              2. Honeybee*

                Whether or not leaving personal things out is professional is a matter of opinion, as is evidenced by this thread. He’s not “right,” that’s simply what he believes.

          3. Bookworm*

            Could that depend a bit on the nature of the office and the shared space?

            When I worked retail, there was a shared space in the back and they had some stuff (including feminine products) neatly lined up on shelves for employee use. People also had other personal items there, so it didn’t feel out of place.

          4. Red alert*

            I DON’T put those things away at home – that’s what the shelves and countertops are for. Anyone in my house runs the risk of seeing a box of tampons. Too pathetic and juvenile to cope with that? Please leave my house.

            As for “out in the open”, the OP has clearly stated that they were stored on a shelf which is the available storage for personal items at work.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              OK, but home standards are lower than office standards. In a professional environment you **do** hide your personal care items.

              1. Red alert*

                No, actually, I don’t. Apparently YOU do, but this is not a universal absolute. MY workplace has absolutely no problem with such things being visible, thankfully. Anyone coming into there who felt the need to get upset about seeing a box of tampons or towels on a shelf would be mocked FOREVER.

              2. Mandy*

                I understand what you’re saying. I do.
                And yeah, the whole before the Suns out, I have to wake up really early (as do many people), but in the mornings I’m not trying to make sure I have all of my necessities for the day. I hardly even remember to bring my water bottle. I’m just trying to get up and go, not pack and check off my list.

              3. Megs*

                @Mandy: The funny thing is, there was a weirdly contentious discussion yesterday about morning vs. night people that I thought was going to be my favorite comment section of the week. Thank you for proving me wrong.

            2. Megs*

              Here here! Honestly, I’m far more embarrassed about the fact that the box on the counter is dusty as hell as I about it being visible.

          5. Observer*

            Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, it all belongs in your desk. If you don’t have a desk then keep a day’s worth in your purse.

            That’s not always realistic. I do believe that if you want a certain standard of behavior, you give people the tools for that. If you want people to keep some items discreet, you provide some space where things can be kept discreetly.

            We put our personal care items away at home, so why should you think it is OK to have them out for the office?
            Turn it round – we put shelves and cabinets in our bathrooms and bedrooms and other places where personal items are typically stored. Why does anyone think it’s not ok to provide that to the humans who work for them?

    3. TMA*

      I highly doubt he would have the same reaction to almost any other personal item (say, a sweater) like he did with the pads, and I really doubt that keeping generic personal items out of a public space was what motivated his crazy pants reaction.

      1. Rafe*

        Well, a sweater is not exactly a personal item in the same way a tampon or condom is labeled a personal item.

        1. TMA*

          My point was more that I don’t think his disdain of clutter in a public space was his motivator. His motivator is that he is grossed out by pads.

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          Other than ultrasound techs, who needs condoms at work? It’s so very strange that you would equate hygiene products and sexual products. Twice.

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              In case you are using a probe inside, I would imagine. Probably easier to get a look at certain organs that way.

        3. Minion*

          You keep comparing condoms and tampons. I can’t imagine why anyone would need to have quick access to a condom at work – I mean, unless there’s a duck club, then I guess it’s okay, but barring that, there’s no reason at all to have one out at work. In fact, leaving one lying around where someone would find it and know who it belongs to may even be a form of sexual harassment, who knows?
          Tampons, on the other hand, are a necessity. Seeing a tampon lying around shouldn’t provoke a meltdown from anyone. I am just absolutely floored that people still freak out about seeing pads or tampons.
          Maybe OP should have a meltdown when she sees someone grab a new roll of toilet paper before going into the bathroom. After all they’re going to do something REALLY GROSS with that toilet paper and pooping is quite unprofessional anyway. I personally, never do it. It’s just awful.
          And yes, I just compared periods to pooping. Whatcha gonna do about it??

      2. Artemesia*

        And in 45 years of marriage I have never left such supplies sitting around in the open in bathrooms I shared with my husband. Sure they are in the supply closet so he sees them from time to time but not sitting out on a shelf.

        1. Marvel*

          I’m glad that works for you, but it’s a really silly standard to hold others to. I prefer much more openness in my relationships.

          1. Megs*

            My only relationship privacy rule is to shut the bathroom door when you’re using the toilet. I won’t say anything to people who keep the door open, but I will admit that I judge a little.

    4. badger_doc*

      That was my thought too. I don’t want to raise a debate about how women have been shunned for all of history because of their periods, but I personally keep my tampons in my desk drawer. Not because I am embarrassed or afraid or ashamed, but because no one needs to see that stuff. Likewise, I don’t want to see men’s underwear or anal leakage pads or anything else personal at work. Even exercise cloths I try to keep zipped in my bag and hidden away. As a woman, I think it is weird to keep a box of pads on the floor open in the office. Not that the boss was in his right – he is an utter ass, but c’mon… Put the personal stuff away. At least in a purse or drawer.

      1. blackcat*

        It’s unclear, but I have certainly seen desks with no drawers, so placing personal items on the floor underneath becomes the default. When I was in this situation, I got a set of plastic drawers to keep under there, but I can see a workplace banning those.

        1. blackcat*

          Actually, she says they’re on a little shelf under the desk. It sounds like that shelf is *the* place to put personal items at work. So, yeah, where else is she going to put them if she wants to actually store them *at work* rather than on her person/in a bag she has to bring back and forth?

          1. badger_doc*

            I know, i read that too… If it were me, I would probably remove them from the box and put them in a makeup bag or something like that under my desk and grab one when i needed to head to the bathroom. I got the vibe that she was being pretty overt about it, which isn’t a problem, but might help temper the situation. I’m conflicted about the “concealment” on the way to the bathroom. If the boss had said, can you please hide that pad when you’re walking around, I would have told him to F off. Even though I, personally, am not that overt about it. Mine go in my pocket or hidden behind my phone :-) But I was raised by old-school parents. Old habits die hard.

              1. badger_doc*

                Maybe nonchalant is a better word… Overt seems too harsh. Only in comparison to myself, which is like KR below – feminist but private :-)

            1. KR*

              Same – diehard feminist who has made great strides in being completely open about myself as a woman and not being ashamed of anything and I still tuck my tampons in my waste-band or sleeve when I’m walking to the bathroom.

            2. irritable vowel*

              I like what someone above said — “if it gets used under your pants, I don’t want to see it” (paraphrasing). Of course this guy’s reaction was completely unacceptable. But items like this should not be visible in a shared workspace. We all know that menstruation happens, but it doesn’t need to be so openly acknowledged in a professional environment. (I just had to close my office door because a coworker was talking loudly on the phone about eating something that didn’t agree with her. I don’t want to know about her diarrhea, either.)

              1. Observer*

                The key problem here, though, is that there is no private place to put them. I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask people to “be discreet” and then not give them a space to do so.

                I would keep spares in my pocket-book. But I’ve also been reliably informed that I carry a “granny bag”. That’s just not a reasonable REQUIREMENT for being considered “professional”, much less a base line for not being called “gross.”

      2. Kyrielle*

        I store mine in a drawer, but – OP doesn’t say whether she *has* any such space. If there are shelves and no drawers where she works, and her purse isn’t large enough to hold several extra (or, as the letter seems to imply, she wants to keep some at work for days when she doesn’t think to grab them on the way out the door at home), where else should she put them?

        If there’s a private space that’s easy and convenient to access when needed throughout the day, then yes, that’s a better place for them than on a shelf (if only to avoid having to deal with the boss again). But there may not be….

        OP – I hate to suggest this, because honestly, it’s a box of clean pads, and it shouldn’t be a big deal. But perhaps you could transfer the pads into another container that doesn’t say what they are, with your name on it? (I’m thinking anything from a plain cardboard box to one of the little decorative ones – just something that doesn’t advertise what it is so that your boss won’t whine and sulk and growl, and you won’t have to be self-conscious.)

        And yeah, I’d report to HR.

        1. Sam*

          Yeah, even shoving the pad stash in an empty kleenex box would work. IMO, it’s just a cardboard box, but it seems the boss is too delicate for that.

          1. Stephanie*

            Of course, then she gets in trouble when someone goes to get kleenex from that box. Can’t win.

        2. Mandy*

          I really wish I had that option at work. But, I really can’t do that. Everyone is going to see it and open it. Even if my names on it. That’s just how the people at work are. My purse doesn’t even have a proper spot to be in. It has to hang from a chair. Which there’s only 2 chairs back there :/
          Everything is like out in the open. Even if you try hiding something, it’s going to be found.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            This would be an enormous issue for me. I don’t want to leave my bag at my chair out in the open *especially* if people like rummaging through other people’s things. I think this company should give everyone lockers or sets of drawers.

          2. LabMonkey*

            This place sounds like a nightmare. I would talk to hr, but expect nothing and start planning your escape.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Agreed. If your only choice is to be “unprofessional” and leave your supplies in the open where you can get to them because everything is fair game anyway, then it’s time she got out of that kindergarten.

          3. LD*

            I’d be tempted to leave tampons and pads on top of anything I had that could be opened so that’s what anyone would see if they decided to violate my boundaries and open a bag, a box, a handbag, a briefcase or anything I have covered up in the office. Don’t search my stuff.

          4. Marzipan*

            So they see it and open it. But you’ve put them out of sight, and anyone finding them can hardly complain “I was going through this box marked ‘Mandy – private’ and it turned out to have sanitary towels in it and now I cannot bear the shock!”

            (Or, they *can*, but not very credibly.)

          5. RVA Cat*

            This is a problem. I had a similar situation in a restaurant job in high school. One of my co-workers stole checks from my purse and cashed one for $100 (this was in the 90s). Sorry but theft happens and people have the right to protect their belongings.

          6. nonegiven*

            Make a big deal out of being seen dumping a box of products into your cute little bag or box with your name on it. Nobody will look to see what else is in there.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Well, I disagree. I’ve never gone out of my way to hide or tuck away unopened menstrual supplies and I don’t see why I would. The notion that one needs to be discreet with a box of tampons or pads, to me, is bizarre. If I had to carry a tampon to the office restroom with me, I carried a tampon, not a tampon hidden in my purse. If I had a big box of playtex, it was more likely under my desk where I’d also shove a lunch bag or shoes or anything else I brought in, than anywhere tucked away. (Under my desk faces visitors to the cube.)

        There’s not much more normal and boring and everyday than “women from 13 to 50 use tampons and pads about 60 days a year”.

        My boys grew up in a house with a box of tampons on the back of the toilet. I think it evened out, somewhat, the perennial up toilet seat in the otherwise all male household. I can’t see how there’s anything to hide.

        1. Rachel - HR*

          Your house is completely different than the workplace. Personal products should not be on display in the workplace period in my opinion. I don’t care if it is your toothbrush or your pad.

            1. Candy*

              You leave your Fart Be Gone Flatulence Deodorizer Pads and your Preparation H on your desk, I take it?

              1. neverjaunty*

                If I were the previous commenter, apparently I’d hide them in a desk drawer along with the Kleenex and the Altoids (for bad breath, you know, which is embarrassing and private).

                Why is it OK to leave Kleenex out, but not have a box of menstrual pads under the desk? Serious question.

              2. Preux*

                You keep making this comparison, but honestly, if I looked at someone’s desk closely enough to notice they had some preparation H sitting out, I wouldn’t find it unprofessional. I can’t even imagine a situation where I would take that much notice of what they have on their desk, unless I was
                looking for something.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  The comparison is meant to say that having a period is like having hemorrhoids, i.e. is embarrassing, private, and gross. Which I assume is why we keep seeing these weird arguments that leaving a box of menstrual pads under a desk on a shared shelf is “displaying” them.

                2. fposte*

                  Though this just ends up shifting demonization around when we could just say “Eh, it’s all body stuff, get over it.”

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  I do notice stuff on people’s desks, but I sure as hell wouldn’t say anything. I might feel sorry for them if I saw Preparation H!

                  If I saw pads, I’d be all, “Oh good, Jane keeps pads; now I know who to ask if I run out.”

              3. Triceratops*

                Even though I’m guilty of it in a comment above, I think the comparison game is a road to nowhere. I’m struggling to think of an accurate analog — a bodily function requiring regular access to supplies that a) is normal/healthy and non-sexual, b) 99% of the people impacted are men, and c) 90+% of men will have it happen at some point in their lifetime. TBH, I think we kind of just have to decide how to treat periods as their own thing.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  The comparison thing really is silly as a rule of them, and it has no value other than to highlight that the lines of what is and isn’t appropriate are both idiosyncratic (some people are bothered by seeing a tube of toothpaste) and inconsistent (facial tissues and bandages are also used to soak up bodily fluids).

              4. Int*

                Not everyone uses Fart Be Gone Flatulence Deodorizer Pads or Preparation H, so seeing them would reveal personal medical information about a colleague. Seeing pads or tampons would reveal… that your colleague is a woman probably between the ages of 12 and 60. Oh, how embarrassing.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            That’s, weird, to me, unless you really mean “on display” vs “happen to be where somebody else can see them”.

            Some people brush their teeth in the middle of the day. If they have their toothbrush/toothpaste out on their desk before brushing, that’s no different that I can see than having their lunch out.

            (Meanwhile, I kept a toothbrush in my pen cup on top of my desk awhile back, which, that would qualify for “on display” I guess and I still don’t see the problem with that. )

              1. JennaLynn*

                Your link was not what I was expecting, but your previous comment had me thinking I should crochet tampon and pad cozies like people do for toilet paper rolls and then set them on my desk at work as decoration.

          2. Honeybee*

            I can’t imagine why on earth I would care if I saw someone’s toothbrush on their desk. I’d more be thinking “Good for them, brushing their teeth in the middle of the day!”

            I also want to know where all of these workplaces are where you can’t keep a scrap of anything personal on your desk lest you be Unprofessional. I have a box of Kleenex, some hand lotion and some lip balm on my desk; do I have to worry that my coworkers now know that my lips and hands get dry in the middle of the day? I work at a casual tech company, but I’ve worked in a variety of different kinds of workplaces before where keeping some personal hygiene stuff in places where others could see it wouldn’t be a problem.

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          In a world where nearly every office chat system has a built-in poop emoji, we should hardly be scandalized by women needing menstrual products.

          I used to hide my stuff but now I carry it in my hand. Well, except that our office provides literally three types of pads and three types of tampons free in the ladies’ room.

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              I would not, either. But it was seen as appropriate enough to include as a standard emoji.

            1. Hlyssande*

              I KNOW, RIGHT?!

              We switched from Microsoft Office Communicator to Jabber and lost all the fun emojis OC has. The ones we have in Jabber are crapski.

        3. Random Lurker*

          I’m discreet with my menstrual products, but not because periods are icky and I may offend people. I just think that certain items, especially around hygiene and grooming, are personal and aren’t appropriate for public view. I keep my pads in the same desk drawer as my hairbrush, lipstick, toothbrush, and toothpaste. If I’m pulling one of these items out to use, I always check to make sure nobody watches.

          I’ve never thought about why I do this before this post, but thinking about it, I think this type of discretion is appropriate for people in close quarters who aren’t family/roommates.

          1. Random Lurker*

            Forgot to add that I am, in no way, justifying creepy boss. He sucks, and OP doesn’t deserve this.

          2. Lily in NYC*

            Yeah, I’m realizing I have mixed feelings about this. I was squicked out by a male coworker leaving a suppository out on his desk, so I guess I can’t be indignant by someone who doesn’t want to so feminine hygiene products (but he handled it like a total assface).

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        I agree with all of this. The boss sounds like a jerk who handled this poorly, but I do not want to see anyone’s personal care products out in the open — feminine hygiene products, nail clippers/files, makeup, deodorant, combs, medication, none of it. I don’t work in that kind of office, and having any of these products out in an open area would not be well-received. (I had to ask an employee (a guy) to stop clipping his nails at his desk last year, and I couldn’t believe I had to have THAT conversation. If it genuinely cannot wait until you get home, at least go to the restroom.)

        I genuinely do not see what is so hard about just sticking a few pads in a backpack, purse, etc. in order to carry them at all times. When I used to use tampons/pads, I always had a few in my purse, just in case. It’s also not hard to pack a bag the night before on a day that you have to be out of the house before the sun comes up. Or leave the box in the bathroom if it was vital to have them at work and there are no personal storage areas. I also do not get the comparisons of a shared work space to one’s own personal bathroom at home. I don’t care if my employees paper their home bathrooms with pads and nail files, they cannot be visible in our office.

        I just don’t want to know any more about someone’s bodily functions at work than I need to. I don’t need to know when you have your period, I don’t need to know when you’ve got to use the bathroom, I don’t want to know the specifics of health issues other than when someone will and will not be present at work. Everyone has to poop, too, and I know the people (ahem, gentlemen) who were taking the lobby newspapers into the bathroom for their afternoon sabbaticals got a talking-to about that as well.

        1. Honeybee*

          Just as the simple existence of toilet paper in the bathroom does not mean that someone is pooping right that second, the simple existence of wrapped pads or tampons on a woman’s desk doesn’t mean she’s menstruating right that minute. A woman having some menstrual products simply indicates that she, at some point, will likely menstruate – which is a foregone conclusion for most women.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yes, toilet paper kept IN the bathroom, not under someone’s shared desk. Keeping toilet paper visible in your workspace would be a no-go where I work, too.

      5. Megs*

        Okay, serious question to the “put it in your drawer” people: what happens if someone’s in your office and you have to get something out of that drawer? Do you ask them to avert their eyes? Keep the box hidden in the drawer just in case? How far do we have to go to protect everyone from viewing “that stuff”?

        1. AnonT*

          Seriously. At some point, it’s just not your responsibility to play nanny for everyone else’s delicate sensibilities. As far as I’m concerned, if your coworkers are offended (or disgusted, or whatever) by something you have in/on/around your space, that you need to a maintain your health (as well as to adhere to professional standards of hygiene), then they can suck it up.

          I had a male boss that kept a canister of athlete’s foot powder on his desk, and nobody said a single thing to him about being gross. But the second a box of tampons shows up on a shelf, suddenly everyone starts worrying about “professional standards of behavior”.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            It’s not just coworkers. We routinely have clients, vendors, and other people people in our offices. Having personal care products, including athelete’s foot spray, visible in your workspace is verboten and would be considered very unprofessional in my workplace.

            Most people I work with have one drawer for their personal stuff that they only need to open to retrieve one of those items. But, no, I don’t think tampons need to be kept in a decorative bag in a lockbox in a drawer. The idea that you shouldn’t have to put away personal care items because there is always some circumstance in which they might be visible is silly. You take reasonable care to be discreet. Someone who goes to HR to complain you keep tampons in your desk drawer is going to get an eyeroll. It’s not the same as having them in an open public space.

            1. Megs*

              Yes, but as many, many comments have noted, the conversation is not about leaving anything in an open public space where clients, vendors and other people would just walk by. And as many, many other comments have noted, lots of us (myself included!) have neither drawers nor any other sort of exclusively private place to leave things.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                But surely you are allowed to bring in a bag, purse, backpack, pocket, or some other sort of item in which you could store your personal items that is not sitting on a shelf in a shared workspace. Or could put the box in the bathroom, which would actually make more sense. Or keep a box in the car and slip a couple in a pocket or purse on the way in. There are more options than out in shared workspace and in your own personal dedicated space, and the OP’s excuse that she can’t be bothered to shoves some pads in her purse because it’s too early when she leaves is pretty lame. If that’s the case, do what tons of other women do and leave a bag of sanitary supplies in the bag at all times.

                This whole thing just feels like manufactured drama. The boss’s reaction is incredibly immature and something I think HR should counsel him about, and treating the workplace like your bathroom medicine cabinet/counter isn’t using good professional judgment either.

                1. Megs*

                  Well, as many, many other comments have noted, (1) the OP does not have much room for bags and such and besides, the point is her wanting to have backups in case she forgets to pack her purse, which seems perfectly reasonable, (2) the bathroom is open to the public and does not have any storage areas, (3) we have no idea if she drives a car to work, (4) in addition to keeping supplies in the bag at all time, tons of women like to have backups available for various reasons such as sharing with others, not having enough room in their bags for everything they might need for a day, and just plain forgetfulness.

                  And other people have talked about the ridiculousness of calling this “manufactured drama” so I’m not going to touch that one.

                2. JennaLynn*

                  And don’t think that having feminine hygiene products in full view in the unisex bathroom (don’t know if her place is unisex toilets, but it’s what we have where I work) with no storage spaces would go any better, especially since the manager probably had to go to the bathroom at least once a day

        2. One of the Sarahs*

          And genuinely, how do you get it out of your drawer without anyone seeing it? Buy a giant handkerchief to wrap it in, in the drawer, in case someone sees it?

          1. Megs*

            I know this wasn’t what you meant, but now I’ve got an image of the OP’s boss using the cover-your-hand-with-a-plastic-baggie technique when he moved the pads in the first place as if he were touching dog poo.

        3. Miko*

          If I were at someone’s desk and they opened a drawer to reveal a neat box of tampons/pads, I wouldn’t be weirded out, whereas I would if they were out in the open*. It’s not the fact that I’ve *gasp* set eyes on a box of feminine hygiene products, it’s that they seem to have no sense of privacy/personal boundaries. Accidentally glimpsing them in a drawer is totally different to me, since the drawer is by default a “private zone” and a desk/shelf is not.

          *Even if it’s in a shelf under the desk, the fact that it’s a shared shelf that someone else regularly uses makes this “in the open” for me. The alternative is so easy (putting the labelled box in an unmarked bag/purse/box) and I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just do that. Even if other people might go through it, they’ve gone through your private belongings at that point and lose any high ground.

    5. Roscoe*

      I mean put it like this, in my desk I have deodorant, lotion, and nasal spray. I wouldn’t leave that stuff in a public area that everyone is going to be using. So I wouldn’t expect a crazy reaction like he had, but to ask me to not have it in public isn’t an unfair thing to ask.

      1. Scotty_Smalls*

        Ok but what if one day, you use your nasal spray, suddenly have to run to the bathroom and leave it out. Then your coworker says, “Actually you should put away your nasal spray in your desk. Leaving it out is unprofessional.” It’s the same thing. OP hadn’t made a habit of leaving it out. It just happened.

        1. Roscoe*

          Honestly, I’d be ok with it. I said I didn’t think the manager handled it well, but I don’t think his general issue was problematic.

    6. Jady*

      Glad I’m not the only one that was confused by this. Yes his reaction was way over the top, but I would consider it unprofessional to leave personal intimate items in a shared area. I’d also feel that way about many items outside pads – medications, for example (sans emergency ones like an epipen) or gym clothes. I take meds and I would never leave them just sitting on my desk.

      It certainly doesn’t warrant a mental breakdown like this guy had, but I think leaving them in a shared area is not appropriate.

      If it’s a private desk out of public view and that was just a typo or something, then nevermind. F that guy. But I couldn’t see a guy just randomly walking into other peoples workspaces and examining their contents. That’d be an entirely different problem.

      1. Koko*

        Why is everyone unclear on whether the space is public or not?

        She says it’s a back office. Her computer desk. And “One day, I left my pads at work in the back office under our computer desk. As I go back to grab it, I find the pads shoved all the way to the back of the little shelf.”

        This is a shelf under a shared desk. It is where employees put their personal items.

          1. Xay*

            I would describe as a communal space that is private – like a locker or a desk that more than one person uses.

          2. One of the Sarahs*

            It’s the nearest thing to private space this office has, and not visible unless someone’s specifically looking, it sounds like

      2. neverjaunty*

        Seriously, you’d be embarrassed to have an asthma inhaler or a bottle of ibuprofen where co-workers might ever see them?

        1. AnonT*

          Yeah, I am… also confused by this statement. You’d be embarrassed to leave your gym clothes out? Really? Do you not want your coworkers to know that you engage in physical exertion of any kind, or what? I can’t even imagine being embarrassed about that.

          (Well, okay, maybe if they were soaked with sweat and stank to high heaven, but then that would be because it’s unsanitary, not because it’s somehow embarrassing to admit that I work out.)

          1. Jady*

            It’s not about just being embarrassing or not. It’s about what is appropriate and polite for the office space. You can BRING your gym items to work – I’m not suggesting otherwise – but you put them away. You don’t leave them out, you keep them in a bag put away where they don’t occupy space other people might use.

        2. Jady*

          Over the counter stuff or emergency items – no.

          Something like medications for depression, anxiety, IBS? Yes, that’s private.

    7. Mandy*

      We have a back office in our store. He and I and like 3 other commercial employees work in this area. We have shared computers, and a work space. Beneath our computers is a long shelf that goes from one end of the desk to the other. This is usually where we put our things at. This is where I put my pads that week, and it’s away from the customers, but it’s in our work space with everyone else’s things.

      1. badger_doc*

        Can you bring in a larger purse/bag that week to keep them in instead of just the box-o-pads?

        1. Mona Lisa*

          I understood it as she forgot to bring the pads so she bought a box on the way in or something and stored the recently purchased products under the desk. Mandy, is that correct?

        2. Meg Murry*

          Yes, this is what I was thinking. While I agree that his reaction is over the top, I wouldn’t want to be looking at a box-o-pads every time I glanced over to that shelf, or if I were one of the other employees looking for my stuff that I stuck on the shelf.

          At a minimum, couldn’t you just stick the box in a plain plastic grocery bag, like what you carried them out of the store you purchased them in? Or could you each put a box on that shelf with your names on it, and that would be where you each keep personal items?

          Are your bathrooms open to the public? Could you store them somewhere in or nearer to the bathroom? Is there an out of the way cabinet in there? For me, I never remember to grab them from in my desk, so I would wind up taking twice the breaks – once to go to the bathroom, realize I forgot pads/tampons, swing back to my desk and then back to the bathroom.

          1. Koko*

            It’s a cardboard box. It shouldn’t be so scandalized that it needs to be concealed like a bottle of liquor in a paper bag. If someone is made uncomfortable by the knowledge that a coworker has a period like most every other woman in the world, that’s their problem, not OP’s.

            1. Mookie*

              I find the scandalized horror (or some people have expressed it as discomfort) over The Box utterly mystifying. It’s like a box of tissues. Being reminded other people are human and have bodily functions should not throw people this way. It does, and that’s fine–people hold strange, contradictory taboos based on biases, fear, and cultural conditioning–but that’s their problem.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I kind of feel the same. It’s below the desk, in the cubby. It’s not on the surface of the desk out where everyone can see it. And I wouldn’t touch it unless it were in my way, because it’s not mine.

              2. Honeybee*

                Me too. I am staring at this entire comment thread in disbelief. I didn’t know there were so many people who were offended by knowing that their female coworkers might someday have a period and need to use a tampon.

              3. Miko*

                I don’t find it horrifying to contemplate the idea of my coworkers having bodily functions to take care of, but that doesn’t mean I want to be *reminded* of it on a daily basis.

                1. Mookie*

                  But what is a shared bathroom but a reminder that other people also use it (and probably don’t wash afterwards)? Adults just need to take these facts of life on the chin and move on.

            2. Xay*

              I’ve been wondering the same thing. If you are so easily distracted from your work because you know there is a box of pads under your desk, I think there is a bigger problem there.

          2. Mandy*

            The bathroom is public. The bathroom storage is in the men’s room. theres a few boxes there but they’re for weird things people put in them. Then there’s that little shelf spot. Which is small. It’s not like you stare at it while working. It’s under the desk.
            I feel like he should pay more attention to his accounts (customers) than my pads.

            1. stellsbells*

              Quick suggestion (at least until you get a new job away from crazy place manager):

              When I worked in retail, we had the same issue with the restrooms being public and no storage in the women’s room. Since our staff was overwhelming female, one of the managers bought a cute little box/ chest thing to put on the back of the toilet that was filled with tampons and pads.

              Most customers didn’t even think to open it up since it just looked like a cute decoration, but all of the female employees knew it was there if we needed it (or didn’t want to risk getting something out of our purse in the back room and carrying it onto the floor to get to the restroom).

              Not an optimal solution, but one that might work for the time being. If you’re worried about other people taking them, just find one with a little lock on it so only you can open it :)

      2. KR*

        Oh, I see. This doesn’t excuse his behavior but I would be a little surprised to see a box of pads just out in a shared space. Could you get a small makeup bag and put your personal things in there – pads, lotions, chapstick, chocolates, ect – kind of like a little emergency kit for yourself?

      3. Jinx*

        Hmmm, yeah, I can see where that’s coming from. It sounds like the pads are visible to anyone sitting at the computer, and you share it with other coworkers – is that right? If that is the case I might second getting some sort of unmarked bag (like a makeup bag) to store them, rather than leaving the box out.

        If there was a box of pads sitting in the back office of somewhere I worked, I personally wouldn’t be squicked out. I can see the argument for “hygiene-related products” being placed in a bag or somewhere out of sight, but if that isn’t enforced elsewhere it’s rude to single you out for having a specifically female product. And *if* your boss decided to say something, he should have had a calm conversation about it instead of passive-aggressively hiding the box and screaming at you. He’s a tool.

    8. K.*

      I agree. I keep my tampons in a pocket in the lining of my bag, and keep a few extra in a sort of “hygiene kit” in a drawer at work (it has mouthwash, floss, deodorant, hand cream). I would find it odd to see a box of tampons or pads just out in the open in a work space, particularly a communal work space. I think the only time I’ve seen menstrual products out in the open at work is in the women’s restroom – instead of a dispenser here, there’s a basket of them on the vanity.

      His reaction was beyond beyond, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that those be stored a bit more discreetly.

    9. Noah*

      Yeah, my immediate thought was along the lines of “pads should probably be in a desk drawer”. Like others have said, the manager here is horrible. Also, as a guy, if I saw pad or tampons sitting out at a woman’s desk, it would make me feel akward and uncomfortable, BUT that is my own issue not her’s and I certainly wouldn’t behave like the manager did here.

      If no desk drawer is available, would it be possible to get a basket or bin to put the box of pads into? Look, maybe I’m too much of a realist, but this bothers your manager to the point that he is shouting at you. I would rather keep the peace and have a designated, but still inconspicuous spot.

  6. IT Kat*

    I think this guy is immature and unprofessional and wow, I wouldn’t be able to work for him. Personally, I would have talked to HR.

    OP, think about what Alison suggested, and if you do decide to quit, definitely have something else lined up first!

    Not that it should have made any difference, but out of curiosity, were the pads in full clear view? I’m a little fuzzy on the description of where they were (under the desk, but on a shelf?), and while I think he’s totally out of line, if the pads are in full view, maybe moving them into your purse or in the back of a drawer would be better?

    1. Mandy*

      There’s a long desk that we have. Under it is a long shelf that goes from one end to the other. Things are put under here from the people who work in the back office with us.

      There’s a bunch of weird things on this shelf, if only I could show you a picture, but I had put my pads there because I work early mornings and I forget to bring pads with me sometimes, so when my period does start, I like to keep at least two there incase there isn’t any left in my purse.

      1. my two cents*

        And I bet when you found them shoved to the back, he did it with the most childish disgusted look on his face and probably used his shoe-covered foot to push them back further.

        Has your boss since tried talking to you about it since? You shouldn’t have to bring it back up – you’re the subordinate, and he’s your boss who should be able to handle conflict without freaking the eff out. But with the topic of women’s bodily functions combined with his VERY childish outburst may have left him wondering how to proceed as well, particularly so if he’s not one to apologize first.

        AAAAnd I’m not saying you should apologize for the pads – I’m just sayin’ that a quick ‘hey, that stung’ now that the dust has well-settled may expedite smoothing things over.

        1. Mandy*

          Ha probably lol

          I wouldn’t mind talking things over like an adult. But, he’s a very immature person. Very. This is just one of many things he’s done. He still does or says things, and it’s like C’mon, man. Not just to me either. But, to other co-workers. Trust me, this man has had many complaints. I don’t think an apology will happen any time soon :P

        1. Searching*

          She said the bathrooms are open to the public and that there isn’t any storage in the women’s room so that would not work. It really does not sound like she has any other place to store her personal items than this shelf. The only thing that makes sense would be to try to store it in a non-see through bag.

  7. Will*

    His behavior was abhorrent, but I don’t think that keeping pads on a shared shelf that is visible to others is a good idea…

      1. Will*

        Because it’s a workplace and supposedly other people use the desk/computer that she put her pads at. I’d put pads in the “personal” category and so should probably be in someone’s personal space, not a shared space.

        1. blackcat*

          But it sounds like that shelf could be the only place to put personal items, even though it’s shared.

        2. Oryx*

          But what if it’s the only personal space she has access to which, from the letter, sounds like it might be the case.

        3. Cam*

          A box of pads is about as offensive as a box of kleenex. Both are used to mop up human bodily fluids, which may be gross, but is necessary. There’s no reason why it’s necessary to hide either of them from view.

      1. lulu*

        I was on a bus one time, and a tampon fell off a woman’s purse. This one dude picked it up with great precaution and handed it to her, and then another guy across the aisle whispered to him: “I didn’t wanna touch it”. And they both chuckled with embarrassment. Grown ass men.

        1. miss_chevious*

          Heh. Like it’s the unused products that they should be afraid to touch. Unbelievable.

        2. Anxa*

          There’s a pretty great post on the internet about a tampon rolling across the floor of a bus carrying cheerleaders and footballer players, if I can recall.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          When I was in the 6th form at school (erm, year 12, that dates me, the final year of high school), the lockers in the 6th form common room were broken into, and someone’s tampons thrown around the room. So an impromptu “what is a tampon?” lesson broke out when one of the guys didn’t know what they were, complete with dipping one in water and explaining how they worked. It was crazy that kind of thing isn’t covered in classes, but those guy friends who were confused were super-grateful. (Reading problem pages from magazines in a group had similar effects too – the informal sex/relationship education we gave ourselves!)

        4. Dot Warner*

          Once I was cleaning out my purse and my DH saw a wrapped tampon sitting out and said, “Hey, what kind of candy is this?”

          When I told him what it was, he dropped it like a hot potato and jumped back a foot. Still one of the funniest reactions I’ve ever gotten out of him. :)

          (And in his defense, he’s usually the enlightened sort and doesn’t mind buying tampons for me; I just caught him off guard that time.)

    1. Joy*

      Why not? Would you have a similar problem with someone storing tissues or bandaids in a storage area where a co-worker might see them?

      1. Will*

        The pads were presumably for her own use and only her own use. Tissues and bandaids would conceivably for common use. I see this as a personal item in a common space.

        1. jhhj*

          If I have bandaids at my desk, it’s primarily for me but if someone asks of course they can have one. Same with pads or tampons — I don’t know a single woman who wouldn’t give a pad or tampon to their worst enemy in an emergency.

          1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

            It’s Girl Code.

            I’m pregnant, and I still carry pads and tampons, for the sisterhood.

            1. blackcat*


              I exclusively use a menstrual cup, but I always keep a pad or two at my desk and in the half-bath in my house (the bathroom guests are likely to use).

              1. Jinx*

                I’m realizing now that I’m very ill-equipped for a period-related emergency. 0_o I’ve been on the pill for years, and I rarely need to use anything. I don’t think there’s a single pad in my house, just a box of specifically-sized tampons.

                1. Honeybee*

                  Me too. I have an IUD and I haven’t had a period in nearly four years. I have some panty liners in the house but no pads or tampons – should a crisis arise, I am unprepared.

              2. Elysian*

                I do that, too! I thought I was weird for keeping them around when I never use them, but I won’t get rid of the because… what about other people? Gotta be prepared.

              3. Mona Lisa*

                This is me, too. I carry a pad or two in each purse for real emergencies or in case someone else needs one. (But I loooove my menstrual cup and will never go back!)

                1. Cath in Canada*

                  Also, I’ve used maxi pads as a temporary fix when the roof started leaking and water was dripping onto my bed at 2 am in a crappy shared student house, and then again in a leaky tent trailer on a camping trip a few years ago. I’ve kept some around ever since, just in case! They’re in our first aid kit at home, which we also take camping.

            2. Elizabeth*

              Between medication & surgery, I haven’t needed them for myself than 10 years. I still have a supply in my office, because sometimes someone needs them. They aren’t glamorous, but they are necessary.

              1. Koko*

                Same here. I skip my period most months but I always have supplies in my purse and office, just in case anyone else needs one.

            3. Oryx*

              I’m actually reminded now of that Sex and the City episode where Carrie basically secures herself a lifetime awesome table at the hot new restaurant because the hostess needed a tampon.

            4. FiveWheels*

              This whole conversation is surreal to me partly because my mum hit the menopause before my period began. No sisters so the only menstrual products in my house were always mine and mine alone.

              I can’t imagine discussing periods with anyone but that’s just because I’m a moderately repressed Brit. I would also never have a conversation about urine, faeces, snot, tears, dandruff or any other substance that comes from my body!

          2. One of the Sarahs*

            Same – in every office I’ve worked in, sharing painkillers, tissues and tampons has been normal. I’ve even given a tampon to a stranger on a train. (If any guys are reading this and thinking it’s unhygienic, all menstrual products are wrapped inside the box, so it’s all good)

        2. Oryx*

          So, this is one of those things that you obviously would not be aware of but pretty much every woman that I know has had to A) Ask another female if they have a pad/tampon they could use and/or B) Been the person who has been asked.

          1. Will*

            I honestly didn’t know that, thank you. Well obviously this is one of those realms where men and women’s experiences with it are literally as far apart as can possibly be, so thank you for letting me know about some of these things.

        3. Willow Bark*

          Uh, no. I have given other women tampons more often than I have bandaids. And we keep emergency boxes of both pads and tampons in the break room where I work now.

          1. Jinx*

            The women’s bathroom in my office has a fancy basket filled with tampons, and I have used them in emergencies. It’s a brilliant idea.

          2. Kathlynn*

            We had our emergancy pads in a corner of the “staff cupboard” but now the owners are getting rid of it (moving a machine back to it’s old place), so they are in a milk crate, below a till, with the work gloves. I’d go “Where would you like me to put them” if anyone said anything. And atm, I’m the only person at work who menstruates (out of 7 employees, 4 are too old, and 2 are guys). The other person is on mat. leave.
            We don’t have a spot for personal items. Our purses and jackets are hung up on the metal bars of one window. Or left on the floor. I do have contacts at work, and they are visible to all staff members (I put them in a infrequently used cupboard, and they were moved into a visible location. So, I don’t care now.

        4. VintageLydia*

          Girl Code. My mortal enemy could ask for a pad or tampon and if I have a spare, she will get it. No exceptions.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Haha, yeah, I was trying to think of a situation in which I wouldn’t give another woman a pad/tampon if I had one and they needed one, and all I could come up with was, “…maybe if she had literally killed my dog?” Otherwise, yeah, even if I hate everything about them I’ll share in a pinch.

          2. AnonEMoose*

            The only time I wouldn’t share would be if I only had one and was going to need it myself without having the opportunity to get more first.

        5. Mookie*

          Why would you say that? They’re good for nosebleeds, handy for sopping up other messes in a pinch, and I’m assuming she’s not the only woman to have ever been employed by this company.

        6. Preux*

          Why only her own use? We have no indication that she’s the only woman working in this office?

    2. Us, Too*

      Meh, it’s not that big a deal to me. It’s pretty much the same thing as storing toilet paper and I doubt anyone gets too worked up about that. It might be an eyesore (I hate clutter), but these supplies need to be stored somewhere.

      1. Bookworm*

        Yeah, I’m really baffled by the people who don’t want to see them. I feel that it’s essentially the same as storing toilet paper…..and it sounds like OP hasn’t been given a personal space where it’s easy for her to leave them.

      2. Anxa*

        I’m not sure about this, because I strongly dislike working in cluttered areas. I don’t mind a little decoration, but I would prefer not to see people’s personal items, regardless of how intimate their use is, that has nothing to do with work. I do consider framed photos and a few desk items to be work related even if just to personalize a working space, but I detest visual clutter.

        That said, of course umbrellas and purses and lunch bags and tissues need to go somewhere. But I’m not too keen on people just leaving things behind that serve no purpose.

        But that’s my own issue.

    3. Cube Diva*

      I always try to compare “individual health products” in these situations. If you’d treat pads/tampons differently than Advil, then something’s wrong.

      1. Roscoe*

        I’d compare it to deodorant. I keep some at my desk. But I can see my boss not wanting MY deodorant on a shared shelf.

        1. Xay*

          But unlike deodorant, you don’t reuse disposable menstrual pads. Each one is individually wrapped and untouched before use as opposed to deodorant that is designed to be used repeatedly.

          1. Roscoe*

            If its spray deodorant, its just as hygienic because its not touching my skin. The point is its a personal product that I’m leaving in public space.

      2. badger_doc*

        Eh, I disagree. In this case, I would compare menstrual pads to Men’s Depends or anal leakage pads. I don’t want to see any of them, and I am a woman who uses tampons. I just don’t have them out. I think it doesn’t convey professionalism. I get that women bleed every month (I do to), but the whole office doesn’t need to know about it. I’d probably feel the same way to someone complaining about headaches and rattling around a bottle of Tylenol every 2 hours. But I feel like bathroom functions should be off limits at work. I just don’t want to know…

        1. Koko*

          “I get that women bleed every month (I do to), but the whole office doesn’t need to know about it. ”

          Whereas I don’t think the whole offices needs to be protected from knowing a basic fact of life.

        2. MaggiePi*

          I sincerely don’t understand. Do you want a person with headaches to carry or use tylenol? Do you want them to go in the bathroom to take pills?

        3. my two cents*

          It’s kind of bumming me out you feel that way, but that’s FINE because it’s simply your way for governing yourself.

          Please do not ever compare tampons and pads to ‘anal leakage’ products ever again. Periods are not embarrassing or shameful, they are not a medical issue, and literally all women have them.

          Really these items should not be an issue to any gender. OP didn’t ‘leave them out’. They were on a lower shelf under the desk. Deodorant presumably has been rubbed all over your armpits, whereas pads are as sterile as band aids.

          1. Roscoe*

            I know many people who would argue that they ARE a medical product. I know in IL a bill just passed saying they can’t be taxed because of that.

          2. Kate M*

            To clarify – not all women have periods. Most women do, but we shouldn’t equate being a woman with having a period.

            Second, “anal leakage” products or Depends are also not embarrassing or shameful anymore than tampons or pads are. All are bodily functions that most people are going to have to deal with at some point, so nothing of that nature should be deemed “shameful.”

            That said, none of these products being visible to anyone should cause an outrage.

            1. Ellie H.*

              Because these things are being compared, I think that what people are honing in on is that pads, tampons, and the other stuff mentioned (Preparation H, Depends or whatever) are all things that a person uses alone in a bathroom. That’s why they seem more “personal,” because they are intended to be used in a bathroom (I mean, I live alone so I might do it anywhere in my apt., but generally speaking, most often used in the bathroom).

              1. Kate M*

                Not sure which part of my comment you’re responding to, but I was saying that none of these products should be labeled “shameful” as it seemed to me “my two cents” was saying “anal leakage” products are.

                But even personal items, like Preparation H, Depends, etc might be personal items, but nobody should freak out if they are put on a shelf under a desk. If you want to keep that private, great. But it shouldn’t become a big thing that causes outrage and somebody shrivels up like a crying baby about it. If I see Depends…so what? The world doesn’t end.

                1. ali*

                  indeed. anal leakage is no more shameful than any other medical condition. it happens, you deal. it’s not like it’s something you caused (usually).

                2. Ellie H.*

                  Oh yeah, I wasn’t responding directly to you in terms of replying to a point you made – just kind of reflecting about the general sentiments expressed here in the comments, maybe it wasn’t the best place for my comment! Sorry about that. I totally agree that regardless of personal items and the degree of “personalness” we attribute to them it’s not a cause for outrage.

                3. my two cents*

                  well right. Give me a little latitude here. The disdain was dripping from their comment as they compared feminine products to various other products. And yeah, ‘women’ was an incorrectly used inclusive term…so instead pretend I wrote “nearly half the population” instead.

          3. Blossom*

            Tangential, lesser-known fact: Pads are not sterile, nor is there any requirement for them to be so.

            (something I learnt while reading about cloth pads, a topic which I think would challenge the sensibilities of many commenters)

          4. badger_doc*

            Whoa… I was not saying anal leakage pads are embarrassing or shameful. I am in an industry that makes all of these products so I am intimately aware of how they are made and the people who use them. And, FYI, tampons are actually class 1 medical devices so they can be considered “medical”. But that is besides the point. I did not want to compare pads to condoms, as some commenters have above. Nor do I want to compare them to facial tissues because that is a completely innocuous desk product. My point was, anything related to UNDERGARMENTS. I was trying to think of a male equivalent product so I could take the gender bias out of my argument and not make it about women and periods. The only one i could think of was male Depends or anal leakage pads (which can be used by both men and women). Not all people who use anal leakage pads have a specific medical condition, although anal leakage is a symptom of a few digestive diseases. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

            My point with gently asking the OP if she could put them away was to take the high road and see if there was anything she could do to help the situation. I do not blame her at all – her boss is an ass and needs to have his head examined. But i do personally believe that it is unprofessional to leave products like this out (definitely at my workplace and at others). I know it doesn’t apply everywhere, but I feel it is better to err on the side of caution and do what you can to make your workplace better.

        4. Mookie*

          We don’t live in a world where women’s bodies are only ever treated as their business alone, so until we do this handwringing about keeping the existence of women’s bodies under wraps seems suspect to me. There’s nothing unsanitary about sanitary products. It’s more of the opposite.

        5. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          I disagree. Pads are a regular thing for normal use in a healthy body, like toilet paper. I can see someone being more squeamish when they’re leaving out for public view personal items that connote a personal health issue, like depends or anal leakage pads. But having a period is just part of being a woman. It isn’t a medical issue, it’s just part of normal bodily function. I think it’s fine to be private about it, but totally wrong to shame someone over it, which is what this sounds like to me.

            1. my two cents*

              I think that’s more about suddenly knowing non-standard health-related information about the individual. Lots of ladies have menstrual cycles – it’s kind of assumed it happens to at least most of them for some amount of time, whether or not you ever see them with a pad in hand. Whereas other products point to a condition specific to an individual that they might not have otherwise shared.

      3. Rafe*

        Adult diapers? Condoms? I don’t condone the boss’s behavior, but generally these are not items left out in public in a professional office.

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          But… Why in the name of all that is good and holy do you need a condom at work????? That’s a whole OTHER HR complaint.

          1. K.*

            We found condoms in my old boss’s desk when we were cleaning out his office. Well, more accurately, my former colleague found them (they were in a box for a piece of computer equipment – she was going to take it back to IT before she looked in it) and she was horrified – she looked like she’d seen a ghost. Former Boss is married and to my knowledge his wife has never been to the office. We just tossed them – but the look on my former colleague’s face was unforgettable.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              I saw a (still wrapped, thankfully) condom on the floor of a corridor at work a few weeks ago. I was in on a Saturday and was rather concerned about what else I might find… but I guess it just fell out of someone’s pocket when they grabbed their phone or something. I hope.

        2. Cube Diva*

          I’d like to know where you work… Most people don’t NEED a condom during the work day. But I’m sure there are offices where that makes sense.

      4. Allison*

        I don’t know. Advil I could live with, but I could think of a lot of individual health products that are best kept inside a drawer or cabinet when possible. Adult diapers, diuretics, hormone supplements, birth control pills, medicine for constipation OR diarrhea, diet pills, Gas-X, or anything else that might signal a little too much information about a person’s health situation. Heck I don’t even keep ibuprofen on my desk!

        1. Cube Diva*

          I guess I see all of those as similar. But I’m in favor of just dealing with what’s happening, because periods, digestive upset, etc. are common things that MANY people deal with. We’re humans, and we deal with things others think is “gross.” Meh.

          Additionally, if I needed Gas-X, and I knew my coworker had some, I’d be more likely to ask, so I could help my own situation.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, honestly, I’m not on board with the “It’s fine–it’s not like it’s [insert product here]” thing. I think you don’t need to have a Stuff Bodies Do public display, but you also don’t need to plain-brown-wrapper it. A shelf underneath the desk is fine for tampon boxes, diabetic supplies, diapers, whatever.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yeah, that’s what keeps getting me about these comparisons. It’s like people are going “But you wouldn’t make a mobile out of Preparation H and adult diapers and hang it from the light fixtures!” Well, no, I wouldn’t, but I would totally put them on a shelf under a desk, especially if I didn’t even have any desk drawers. It seems like people are trying to make the argument that I wouldn’t put the grossest health products they can think of in a big shining display with spotlights on it, which is true, but that’s actually completely irrelevant to the question being asked, and at this point it feels like a total derail.

            2. Erin*


              Honestly, I was on the fence until I read this. I don’t think they should be out in plain view at work (unpopular opinion apparently), but this hits the nail on the head.

        2. Batshua*

          So if you need medication at work, or wanted to have some on hand in case of an emergency, what would you do?

          1. Allison*

            I usually have a little bit of whatever I might need in my purse. I have a small tube of ibuprofen, a few doses of charco-caps, some pepto-bismol, my inhaler, some extra energy shots, and a few pads.

            Also, my office has some first aid kits near the kitchens.

        3. Marzipan*

          My boss has a whole section of her desk tidy dedicated to over-the-counter medications. It’s really handy and we raid it when in need!

          1. Sandy*

            Me too! I have a little basket on my desk with ibuprofen, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, a Tide pen, antacids, Band-Aids, and some other things that one might need during the course of the day. They’ve come in handy for me, and my coworkers know they’re welcome to raid my stash anytime.

          2. Honeybee*

            I was going to be That Person in my office until I realized we have quite extensive first aid kits in our kitchens.

        4. The Butcher of Luverne*

          It seems obvious from the letter/comments that the OP does not have a drawer or shelf for her own personal use.

      1. Analyst*

        RIGHT. This is not deodorant that has already been applied to skin. This is what, cotton? With a sticker on the back?

        1. Amadeo*

          And maybe wings. It’s the wings, isn’t it? They’re afraid they’re going to fly out of the box and afix themselves to their face.

          1. sam*

            People make fun of the wings, but wings were seriously the best invention since sliced bread. I can’t be the only one old enough to remember the pad era pre-wing invention. Those things would just NOT stay in place.

            1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

              My husband once bought me a box of pads while I was sick with the flu and on my period. They were wingless. I cried so much he must have thought I lost my mind. He never bought wingless again. (He also always gets the overnight ones because “wouldnt you rather have more protection than less?” The bigger is better attitude cracks me up.)

            2. Marzipan*

              I took a couple of packets of sanitary towels along to a tutorial for my degree – it’s a Design and Innovation module and the tutor asked us to bring along an example of an innovative product. So I talked about the wings thing and how that was a fairly significant step, but then also the way that literally *every* month they’re touting some ‘new’ feature that isn’t any different to how they were last month (‘now up to 100% leak proof!!!’). Somehow my male coursemates were able to handle this conversation without having a fit of the vapours…

            3. Kate M*

              I remember reading “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” as a child, and reading the description of sanitary pads with BELTS. I was so confused.

              1. Sam*

                Me too!

                Judy Blume actually came out with a new edition a while back that updated the book for exactly that reason – she wanted girls to actually find it helpful, not get to that point and be like, WTF?!

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  LOL I remember the belts, but they were pretty much being phased out when I began. The machines in the bathrooms at school and public bathrooms had them, and woe be to you if you needed a pad but didn’t have a belt. They had NO adhesive on them and you just had to jam them in, pull your pants up tight, and hope like hell they didn’t slip!

              2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                The first time I complained about wings chafing, my mother sat me down and gave me a lecture on GUESS WHAT WE HAD TO DEAL WITH BACK IN THE DAY.

            4. Rana*

              I have mixed feelings about the wings. On the one hand, they really help things stay in place. On the other hand, if there’s any absorbancy in them at all, they wick. Around the edge. To the other side.

              NOT what I want in a menstrual product!

            5. Honeybee*

              I don’t, but I do remember my dad picking up some wing-less pads sometimes growing up and having to buy the generic thick pads with no wings when those were the only kind in the gas station and you needed a quick fix. They’re so terrible! I am really curious about who still buys them and why companies still make them.

    4. Mandy*

      I’d completely understand if this was just an “office use only” kind of shelf. But, this guy has had the same crusty spoons on this shelf for over a year now, there’s been old, rock hard food he’s left on this shelf. I think the pads were probably the only thing on this shelf that were “clean” lol.

      This shelf by the way is at least 5 inches tall and maybe 3ft long.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        This guy. I can’t even.

        Please complain to HR: about his temper tantrum AND his juvenile sexism.

      2. Random Lurker*

        Yuck. Dirty silverware trumps unused and wrapped feminine hygiene products 8 days a week.

        Your boss sucks.

  8. Meeshigan*

    Reminds of the male mechanical engineering student who, when assigned to work as a team with my mechanical engineering student daughter, told her he doesn’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die. C’mon dude…how can you think such behavior is ok?

    1. Collie*

      My understanding is, this is a quote from South Park. Doesn’t make it acceptable, but perhaps lends some context to the guy’s idea of a joke and, if him saying it wasn’t enough of an indicator to begin with, gives an idea of his character and lack of good judgment.

      1. Jennifer M.*

        It goes back much further than that. I remember seeing Tshirts and bumper stickers with that saying on it at souvenir shops back in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

        1. Collie*

          Oh, interesting! I didn’t know this. I’d still put money on him getting it from South Park (or from someone who got it from SP). Not that it matters terribly — I’ve just found the people in my life who quote/watch South Park (and mention it frequently) tend to be not the most sensitive of people.

          1. Megs*

            Yeah, I remember that joke being super popular at my elementary school back in the 80s-90s. Har. Har. Har.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I used to respond to this joke with a calculating look and “Oh, I bet I could make you bleed for five days without killing you.” Shut them RIGHT up.

              1. NotASalesperson*

                This is the best response I’ve ever seen. I’m using this the next time my cousin tries this line with me.

              2. Megs*

                I’d say you win the thread, but honestly, it’d be a multiple-way tie. You guys are great.

    2. Jennifer*

      How did his mother take that news from him?

      I also hope that dude is not heterosexual. Nothing quite like a woman-hating heterosexual male.

      1. A grad student*

        Don’t you find that the men who hate women are almost exclusively heterosexual? Just one of life’s little paradoxes :)

    3. Allison*

      “he doesn’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die”

      for some reason, men think this is funny and clever. because ignorance of female anatomy is hilarious!

  9. Jennifer*

    “Know your place! I’m above you!”

    I’d be shocked except the only thing that shocks me is that he said it to someone’s face instead of just implying like everyone else does.

  10. Joy*

    Wow. I hope you do go to HR, OP, just so if (when) other women who work for this guy come forward with their own horror stories, there’s a clear habit/pattern of bad behavior established.

  11. Constress*

    Oh, please do call HR. That guy is ridiculous and that “know your place” bs is completely out of line, as Former Diet Coke Addict notes.

    How about adding some notably “guy stuff” to that shelf? Maybe some jock itch powder so he doesn’t feel left out.

    1. Rafe*

      He already has accused the OP of insubordination, so it’s a definite no on the jock itch powder (though I understand the impulse and that you’re probably joking).

  12. Juli G.*

    I’ll throw a vote in for talking to HR. Sometimes, I get complaints that someone is sexist but when I press for examples, there aren’t specifics. And it’s so hard to coach without specifics (“Hey Bob, someone women feel like you don’t really respect women. It’s just the vibe you throw.”) If I was getting a sexist vibe from someone and you delivered me a nice concrete example like this, I have a great opportunity to coach him.

    1. jamlady*

      Seriously though. My husband grew up in a household where this stuff just wasn’t talked about, socialized to think it’s dirty, and he could care less about feminine hygiene products. This guy sounds like a bratty child. Definitely not all men, ew.

  13. EA*

    Jesus Christ.

    Like, has he never spent time with women before in any capacity? Or more likely, he hangs out with women who don’t think things like periods should be spoken of.

    1. Naomi*

      I really hope this guy isn’t married, because I’m shuddering at the thought of some poor woman having to share a bathroom with him.

      1. EA*

        That is what I am saying. Its logistically difficult to live with a wife/sister/mother/female roomie ,and never see a feminine hygiene product.

        1. Allison*

          I’m on my second male roommate (platonic friend) and I was about to say that I keep my pads in my own room, but . . . there’s a trash bin in the bathroom, and sometimes I put used pads in there, so . . . yeah.

          1. Cecily*

            I’ve only had a male roomate once, but I kept pads in the Appropriate Bathroom Drawer (I put them in with like things but I forget what because I just got off the double shift from hell) and never was there any weirdness about it.

  14. Florida*

    I have to wonder where the toilet paper is located in your office. Wiping poop is pretty gross, so I don’t think the toilet paper should be out there where anyone can see it. You know, just hanging on the wall in the stall.

    1. Kati*

      THIS X 1000. There have been comparisons to products to treat medical conditions (depends, “anal leakage pads”), and to products to aid with sexual activity (condoms) to justify why a box of pads should be hidden from the only personal space available. A comparison to toilet paper is much more apt. A regular product used by almost all women of reproductive age in order to function in society? Totally shelf-worthy. Granted, I work in women’s reproductive health (so all of our bathrooms are fully stocked with tampons, pads, AND condoms), but this is ridiculous. Perhaps bring in a copy of the most recent Newsweek to share.

        1. Mookie*

          (Also, it seems hard to believe that in the 21st century a mid-shelf current events glossy has to dutifully remind us women are human and menstruation is normal.)

  15. Allison*

    Earlier today I was thinking about how a person’s feelings can be valid and reasonable, but that doesn’t make their actions justified. I would have been fine with a man feeling slightly uncomfortable with the pads being so visible, and asking OP politely to keep them somewhere more discrete; but calling her “gross,” daring her to call HR, and telling her to know her place was absolutely NOT okay.

    My guess is that he’s one of those people who gets angry and defensive when called out on stuff, and feels the need to assert dominance in order to save face, especially if they realize they were in fact in the wrong.

    1. many bells down*

      Yeah, it’s his ridiculous reaction that makes this his problem. If he’d said “Jane, could you keep those in your purse please?” this would have been a non-issue.

    2. Always Anon*

      This is where I am. I get why the manager would have been uncomfortable. Granted I think it’s a little silly, but I get why he might not be so comfortable. But, his reaction was extreme and highly unprofessional. To me the reaction is the issue, not the feelings that he may or may not have.

    3. Mandy*

      Yeah, I told him this when we were arguing. I told him I completely would’ve understood if he came up to me and just asked me to put them away. But, how he came at me wasn’t the right way at all. It was just a tone where you automatically get defensive because you kind of feel like you did something wrong but you know you didn’t.

    4. the_scientist*

      Right, it seems like there are a few different issues going on here:

      1) Manager doesn’t want menstrual products prominently on display– OK, we can argue whether that’s reasonable or not, but he’s allowed to feel his feels and politely ask the OP to be more discreet with them, which he failed at spectacularly.

      2) What sounds like a heavily male environment/ minimal “personal” space — if I’m reading OP’s follow-up responses correctly, it sounds like this is a male-dominated office/environment where there is limited “personal” storage space. It sounds like OP is the only woman in the shared workspace, and I think the manager reacting so disproportionately to the presence of feminine hygiene products tips this into overt sexism (potentially). Because the larger message is that *men* are the ultimate arbiters of what is and is not appropriate to display publicly in the shared office space. So….what if the men want to leave a bottle of GasX or Beano out on the shelf? Is that OK because *men* decided it was fine? Similarly, what about a nudie calendar? I mean, the *men* think it’s fine, so the woman should just go along with it, right? (Spoiler: no).

      3) The “know your place” comment, which goes along with point two. I’m sure the manager meant it as “I’m the manager so stop being insubordinate” (which, I don’t really believe in ‘insubordination’ outside of the military, but whatevs) but combined with the fact that he’s specifically reacting to feminine hygiene products, therefore singling out the only woman in the shared space (maybe?) AND that OP says in the comments that her female coworkers have had issues with him as well? “Know your place” is a way to keep minorities from speaking up/speaking out and of minimizing their concerns. Telling the only female employee (or specifically singling out a female employee to tell her) that she should “know her place” is SO problematic, any reasonable HR person would want to put the breaks on it ASAP.

      So really, the visible box of pads is actually the least of the issues here, it’s the manager’s reaction that is the real problem. Although, I admit that I say this as someone who has literal loose tampons rolling around in one of my desk drawers, so I’m clearly not that big on discretion.

      1. Honeybee*

        Also, I’d argue that a shelf under a desk where everyone keeps their personal belongings is not “prominently on display.”

  16. AnonEMoose*

    I would so like to sit this guy down with my now 80+ year old father. Who would, when I was still living with my parents, stop at the store on his way home from work and buy me pads if I needed them, without batting an eyelash. Because Dad would tell him, in no uncertain terms, “Grow up, little boy.”

    Please do talk to HR, OP. If nothing else, to get a paper trail started on the behavior. Because I suspect this won’t be the only incident.

  17. Andrea*

    Keep your personal stuff put away. It’s not hard or rocket science to put this in a drawer. The office is not your home bathroom. I keep non-work things corralled or out of sight in my work area, including the gym bra that I air out after using the gym in the morning.

    1. fposte*

      That’s great, but 1) the OP’s stuff is put on the place she has to put it and 2) where you prefer to keep your stuff doesn’t translate to where the OP is *obliged* to keep hers.

    2. sam*

      you’re making a lot of assumptions about what the OP’s work area actually looks like. Not everyone gets their own desk. Not every desk has drawers.

      1. sam*

        I mean, I keep my “personal” stuff in a desk drawer, but that’s because I have a desk, with drawers. In an office. with a door that locks. I’m very lucky these days.

        At my last job, before we moved locations, we were in a space that had literally run out of space – I spent four months working in a windowless conference room, sharing a conference table with another attorney. There were no drawers anywhere. As a bonus, our computers made the room so hot that it was often upwards of 80 degrees in there, so there was no way we could close the door. As an extra special bonus, the room directly across from us was a bathroom, so we could hear everyone going in and out of there all day (and we could hear EVERYTHING). We finally got the bright idea to put an out of order sign on the door. (there was another, larger bathroom in the main hallway).

        1. Allison*

          I remember working in a conference room with no permanent workspace. I brought my stuff in at the start of the workday and took it all home with me – snacks, hand lotion, small supply of everyday medicines, and pads. I just kept some pads in my bag.

      2. Mandy*

        Yeah, if only I could show everyone what I was talking about. We share a long desk. Everyone who works in the back puts anything from their dirty dishes that they’ve left out for over a year, to food that they leave for weeks, to keys, and random little things. It’s just like a weird shelf that people put random things on. It’s also very small. About 5 inches tall to 3 foot long.

    3. Oryx*

      And what if there are no drawers? She says she put it on a shelf under the computer desk in a back office, so it sounds like she pretty much put it exactly where she should put personal items at work.

    4. De Minimis*

      Some people don’t have a space for personal items. I don’t have much of one at my job either.

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      If she doesn’t have a drawer, where should she put it?

      Really, the reaction from the manager is far more egregious and troubling than leaving visible a box of pads.

    6. DropTable~DropsMic*

      Appropriate reaction: “please put your pads in (designated space that is conveniently provided to employees for personal items).”

      Inappropriate reaction: “EWWWWWWW GIRL COOTIES EWWWW”

      If he doesn’t provide a private place for his employees to put stuff he doesn’t get to complain. If he’s too embarrassed to say the word “pads” he doesn’t get to complain.

      1. Allison*

        Exactly. If he doesn’t want to look at them all day, he can tactfully work with her to find a better place for them. His reaction was unreasonable.

    7. Daisy Steiner*

      Steady on! “It’s not rocket science” is a little strong. Just ask: “Is there a reason you can’t put them in a drawer?”

    8. Emmy*

      You don’t need to have a drawer. Back when I needed them at work, I kept my pads/tampons in a cute little, opaque makeup bag.

    9. neverjaunty*

      Why is there always one of these commenters on any thread where a manager has clearly been an asshat?

    10. Andrea*

      I will stand by my line in the sand: your personal items don’t belong on display in a professional setting. I don’t want to see your toothbrush, hairbrush, tampons, diabetes tester, breast pump, orthotics, retainer, etc. Things that are personal to you and to your body should be put away, either in a drawer, cabinet or bag.