our new manager is pressuring the women on our team to use menstrual cups

A reader writes:

This question is on behalf of a friend who works at a small 30-person property management company (we both live in the UK if that makes a difference). My friend has recently got a new manager to head the 10-person team she is a part of, and in which she is in the middle seniority-wise.

The new manager is very eco-friendly, and has given her team aluminium water bottles to cut down on plastic, got the company to stock the kitchen with biodegradable teabags and a coffee machine to offer an attractive alternative to takeaway drinks in non-biodegradable takeaway cups, and has had a cycle-to-work scheme approved and funded. The team appreciated these changes, and off their own bat members introduced other ways to go green, including improved recycling methods and a penalty for anyone who leaves their PC on all night: bringing in biscuits!

But a few weeks ago (in a private meeting) she presented the six female members of the team with menstrual cups. This on its own would obviously be horribly invasive — a boss doesn’t have the right to have any input into how you deal with menstruation — but the manager also made several light-hearted comments about how it could now be a pad-free workplace and help the planet.

My friend objects to this for a million reasons (obviously), just one of which being she has tried the menstrual cup method and decided it was not for her, but also because one of her colleagues rather tearfully told her that due to complications after giving birth to her last child, there was absolutely no way she could use anything but pads for a considerable time.

This should have been a case of just putting it down to the manager being a tactless idiot and moving on, but since handing out the mooncups she has been commenting when seeing her workers in the toilets clutching a tampon or wrapped pad. Never angrily, but a jokey “are you still using those?” or “haven’t you tried the cup yet?” When this happened to my friend, she used one of your lines: “I don’t feel comfortable discussing that kind of thing at work, I’m sure you understand,” but that doesn’t seem to have stopped her. She seems to be doing this from a place of helpfulness and real concern, but it’s just not on.

Is this something that all the female team members should approach together and call a meeting with the manager to make it clear that their menstrual accommodations are not to be discussed, or should they take it higher up the chain, to the company owner? My friend truly believes that the manager is a good person, but her drive to be eco-friendly has gone off the deep end. Apparently in all other matters she is a very good boss and a vast improvement on her predecessor, so my friend is wary of getting her fired. On the other hand, there is someone on the team for whom this is more than just an annoyance, but a really sensitive issue.

Ah, evangelists! Whether it’s diet, yoga, bible study, or environmentalism, good intentions run amok can create some serious … muck.

It’s great that your friend’s new manager is hooking people up with reusable water bottles and more eco-friendly tea and coffee. Hurrah for that!

But yeah, she 100% needs to leave people alone about what menstrual products they use. She can give out mooncups to her friends and family and strangers at the grocery store if she wants, but she really can’t do that with people she manages, and she definitely can’t hassle them about their choice to continue using tampons or pads.

Ideally, your friend and her coworker would shut this down on their own individually, by firmly saying, “I don’t want to discuss this at work and am asking you to respect that.” Or, “Jane, my menstrual choices are not up for discussion at work. Please don’t keep commenting on this.”

If they all (or mostly all) say that to her and she continues anyway, that’s actually a more serious problem. It’s one thing for her to just be clueless about how this would be perceived, but to refuse to back off when people directly ask her to would indicate there’s something more problematic going on here. (And I’d be skeptical that it’s going to stop with the menstrual products.)

If the firm individual messages don’t work, then the next step could be a group “we need you to cut this out,” but it would also be perfectly reasonable to just go to HR at that point, framing it as “we like Jane but are deeply uncomfortable with this and need you to intervene because us asking her to stop hasn’t solved it.” You said they’re wary of getting her fired, but it’s very unlikely she’d get fired over this (unless it was part of a larger pattern of complaints about her behavior), and your company would probably want to know about this so they have the chance to explain boundaries to her.

{ 869 comments… read them below or add one }

          1. OP

            The person I submitted this on behalf of (she has dyslexia so felt more comfortable telling me the story to write down) is loving all these suggestions!

            Reply
    1. jclaar

      I just want say that it is NEVER anyone in my work’s business what I do for that time of the month or what products I use, and I will use whatever I please. If it’s not green enough for them too bad that’s way too personal a territory to be going down. And for the record I leave my computers on all night too, at work and home.

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      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        I’ve worked places where the computers were not SUPPOSED to be shut off at night, for whatever reasons.

        I just never remember to turn my PC off, honestly. I’ll get up to do something and then just never go sit back down. It usually only happens when I need to restart it for updates, or when we have the occasional power outage or I accidentally click off the power strip or something.

        Reply
  1. Amber T

    Listen, menstrual cups are great for those who want to use them and can. But manager would be getting a loooong, detailed explanation about the shape of my downstairs and how it doesn’t work for me. And really, the only person I want to have that discussion with is my OBGYN, but I’d make an exception for someone so needlessly pushy.

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    1. VioletEMT

      Agree completely. I’m a fan of them, but everyone’s parts are shaped differently, and what works for some might not for others. Heck, I had to try a few different brands before I got one that worked, so even if someone is inclined to try cups/discs, the ones the manager handed out may not fit.

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        1. Jennifer Juniper

          I’d be scared she’d whip out the speulum and lay me down on the conference table to do a measure!

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      1. Octopus

        There are obviously so many boundary/privacy violation reasons why this manager is out of line, but I’m really hung up on how someone could just get someone else a menstrual cup without even considering that they’re not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing!

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        1. Locket

          Maybe the first one she used was a perfect fit, and she thought that was just how it is for everyone, never taking a moment to really think on it.

          I’d have been pretty pissed about it to be honest. I don’t get periods anymore (woo) but as a side-effect of also losing my fertility early (not-woo), and as such this would be an awkward thing to receive. Sure, I could explain that I don’t get periods but that’s not really a discussion I want to have at work, and it brings me down for a while if I get into the whole infertility side.

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          1. On Fire

            I’d have been livid – I would have left the cup sitting on the table/desk/whatever surface in the meeting room and walked out. Now? I don’t know that this is the BEST thing to do, but I would go to the manager, lay the cup on her desk and tell her this isn’t an appropriate topic at work, and I need it to never be mentioned again.

            (And for the record, I *personally* can’t stand drinking out of aluminum or other metal containers – it imparts a metallic flavor to the liquid.)

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            1. Lyndelamos

              I completely agree. And now since the manager is being so inappropriate about it, I think the entire staff should simply put their cups on her table or desk. And reiterate this isn’t an appropriate topic at work, and need it to never be mentioned again.

              The next time she comments about the products, I wonder what would happen if everyone simply ignored her, reinforcing “never be mentioned” stance. But I supposed having HR deal with it might be more appropriate.

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            2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

              I personally drink so much water that I buy 6 packs of GALLON jugs at Costco, and I go through those suckers FAST. While I’m sure I’d be delighted if boss gave me a nice insulated mug for my hot caffeine infusion, I doubt they even MAKE them big enough for the large quantities of water I go through on a daily basis.

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        2. Hush42

          Good Point! I did a LOT of research before I made the decision to switch to cups. Just by reading up on them online a figured out that certain brands weren’t going to work for me. Having someone who knows nothing about my body determine that it was a g0od choice for me and deciding which one was right for me would have made me not want to EVER try them.

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        3. Zombeyonce

          They’re very literally not a one-size-fits-all thing! Many come in multiple size options depending on your body and some brands can’t be used if you have an IUD. And plenty of people don’t even get periods in the first place! I’m assuming there are no older women on her team because I imagine the manager being super awkward about “well, you may not need this anymore but here” with them.

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          1. Pomona Sprout

            Not only that, but there can be a lot of different reasons someone doesn’t get periods. One might assume that an older woman is postmenopausal, but there’s such a thing as premature menopause as well. And what about hysterectomies…and trans women who choose not to be out at work? There are probably lots of other possibilities I haven’t thought of as well–NONE of which would be ANY of this boss’s business. It doesn’t sound like a simple “no thank you” would be sufficient to get this looney toon off anyone’s back, and no one should ever be put in the position of feeling pressured to reveal private medical information that has ABSOLUTELY NO IMPACT On their ability to do their job.

            This woman is putting her reports in a very awkward position, and she needs to be stopped, one way or another.

            I say the above because I get the distinct feeling that a simple “No, thank you” would not be enough to satisfy this looney tune boss.

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    2. Four lights

      And I think there are any number of reasons why a person would not be physically able or willing to do this.

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          1. Environmental Compliance

            I have an IUD and I was told quite emphatically to not use a cup because the suction of the cup may rearrange the IUD from where it’s supposed to be.

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            1. RabbitRabbit

              Every cervix and every cup is different but I have seen no blanket statements prohibiting the two from ever being used together. I’ve even read statements from a number of OB/GYNs saying the suction isn’t sufficient to dislodge it, and possibly there might be a super-rare risk if you happen to somehow grab and yank the string. Like with any sort of fiddling-around in there.

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              1. Greyhound

                The doctor that put in my IUD also told me explicitly that I couldn’t use a Diva cup or even tampons with an IUD too. I’ve since heard from other doctors (who just happen to be friends) that that’s not the case, but I don’t really have to worry about it because my IUD has all but eliminated my periods anyways.

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              2. Environmental Compliance

                To be honest, I have no idea what the research is out there between all the different kinds of cups, and I have no intention of using a cup ever….as I don’t get a period with my IUD. But my gyne did sit me down and was very, very emphatic in me not using a cup *if* I were to get a period because potential for problems. *shrug* He’s the only one that picked up on my endometriosis, so I have more faith in him saying it than the gyne I had before that told me to suck it up, women have pain.

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              3. Michaela Westen

                I work in OB/Gyne and it does happen that IUDs move around, they sometimes even get lodged in the uterus and have to be removed surgically. I would absolutely not take chances with that.
                Those of us in medical (or with chronic health conditions) know the establishment moves at a glacial pace forward. I’ve heard my colleagues discuss things that are obvious to them from experience, but still not acknowledged by the establishment… another reason not to take a chance on this, IMHO.

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              4. Anon for this.

                I yanked mine out in this way. But I had a particular combo of long strings and anatomy that made it more likely than usual.

                And like…it wasn’t a big deal anyway. I wasn’t damaged or anything. I’ll risk it again in the future.

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                1. Michaela Westen

                  The danger is, it could injure you if not removed properly. Luckily it didn’t that time.

                2. Anon for this.

                  Is that likely, in a scenario when you’re just yanking out? My doc was completely unconcerned that I’d yanked it, and said I probably could have finished the job on my own, and that non-OBGYN medical folks do it all the time.

            2. Elysian

              Yeah if this were me I might jump pretty quickly to “My doctor has advised me not to use these, and I would rather not discuss it any further.” Because that is true. Even if the OP’s doctor hasn’t so advised, they’re free to use that little white lie.

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            3. Zombeyonce

              I’ve been told that some brands can be worn with an IUD and some can’t (I’ve used Diva cups w/an IUD for over a decade), but of course trust your doctor on this.

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        1. Octopus

          Seconding everyone who is saying that there is no consensus in the medical community about whether you can use a menstrual cup with an IUD or not. This falls under “talk about it with your doctor” rather than “medical facts everyone should be aware of”.

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      1. Jadelyn

        Even if it’s not about one’s physical restrictions, I could definitely understand why someone might just not want to use them – cups are messy in a whole different way than pads/tampons! You have to sterilize the stupid thing. It’s a trade-off: it’s more convenient in that you can usually go longer without having to do anything with it (when I used to use the cup, I’d empty it once when I got up and once after I came home from work and that’s it, vs. up to half a dozen tampon changes in a day), but when you do have to, shall we say, perform maintenance, that process is less convenient than the equivalent with pads/tampons. To me, the trade-off was worth it, so I used the cup. But that’s me, and I fully understand that there are plenty of other folks who might make the decision the other way.

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        1. Washi

          Exactly! I’m going to go ahead and be gross: when I empty them out, there are…chunks. If a squeamish reluctant user rinses it out in the sink and leaves debris….just….ugh.

          I love my cup, but it is not for the faint of heart and does require being fine with touching blood in a way that the tampon doesn’t.

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          1. valentine

            So do you need two at work if you don’t have a single-seater restroom, one to wear whilst rinsing the one you just emptied?

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            1. Marion Ravenwood

              No. I just wipe mine out with toilet paper and put it back in (although it’s very rare that I need to empty it in public toilets). I do rinse it out properly and wipe down the sink when I change it at home though.

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            2. Jadelyn

              No – for the amount of time you’re at the sink it generally won’t matter that you don’t have one in. Also, because the cup seals around the edges there’s no air getting to the blood it’s holding, which is what causes TSS, so you can safely go for much longer between emptying it, depending on how heavy your flow is on a given day – you might not ever have to do anything with it at work at all! I had very heavy flow for the first 3 days of my cycle each time, and even then I really only needed to empty the cup before and after work, maybe a third time at bedtime, so I was always able to avoid having to empty it in a public place.

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              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

                Yeah this is why I use one most of the time. I can usually go 12 hours or so without needing to empty it which is very convenient when you are working outdoors and only have access to a portable toilet (or sometimes just a tree to hide behind).

                They are great IMHO but I would never try to push them on anyone else like this!

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                1. JulieCanCan

                  OMG that’s actually pretty amazing – I wish I had considered those cups back in the day when I was going through 8 – 10 Super Plus Plus Plus Extra Large Heavy-Duty Mega-Absorbancy tampons per day (during the worst 3-4 days each month)! Sounds like a dream, and I am not joking.

                  Kinda sad what excites me these days – I haven’t felt this intrigued in ages, ha ha!

        2. Flash Bristow

          Right! I mean it’s fine in places where the toilet and sink are all in one but when you have to carry them to a communal sink? I know people who have two, and just pop the red one in a bag to take home, and pop in the fresh one, but you still need to wash your hands and so on.

          OP, I bet this manager didn’t give them each TWO cups?

          Also – gross coming up, avoid if squeamish – I used pads for the first year or so, but aged 12 on an overseas school trip with an unexpected period, my only option was a friend “lending” me a tampon. It was a Lillet, with no applicator. So I installed it… and then had to go to wash my hands with my middle finger literally dripping blood. It freaked out the poor lass who gave me the tampon.

          Do you really want people experimenting with cups in a communal office toilet?

          If the new manager was THAT desparate to be green, she could have put a box, with a note, in the toilets, explaining that anyone who wanted one was welcome to take a cup.

          But challenging people on their product choice? Not even slightly acceptable.

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          1. many bells down

            TM EYEEEEEEE

            I’d have to have two regardless. I have a vaginal septum, a double uterus, and two cervixes. If I just put one cup in, I’d leak out the other side. That’s assuming I could even GET one in, let alone the two I’d need. It doesn’t work well with tampons, that’s for sure.

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            1. Violet Rose

              Huh, I’d never heard of that, but one more for the list of “reasons why a menstrual cup is VERY MUCH NOT one-size-fits-all”!

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              1. many bells down

                It’s called didelphus uterus and it’s actually not that uncommon. Some women have even had twins with one in each uterus!

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          2. No worries

            I see comments online from applicator users a lot worrying about cleaning up blood if it gets on your hands, but in Australia applicator tampons are pretty uncommon, and you do sometimes get blood on your hands. The solution is to wipe your hands clean with toilet paper and then go wash them in the sink. I totally get why in abstract that sounds upsetting but it’s honestly not a big deal in practice. Obviously, everyone can do what works for them, I just want people to know more about possible options in case that helps anyone!

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            1. Electric Pangolin

              Yeah, I’ve never used an applicator in my life, idk what people are on about. Also a neat little trick if your finger and tampon size are close enough is to put the plastic wrapper on your finger (split open on the bottom if necessary). Stops the blood from getting under your fingernails, where it’s most annoying to get out.

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            2. SS Express

              I’m Australian too – I travelled to the US recently and asked an American friend if I’d be able to buy normal tampons there, or if I’d need to pack my own (because I have no idea how the applicator ones work and I’m quite happy not finding out). I felt silly until she told me that before visiting Australia she was having the exact same problem, wondering whether she’d be able to buy a “normal” tampon here or just the “weird” ones without applicators. I guess it’s just a matter of what you’re used to!

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            3. selena81

              applicator tampons are those long thin ones, right? i accidentally bought them the first time i wanted to try out tampons and was horribly confused by the whole thing.
              Next time i bought short compact tampons and never used pads again: imo any ‘inside’ solution is a lot more hygienic then getting blood in my underpants

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        3. Anon for This

          It’s a common misconception that you have to empty and rinse a cup every time you use the bathroom, which is untrue. You only need to empty and rinse when it’s full or every 12 hours (whichever is sooner). Many many women can go the entire workday without needing to deal with it at all (myself included), you can do all your normal bathroom business without dislodging it in any way.

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          1. curly sue

            This is probably a dumb question, but how do you know when it’s full? I have mental images of the elevator doors from The Shining…

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            1. Liz

              TMI, of course, but for me, when I used one, a bit of blood on the toilet paper after wiping was the usual sign, and I could go a couple of hours after that initial first warning if I had to.

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            2. MCMonkeyBean

              It can leak a little if it’s full, so after you use it a few times you’ll get a sense of how long you can go before you need to empty it. It’s only ever happened to me once or twice when I put it in earlier than I usually do and forgot about it until late in the evening.

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        4. Tiny Soprano

          100%! I love mine, but it’s… well. A murder scene. I’m fine with it, but I’m really leery of recommending it to people purely for this reason. Some people hate the sight of blood. Some people might just be ok with it overnight at home but don’t want to go spelunking in their cavities at work. Both valid reasons that also aren’t any of my business.

          Plus these days you can get more environmentally friendly pads and tampons than you could even a couple of years ago. If manager is that concerned, she could ensure that those products are also provided in the bathroom for workers to use as an alternative.

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            1. JulieCanCan

              Agreed! I was just coming here to say the same thing. I’ll never use another term for it: Spelunking is IT!

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          1. selena81

            i’m thinking about trying those cups but only if i can keep access to the work-bathroom where the sink is in-stall.
            no way i’d be rinsing them out in a communal sink or take home a bloody cup

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        5. Maria

          I didn’t even think about this aspect. For people with heavy flow, there would 100% be a dumping out and rinsing out and squatting component to their work day – in a shared bathroom. In office clothing.

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      2. designbot

        Precisely. And I would probably say this to the manager, like, “It’s great if these work for you but there are a lot of people they don’t work for, and nobody should have to explain and justify something so intimate to by boss. I like you and think you’re doing great at your job here, but this is just not your business.”

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          1. Natalie

            Ask a Manager
            March 13, 2019 at 11:01 am
            Please don’t turn the comment section into a discussion of pros and cons of menstrual cups. Thanks

            Reply
        1. RUKiddingMe

          You are too nice. :-)
          In fact pretty much everyone here except me seems so nice. I would have never have accepted it in the first place and said something like, “I can’t believe you think you have any place to do this or to intrude into something so intimate. Stay in your own lane.” Especially in the UK where it’s much harder to get fired simply for standing up for oneself.

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          1. Susana

            I agree. I would never in a million years thank her, but, or even accept it. I would have looked her very coldly in the eye and told her I did not want my manager even thinking about my vagina, let alone telling me what to put there.

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          2. Mrs. Wednesday

            Yeah, I feel the same. What I’d probably do is let there be a long, long, long silence that she has to break. If I do this while keeping a pleasant expression – with just a touch of “I’m listening” face — I can get out of really infuriating situations with superiors.

            Of course, what I’d want to do in this case is bring in a giant carton of douches and leave them in her office with a note reading, “I REALLY recommend this brand for you.”

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          3. designbot

            yeah my problem is that I keep wanting the people who violate boundaries to not just be shut down, but actually understand why they’re being shut down.
            It may be too high a bar.

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          4. Thomas

            As a woman in the US I would have told her I don’t have periods thanks to mirena and shoved it back toward her. Then again I’m not shy about my conception choice when brought up as a topic among coworkers.

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      3. Tequila Mockingbird

        As a woman who gave birth only four months ago, the thought of inserting a cup right now makes me cringe SO hard.

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        1. agmat

          10 months ago here and I’m still cringing at the thought. I used to use a cup, too, and like them. But my downstairs is a foreign territory right now.

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          1. OfCourseAnon

            I’m still trying to nerve myself up to it 3 years postpartum. My Diva Cup has been gathering dust this whole time.

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      4. Not-So-Mean-Girl

        Even if we lived in a world where women could talk openly about their periods without feeling embarrassed, there are SO MANY reasons why a woman wouldn’t want to or can’t use on of these:

        1) The Eww factor (my reason)
        2) Different bodies have different shapes
        3) UIDs
        4) I know some women who’s periods are so intense that a mooncup would be useless
        5) I used to know someone who was in an accident as a child where her pelvis was crushed, and can’t even have sex normally let alone use a tampon or mooncup
        6) Having a higher risk of infection
        7) Harder to deal with at work or in public

        And so many more!

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        1. Tiny Soprano

          Re #4, totally agree. Some people need to use a backup even with the cup. The thought of using a cup by itself??? Terrifying. Couldn’t do it.

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        2. Kettles

          And conversely, if your periods are very light they also… don’t really work. Or if you are on the progesterone only pill which can pretty much stop your periods.

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        3. Maria

          8) They have cats, and therefore can’t leave it to dry overnight without it being knocked down and lost. (I just hope I find it before the movers do.)

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        4. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

          I used disposable cups for many years- and they were great! But a reusable one? I don’t think so. I am SUPER clumsy so I can see there be many fumbles (drop bloody cup on floor, sink, self, coworker; drop freshly cleaned cup in toilet, on floor, etc) and I am SUPER forgetful, so I can totally see myself not remembering to keep it clean enough or simply just losing it between periods. And I most certainly would be the person whose uterus would just decide to go GLURG & make a yucky mess in my undies while I’m washing out the damn cup.

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    3. Ali G

      Me too! Unfortunately I only learned this after trying the cup, and having not work out (literally I needed intervention to get it out).

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    4. mrs__peel

      I’ve reached the point in life where have no f*cks left, and would happily launch into a long monologue about my anatomy, medical issues, and why the cups would be horribly physically painful for me. Hopefully she would be to horrified to ever mention it to anyone ever again.

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      1. Gail Davidson-Durst

        Haha! This was my first reaction too – fight back with sooo much TMI. But in this lady’s case, I’d worry it would just invite an unstoppable torrent of suggestions on how to fix my nethers, from essential oils to specific Kegel exercises. Hell, this chick sounds like she might offer hands-on tutoring!

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        1. Dinopigeon

          Speaking as someone who cannot use a cup and is really tired of cup evangelists (which is what I’ve called them for years, and was really tickled to see it used here)… they do not take no for an answer. It would absolutely be read as an invitation to suggest solutions, not a “back off” message.

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      2. Stranger than fiction

        I’d be tempted to “I’m having trouble inserting it could you help?” Just to see if that’ shut her down.
        Side thought: how does she know who’s still menstruating and who’s in menopause? Some women have hysterectomies early due to problems, etc.

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    5. Aleta

      Yup. It’s a good thing I’m not in this situation because I am not shy and this manager would 100% be getting a sweetly, detailed description of the shape of my vagina and why it will not work with a cup. Seriously. Oh my God. Please leave me alone about the goddamn cup.

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    6. So long and thanks for all the fish

      Yeah, I think if one of the group is comfortable with sharing exactly why you don’t want to/can’t use cups with the manager (not that anyone should have to!), it might be the spark that gets her to realize how inappropriate she’s being, especially since your friend says she’s otherwise a good manager.

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      1. TootsNYC

        I like the idea of sending one person to talk with her, armed with info about the reasons someone might not be interested or able (some that are true to the office and some that are not), as a way to keep it from getting too revealing. The ambassador doesn’t tell who has what problem, just that at least one of these IS true int he office, and that people are not happy about being pressured about personal, private, genital matters. And that they don’t want to share medical information with their boss.

        And please would she stop the comments.

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      2. Observer

        On the other hand, this could easily be a signal to her, in her own mind, that this is a topic that she actually gets to have a say in.

        The OP says that they have tried Allison’s scripts already. If someone doesn’t get that, then expecting them to understand anything indirect is a big risk.

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    7. Clay on my apron

      I wonder whether a detailed explanation of why the cup doesn’t work for your particular anatomy would even deter someone with boundaries this permeable – or would she see it as an invitation to take the conversation further and have a lively interactive discussion that everyone could participate in?

      *shudder*

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          1. Free now (and forever)

            I just lost the battle of laughing so hard that I started coughing! My battle’s better than yours!

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          1. Amber T

            There was a scene in an early episode of Younger where the lead’s coworker/friend had her cup… stuck, and couldn’t get it out herself, and had to embarrassingly ask her for help. I mean, in a life or death situation with a close friend or family member… ok, but can I drive you to the doctor/medical professional instead?

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      1. Wendy Darling

        I have to say I have said “Oh I can’t use menstrual cups” on the internet and then had what felt like the entire English-speaking world leap on me to explain why I was definitely wrong and could definitely for sure use menstrual cups — I did not share what my precise problem was so they all just assumed it was various things and argued against them. (I cannot, in fact, use a menstrual cup.)

        People are definitely just as pushy about other things they are evangelists for (my coworker got started with me about intermittent fasting the other day… NO THANK YOU) but somehow the menstrual cup evangelists are especially offensive to me because they want to argue with me about what I shove up my hoo-ha during my period.

        Reply
        1. Gymmie

          YEEESSSSSSSS.
          OMG, clearly if you are doing things the right way, of course it will work :(
          I’ve had a lot of pelvic floor issues, and of course non of the reactions my body has ate “natural” according to some people. Usually I don’t care about stuff like that, but I think because it’s deeply personal it has often made me feel sad and like a freak.

          Reply
        2. Airy

          The cup evangelists completely put me off even trying the thing for several years, they were so pushy, over-confident and disparaging of other options and people’s reasons for using them. Recently I did try one out and it works really well for me (just as well because it was blinking expensive) but for a long time the evangelical zeal actually achieved the opposite of the zealots’ intent.
          Obviously I hope that keeps them all up at night.

          Reply
      2. Susana

        Agree, Clay. Not a good idea to point out why the cup isn’t good for some women, because that’s not the point. The point is she has invaded the very very private space, and health and hygiene, of the staff, and that’s just unacceptable, full stop.

        Reply
    8. Love my cup (and my choice)

      Plus, for a variety of reasons, NOT ALL WOMEN MENSTRUATE. This is so beyond inappropriate.

      Reply
      1. knitcrazybooknut

        Thank you. I had an endometrial ablation, and have no qualms discussing it with people. But there are others who have more personal reasons that they may not want to discuss. ARGH

        Reply
      2. Rae

        This would necessitate a detailed explanation of my particular birth control choices that I have made over the past decade and other medical history which I would have NO inclination to discuss at work.

        *insert nope nope nope octopus gif here*

        Reply
      3. Janie

        Yeah honestly this manager REALLY risked a lot of things including outing or misgendering a trans employee.

        (I don’t actually bleed enough most months due to medication to use a cup. If you wanted me to use a reusable product, cloth pads would be the way to go. And I’m not doing that. I just assume, though, most people with vaginas know what they’re doing with said vaginas.)

        Reply
        1. Anax

          And, uh, trans men also exist!

          Not that I want this kind of interference in my body-maintenance, but… man, the logistics of doing this in the men’s room are EVEN WORSE.

          Reply
          1. Anonny

            Back when I menstruated, I tried changing my pad in a men’s loo. I picked the filthiest one I could find because I knew no-one else would be using it and it was still a deeply worrying experience. (There are no bins in the men’s. You cannot dispose of a pad discreetly.) After that I just did my best to not go out when I was on, and wore super-thick pads that could go for hours without being changed if I needed to leave the house. Everything I’ve heard about changing cups tells me I would not want to do that in the men’s toilet.

            I also heard of one guy trying to change his pads in the men’s, and someone overheard the rustle of the wrapper and asked if he was eating crisps on the bog.

            Reply
              1. Anax

                Rarely. In my experience, it’s MUCH more likely in the women’s room, as are friendly chats by the sink. When I’ve seen men chat in or about the bathroom, it’s usually been because they’re young enough to find toilet humor hilarious.

                I don’t get it either. I have a habit of wearing very visible over-ear headphones to the restroom because I do not want to chat at those times.

                Reply
              2. General Ginger

                Thankfully, no, that is unusual. In my experience, men tend to interact as little as possible in the bathroom, to the point where I actually really miss women’s bathrooms, where you could reasonably ask a perfect stranger for a tampon and end up having a whole conversation.

                Reply
            1. Anax

              Ditto – that’s the big reason I’ve never looked into them seriously.

              I generally use tampons since they’re smaller, and just smuggle them out in my hand as best I can. Most workplace bathrooms here have rubbish bins SOMEWHERE in the bathroom, though it will definitely be out in public near the sinks, so it’s difficult to be discreet.

              Honestly, though… incontinence pads seem almost identical in form and function. Having the little in-stall bins would benefit everyone, right? :\

              Reply
            2. MelRedcap

              I saw that post! He covered up by whispering back “I’m not sharing.” XD

              This whole thing is… urgh. I like to think I’d be able to push back in this situation, but aaaargh the embarrassment!

              Reply
            3. Onyx

              FWIW, my experience has been that changing a cup in a public restroom is typically more discreet than a pad/tampon. No products that need to be carried into the restroom (not externally, at least ;)) or stored in one’s bag/desk/etc., no packaging to rustle, nothing that needs to be disposed of in a trash bin afterwards, and even the manufacturer (at least for Diva Cup) doesn’t expect people to try to wash it in the sink in a public restroom. Plus less frequent need to deal with it in a public restroom. (Obviously, there are plenty of other reasons why they might not be a good choice, but in case anyone considering one had that concern…)

              Diva Cup’s official instructions (which I would expect to err on the conservative side for safety for liability reasons) recommend simply washing one’s hands before entering the stall, emptying it into the toilet, and wiping it with toilet tissue before reinsertion if you need to change it in a public restroom. In my experience, the only way it would be more apparent than a tampon to someone outside the stall is (1) potential for a small squelchy or suction-y noise during removal or insertion, which doesn’t happen every time and probably wouldn’t be obviously menstruation-related to someone who doesn’t use a menstrual cup themselves (e.g., most cis-men), or (2) if you accidentally spilled some blood outside the toilet bowl or dropped the cup, which I think has happened to me a grand total of once in several years of cup usage including the initial learning curve (and could happen with pads/tampons as well).

              Reply
          2. General Ginger

            Having to deal with this in men’s rooms when I was still menstruating was the utter worst. Also, I found a bafflingly large number of men’s rooms had no stall doors. As in, here are some urinals, here’s a commode with a little wall, but no door right past them.

            Reply
              1. General Ginger

                To be honest, I have no idea whether this is an issue of “designed this way” or “we never repaired the door”. However, it was absolutely a case of “designed this way” at my school in the 1980s in Eastern Europe.

                Reply
                1. mrs__peel

                  Apparently, they do that by design in many K-12 schools in the US as well. I heard that from some male friends and find it completely horrifying.

                2. Ego Chamber

                  @mrs__peel o_o Ohgodno. I went to school in the US in the 90s and early 00s and there were doors in all the loos except for the occasional vandalized door at the far end.

                  Maybe that changed later, for security or something? (Ugh, I don’t even like kids and I feel so sorry for school-aged kids now. I was in high school when the Columbine massacre happened and that’s when it all started going to hell over here.)

            1. mark132

              When I was in a WW2 era barracks for training, there were just two rows of 3 toilets facing each other no dividers etc. We made jokes about setting up a card table. (needless to say I got up in the middle of the night to poo.)

              Reply
              1. Burned Out Supervisor

                When I was in college, our dorm was co-ed by floor. My senior year, we were having a delightful prank war with the dudes on the floor above us. We thought we were super clever when we poured rice crispies in their shoes (they kept them in the hallway). They retaliated by removing the stall walls in our restrooms overnight and reassembled them in the common room in the main level. I walked into the bathroom that morning and burst out laughing (I was the first to see it because Bio majors always have early-ass lab classes). I have NO IDEA how they were able to be quiet enough about it, because NO ONE heard them. The RA and administration was not pleased, but there were no cameras in the building and they couldn’t prove who did it.

                Reply
                1. Awesome Possum

                  This is the best thing I have read all day. I want to go back to college, just for the opportunity to put this in action. Thank you!

        2. smoke tree

          Yeah, there are tons of reasons why it’s a terrible idea to make assumptions about which of your employees menstruate. This reminded me of the podcast where Alison and Jolie Kerr discussed plumbing issues caused by tampons being flushed–even in that situation, it wouldn’t have been appropriate to approach the group of people you consider most likely to use tampons.

          Reply
          1. Anax

            In that particular case, it sounded like they were able to determine the exact toilet where the problem was originating, but… Yeah, that was very much on my mind. There’s no BINS in the men’s room. The barrier to doing things properly is substantially higher!

            Reply
            1. smoke tree

              I think there was some discussion of whether the LW should approach the women “of child-bearing age” which presented its own set of issues.

              Reply
        3. Róisín

          Cloth pads are the best (for me)! That’s my personal sustainability choice for menstruating, and although I love to talk about it with people who are interested, I would NEVER EVER EVER push them on people. Especially someone I managed! Jeez!

          Reply
          1. Moo

            Same! I use cloth pads (we did cloth diapering which introduced me to them) and they are so much better than disposables for me. And I have no problems talking about them and promoting them but can’t even imagine handing them out to people I manage and then demanding they stop using all other products!! It is so beyond inappropriate that I can’t even fathom that someone is actually doing this!

            Reply
      4. Midge

        YES THIS!

        And for some of them that is no big deal, and for some of them it is a very sensitive topic that they don’t want to be reminded of, especially by their freaking BOSS.

        Honestly, I am about to join that group. Until that happens, I do use a cup AND disposable pads because I need to. Yup, I’m that person packing her expensive, plastic filled menstrual products into her reusable cloth bags at the grocery store. We all do what we can.

        Reply
      5. Free now (and forever)

        As someone who hit menopause 12 years ago, I was totally unaware that the world was being overrun with “cup evangelists.” The things you learn on AAM.

        Reply
    9. facepalm

      Right? I have a pretty significant cervical tilt, and I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but my cup experience made me miserable. I suffered an unbearable amount of suction over multiple menstrual cycles; it felt like my insides were being suctioned out through my cervix. I don’t want to try different brands or sizes to see if I just needed to try something different. The one try was miserable enough.

      Reply
      1. only acting normal

        I tried one and OMG it was a nightmare to insert when cramping, didn’t sit right because retroverted uterus, and luckily I didn’t keep it in long because I can only imagine the mess it I’d removed like that when full. o.O

        I love my cloth pads, and I supplement with disposables during the work day.

        Reply
    10. JustaTech

      Heck, even if it weren’t about shapes, those things come in sizes! And you can’t guess someone’s size just by looking at them.

      And here’s and extra little thing for the manager fussing about people still having pads and tampons: you have to know *exactly* when your period will start to use a cup the whole time. If you get surprised what are the chances that you’re lugging around the cup in your purse?

      This manager might have her heart in the right place, but she’s being completely unreasonable.

      Reply
      1. Ada

        Heck, it’s not even easy to judge the right size when you use the brand’s own sizing guidelines. Learned that one the hard way. And if the size is wrong, you’re going to need a backup pad regardless. Really, though, I would hope your boss wouldn’t want to get into the nitty gritty details of your cervical height. Or any other perfectly valid reason someone wouldn’t be able to use a cup (childbirth, surgeries, vaginismus, religious reasons…). She’s potentially wandering into some risky territory here.

        Reply
      2. Boop

        Am now imagining the boss trying to guess people’s sizes. Simultaneous uncontrollable laughter and gag reflex.

        Reply
      3. Tiny Soprano

        Oh and your size can change. And then your old go-to is bloody useless (pun intended) and you have to find a new one.

        Reply
    11. Traffic_Spiral

      I’d go with “nothing that involves my vagina is appropriate for you to talk about. Don’t raise this again or I’m filing a complaint with HR.”

      Seriously, what the actual fuck?

      Reply
      1. Safetykats

        Yes – the entire discussion just needs to be shut down. Turning it into a discussion about preferred menstrual products ignores the primary issue – which is that the manager should not be taking about ANY personal hygiene issues with their staff, unless such issues adversely and immediately affect other staff (e.g., severe body odor).

        Reply
      2. Dagny

        Agree completely. TMI is not the right response, because the problem is that this discussion needs to not happen.

        Reply
      3. Yvette

        YES!!! If people want to, don’t want to, can’t, can but won’t does not matter in the slightest.
        Somewhere in the comments it was suggested that someone be elected to go in and tell her that a cup might not work for anyone and why. I disagree, I don’t think anyone should go in with a laundry list of reasons why, that just gets you into JADE territory. The entire situation is completely and totally inappropriate. It should never have happened and should not be a part of any discussion.

        Reply
        1. Traffic_Spiral

          Thanks. I’m at my wittiest when I have hours to think up a retort and also suffer no negative consequences from saying it.

          Reply
      4. Burned Out Supervisor

        Yeah, I would also make her aware that continued discussion of this issue, even in jest, would result in me making a formal HR complaint. I’d say it super-nice too: “You know, that’s the third time you’ve brought up my menstrual cycle after I’ve asked you to stop. It really makes me uncomfortable that you continue to ask me about this despite me asking you to stop. Perhaps HR can help us figure out a solution to this issue?”

        Reply
        1. Traffic_Spiral

          Or you could bring it up like the boss from office space. “Yeah… if you could not talk about my period… that would be great.”

          Reply
    12. Jack Be Nimble

      Same! I really wanted to use a cup but every time I tried, I was in immense pain until I removed it. My cervix is unusually shaped and the cup was unbearably painful for me (as in, worse pain than the time I broke my leg)! I’d be steamed if my pushy boss wanted me to switch menstrual products to suit her agenda, and I would be having words with my boss, her boss, HR, and whoever else was necessary.

      Reply
    13. Detective Amy Santiago

      LOL same!!! I would be more than happy to get into the details of my various ~issues~ and why I couldn’t use one if someone got pushy like that.

      Though I wouldn’t be surprised if this person then advocates for cloth pads (which, tbf, are awesome, but involve some tricky logistics when you’re not at home).

      Reply
      1. RUKiddingMe

        The best thing would be if everyone would mind their own damn business and trust adult people with vaginas to deal with them appropriately. Periods? Most of us started dealing with them about age 12 (some sooner like me at 10 and some later…but 12 seems average) and by the time we’re adults we pretty much “got this.”

        Every time I hear/read about mensuration issues I thank all the gods that I don’t believe in that I am beyond all of that these days. No more bleeding, no more cramps (Occasionally though…it’s weird. Any other post-menopause women still get occasional uterine cramps or am I just weird?) and all the judgement about how I should manage my nether regions.

        Reply
          1. MelRedcap

            I bet Mother Nature didn’t include a gift receipt either, darn it. :( Happy Birthday and fingers crossed for better presents!

            Reply
          2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

            I turned 52 last month and I’m REALLY hoping menopause turns up soon. After 40 years (and 10+ of peri menopause) I am OVER IT.

            Reply
        1. whingedrinking

          I will absolutely never forget the time this one guy came into a science forum I belonged to. He was practically wetting his pants because he’d just found out about this thing called “toxic shock syndrome” and that people could get it from using tampons and he had to tell the vagina-havers in his life right now! What was the best way he could inform menstruating folk about why they had to stop using tampons immediately?
          He was very annoyed when the vagina-havers of the forums told him that this was common knowledge among tampon users and that he should assume that we all had this under control without his assistance. “I was just trying to help!”

          Reply
          1. General Ginger

            But how could you have possibly known that already, when he had only just found out? That defies all logic and understanding /s

            Reply
          2. JPhoenix

            @whingedrinking omg that would be so awkward/ annoying to be in the room for, but it’s funny as hell to read!

            Reply
          3. Amber T

            Buzzfeed just posted one of their articles about a guy claiming women should stop whining about the expense of periods because you only use 7 tampons a cycle AT MOST and only get your period 9 times a year, so that amounts to nothing. So yeah, mansplaining periods is definitely a thing.

            Reply
            1. General Ginger

              I was watching some threads on this on Twitter, and people were positing he got the 9 times/year periods from the length of a pregnancy, because otherwise nobody could understand the 9 came from.

              Reply
            2. Not So NewReader

              To Buzzfeed Dude: Keep talking. You are keeping countless women entertained with your Grand Canyon size lack of knowledge on this subject. Please keep talking, so we can keep laughing [at you].

              Reply
            3. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

              OMG…I have friends that use/d more than 7 tampons A DAY (+backup pads) during their periods, and their periods often last/ed up to 10 days. That’s a lot of money!
              It’s so shocking to me sometimes how little so many (cis) men know about periods.

              Reply
    14. tink

      Yeah, I love the idea of offering them, but this is really invasive and pushy? Maybe something like “since we’re trying to be more eco-friendly, if you’d like to try a menstrual cup or reusable pads pick what you’d like to try out up to X dollar amount, show me your order receipt, and I’ll reimburse you on your next paycheck.”

      Reply
      1. Autumnheart

        I think that would also be incredibly boundary-violating. There’s no way I want to show my boss my receipts for sanitary products. It’s honestly no employer’s business how eco-friendly my hygiene is. I also think that it contributes toward blurring the line between work environment and lifestyle, where employers seem to believe they should get a say in the life choices their employees make.

        Reply
        1. Working Hypothesis

          What about, “Everyone can submit a request for up to $X reimbursement for the purpose of trying out new eco-friendly items of your choice?” That way, everyone could decide for themselves exactly what items they are comfortable giving information to one’s boss about, or whether one wants to participate in the entire system at all.

          Reply
      2. Tiny Soprano

        I mean, if she wanted to make a free menstruation product station in the bathroom and stock it with enviro-friendly products of a variety of types that’d be better. But I think going as far as receipts is still strange in this context.

        Reply
      3. SS Express

        Offering them for free is a good thing to do, but the only appropriate way to do it is to make them available in the bathrooms (plural i.e. the men’s room too) for people who do wish to use them to grab in private.

        Reply
    15. Jersey's mom

      Dear LW

      Aliso gives some great scripts and it’s pretty horrifying that your boss doesn’t get it after the clear comments from co-workers.

      With that in mind, I step forward to volunteer to work for your boss for a few day and absolutely horrify her with the amount of bloody, grisly, biological details as well as off the cuff nasty biological horror show stories in my repertoire, that I might leave her speechless for a week.

      (I’m a wildlife biologist, have done dozens of necropsies, did a long term study on determining time of death on certain wildlife species in the field (that was a stinky one), personally have a menstrual cycle that has resulted in periods for 3 weeks running and leaving me anemic, and a bunch of family members are nurses. And that’s the tip of the biological iceberg.

      Please let me talk to your boss? I would have so much fun.

      Reply
    16. DaffyDuck

      It sounds as if they like Jane otherwise and she cares about her team. I’m guessing she skews mentally young and doesn’t differentiate between friends and employees. I agree with the suggestion that one or two women go to her and say “We know you support ecologically friendly techniques, but you need to stop all comments about menstruation. Some of our staff have private medical issues and comments upset them. Thank you.”
      That is ALL you say. If she won’t drop the subject, wants to know who has issues, etc. take it to HR as a complaint. But first – use your words.

      Reply
  2. AdAgencyChick

    Who is Jane’s manager? I’d go as a group to that person if there’s no HR department and/or if HR is a mess since it’s such a small company.

    Reply
    1. AFPM

      I believe she mentioned it was the owner, although I might have misread that part. It’s a smaller company. I don’t like talking about menstruation with ANYONE except a medical professional, so this is absolutely horrifying to me on every level.

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      Me: “Hey Big Boss, got time for a question?”
      Big Boss: “Sure.”
      Me: “Do I have use menstrual cups to keep my job?”
      Big Boss: …. [thump]…
      Me: “Big Boss, do you need help getting up from the floor?”

      Reply
    1. ArtsNerd

      Glad I’m working from home today because there’s no way I’d be able to stifle “WOW. Wow. Wooooow.” that reflexively just came out of my mouth.

      Reply
    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

      My housemate just came upstairs to find out what was wrong when I yelled “What the jiminy HELL” at my monitor.

      Reply
      1. Radical Edward

        Oh excellent, it wasn’t just me! I swore out loud on the station platform…

        Seriously, this is very much worth a team effort. The more the merrier. Stomp on that awful behaviour, because it is twenty-six different kinds of NOPE. I don’t even let my /friends/ get past the first ‘have you tried a mooncup?’ – as soon as they open their mouths to try and explain that I just haven’t found the right one, they get the whole TMI package. And then I request that they never ever try it again.

        Reply
    3. Seeking Second Childhood

      Here, try a few of the ones I used in my head while gasping: Wow. Oh my god. You’ve got to be kidding.
      (I deleted a few NSFW words. Feel free to use them too.)

      Reply
      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        She MIGHT be able to justify the original obnoxious gift — but cornering people in the bathroom has moved her straight into bully territory.

        Reply
        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          (Not that *I* would accept the justification, just think she might get someone to accept that she did it in good faith.)

          Reply
          1. Artemesia

            This. I think the initial ‘gift’ of the cup was out of line in the workplace, but I’d give her a pass on it, if she shut up forever after about it. This is one that needs to go nuclear if one clear request to stop doesn’t end it.

            Reply
        2. Safetykats

          I don’t know that the original “gift” can be justified at all. In examining situations like this I think it’s always instructive to change up the hypothetical gender and see how it plays. If the manager passing out cups was a man, would we even try to give him a pass?

          Reply
            1. Autumnheart

              I’d say that, for me, that reasserts my opinion that no managers should be butting in anyone’s menstrual practices at work, whether they menstruate or not.

              Reply
            2. JessaB

              I don’t think it matters if he does, honestly this is so over the line…that I’d volunteer to be the one to take it on even though I’m status post hysterectomy. Because even when I had a period, I couldn’t use those things. It doesn’t matter if the giver has a period. Even if the giver was a woman post menopause. Honestly I would have handed the gift back from minute one. There is no way I would let them justify that. I wouldn’t even let them get started. “Sorry I do not want one of those.”

              Reply
        3. Code Monkey, the SQL

          No kidding!

          Ok, ok, if – and that is an edge-case IF at best – IF she had stopped at “Look team! More enviro-friendly gifts! Aren’t these things just the bee’s knees and the honeycomb too?!” I might, if I felt lenient, give that manager a pass because they were caught up in the New Thing, Pass It ON! energy of the moment.

          But finding workers in the bathroom to “JOKE” about their personal product habits has taken away the possibility that this is an edge-case. Manager is clueless/a bully/both.

          Reply
    4. facepalm

      Every time I think I’ve read all the possible crazy scenarios that could possibly happen at a workplace, Alison blows it out of the park

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        Right? If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started reading this blog, it’s that no matter how “duh” obviously inappropriate you think something is, there’s SOMEONE out there who either has or is going to try it.

        Reply
      2. Slow Gin Lizz

        Right? Just a couple of days ago I was thinking we hadn’t had a super crazy boss in at least a week so we must be overdue. Yup.

        Reply
    5. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!

      Nothing like coming back from lunch to check the latest post and getting a headline that makes me make a noise that I can’t even describe here. A hybrid of ewwww and uhhhhh. Also, someone like that woman would automatically make me want to dig in my heels and do the opposite just out of spite.

      Reply
    6. MatKnifeNinja

      I ripped muscles in my jaw from it hitting the ground at warp speed.

      Nominating this for weirdness of the year. Honestly this is a true WTF.

      Reply
    7. OlympiasEpiriot

      I’m pretty much gobsmacked myself.

      I’m notorious as practically an Earth-First-er in many people’s eyes *for my own life*. Unless someone DIRECTLY asks me for advice on menstrual-time products I do not butt in.

      If I had been in that meeting, she would have gotten an earful right then and there from me and I am now past the point where I need them. (HOORAY!) I wouldn’t have waited for anyone else to even get to feel uncomfortable. I mean, the air overpressure would have caused temporary deafness in the whole floor, let alone that room.

      Reply
      1. OlympiasEpiriot

        Actually, it is possible therewouldn’t be anything temporary about that deafness. I suspect many would be bleeding from their ear drums, too.

        Reply
      2. DaffyDuck

        I would give her an earfull also OlympiasEpiriot! I am also past the age of needing them, but when I was younger I would have been horrified that my manager even brought the subject up.

        Reply
      3. willow

        I wonder if she even offered them to the women past a certain age. That’s getting really ickier even than just the cups

        Reply
    1. JokeyJules

      I wonder if the manager feels more comfortable crossing that boundary since they are all women? Not justifying just trying to understand.

      Reply
      1. Anonysand

        I mean, maybe? There are some women who are really open about their menstruation habits and the like (myself included, in appropriate environments) to fight the stigma, but that fact that it’s a workplace immediately renders that argument moot. It seems like she’s too caught up in her “green” initiative to realize how far off the deep end this is.

        Reply
        1. JokeyJules

          i wasn’t even thinking about it in a workplace sense. I’ve recommended products to other women plenty of times and discussed my reviews on all sorts of personal items, but never gone as far as to purchase and hand them out and insist they use them.

          it being in the workplace just makes it even worse.

          Reply
        2. Murphy

          Yeah, if a friend wanted to discuss diva cups, totally OK. (I think it’s overstepping for a friend to just buy you one.) But at work, too personal!

          Reply
        3. Bee

          Yeah, I am happy to discuss why I love mine (basically: because it’s the closest I have come to being able to pretend my period isn’t happening) to anyone who’s interested, but YIKES, I would never ever follow up on that conversation for any reason whatsoever.

          Reply
          1. SimonTheGreyWarden

            Conversely, I’m certain I would have more than one ‘crime scene’ incident in the company toilet due to mucking mine up. I won’t try them but I love my Thinx and would talk someone’s ear off about them. Just… Not at work.

            Reply
            1. a heather

              One thing I didn’t realize until I tried it: mostly you just don’t have to deal with it at work at all. You don’t have to empty it often unless you’re having really, really heavy flow.

              Reply
              1. Liz

                But when it changes…!

                Back when I used cups, my flow became very heavy in a fairly short space of time. I went from never having to empty it at work, to performing some rather intimate contortions in a very small cubical, with a VERY senior judge in the next cubical over.

                (I’m sure the very senior judge has some experience of her own with menstruation, but I’m sure she was confused by the noises.)

                Reply
          2. M. Albertine

            Yes, I am an evangelist too (you don’t even realize how much time you spend thinking about your period until you minimize it to a couple times a day), but my recommendations always start out with a list of the reasons that would make me NOT recommend a cup to someone.

            Reply
            1. Renthead

              Jsyk, the evangelism is annoying in general. I’ve tried multiple cups, I hate them, etc, and yet I can’t count how many times some cup evangelist has taken it upon herself to try and show me the error of my ways. It gets really old. I thought about my period WAY more while using the cup, and this isn’t even taking into account women who struggle with intense menstrual pain, something that has nothing to do with what products one uses and that will definitely cause you to think about your period more than twice a day. Please, just let people be unless you’re specifically asked for your opinion.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth West

                You beat me to it–I would never not be thinking about it no matter what products I use, because my head is aching and I’m counting the minutes until my next dose of ibuprofen. And if anyone started in with me while I’m in this state, they’d be flopping over dead on the ground without a head.

                Reply
              2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

                Yep. For me, the “dealing with blood” part of the period is generally NBD and the least annoying part of the whole thing. Now, the debilitating cramps? Backaches? Bowel issues? THOSE are what make me think about my period all the live long day, and nothing but menopause or a hysterectomy is gonna change THAT.

                Reply
            2. SS Express

              I use tampons exclusively and I spend so little time thinking about my period that I never know when it’s due, even though I’m super regular (at least I’m pretty sure I’m still super regular…), because I can never remember when the last one was. It just barely even registers in my mind. And I get really bad period pain.

              Reply
        4. Asenath

          Exactly. What I might chat about in incredible detail with my female friends would NOT make part of any conversation with my boss – male or female. And I KNOW none of my female friends would question my decision to not use their little gift!! Actually, I can’t imagine any of my female friends giving me one – suggesting a cup, yes, back in the days when we all needed something of the kind. Presenting me with one and then questioning me about my continued dependence on tampons or pads? Not a chance! This is a case for a group presentation to the boss, and if that doesn’t work, taking it to HR or higher.

          Reply
        5. Chinookwind

          “but that fact that it’s a workplace immediately renders that argument moot. ”

          I don’t know – if this was a conversation among peers about practicalities (like having them available in the washroom), then it is a conversation that makes sense and helps fight stigma.

          Heck, yesterday I was taking with one of our (female) welders when she hurt her foot and we were going through the first aid kit for pain killers. At that point I learned that we have Midol type which started a conversation in front of the 3 men (who were also helping with first aid) about her asking the male safety guy (who had the meds) for them which also led to other conversations about how the welding shop has evolved to accommodate all the women (one of the women actually brought in a basket for shared products and I am tempted to fill it up courtesy of the office supply budget). The only response from the guys was that safety guy thought me may put the Midol up at the front desk (which is manned by me, a woman).

          Reply
          1. KB

            I don’t know about the rules where you are, but here (Australia) there is a huge push to remove pain killers from first aid kits, both because of the risk of allergies, but also to try and to something about the addictive nature of them. You might want to check there are no legal issues with your workplace being seen to supply such things.

            Apologies for the derailing!

            Reply
            1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

              In the US, the kind of painkillers that are addictive are only available by prescription and wouldn’t be in a first aid kit to begin with.

              Reply
            2. Hlyssande

              I’m in the US and my company removed the single dose packets of ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin from our first aid kids a few years ago. :( It was so nice to have them just in case.

              Reply
      2. Hey Karma, Over here.

        We will know for sure if she asks the men to “let it mellow, if it’s yellow” to save water.

        Reply
          1. Hey Karma, Over here.

            I was thinking about your comment and I agreed but couldn’t quite nail down why. Further thought and I have it. The women were taken to a separate room and lectured to about menstruation. Like an Our Bodies Ourselves moment in sixth grade.
            If the boss stood in a common area and told everyone to limit flushing, it wouldn’t be quite so exclusive/excluding.

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              Yeh but due to various hygiene issues and potential disease vector problems, that is not an appropriate water saving thing for an office. Especially if you have guests. Get low flow toilets and things. Get those faucets that you push down on and then they stop. But you don’t use that as a saving thing when a bunch of strangers are about.

              Reply
              1. Hey Karma, Over here.

                Agreed. I can’t imagine having to work in an office where this was ever suggested. There are 150 people on my floor. Just no.

                Reply
        1. Ellex

          At a previous job at which I was an office manager (and wow, I do not miss that level of responsibility) I had to have a discussion with both male and female coworkers about flushing after number 2. I don’t care what you do at home, at work you need to flush the toilet, and I shouldn’t have to have this conversation with anyone over the age of about 5 years.

          And now, in a much bigger office at a much, much, MUCH bigger company, we have someone regularly stuffing the toilets and clogging them up, and people who seem to think that just because the toilets mostly auto-flush (one no longer does, due to multiple clogging incidents), they never have to make sure the toilet flushes after they’ve used it.

          Office bathrooms are much like office kitchens/break rooms: a mine field of awkwardness, disgust, and occasional horror.

          Reply
          1. Michaela Westen

            If this helps…
            Sometimes people with sensitive digestion do flush, but there’s still a little there… I’ve seen instances where my colleagues didn’t realize and didn’t flush again…
            Also, are you sure the toilets can be manually flushed? I was at a medical center as a patient and there’s a sign in the bathroom to make sure the toilets flush. Mine didn’t, and I looked for a way to flush it. A button, a lever, a pull cord…
            There was nothing, and nothing I could do.

            Reply
            1. Ellex

              I know what you mean, but there’s a considerable difference between a skid mark on the bowl and the full monty that I’m seeing. The toilets do have a manual flush button, but some people seem to be depending on the auto-flush which usually – but not always – works.

              A toilet with absolutely no manual flush option? That seems like a really bad idea.

              Reply
              1. Michaela Westen

                So many bad ideas happen, especially when a corporation is in charge!
                People are thinking about their work and forget to check.

                Reply
                1. JessaB

                  Also, you might have visitors from other places who have no idea about this bizarre woman

                  On the other hand if they have dispensers for sanitary products, they may take them out which might be unfortunate.

                  Would she be the sort of person who would see tampons in someone’s desk and throw them out?

        2. Seeking Second Childhood

          Yes we will – because in 3 months someone else will write in about the horrible urine odors eminating from the men’s room.

          Reply
      3. Batgirl

        Yeah I’m dealing with a similar situation only with sex toys; colleague wants to do a collection to buy the boss a birthday vibrator and has been impervious to all the hints saying ‘nooooo’ and ‘that is batcrap crazy’
        It’s definitely 50 pc because we’re a mostly-female team and 40pc she comes from small family business all-female backgrounds. The other 10 pc is just wanting to feel she’s passing on wisdom and insight about sexuality (I proper laugh snorted when Alison said ‘Evangelist’; it truly is a blindness).

        Reply
        1. AmazinglyGuileless

          ZOMG this is seriously a terrible idea, why on earth would your colleague think this is a good idea? “Happy birthday, Fergus! I got you anal beads.” No honey, no.

          Reply
        2. Artemesia

          And we thought passing out the menstrual cups was overstepping; there is no workplace on earth outside of a sex toy shop where this gift would not be ragingly, fire her on the spot, inappropriate.

          Reply
          1. JustaTech

            My in-laws sell condoms. My mother in law knows pretty much no boundaries. Even she would never, ever do this.

            Reply
          2. SteamedBuns

            Only other “appropriate” scenario I can imagine would be if I was quitting in a rage and left it on my boss’s desk with a note reading “go -flurp- yourself”.

            Reply
          3. MatKnifeNinja

            In 1982, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the hospital floor I worked on, bought our Clinical nurse manager a vibrator and a dildo as a shower gift. Think XL size

            Was 18 at the time. I didn’t put in money for said gift, and damn near died when she opened the gifts in the report room.

            She didn’t seemed appalled, so there’s that.

            #GoodTimes

            Reply
          4. Free Meerkats

            I know a couple of women who work at a ranch in Nevada. Birthday parties there can be … interesting.

            Reply
        3. Jadelyn

          Holy shitfuck….I…I have no words. What. On earth. Do you even say to that?

          I mean, even if you’re 100% certain that the recipient would be okay with that type of gift in general, personal tastes in toys varies W I L D L Y. It’s really, really, REALLY not the sort of thing you can shop for, for someone else.

          Reply
          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

            Yep.
            When a friend of mine worked at a sex shop, she had us come down and pick out our birthday presents so she was sure to get us something we liked.

            Reply
        4. twig

          and I thought it was bad enough when someone brought a (thankfully new) jockstrap for a white elephant gift….

          Reply
        5. Boop

          Uh, I’d stop hinting and say just say it is inappropriate and you would seriously question the professionalism of anyone who thinks it would be ok to give such an item.

          Reply
        6. whingedrinking

          I used to work in a retail shop where part of my job was receiving stock. While the boss, a lady in her fifties, was away on vacation, a package came in; I didn’t notice that it was addressed to her personally instead of the business, so I opened it in the assumption that it was merchandise.
          It was, in fact, a rather large vibrator (we were not a sex shop). I blinked a few times, got the packing tape, sealed it up again and left it on her desk.
          And even with that having happened, it was astonishingly easy to *never talk about sex toys with my boss*. Ever. Who would’ve guessed?

          Reply
        7. Elizabeth West

          All I can think of is that your colleague has a friend or relative who’s involved in one of those sex toy MLMs and she wants to throw a little bidness her way.

          Reply
        8. Jennifer Juniper

          If I were the boss and my team gave me that as a birthday gift, I’d fire the person who came up with that idea! Ick!

          Reply
        9. Gazebo Slayer

          Holy inappropriate gifts, Batgirl!

          Also, I giggled at someone with “Batgirl” as a username including the phrase “batcrap crazy.”

          Reply
      4. Alton

        It has been my experience that some people who have softer boundaries feel more comfortable talking about stuff like this in settings that they perceive to be single-gender, but it’s usually not this invasive.

        Reply
      5. RUKiddingMe

        Maybe. It doesn’t matter though. Back in the olden days even amongst a group of similar aged women we didn’t generally really discuss our sanitary product choices at any length.

        Not to say that no one ever said anything like “Oh I prefer the Kotex super light weight overnight pads to the Always super thick ones…” or “I like Playtex, Tampax, OB tampons better…” but there was just never such a level of trying to convince others. We didn’t really do it with breast vs bottle either…

        That was in personal, private, friend/family type relationships. I gotta say there’s something to be said for that. That a boss would intrude like this? All the nope.

        Reply
        1. Kat in VA

          I mean…the other EA in my office and the Director of HR (all women) were having quite a comfortable conversation about different brands of no-show underwear that doesn’t bunch up in your buttcrack. But you can bet your butt that conversation would have stopped immediately if anyone evinced any discomfort or if a dude showed up or whatever. Sometimes “know your audience” is the best way to go, and if you don’t know your audience, DON’T GO THERE.

          Reply
          1. RUKiddingMe

            Oh yeah absolutely. I’ve had those conversations with coworkers…just kinda casual conversations that crop up kind of organically…but like you say anyone feeling uncomfortable, or a male coming into the space, time to start talking about the TPS report cover page memos.

            Reply
            1. Kat in VA

              Oh definitely – I’ve employed the, “So, yeah, the ones with the raw edge tend to roll and bunch m-, OH HI GEORGE HOW ARE YOU?” tactic more than once!

              Reply
      1. Nonprofit Nancy

        I was remembering Captain Awkward’s hilarious rant about people’s obsession with diva cups. I’ll try to post the link but I think it might have been explicit.

        Reply
        1. your favorite person

          I love my diva cup but I WILL NOT talk about it with my friends unless they specifically ask me. I don’t want to become a crazy evangelist about it. I also always add the caveat that it for sure doesn’t work for everyone and not every likes them or finds them comfortable.

          Reply
    1. SometimesALurker

      Yeah. I love my menstrual cup, and this was one of the few where my jaw literally dropped open at the headline and I read the whole thing mouth agape.

      Reply
      1. NotAnotherManager!

        Same! Menstruation is not a subject for work! I am so horrified that I’m still having trouble formulating a coherent thought.

        The cup changed my life (for the better), and I’m happy to share my experiences with friends if they bring it up first, but I am nearly hyperventilating at the horror of presenting ones subordinates with a feminine hygiene product and commenting on their carrying other types of supplies to the bathroom.

        I mean, really. REALLY?!!??!?!

        I would report Jane to HR and let them deal with that.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          Basically identical thoughts. L O V E mine, happy to talk about it, I’ll even suggest it if someone mentions they’re sick of the [waste, cost, plastic-ness, etc. etc.] of disposable menstrual products, but there is NO UNIVERSE in which this is even marginally appropriate for a boss to do or discuss with her subordinates.

          Reply
        2. Kat in VA

          There’s not a lot of women in my office, so it wasn’t unusual when someone asked me for a spare tampon and then went, “Oh, wait, that’s right, you take the pill continuously and don’t get periods.” However, I also carry spare tampons for peeps in a crunch who might not have one (if the supply on the counter in a nice makeup bag runs out). It all depends on your comfort level with each other and KNOWING YOUR DANG AUDIENCE.

          Reply
    2. CoveredInBees

      It is truly shocking but still not enough to put Jane in the running for worst boss of 2019, imho. I guess that really says more about the other bosses than anything else.

      Reply
      1. Steve

        There are some strong contenders this year already. I concur that Menstrual Cup Evangelical probably doesn’t make the cut this year. Maybe 2019 we can have different categories, like the oscars?

        Reply
  3. Hold My Cosmo

    I can only imagine the face of an HR rep presented with this dilemma. The Pad Gatekeeper would need a padded room.

    Reply
      1. Botanist

        Okay, okay. I have a sister who is seven years younger than me. One day when I was in junior high I came home from school to discover that she had found my maxi pads and literally lined the walls of her doll house with them. So I’m getting a very specific and delightful visual here (and I love to remind her of that incident now that we’re both adults!).

        Reply
    1. voluptuousfire

      I picture the padded room as one padded by those really old school phonebook-thick Kotex you had to use a menstrual belt with.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        Thanks for reminding of the misery of my jr. high years with those thick awful pads that leaked on the edges and those miserable belts. You young whippersnappers are so lucky to have lived during the period of well designed hygiene products.

        Reply
        1. RUKiddingMe

          For real. I remember them well…I was SO excited when the first (admittedly only so so) ones with the sticky stuff appeared on the scene. I bought a box and threw away the belt.

          Reply
        2. Not So NewReader

          Back in the 70s a male family member had to use pads because of a serious medical problem. His comment was, “These things are like having a mattress between your legs.”

          Yeah, and they don’t even work reliably.

          Reply
          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

            My friend used to call the pads of the 70s & 80s “elephant mattresses” LOL.

            A few years ago I bought a package of pads because I was coughing so hard from a respiratory infection (even though I was using Rx cough suppressant) that I kept having dribble accidents. I was astonished at how thin and light the pads of today are!

            Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        Oh God I haaaaaaaaaated those!

        Sticky pads were mostly the norm when I came of age, but they still had the belt ones. Sometimes if you were out and about and needed a pad, you’d find dispensers in odd places that still only dispensed those and you’d just have to wedge them in and hope for the best until you got home.

        True story–I thought of wings WAY before they came out and I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t design something and write in for a patent. I’d be so damn rich, LOL.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          I am laughing, I thought wings were a great idea also. It turned out that it was a great idea for someone else not me. ha!

          Reply
        2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

          I remember my mom using the belted pads in the 70s, but when I started at age 12 sticky pads were the norm, though belted pads were definitely still around! When my school did the whole “the girls go into the cafeteria and watch the movie about periods” thing, we also had the opportunity to send off for a kit with different kinds of menstrual supplies/info and in addition to sticky pads & tampons the kit included a belt & belted pads.

          A funny story: One time in the early 90s, I was shopping with a friend at the dollar store, and we came across an endcap full of packages of pads. They were printed with a wild purple & orange psychedelic 60s logo, picture, and design, and made a big show of advertising that they were “Beltless!” as if pads had not been beltless for at least 1.5 decades by then. Even better, it was misspelled as “Beltles”!
          I was so amused by it that of course I bought one, and kept it prominently displayed in my bathroom, wherever I lived, for MANY years afterwards.

          Reply
    2. Traffic_Spiral

      Personally I think they should go straight to HR with this. This is far enough out of the ordinary that it’s time to make HR earn it’s paycheck and fix it.

      Reply
      1. Quandong

        I completely agree. This person has already been asked to stop and is checking up on people like sanitary product use is part of their KPIs.

        Reply
    3. JessaB

      Especially since a great many of the reasons people do not use them would require them to disclose private health information. And honestly, if I had to go to my gyno and ask for an ADA letter for an accommodation on this particular subject and since it is a medical thing why I cannot use them…I would do it just to see the woman’s face “Boss I need to have an ADA discourse with you, and need an exception ASAP to your diva cup requirement>”

      Could be a comedy routine I suppose.

      Reply
      1. Free Meerkats

        Or the HR rep when you show up saying, “Boss has required us to use cups and here’s my ADA letter from my doctor. Let’s start the required interactive dialogue for my accommodation.”

        Reply
      2. Jaz

        “Here is my psychiatrist’s note explaining why I need to keep my fingers, and your nose, out of my vagina.”

        Reply
    4. Jadelyn

      This is the sort of situation where it comes in handy for an HR person to have a really, really good poker face.

      Reply
      1. London Calling

        Lordy. Our head of HR is a softly spoken man with a rather expressive face and I’m seeing his face right now as he’s listening to a complaint about this manager.

        Reply
    5. Pomona Sprout

      I would so love to be a fly in the wall for Eco-boss’s meeting with HR. What a hoot that would be!

      Reply
  4. JokeyJules

    LOL.

    I’m not sure of the politics around reproductive rights in the UK, where OP seems to be from. However, if I were in your situation here in the US, my response would be “I’ve already got plenty of old white men trying to control what goes on down there, so I don’t need anyone else to, thanks.”

    But seriously, also please point out that womens personal decisions are their own, making sure to use the “of course you know this!” tone of voice, and halt the conversation there. Also, please make sure your HR dept is aware of this. I am all for eco-friendly. But by eco-friendly I mean stainless steel reusable straws, snacks that aren’t individually packaged, and other measures your office is already using. Good luck OP and team!

    Reply
    1. Jenny

      I had someone who would just not leave me alone on cloth diapers. I don’t even have a washing machine in my apartment and baby laundry is bad enough already.

      Reply
      1. Arya Parya

        Nooooooo. I have a washing machine in my house, but no way we are getting cloth diapers. The amount stuff that comes out of this tiny human amazes me and I’m glad I can fold it all into the diaper and then quickly throw it out.

        Reply
    2. VioletEMT

      Right? I’m trying to get my employer to leave hygiene products out in the bathrooms, the way they supply toilet paper and paper towels. Even if you do use a cup, you may not always have it with you when your period starts.

      Reply
        1. Scarlet2

          What do you mean, not everyone needs a whole cup? You can’t use a partial cup. And you definitely shouldn’t use 2 at a time…

          Reply
      1. Holy what

        Yep! I use one tampon a month when I get my period at work. I swap it out for the menstrual cup when I get home.

        Reply
      2. JustaTech

        There is nothing quite like the sound of a coworker fighting with the tampon vending machine. You feel terrible that clearly it’s someone who needs it *right now* and the dang machine is being difficult, and you’re torn between pretending to not be there to give them privacy, or offering one from your personal stash (assuming you have one).

        Reply
        1. Tiny Soprano

          When I worked as a receptionist I discreetly dropped into the rumour mill the fact that I had a stash at the front desk for any emergencies. It saved quite a few people, and got my (male) manager to stop rearranging my files. Win-win. I think the difference was that people came to me off their own bat and I wasn’t going around offering them out to people who it might have just embarrassed.

          Reply
      3. many bells down

        I’ve been trying to get this to happen at the museum where I volunteer in the staff-only bathrooms that are not accessible to the public. Of the two, only one even has a dispenser, and like 90% of them it’s broken. So far no success, but I *was* over at the administrative office (which is off the museum site and also houses our vault) a few months ago and THEY have pads and tampons in a basket on the counter of every bathroom! Grr.

        Reply
      4. whingedrinking

        Yes! I use a cup but I don’t take it with me everywhere, so if I start bleeding at work I’m going to be taking a tampon with me to the bathroom. Not that that makes any difference in this woman’s busybodying ways, but it adds another layer to her harassment that she might even still be bugging people who agree with her.

        Reply
    3. mrs__peel

      They have a smaller and less politically powerful (but still annoying) contingent of anti-choice folks in the UK.

      Reply
    4. ElspethGC

      For the record, the politics around reproductive rights here are pretty much non-existent (the politics are non-existent, not the rights), except in Northern Ireland. It’s all (birth control, abortions etc) automatically covered by the NHS, and if a mainstream politician started seriously talking about restricting abortion rights and the like it would quite possibly mark the end of their political career. Not that we don’t have some weird dodgy politicians, but nothing on the scale of what I’ve seen coming out of some US states.

      Reply
      1. So long and thanks for all the fish

        That’s so amazing. I know there’s a lot of weird stuff going on there right now, but what I wouldn’t give to trade political situations, even so!

        Reply
        1. Media Monkey

          i think i speak for most british people who can pregnant (and a lot who can’t) when i say we are so grateful that the political situation around this is not the issue that you have in the US (other than in Northern Ireland where hopefully things are changing for the better in tersm of choice). sincerely hope that things in the US improve!

          Reply
        2. whingedrinking

          Interestingly, Canada are one of the very few nations in the world that places no legal restrictions on abortion timing at all*, and once it became clear that the sky wasn’t going to fall if pregnant people and their own doctors were the ones who made decisions about abortion, the topic largely faded out of political discussion. I really wish this fact were more widely known, because it would shoot a major hole in the arguments of American politicians who keep saying that abortions should all be banned after six weeks or else you’ll have those crazy pregnant people terminating at eight and a half months. Abortion stats in Canada show what should be obvious on the face of it: people who don’t want to be pregnant usually terminate as quickly as they can, and people who are aborting well into a pregnancy are almost always doing it for health reasons, not on an absurd whim.

          *A brief history note: Abortion in Canada was completely illegal until the 1960s, when the law was changed to say that you could get one if three doctors agreed it was “medically necessary” – and they weren’t required to justify their decision, either for or against. I’m sure you can see the potential problems this would cause. The Supreme Court eventually agreed that this was a violation of Charter rights and the law went out of effect in the 80s. Then Parliament couldn’t agree on a new law, so it just never got replaced.

          Reply
      2. Dollis Hill

        The politics around reproductive rights are by no means pretty much non-existent here – like you say it’s not on the scale of the US, but there is still a worrying contingent of anti-choice advocates in the UK. A lot of Tory politicians are actively anti-choice and it hasn’t hurt their careers one bit – Nadine Dorries comes to mind, she has tabled (unsuccessfully) a number of motions to try and reduce the time limit on abortions, and it’s not hurt her career at all. There’s also Maria Caulfield, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, to name but a few. In fact Jacob Rees-Mogg has publicly asserted that he is opposed to abortion under all circumstances, even in the case of sexual assault, which was obviously met with outrage from pro-choice advocates but it’s certainly not damaged his career one bit, unfortunately. And every year around Lent there are anti-choice demonstrations outside family planning clinics.
        It’s also really difficult for people who have uterine issues and problems with their periods to get taken seriously by NHS GPs – for instance it’s taken me eight years to get my endometriosis diagnosed, for 6 years of that I got repeatedly fobbed off by multiple doctors and told to take paracetamol and go for a walk, as if i hadn’t tried that already, and I’m still waiting for proper treatment two years after referral, and I’m certainly not alone on that.

        Reply
        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

          I don’t think the US is much better about dealing with female health issues (like endometriosis), quite honestly. I know many women who have been through the same thing getting their issues diagnosed and/or treated.

          Reply
    5. SarahKay

      I’m in the UK, and I think the politics around reproductive rights here are less … full on … than in the US, thankfully. That said, that almost makes OP’s manager’s behaviour more unacceptable, because we’re not used to that sort of interference.
      And yeah, I was reading the letter on a mental loop of “oh my god. oh my god. are you kidding me?!?!”
      OP, if your friend can face / has the option of being really blunt then a blunt conversation with her manager might do the trick. Point out that many people can’t use cups and many many people are deeply uncomfortable discussing menstrual issues and that this really needs to not be discussed ever, ever again. If that doesn’t feel like an option then I think it needs to go to HR (if HR exist/are functional), or company owner if not.
      Good luck to her!

      Reply
      1. EPLawyer

        See I would not even get into many people can’t use cups. I would just have a blunt discussion of “Menstruation is not a subject for work.” If she continues segue into “why on earth are you still bringing up such a personal subject” in a tone of total bewilderment.

        Would I fire an otherwise good boss over this? No. But I would have the leave people’s personal choices out of the workplace talk. A good boss will get this. If she pushes back because she just wants the office to go green, THEN I would start questioning her judgment. And it would be the “If you continue to discuss personal choices with your employees, I am going to have to let you go ” talk. That way its not about the pushing the mooncups which is OMG out there, but about not following directives instead. If she ignores a directive on this, what else will she ignore in her zeal?

        Reply
        1. OP

          I’ll suggest that she tries the bewilderment angle – thank you! I think she’s lucky her boss hasn’t started handing out reusable pads too…

          Reply
      2. Observer

        Please do NOT get into people who can’t use the cups. That gives legitimacy to a totally insane stance. It’s simply NOT her business what menstrual products staff use, and no one should have to “justify” their choices to keep from being hassled.

        Reply
        1. SarahKay

          Yes, sorry, good point.
          I was coming from the point of view of trying to show her how her well-meaning stuff could go so wrong, but I can see what you mean – actually that’s irrelevant, because she just shouldn’t be doing it at all. She doesn’t need to stop because it could upset people, she needs to stop because she should never ever have started in the first place; it’s absolutely not her business.

          Reply
    6. Bagpuss

      JokeyJules,
      There is nothing close to the kind of political interference with womens health and reproductive rights here as there is in the UK. Quite apart from anything else, we have the NHS so employers have nothing to do with health care (unless they ofer private health insurance ans a perk, but even then, they wouldn’t generally have information abotu any details). (and birth control prescriptions are free even for those who pay prescription charges for other prescriptions)

      It’s a little different in Ireland, but in the rest of the UK it’s not really a political issue.

      There are a few zealots but they are, and are seen as, the fringe element, not mainstream.

      Reply
      1. Anon

        I would just like to clarify one thing – Ireland is not part of the UK.

        The UK is “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” but does not include the Republic of Ireland, which is a completely independent country.

        Northern Ireland is completely different to the rest of the UK in terms of abortion as a political issue (women prosecuted and sentenced in 2016 & 2018) although there is access to contraception.

        Reply
    7. Batgirl

      So culturally, what makes this sooooo awkward is that us Brits both hate to be at all direct when someone isnt.getting.the.hint but on the flip side, we also love toilet humour.
      This means the danger is ripe for a lot of jokey mockery of how clueless boss is being. She’d be Bloody Mary at my place before the end of the day.

      Reply
      1. Jemima Bond

        My office too. It would be, pun intended, like a red rag to a bull.
        It makes me want to suggest a challenge of responding to this manager using as many indelicate phrases for menstruation as possible.
        “Manager, I may be on the blob but I don’t care to discuss it. The fact that someone, anyone, has got the painters and decorators in is not appropriate workplace discussion. I prefer to choose my own defensive tactics when Arsenal are playing at home.”

        Reply
    8. Nonnynon

      Lol, I haven’t had a cycle in at least ten years due to medicine, but I would absolutely buy the largest package of pads and tampons and bring it into work in a plastic bag.

      Reply
    9. RUKiddingMe

      ““I’ve already got plenty of old white men trying to control what goes on down there…”

      I was just getting ready to make a comment like this.

      Reply
  5. Millennial Lizard Person

    Brb screaming forever!!! Please tell this manager that personal hygiene products are off limits!!

    Reply
  6. Kathleen_A

    Aaaaaaauuugh!

    That’s pretty much it, really. And she hasn’t shut up even though people have asked her to do so nicely? Aaaaaaaauuuuugh!

    Reply
    1. Daniela

      Oh, no kidding!? Just when you think you’ve heard it all, there’s this! What’s next? Will this manager require them to use washable cloth rags instead of toilet paper? It’s all fine if that is your personal decision, but holy cow….stay away from any parts of me that are required to be covered up, per the employee dress code!!

      Reply
      1. Wednesday of this week

        Well, in some brands, menstrual cups come in different sizes. So the manager could put a (mandatory) sign-up sheet in the break room where each employee writes her name and which size she will need to accommodate her canal width. Then she could confirm the size orders in front of everyone at the weekly staff meeting.

        Reply
    2. Kriss

      that’s why I love this site. it reminds me that yes, I am sane & thank FSM that I no longer have the craziest boss in the world.

      I shared my crazy boss story a few months ago–it involved a forced group bonding at the manager’s house at what turned out to be a sex toy party & employees being targeted at work because they didn’t buy anything. The manager was written up & had a stern talking to & those of us who requested it were relocated to another department. seriously, I would have just fired the woman (my former boss) because it shows how lacking in judgement she was & how poor her boundaries were & how unprofessional she was

      Reply
        1. Pomona Sprout

          Wow, how did I manage to miss that one? Thanks so much for posting the link. Now please excuse me while I go and pick my jaw up off the floor!

          Reply
      1. Jennifer Juniper

        EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!! Stay out of my sex life unless you’re my spouse or my doctor.

        Reply
      2. Gazebo Slayer

        WOW. Sexual harassment AND abusing your position of authority to pressure your subordinates to buy your MLM crap, in one fell swoop. I’d have fired her instantly and done my best to ensure she never had a managerial position again.

        Reply
    3. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway

      When people in my office break room interactions seem to be having a rough day, I often direct them to this site to put things in perspective.

      That said, if a manager said this to me I would probably be the fired one, because of the ensuing eff bombs and reaming out.

      Reply
    4. CastIrony

      And I thought I had it bad when my second job keeps scheduling me on the times and days that I have to work at my first job, even though I wrote down my availability several times! Eesh!

      That, and I know what works for me when I menstruate, thankyouverymuch!

      Reply
  7. Jenny

    I have encountered this specific evangelism from a friend and it was very frustrating. I can’t even from a boss. That is absurd.

    You need to take this up the,chain. Micromanaging someone’s menstrual products is beyond the pale of not okay. Boss had been told to cut it out already and persisted, not sure further meetings will help. You need the weight of a superior.

    Reply
    1. blackcat

      I mean, my college roommate introduced me to menstrual cups.
      “Okay, so I got you a really weird present. This thing has changed my life, and I think if you try it you’ll like it.”
      Weird and a bit awkward, but I appreciated it in retrospect.
      But a boss?! Ew. No. Nonononono.

      Reply
    2. Works in IT

      Yeah my boss is male but omg. I just moved into a smaller apartment. I do NOT have the space/time to sanitize products that regularly get bloodstained for reuse. I don’t even get a single day of PTO, I am not wasting my available free time on that.

      Reply
      1. Michaela Westen

        You make a good point that’s been in the back of my mind: these eco-friendly methods require a lot more time! Sure this worked in the caveperson days when there wasn’t usually any hurry, but now? I wouldn’t have time for that either.
        If boss wants everything eco-friendly, she can give us a 3-day work week. ;D

        Reply
      2. Lucy

        This just struck me as funny: the size of one’s apartment has nothing to do with the very simple, once a month, sanitizing of a menstrual cup. It is really not much of a hassle at all, and as I look around my small apartment, I’m wondering what sort of interesting ritual you are imagining needs to happen to clean one small cup. (“I need at least 8,000 square feet to menstruate! 450 square feet ain’t gonna cut it!”)

        Reply
        1. Nazgul #5

          Well if you have a studio apartment with only one sink in it, you might not want to get blood on your dishes. I’m not sure what the procedure is on leaving a sanitized menstrual cup out to dry, but in my old apartment choices would have been limited to the dish rack, the small table I used for eating/preparing food/storing my laptop, and the soap stand in the shower.

          I’m sure it’s possible, but might require more thought for some places than others. Counter space is a premium when you’re at <30 square meters.

          Reply
          1. Jennifer Juniper

            Thank you for pointing that out, Nazgul #5. Lots of environmentally friendly things are either more expensive, more time-consuming, or don’t work as well as conventional things.

            Jane needs to check her privilege and shut up.

            Reply
          2. Janie

            How do you sanitize a cup also? I’m not real sure I wanna cook pasta in the same pot as one I’d boil it in, just mentally.

            Reply
  8. blackcat

    I think I might just keep saying, “I’m uncomfortable discussing what goes in my vagina at work. Drop it.”

    Reply
    1. Où est la bibliothèque?

      That was my thought too–put it as baldly as possible. “Discussing what should be inserted into a vagina at work is extremely inappropriate.”

      Reply
    2. fposte

      Yup. For me it’s a two pronged eff-off from me–one is the unstoppable evangelism, which always makes my teeth grind about anything, and the other is the vaginal interference. Do not ever involve my vagina in your management.

      Reply
          1. Essess

            OMG… I snorted so hard at this. I honestly want a line of “AAM” Etsy throw pillows now with the top 10 1-liner responses.

            Reply
  9. ShrunkenHippo

    I am a huge fan of menstrual cups and I have told friends about them, but work is not the place for those conversations especially not when it’s coming form your boss! I would go with a horrified look and “That is not appropriate for you to comment on” next time she says anything. How you deal with your bodily functions is between you and the toilet, and the only person who can comment on it is your doctor.

    Reply
    1. Karen from Finance

      Agreed. I’m a big fan, but you can’t just go through life forcing them on people like that, much less employees. What on earth? I’ve only ever suggested them to friends who’ve brought up the topic of menstruation first.

      This whole thing is bewildering. This is an HR complaint waiting to happen.

      Reply
  10. sheworkshardforthemoney

    Please never, ever tell me what products I should be using for my cycle. Ever. And I’ve stopped menstruating 20 years ago. Just don’t.

    Reply
  11. Ginger

    Noooooooooooooo

    I’m not sure how I could sit across from her in a meeting after this, TBH.

    OP – you already know this but this is NOT OK on any level, at any organization, at any time.

    Reply
  12. Roja

    Oh ewwwwww. Granted, I use cups and do tell a fair amount of people about them–friends, peers, not employees obviously. But just reading this makes me want to run screaming into the next county. My own bosses are absolutely fantastic but the thought of them pressuring me to change personal products like this is just so, so, SO squicky. Last month I had to ask my boss for an extra tampon (long story) and I wanted to melt straight into the floor. How can this person not see what a massive boundary overreach this is?

    Reply
  13. Tehkiero

    Oh gosh. I use one and love it but it required a pretty substantial amount of physcological and physcial discomfort during the transition period (ha). I’ve recommended them to all my friends but would NEVER insist they use it because a couple of them have understandably been so uncomfortable trying. Wow.

    Reply
  14. dovidbawie

    To the moon, Alice!

    I personally would have gone to HR directly after that cup meeting. I just can’t see a normal company justifying company time spent this way on something so sexist. I mean, hopefully this manager isn’t giving the men vegan condoms at work, to??

    Reply
    1. Flower

      And the cost. Were the cups purchased with company funds? I’m pretty sure I spent about 40 USD on my cup. I knew it might not work out but decided it was worth it to me to get it and try but for six people that’d be 240 USD that isn’t contributing to the workplace and might not even work for the people they’re given to.

      Reply
        1. Flower

          Well I guess she’s entitled to waste her own money how she sees fit (this situation is highly inappropriate, but it is her money). I was just wondering about possible grounds for the company response.

          Reply
  15. Autumnheart

    It bears mentioning that nobody would be “getting” the new manager fired or disciplined. The new manager would be earning that all by herself.

    Reply
    1. Bilateralrope

      I get the feeling that they want to keep this manager. They just want the menstrual cup talk to stop.

      Maybe they should say so when they go to HR.

      Reply
    2. Midlife Tattoos

      Exactly. OP needs to return this horrifying awkwardness back to the manager. No one should feel like they have to cover for someone else’s egregious behavior just because they’re otherwise nice.

      Reply
  16. A

    As a semi-out-as-transgender person who menstruates and loves my Diva Cup, if anyone I work with tried to talk to me about my period products I would probably die of humiliation the first time and quit on the spot (no pun intended) the second time.

    Making assumptions about what people’s bodies are doing is tacky! C’mon people, get it together, it’s 2019!

    Reply
    1. Tammy

      And as a very out trans person who does not menstruate, I can imagine how this could play in a workplace where one or more of the femme-presenting people are non-out trans people. Yuck – so many ways this could backfire for the (no doubt well-meaning but horribly boundary-unaware) manager!

      Reply
      1. Alton

        It’s awkward. I’m not ashamed of having a period and don’t even experience dysphoria regarding it, really, but having people bring up the fact that I was assigned female at birth is a really strange, awkward feeling.

        Reply
    2. SierraSkiing

      That! And there are women, trans or cis, who don’t menstruate for any number of reasons they might not want to chat about with their boss. Like, if someone is struggling with an ovarian condition that also means they might not be able to have kids, explaining their lack of a period to their boss could be really emotionally painful! And should be unnecessary in any reasonable workplace!

      Reply
      1. Regular going anon for this one!

        Right. I haven’t menstruated since my 20s, when a termination went wrong and caused Asherman’s Syndrome.

        I do NOT wish to discuss this.

        Reply
      2. Jennifer Juniper

        Or who have plain old gone through menopause! Everyone who has a uterus goes through that if they have it long enough.

        Reply
    3. kristinyc

      My brother’s 14 year old is transgender (identifies as a boy but biologically a girl) and is absolutely terrified at the idea of inserting anything – even a tampon. We talked about options, and he seemed a little frustrated that people kept suggesting cups, since the kind of insertion needed for those is WAYYYY more…involved than a tampon.

      I got him some THINX for Christmas and he loved them. He wanted something that wouldn’t make noise in a public restroom (for safety reasons – I’m sure people in men’s rooms might not appreciate hearing pad wrappers in the next stall if they even know what they are).

      Anyway, main point – there are lots of different reasons people choose the period management methods they choose. I have a Diva Cup and liked it until I started using Thinx and LOVED them (but I’m also 37 weeks pregnant and haven’t needed anything in a while…)

      Reply
      1. JediSquirrel

        As a middle-aged man, if I heard a wrapper in the next stall, I’d assume someone was eating a granola bar. It’s not outside the range of things I’ve seen/heard in men’s rooms. We’re an odd lot.

        Reply
      2. Janie

        FYI most people I know wouldn’t appreciate that language. He doesn’t just “identify” as a boy, he is a boy. And he’s not biologially “a girl”. He’s still a boy no matter what bits he has. You can just say AFAB or assigned female at birth.

        Reply
        1. Jennifer Juniper

          Thank you! I prefer to think of people as simply men, women, or nonbinary. Why should I care if men or women are cis or trans? A transwoman is just as much of a woman as I am (I’m cis).

          Reply
    4. Anon Anon Anon

      I would wear the menstrual cup on my head. “I’m using it!” “Wait, you mean you want me to put this in my downstairs? Ok…” (Joking feigns unzipping pants in office.)

      Reply
  17. Violet Fox

    This really need to be taken up the chain because it just is not okay.

    Reusable water bottles – amazing
    Coffee machine – amazing
    Biodegradable tea bags – amazing
    This is around where it should have stopped though. How people deal with their bodily functions is their business.

    This manager also does not seem to get the hint that it’s not something people want to discuss, or take criticism for, or be micro-managed for, which will likely lead to other problems down the line with regards to overstepping boundaries.

    (also as an aside, check with IT on turning the computers off — they might not appreciate it.)

    Reply
    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      Yep… our IT department pushes software upgrades & fixes overnight & that’s when virus-checks run. They have a huge surge in server use first-thing in the morning when people haven’t left things on.

      Reply
    2. Observer

      Not only might IT nor appreciate it, it may not even be as environmentally friendly as everyone thinks.

      Depending on how the systems are set up, the additional electricity used by the shutdown and startup processes might actually outweigh the amount of electricity used by a computer in low power mode.

      Reply
      1. Brett

        Also, the additional shutdown and startup may significantly shorten the life of certain components. Replacing computers early is definitely not environmental friendly. Sleep (instead of shutdown) is almost always the best environmental option. (The exception is if you do not use your computer mornings or evenings, and tend to use it only one time during the middle of the day for a few hours.)

        _Cleaning_ the computers (both cleaning up files and old software and physically cleaning out the dust) is one of the most ecofriendly things you can do even though so few people do that. (Using a UPS is also high up there on the environmentally friendly list, because they so greatly lengthen the lifespan of computers, especially desktops.)

        Reply
          1. Observer

            Leaving the computer on doesn’t increase the risk of viruses at all. And, indirectly, it can REDUCE the incidence, because it’s a good time to schedule automatic app and OS security updates, as well as scans for malware.

            Reply
  18. Amethystmoon

    OMG. How would they even enforce this? I shudder to think.
    I have no problem with people wanting to do things for themselves like this, but it is totally inappropriate to force them onto others.

    Reply
    1. Murphy

      I’m thinking they could remove sanitary product disposal from the bathrooms, because obviously everyone’s using the diva cups now!

      Reply
      1. Bagpuss

        Not legally. There are actually legal requirements for businesses to provide sanitary disposal bins in the womens toilets. Breaching them could result in fairly significant fines.

        Reply
        1. JessaB

          Also, you might have visitors from other places who have no idea about this bizarre woman

          On the other hand if they have dispensers for sanitary products, they may take them out which might be unfortunate.

          Would she be the sort of person who would see tampons in someone’s desk and throw them out?

          Reply
      2. Tiny Soprano

        Lol if they did that in my workplace they’d be having to re-upholster the seats every month because in the cup vs. my uterus fight, I know who wins every time.

        Reply
    2. Aveline

      If you ever want to go down the rabbit hole, go read about what Nicolae Ceaușescu and his cronies did in Romania. The stuff of nightmares.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Heck look at what the US penal system is doing to women regarding sanitary products, they’re totally not giving them anywhere close to enough.

        Reply
    1. BookishMiss

      That was my exact reaction, followed by an internal “hell. no.”

      I’d run this all the way up the chain, and leave my tampons conspicuously on my desk for the rest of all time if this happened at me. So many levels of no.

      Reply
  19. Free Meerkats

    Saw this on Twitter, went back to the lunchroom to start the popcorn going, now I’m settling in for the ride..

    The boss is a loony evangelist, and they are difficult to change. We had a netti pot one who rode me for 6 months for following my ENT’s directions for sinus problems. To finally get her to stop, it required words that weren’t kind, weren’t gentle, and had her in tears by the time I stopped talking. Good luck to the OP.

    Reply
    1. Hold My Cosmo

      UGH the Nettipot crowd. Yes, I’ve tried it. No, I don’t like the sensation of ritualized drowning. Please stop telling me what to snort. It wasn’t okay in the 80s, and it isn’t okay now.

      Reply
    2. Seeking Second Childhood

      SIX MONTHS? Your strong language was a service to society.
      (I mean, my allergies benefit from my nose-squirt, but it’s something I might mention once in passing to someone with a similar set of complaints. ONCE.)

      Reply
      1. EPLawyer

        Yeah I am a netti pot believer. But I would only mention it if someone mentioned a sinus problem. If they said doesnt work I would say “I’m sorry good luck” and never bring it up again. To my direct reports, if I had any, oh hell no. Their business what they do to treat their symptoms or natural bodily functions.

        Reply
        1. Totally Minnie

          Yeah. If people ask how I manage my allergy/sinus problems, I’ll mention the neti pot. If they say they’re not interested, I stop talking about it.

          Reply
    3. Narise

      Please share at least part of what you said. Many of us need a few scripts that make others cry a bit and move back across the line of decency.

      Reply
      1. Free Meerkats

        I honestly can’t remember, it was somewhere around 20 years ago. I think I started with asking to see her medical degree (she was big on how her degree in remedial origami folding made her a better employee than me with my lack of any). It went downhill (for her) from there. And as a trained voice herald, I can project without yelling.

        Reply
      2. Jennifer

        I said if you spent less time worrying about my marriage maybe you’d have a husband too. I HATE when women brag about being married as though it’s some accomplishment but again, desperate times…

        Reply
    4. Jennifer

      I had to go off on someone who didn’t understand why I didn’t wear earrings and makeup every day, sometimes implying that my husband was going to leave me if I didn’t change. I hurt her feelings too but it was the only way to get her to shut up. Desperate times…

      Reply
      1. Shell

        Well, she sounds awful. But if anyone, under any circumstances, said “Well, if you did/didn’t do X, maybe you’d have a husband,” I would never speak to them again. Marriage is not a good-conduct prize and there is nothing wrong with people who are single.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          “I don’t want a husband who tells me I have to wear earrings and make up. Why would anyone want a dude like that?”

          Reply
    5. Gazebo Slayer

      I’d tell her about Naegleria fowlerii, the brain-eating amoeba, which you can get that way. But I’m evil like that.

      Reply
  20. Jennifer

    Yeah…got nothing to add beyond just because someone uses tampons or pads it doesn’t mean they don’t care about the environment. There are reusable, washable pads, biodegradable applicators, tampons with applicators or little packaging, even using the trash instead of flushing them helps. It seems the manager is making assumptions about them that aren’t true.

    But yeah, even if they didn’t care about the environment at all, what period products they use is no one’s beeswax. I hope you have a decent HR department.

    Reply
    1. Rana

      Exactly. I’ve tried all of the above options, and have worked out a solution for me (which is a solution that was different than the one I used in my 20s, and from the one I used in my 30s), and while I’m happy to talk about the pros and cons of each, the idea that what works for me is THE ONLY BEST WAY is pretty damn arrogant.

      “Why are you so interested in my genitals, Jane?”

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        Yep, all the green initiatives in the office are good, but she took it a step too far. I wouldn’t even buy a menstrual cup for a close, outside of work friend unless we’d had a specific conversation about it. It’s too personal. Get out of my v-jay, Jane.

        Reply
    2. A different username than usual

      Exactly. Like, this is TMI, but I use plastic applicator tampons because I have vulvodynia and they’re the least irritating to my junkal area. Non-applicator tampons in higher absorbencies don’t come with the silky coating here and I haven’t seen closed-tip cardboard applicator tampons in 20 years or so. I’d love to reduce my carbon footprint, but short of freebleeding, this is one area where my body makes that goal a lot more challenging.

      There are so, so many office-appropriate and non-crotch-related ways to promote environmental sustainability that getting involved in what folks do in washrooms is totally unnecessary.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        Sorry to hear about your medical condition. I know that can be quite painful.

        And yes, there are many reasons why someone uses a certain type of product and none of them are your boss’s business.

        Reply
      2. Kelly L.

        I’ve pretty much just decided to draw my environmental line at my crotch. Not gonna give up disposable feminine products, not gonna give up toilet paper. Lots of other things are negotiable.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          I’d be waiting for her to push the family cloth next. That would be a hard “HELL NO, JANE.”

          Reply
          1. Jennifer Juniper

            I looked those things up and yeast infection/illness transmission are possible if those things aren’t properly washed. Also, that’s more laundry. Who’s gonna do it, Jane? You?

            Reply
  21. Flower

    Whoa. This is way over the line. You don’t just give people new menstrual supplies without being asked and you don’t get to make the decision for another adult on how they handle their own body. i did recently switch to a cup plus reusable cloth pads/period underwear and I’m happy to extoll their virtues to people who *ask* or who mention a specific problem they have with their current strategy that this would mitigate (and I am grateful for people who told me their pros and cons when I was asking before making the switch). But it’s the whole asking before getting the advice and you know… Not just procuring the stuff and giving it to others, ESPECIALLY in a relationship with these power dynamics.

    Reply
  22. CatCat

    Oh, I would just be barely contained icy rage.

    Loudly, so others could here: “Jane, your comments about my menstrual cycle are unwelcome. Stop commenting about it.”

    I would get loud every time and increase my descriptions of anatomy. “I don’t know why you’re so fixated on my vagina. I’ve asked you to stop. STOP IT.”

    “I don’t want to talk to you about what goes in my vagina. I don’t know why you’re obsessed with my body. STOP IT.”

    “STOP trying to get me to put things in my vagina!”

    Oh, I would be so angry. If she is in a place of “real concern,” she would have gotten the message by now. She is an invasive busy body who needs to be shut down.

    Reply
  23. Emi.

    AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH this is so terrible!

    Can we do a roundup and/or open thread on period-at-work stories some time? There’s this, and the Legend of the Crimson Tide, and that poor woman who got written up for having pads in her car; that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      Was that the girl that said to her boss she was “surfing the crimson wave?” If I were her boss, I would have laughed. That was hilarious.

      Reply
    2. Rey

      I’m simultaneously exploding and brainstorming. Not specific stories but related issues: a) there’s still a pay gap so that women are paid less, but female hygiene products are marked up by 30c on average (in the US) compared with identical men’s products (razors, deodorants, etc.), b) the lowest-income earners are often more at risk for shame-related to period stuff because they lack money that solves some of these problems for higher-income earners (for example, low-income jobs don’t always have paid sick time or access to work from home, so whereas higher earners can use paid sick time to stay home during the crimson tide/particularly painful portion, low earners often don’t have those options, and their jobs might include more physical activity/manual labor in comparison to higher earners. Also, high-income jobs that include insurance provide access to medical care for period-related issues, while low-income jobs don’t have the same insurance options. So many women have never been treated for endometriosis, or even can’t talk to a doctor to get a birth-control prescription that can help with irregular periods and period pain.)

      Reply
      1. Occasional Baker

        Add also – girls in low income situations may not have access to supplies, thereby skipping school, creating chronic truancy issues and impeding their education.

        Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        Yep. This is why I love Planned Parenthood so much. When I was in my twenties, cheap-ass BC pills that turned my high-octane periods down to almost nothing saved my low-income, no-insurance job. Not to mention it was literally the ONLY healthcare I had (lucky I was otherwise healthy).

        Reply
    3. Seeking Second Childhood

      And book/story recommendations to go along with it. I’ll start the ball rolling:
      Connie Willis “Even the Queen”. (Short story in various collections…and I just spotted it on escapepod. WOOT!)

      Reply
  24. Frea

    My office is going through a major workforce reduction, so this post comes as something of a breath of fresh air. At least, I think to myself as I watch my neighbor pack up his desk, I’m not dealing with my boss telling me what hygiene products to use. Yay, silver lining!

    But seriously, after the first uncomfortable half-laugh-and-change-the-subject didn’t work, the next step would be to overshare pretty much EVERYTHING about that time of the month since she wants to talk about it anyway. Also, menstrual cups are NOT cheap. If a boss wants to spend that kind of money on me, cruelty-free chocolate is a much better avenue, as cliche as that might seem for the topic.

    Reply
  25. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    Oh my good lord, I hate cup evangelism with a fiery passion! I’ve encountered soooooo many people who have decided that menstrual cups are The One Right Way To Bleed and every time it just burns me up all the more. Different people have different needs and it seems like so many of these types can’t comprehend that in their fervor to preach the good word of silicone cups.

    I’ve got no good advice, OP, but man am I steamed on your behalf.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Yeah, I’ve run into a few of those, so I find the OP’s manager particularly irritating. The ones I’ve encountered have focused on the “you’re a bad feminist” tack (they’re always blind to the irony of claiming feminism in dictating to all women); the “you’re a bad environmentalist” is a new one.

      Reply
      1. Rana

        That’s interesting. The Cup People I’ve known have mostly been of the environmental stripe. Either way, a simple “I love this thing, so if you want to know more about it, let me know” is far more effective than brow-beating.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          It may be the population I encounter, or it may be that brow-beaters skew differently than better-behaved users. But yes, I was accused of internalized misogyny that made me disgusted about my own menstrual blood. Which…no.

          Reply
          1. Batgirl

            Holy monkey crap.
            I read your first comment bewildered; thinking ‘How can a menstrual product choice translate into being a bad feminist?’
            Well now I know. Doesn’t that line of thinking condemn them to free bleeding and thus no more cup though?

            Reply
            1. fposte

              I don’t think these kind of evangelists worry as much about their own consistency as other people’s behavior.

              Reply
          2. mcr-red

            Misogyny has nothing to do with my disgust of blood. My squeamishness about blood in general has nothing to do with misogyny.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Which is a good point–people can be uneasy about the blood part of menstrual blood without being uneasy about the menstrual part.

              Reply
      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        I’ve gotten Bad Feminist types and also a lot of “pads are basically diapers and as an adult you should feel disgusting for using them” types, which are the ones I find the most personally offensive. If you feel disgusting using a pad, that’s a you problem, please leave me out of it!

        Reply
          1. Thursday Next

            Ableism, ageism…the list goes on.

            Wow. I’ve only ever been on the receiving end of the Bad Environmentalist argument. If anyone had tried to lay the shame argument on me, I might have dropped my resting “ask me for directions” face and been…considerably less friendly.

            Reply
        1. Ellex

          Considering the number of women out there who have incontinence issues, “pads are basically diapers and as an adult you should feel disgusting for using them” is almost breathtakingly ignorant and insensitive.

          Reply
          1. Anon for this

            As a woman with incontinence issues, I would be outraged if soneone ssid that to me. I’d also like to know what they expect me to do about my leaks if I can’t use pads. But I wouldn’t say the last bit out loud. A person who would say something like that would probably tell me I wouldn’t have a problem if I just did enough kegel exercises. And then I’d get even angrier and have to slink away muttering under my breath, “Must … control … fist … of … death.”

            Reply
        2. Totally Minnie

          Geez. Forgive me for having a vaginal canal that doesn’t play nicely with tampons or cups. I’ll turn in my feminist card at the end of the day.

          Reply
        3. Not So NewReader

          People actually sink time into this??? Maybe they should get a volunteer job or a hobby or something?

          “I may use pads, but people tell me I am nice and I am likable.”

          Reply
        4. Elizabeth West

          UGH I HATE THAT.

          Yeah, sorry Fergusina, but tampons can leak. I’m gonna have to use a pad anyway unless you want me to leave a map of Europe on your best chair.

          Reply
    2. Emi.

      Since we’re cross-stitching pillows on this post, I vote for “Different bleeds have different needs.”

      Reply
  26. CR

    I had a manager who was super against any kind of waste. She would sit in the office in the dark until I came in and turned the lights on.

    Reply
    1. irene adler

      “She would sit in the office in the dark”- and do what????
      Suppose she could type on the computer.

      Ridiculous!

      Reply
    2. Seeking Second Childhood

      ::shrug:: I actually hate the over-bright lights in my office. If I find myself there before anyone’s turned the lights on in my section, I’ll walk down by the light of the overnight safety lighting and just work by the light of two big LED monitors. Most everything’s inside my PC and backlit anyway.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        If you don’t like the lights / they get in your way, that’s one thing. Refusing to use lights that are actually useful because you don’t want to”waste” electricity? Beyond stupid and wasteful.

        Two similar actions, two VERY different reactions. The reasons DO matter in this case.

        Reply
      2. EH

        Half the lights in my office’s main open-office area are usually off. I think we have at least one person who’s sensitive to the fluorescent bulbs.

        Reply
  27. AvonLady Barksdale

    I got pretty irritated when someone criticized my use of Splenda in my coffee. This? Ugh, no one gets to tell me what to put in my body unless that person is specifically hired to do so. Evangelism is annoying.

    Reply
    1. Peridot

      At my first job 20ish years ago, I bought a bagel from the bakery downstairs (yes, it was dangerous having an office above a bakery), and a coworker said to me, “You know, that’s got as many calories as a brownie.”

      I didn’t ask you? Also, thanks for making me feel bad in about six ways simultaneously.

      Reply
      1. Aunt Vixen

        In high school 25ish years ago, I was drinking a Diet Coke when a known stoner a couple years ahead of me said (and please imagine this in your best stereotypical burnout voice) “You know, every sip of that stuff kills, like, ten thousand of your brain cells.”

        Evangelism is annoying, but irony is sweeter than aspartame.

        Reply
        1. whingedrinking

          My boyfriend’s go-to is Coke Zero, and he used to work with a couple of people who would tell him the aspartame was going to give him cancer. They would typically do this during breaks – while smoking cigarettes.

          Reply
        2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

          My husband & I had a roommate a couple of years ago who would only use glass food storage containers and made a BIG deal about not using our plastic ones; touted organic fresh healthy food etc etc etc.
          He not only smoked, he smoked SECRETLY to hide it from his GF, because he had a Major Serious Chronic Health Issue and shouldn’t have been smoking at all for that reason alone, and it would have really upset her to find out.

          Reply
    2. Totally Minnie

      Three coworkers at my old job tried to explain to me why sunscreen is harmful and I should use all natural food-based products instead. I’m a melanoma survivor. So yeah, I’m going to listen to my multitude of doctors and not the office busybodies.

      Reply
    3. Jennifer Juniper

      The only times people have gotten in my business about my food choices are when I was about to take a bite of something I’m allergic to.

      I am still grateful to those people.

      Anything else – not appropriate.

      Reply
  28. Sara without an H

    Hello, OP —
    You asked whether it was time to take this issue to the company owner. I gather from this that yours is a small organization and you have no formal HR manager? If you have HR, I’d start there, but if not, yes, it’s time to talk with the owner. I doubt if this issue would get the manager fired (unless there are other issues you haven’t told us about), but someone in authority needs to tell her to back way off on this. Because it won’t stop here. How long before she starts lecturing everybody about eco-friendly birth control methods?

    Zealots are such fun…

    Reply
    1. Bostonian

      Yeah, I think it’s important to note that it doesn’t have to be a scary BIG DEAL to talk about this with boss’s boss. As long as it’s framed as “our boss is generally good, but there’s this one thing happening that’s not appropriate”. If grandboss is a good manager, she will be horrified and talk to the boss about proper boundaries in a constructive way.

      By the way, I find it hilarious that the ad I’m seeing on the side of the screen right now is for a Tampax Cup.

      Reply
  29. Annonymous

    I know the professional thing to do is shut down and deflect, but part of me really wants your friend and her co-worker to lay every gory detail and complicated emotion right at her feet, because if she’s calling up all this pain and awkwardness, she should have to deal with them.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      The thing is, somebody like this could well *love* that. There are definitely people who feed on that kind of intimate information from other people and who don’t think there’s such a thing as TMI. I would certainly suspect a menstrual crusader might be in that category.

      Reply
    2. Oxford Comma

      There are two outcomes from that approach. There’s the very satisfying one where the manager realizes that she’s gone way too far and backs down. There’s also the one where to your every detail and objection, the manager has a solution. At that point, it’s very hard to shut the door that you’ve just opened all the wider.

      My suggestion would be to go to HR if that’s an option and if not, then for the OP’s friend to go to Jane’s manager.

      Reply
  30. Not Me

    Thoughts on menstrual cups don’t belong here. This is about what is appropriate for a manager to say to an employee. Why even comment on what options are available?

    Reply
  31. CupcakeCounter

    Oh no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no
    That is not a thing a manager should be pushing (or even discussing without a prompt from an employee along the lines of “what is that”) at work.

    Reply
  32. Decima Dewey

    It. Is. None. Of. The. Manager’s. Business. what her staff does about their menstrual cycles. Or if they’re post-menopausal, have had a hysterectomy, are transmen or transwomen. And no joking about using the cup when she sees a staffer going to the restroom holding a tampon or a pad.

    Reply
    1. SusanIvanova

      And as for post-menopausal – well, my reaction to that “you’ll never shop in the bladder control aisle” ads is “sure I will, every time my mom comes to visit.”

      Reply
  33. RandomU...

    Why do people do things like this…

    Forget everything else, I’m now convinced that there needs to be a mandatory class “Boundaries 101: What they are, how not to cross them, and how to protect them”

    OP, this is an easy one. Your friend should very clearly tell the manager that personal care products are off the table for discussion. This is one of those things that are generally best said from the get-go, but it’s not too late. The other thing your friend can do is to just blatantly ignore any comments from the boss on the subject.

    Ughh… what a loon.

    Reply
    1. JustaTech

      That would be a much better class than a lot of the poorly-prepared videos they have us watch. Maybe with a follow-up “Boundaries 102: How they change as you move up the corporate ladder”.

      I’m envisioning an entire series!

      Reply
    2. Not signing this.

      “…very clearly tell the manager that personal care products are off the table for discussion.”

      Oh, no, I think you’re missing a bet here. I think you should say, “We all chipped in for this” and present her with a douche kit.

      Reply
    3. Thursday Next

      In all seriousness, I think a class like this wouldn’t work because most sensible people wouldn’t even dream of this scenario, so a boundaries course wouldn’t cover it.

      Boundary crossers don’t tend to recognize themselves in broader scenarios, so telling someone “it’s inappropriate to discuss how people manage their bodily processes” wouldn’t ping the environmental evangelist’s radar.

      Reply
      1. SusanIvanova

        It would be like those corporate ethics ones – you think it’s all “seriously, people have to be told this?!” and then you watch the news. But it also lets employees know that this is a “go to HR” moment.

        Reply
      2. RandomU...

        Oh I don’t know, I’ve come up with some ‘work rules to live by’ in my day that don’t necessarily cover the specifics, but they cover enough to get the point across.

        Such as “It’s never acceptable to discuss your genitals, the genitals of your coworkers or clients, or anything related to the genitals of you, your coworkers, or clients at work.” See that would cover this.

        I’ve also used the rule “If you wouldn’t say it to your 2nd grade teacher, clergy person, grandma, or at an interview, you shouldn’t be writing in company communications (this was a specific case where field personnel were writing comments that were being added to customer accounts).

        Reply
  34. Bagpuss

    This is totally out of line.
    If the manager doesn’t back off when theyspeak to her as a groupo, your friend should absolutely go to her manager, or to HR, whichever is appropriate.

    Your friend can, if she has to speak to the owner, say what you have here – that in other respects this person is a good manager and the team is happy with her but this issue is causing serious problems as it is so inappropriate and invasive.

    It may also be worth your friend giving ACAS a call for advice (which she can do anonymously) I think it’s within the bounds of possibility that this would be considered a form of sexual discrimination as it affects only women (or female-presenting people)

    Reply
  35. Bunny Girl

    What the….
    The only time I ever want to mention menstrual products at work is when I first start. I am a young woman, but I had a hysterectomy when I was very young (20) and so I do not need anything anymore, but almost every job I’ve started, I’ve had people come up to me in the first couple months asking if I had an extra tampon or whatever. I’d love to send out an email saying Hi I will never have a tampon ever. Thanks!

    But I think a group approach might work. How obnoxious. Your boss should never have say over your lady bits.

    Reply
    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I don’t even carry pads and that’s because I’m a monster who will just stuff my undies with toilet paper.

      My mom had some ladies at work ask her. She’s 60 and had a hysterectomy at 27. But funny enough it prompted me to toss a bag of pads in her trunk in case she’s ever in that situation again :X

      Reply
      1. SusanIvanova

        Post-menopausal but still have have a bag of the things left over. I keep one in my purse to hand out for other people’s emergencies.

        Reply
    2. Robbie

      I have had some workplaces (where the vast majority of employees were women), where we would briefly chat to chip in a few bucks and have menstrual products available in the bathroom. And you occasionally have someone asking about advil. Otherwise, it is never brought up, and this would absolutely be inappropriate in almost every work setting out there.

      Reply
      1. That Girl From Quinn's House

        Yeah I’ve worked in fitness, where having everything properly handled is somewhat business-relevant, especially for the aquatics team. People handle it as needed and then let it go.

        Occasionally it’s awkward if you get someone having really bad cramps who’s dizzy, faint, doubled over, nauseous and seven people with first aid certs come over and start doing a primary assessment, and the person is like NO I AM SO EMBARRASSED PLEASE GO AWAY.

        Reply
    3. Alton

      Fortunately, I don’t get asked for pads/tampons much. I feel bad when I am, because if I ever do carry anything disposable, it’s usually a non-applicator tampon, which aren’t as common in the US.

      Reply
  36. Lena Clare

    OH. MY. GOD. Eeewwwwwww.
    Completely agree with Alison’s assessment and the steps she has provided, and if there is no HR go to the grandboss and get this shut down! Good luck to your friend, and how horrible for your friend’s coworker to have to be reminded of such difficult and personal health problems.

    Reply
  37. autumnal

    “Excuse me Jane, but there are a limited number of people I allow in my vagina and you’re not one of them.” Just when you think you’ve heard it all…

    Reply
  38. LGC

    Somehow, I’m totally unsurprised that this is a property management company. I think the hellmouth letter damaged me.

    Anyway. I know that the LW is writing in for their friend, and the friend says that her Luna-tic boss is great otherwise, but…somehow, I can’t imagine that this is the only place she’s violated boundaries, simply because this is such a large violation. It’s not quite at “leave your job yesterday” level yet, but…yeah, this isn’t great.

    Also, this reminds me of the Gizmodo (I think) article from yesterday about how not eating hamburgers on its own won’t stop climate change. Which I still need to read.

    Reply
      1. LGC

        To be fair, from the boss’s perspective LW’s friend might be acting like a diva.

        (…I’ll stop there before I get myself into trouble.)

        Reply
    1. I Work on a Hellmouth

      Dude, I WROTE the hellmouth letter and I had vocal and physical reactions of horror when I read this. Holy moly!
      …clearly boundaries are not something this manager Thinx about…

      Reply
      1. Gazebo Slayer

        Oh, this boss reminded me of the Thinx founder! Who got fired from her own company because she’d never shut up about very personal body stuff…. and she was describing her Burning Man orgies in great detail to her subordinates, inviting them to threesomes with her and her boyfriend, and groping their breasts.

        Reply
  39. Purple Jello

    First thought: hmm, some women still need a pad even with the cup – is she going to enforce cloth pads?

    Second thought: don’t these cups come in multiple sizes? How could she even know which size to gift you with?

    Reply
    1. Rana

      They do come in sizes. And different brands have different shapes and flexibility. Clearly this lady is assuming that what works for *her* is what would work for everyone.

      Reply
      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Ah, that’s a very good point. Aren’t the different sizes usually predicated on whether or not you’ve given vaginal birth? The awkwardness deepens!

        Reply
    2. Autumnheart

      They’re also not cheap! They’re like $30-40 each. So Luna Lovecup spent around $200 to cross boundaries in a horrific manner with her employees.

      Reply
    3. Ser Pouncealot

      That’s what I was thinking! There are different sizes, shapes, even materials…I LIKE them and I don’t want my boss just picking one out for me, not to mention it’s super rude of her to bother people about it.

      Reply
  40. All the nopes

    OMG, OMG, OMG. Manager is looney tunes.

    For the record, I tried the cup for several cycles and really didn’t like it, for reasons that aren’t particularly important. The breaking point, for me, was when the cup didn’t seal right and I ended up with blood all over the fabric cushion of office chair — which is not a dark color, BTW. Never again.

    Reply
    1. Bunny Girl

      My last cycle was almost 10 years ago, and the cups weren’t really a huge thing then. I know they were around but I don’t really remember them gaining traction. But I just couldn’t see them working for me if they had been. I was SO HEAVY that I feel like something beer stein size would probably be needed. LoL. I see being eco-friendly and lord knows I try to be but I don’t think sacrificing your comfort is worth it if these aren’t for you.

      Reply
  41. The Man, Becky Lynch

    My response is to just cut the jokes and cut right to “I’m not interested in changing to a cup.” and giving it back.

    I wouldn’t have even taken it to begin with but now that she’s actively asking, give it back so she can do with what she pleases since you wouldn’t want to be wasteful and just throw it away.

    I’ve been in eco-friendly and green activities my whole life. At 5 I thought my mom to recycle after learning about the local program they started in our area. I’m happy to do things to lessen the waste in the world so that I can use pads without any of this kind of BS. She better be able to compost everything she ever uses if she’s going to get this personal (sarcasm of course but seriously I wanna see her trash).

    Reply
    1. Free Meerkats

      “Jane, I tried it and it just doesn’t work for me. Here, you can have it back.” Then leave it in her hand and walk away.

      Reply
    2. Old Biddy

      As someone working in the area of environmentally friendly plastics, I am all for doing everything we can to help the environment, but I’m fascinated by the things people fixate on because it’s often small things, like straws, teabags and menstrual supplies. People lose sight of the big picture. Did the boss also buy people handkerchiefs and ban tissues in the office? Ban work-related travel? Let people work from home to save on gas?

      Reply
      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Our city banned plastic straws. The little things add up when everyone is doing it. We go through about 30 cups of coffee here a day. That’s 150 a week, 7,800 k-cups a day if you’re using single serve. For one office that’s incredibly small.

        It’s not about banning things, it’s about limiting what you do and how you do it. If I just throw out my coke cans, it’s only a coke can but I’m not the only person who lives on this planet and contributes to the landfill.

        Reply
              1. Anonny

                I’ve often thought that with reusable straws, you have to be really careful about keeping them clean. And there are a lot of disabilities that, for whatever reason, don’t leave time/energy/capability for carefully sterilising straws.

                Reply
  42. RM

    “Apparently in all other matters she is a very good boss and a vast improvement on her predecessor, so my friend is wary of getting her fired.” -> I…don’t think that one can be a very good boss in all other manners and then also do something like this? It’s such a wild overstep and misunderstanding of boundaries / the role of a manager / the power that comes with being a manager that it’s hard for me to believe that it’s the ONLY thing. Even if this WERE the only thing, it would be a big enough thing that it would be fair to be deeply concerned…but it’s also such a red flag on its own that if I were her manager or HR, I’d want to know about it.

    Reply
    1. RandomU...

      I was even side-eyeing the other stuff to a slight degree. I’m prone to being contrary as a general rule, but it annoys me when ‘efforts’ are brought into the workplace no matter what they are. I’m here to work, not save the world, get fit, sing kumbaya, fight whatever, or anything else.

      Bringing in cookies if I leave my computer turned on… yeah I don’t care if it was employee led. I wouldn’t do it and I’d probably make an effort to leave my desk lamp on so my computer wouldn’t be in the dark.

      Reply
      1. ello mate

        Jeez thats a little antagonistic. You’d do something purposefully harmful just to prove a point about not wanting to do anything 100% outside what you deem acceptable? Turning off your computer is having respect for provided office supplies and compliance with taking care of company product. You’d really be that pissed if someone gave you a free water bottle? Ok then….

        Reply
    2. Aveline

      That logic is what happens when people have been in a severely dysfunctional workplace or personal relationship. They think “this person is better than the last, so I’ll stick it out.” They don’t see the disfunciton as all that bad b/c they’ve been trained to expect worse and sometimes that they should accept worse.

      What’s preferable is to look at boundaries and what is and isn’t ok wrt to enforcing them and violating them.

      Even if the last boss was Hitler and this boss is a literal saint, it still does not make what she’s doing or make her a good boss. It only makes her better than the last one.

      Reply
  43. Delta Delta

    I was really excited to read about the various changes the office did make to reduce waste. Those can be some hard things to overcome.

    But yeah, the cup evangelism is a bit much. I’m squicked out by the fact she even mentioned it. Surely the people who would use such a product know it exists. Perhaps some of those people who would use it do. But it also seems like the vagina chat ought to stop and if she brings it up again, the response is, “nope. we’re done here.”

    Reply
    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Totally agree! I swarmed in on my current office and started noticing all the wasteful activities and was able to kindly “swap” out the excessive use of paper towels and non-biodegradables, etc. I’ve learned it often is just due to people not thinking they can ask to change items that are on site, meanwhile I’m a giant tornado that will drop down in here and be all “They make washable X, Y and Z, guys.” “Oh…darn I never even thought about it.” And boom it’s bought and replaced as needed.

      Then there’s stuff you compromise on like leaving your ideas off other peoples sanitary items!

      If someone comes for my tissue paper and tries to hand me a hankie…we will fight. I gave up straws, I compost, leave me with my tissues.

      Reply
      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        I’d switch to hankies if they’ll give me two dozen and a waterproof carrypouch for the dirty ones.
        Because one a day does not work.

        Reply
        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Right? My grandfather was a hankie user and I could never fathom how he managed it — then again, I can’t recall ever seeing him with a cold, either, so perhaps that’s it.

          Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        I tried hankies, and nope. My friend and I were talking about this the other day–she said she does other things to mitigate the fact that she has to use paper towels now and then because it’s just too difficult to deal with cloth for some stuff.

        Reply
  44. spek

    I don’t even know what a cup is and I am not going to look it up at work, but the boundary-crossing eco-disciple is awesome. I hope the toilet paper in the restrooms meets with her approval. I’m sure it will start to be metered soon! The only way this post could be better is if the boss was male!

    Reply
    1. The New Wanderer

      Depending on how you’re reading this, you may get ads for cups along the bottom or right edge of the page (I have been).

      Oh man, there is a philosophy on reusable bathroom cloth wipes (called “family cloth” or something), I really hope this boss never learns of that!

      Reply
  45. KS

    I think “harassment” is a fine word to drop here. Directly to start, as in “stop harassing me about this.”

    Reply
    1. Ms Cappuccino

      Yep. I wonder if this doesn’t qualify as sexual harassment. It probably would if the manager was a man. Just because it’s a woman doesn’t make it better.

      Reply
      1. Student

        Women can commit sexual harassment against women. This is pretty clear-cut sexual harassment in my view. She is treating the women on her staff very differently due to their gender. She is judging, embarrassing, and harassing the women on her staff in a way that she does not do to the men on her staff, over a thing that specifically only happens to menstruating women.

        I mean, I get harassment from men more often than women… but I’ve gotten some pretty dang biting harassment/insults from other women often enough. Even ass-grabbing.

        Reply
  46. KR

    Ugh ugh ugh. I’ve tried menstrual cups. I know they’re safe to use with IUDs but the suction that keeps them in place gives me a deep twingy feeling in my uterus that makes me feel like my IUD is going to come out. This is so invasive and you’re right it’s hard if the manager is excellent in other ways. I feel like OP explicitly saying ( though they shouldn’t have to of course) “I do not want to discuss anything to do with my choice in menstrual products at work and I don’t want to hear comments about them. This is making me really uncomfortable.” could help.

    Reply
  47. Dust Bunny

    Okay, I’m the recycling-bin control freak in my department but this is a solid OMG NO.

    I have/had** a disorder that made inserting anything excruciatingly painful (on a good day) to impossible (the rest of the time) so there is no way I could have refused this without bringing up some super awkward medical history that is nobody else’s business. I’d like to think that would shut this woman up but I rather suspect it would open the door to more haranguing.

    **treated, but requires maintenance.

    Reply
    1. privatetoday

      Yuuuuuup, same. If we had that kind of relationship, I’d probably just privately say to her “I really can’t use insertables” and it would probably turn the discomfort into her because I’d be so insistent about it. But no one should have to do this at work! I think banding together and saying this is a major boundary crossing *should* do the trick…..

      Reply
    2. pope suburban

      I have no conditions like that, but still found a couple of cups to be nigh-on impossible and uncomfortable to wear. They wouldn’t seal right and the amount of adjustment required quickly became uncomfortable, to the point that it would have been painful had I not stopped. I’m happy for people who are happy with cups, but they are not for everyone and that is okay. I just wish that a few more of the cup-lovers would read that memo, and trust people with their own bodies.

      Reply
  48. Laura H.

    Sorry for the potential derail, but my first thought is NO! That’s not something one should push more than once (and thats after SERIOUSLY considering “is it a good idea?” Answer: no, no it’s not)

    Second one is “and I thought the one about the bat-guano crazy hullabulloo at the sight of products in the car before work was bad…”/ entertaining/ cringing at the idea that they’re weirdly related…

    Reply
  49. privatetoday

    WOW my boss does not get any input on what goes into my vagina! I have trouble with anything insertable at all and would be totally unable to use a menstrual cup. I feel like the fact that the boss is pressuring people to insert things specifically is just extra terrible.

    This kinda reminds me of the time my manager at my retail job (who was not too far from my age and who I got along with) was evangelizing about IUDs and then point-blank asked me why when I said I didn’t need one. That’s the day I came out to my manager! Just another case of people meaning well who found something that works for them when it is not what everyone else necessarily wants or needs… but at least that was that, I think the mooncup issue here is worse!

    Reply
  50. facepalm

    Am I the only one who took vicious pleasure imagining someone “accidentally” tripping with a cupful of blood on the way to dump it in the sink and it going all over Jane, Carrie-style? I bet she’d back off real quick!
    Why is she even in the bathroom watching what people are doing??

    (on second thought, I probably am the only one who imagined that. That was creepy and weird. But I’m still amused)

    Reply
    1. Millennial Lizard Person

      Don’t know if I should gag or cackle. This is the delightfully evil way to point out the …. risks… of cups! But even if it was something like “Boss harasses me every time she sees I have tampons w/plastic applicators”, this is so incredibly inappropriate.

      Reply
      1. Decima Dewey

        My evil thought was that someone should bribe a male coworker to go into manager’s office, claim he’s a transman, and demand his own cup. Followed shortly thereafter by Lucinda coming into manager’s office, claiming she used to be Lucas, and returning hers.

        Reply
        1. Dragoning

          No. This isn’t funny. This is really insulting to trans people, to use their existence as some kind of “gotcha.”

          Do not joke about pretending to be trans

          Reply
    2. nnn

      The devil on my shoulder has been urging me to point out the same thing – using menstrual cups can be messy, especially when you’re new to it, and surely a non-zero amount of menstruation would be spilled in the washroom.

      Another challenge with menstrual cups is they can leak and, especially when you’re new, it can be hard to tell when they’re getting full. A natural consequence would be stains various office upholstery.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        Which would require biohazard cleaning, or replacing the chairs. Is the boss going to pay for that?

        Reply
  51. Linzava

    If I were in that meeting, there would be no way I could mask the look of horror and shock on my face. I’d be sitting through that meeting with my mouth hung open like a trout and feeling no interest in suppressing it. Want to make someone uncomfortable traipsing over boundaries? This is how I do it. What’s she gonna do, write me up for the look on my face?

    Reply
    1. Jaded

      “What’s she gonna do, write me up for the look on my face?”

      Um, yes, that happens. A friend of mine got written up for looking glum in a meeting. (He’d received his divorce paperwork in the mail that morning.)

      Reply
  52. Not A Manager

    Maybe the lowest-impact way to address this would be to speak to the manager privately and say, “You might not be aware, but several people on the team have physical conditions that make it impossible to use the cup. Naturally no one wants to talk to their manager about this, but the continued discussion of menstruation and menstrual products is making some people very uncomfortable.”

    I suppose it’s possible that she will then want to consult with everyone privately about their menstrual situation, but I get the idea that she’s more of an evangelist for the environment than she is generally nosy and boundary-breaking.

    Reply
      1. Not A Manager

        It is none of her business. I agree with all of the comments on here. I just wonder whether the LW’s friend’s focus should be on teaching her manager a lesson, or if it should be finding the easiest way to get her to shut up about this.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          The problem here is that she most definitely IS nosy and boundary crossing. There can be no question of that. It doesn’t really matter what the specific trigger is. What matters is that she thinks that it’s ok for her to stick her nose into this particular topic. What makes you think that she’s not going to want more details, and then make snarky comments about people being “spoiled” or “wimps” for not being willing to take some discomfort for the environment, or about their “imaginary” problems or the “failure” to manage their bodies properly?

          Reply
  53. MicroManagered

    I’m good with going straight to HR on this one. OP you probably don’t get paid enough to deal with having to explain to your manager that she needs to stay TF out of your menstrual products (unless you’re asking for a tampon or something). Unless you’re a billionaire…

    Reply
    1. RandomU...

      I can only imagine how my HR director would react to this. I can just see the look of incredulity on her face turn to the stern look of “That’s not OK”.

      I’m also now living in fear that some day I’ll hire or inherit a nut like this onto my team. I honestly don’t know what I would do, being that this so far out there, but I can assure you it would be swift and clear.

      Reply
  54. Observer

    Just when you think you’ve gotten to the most bizarre letter, something new comes up to make your jaw drop.

    OP, even if no one had the kind of medical history this one woman has, the staff has good reason to push back on this HARD. This is gross, invasive and inappropriate in every possible way. The co-worker’s medical issue just adds to the problem. And if there were other medical issues going on, how would you (or the boss) even know about it? People sholdn’t have to even consider sharing sensitive information like that to keep from being hassled by some eco-freak.

    Allison is also right that you’re dealing not just with cluelessness, but also some real boundary stomping. People like that tend to keep on pushing boundaries if you let them, so your friend and her coworkers really need to push back in any way possible. Ultimately, this will be to everyone’s benefit. Because this is a person who is HIGHLY, HIGHLY likely to do something that actually crosses legal lines, which will hurt her and the company, unless she’s brought up short.

    FWIW, stuff like this is why “social justice warriors” have a bad name. This is the stuff of caricature, which is only funny if you are not living with it.

    Reply
  55. Akcipitrokulo

    Hi – from one UKer to another – if you & friend are not in a union, it’s worth joining. Now. Before this blows up.

    NAL but this is definitely something that is probably covered by the Equality Act. You don’t get to do this shit.

    Reply
  56. NW Mossy

    This is one of those moments where I wish my face worked in such a manner as to allow an imperiously arched single eyebrow.

    “So, have you tried it yet?”
    *raises brow silently*
    “It’s so great, the benefits ZOMG!”
    “Hmm.”
    “You really should….”
    *turns back to TPS reports*

    Reply
  57. animaniactoo

    Listen, it was great yesterday when my manager was a woman a year older than I am and I could postpone a meeting with her because “I have my period and I’m in so much pain that I can’t think straight”. I mean, since I literally couldn’t think straight it was AWESOME that I didn’t have to come up with some reasonable explanation for why I needed to postpone that to today.

    She sympathized, understood there was nothing to be done, and mentioned her own struggles and having hit the doctor herself a bunch of times trying to find a solution.

    But that’s about the limit at which you can talk about your period at work and not be horribly gross TMI. If you try to push a cup or something like that on me? OMG if you make me uncomfortable enough, I will absolutely make you uncomfortable in return with a very gross TMI explanation of why that is not going to be happening and how you need to stop talking about this as if you know everything because you clearly do not.

    Reply
    1. RandomU...

      Honestly as a manager, I don’t even want to know that much. If you are in pain then just tell me that or tell me you’re going home. No details! My rule is, if it’s a conversation you should or would have with your doctor you shouldn’t be having it with me.

      Reply
      1. Chinookwind

        The conversation with the female welder yesterday was interesting because she says having PMS back pain can make welding difficult, so being able to get pain meds from the safety guy is awesome. The first conversation was awkward, though, as he wanted to know when/how she was injured (which is why he has them in the office – so he is aware when even small injuries happen and/or when someone is taking something that may affect them).

        She says now that she just goes in and asks for a nanimo bar and he hands her the drugs (because no nanimo bar would last a second in this place)

        Reply
  58. Pretend Scientist

    The presumptuousness of this is what’s getting to me. How can she possibly know who gets a period and who doesn’t? It’s obnoxious. I know OP says that the manager is good, but this gives me pause.

    As an aside, I know people love the cups, but I can’t wrap my mind around how one would logistically use one at work, and be confident in it as well—I guess it takes time & experience? All I can say is that I found out that I had fibroids recently and my flow has changed drastically lately, and I was really glad I had black pants on last Wednesday…I was a bit too optimistic on absorbency, and I’ve been using tampons for 25 years.

    Reply
    1. Sneaky Ninja for this one

      It’s actually pretty easy at work, once you get the knack of it. They can usually be worn for 12 hours, and my cycle is such that I only need to empty it work on about 1 day. Much less than changing other methods. But, I am not everyone, and what works for me may not work for everyone.

      Whatever product someone prefers is best for them.

      Reply
      1. londonedit

        Yeah…*if* you have the anatomy and flow and whatever that means a cup works for you, then most people who use them find that they can easily go 12+ hours without emptying their cup. I tend to empty mine first thing in the morning, when I get home from work, and before I go to bed. Sometimes I forget to do it when I get home, and that’s fine (for me). Personally, it works, but I really don’t need or want to know which menstrual products my boss/coworkers/anyone else uses. We’re all capable of finding things that work for our own situation.

        Reply
    2. Oranges

      TMI warning

      As someone who uses one and has a heavy flow. I just take it out, dump in toilet and reinsert when I’m at work. I realize that we have a culture in which a lot of people would find that “gross” but the only bacteria/germs being newly introduced into my system by doing this are… on my fingers. So I’m a-okay with it.

      I do clean it when I take it out at home though.

      Also I forgot I had it in for 3 days one time and…. nothing happened (although I would recommend NOT doing that since it wasn’t the best for my… vag-flora (think gut flora, yes vags have flora also)).

      Reply
  59. Dragoning

    I am thoroughly of the opinion that as far as my boss is concerned, I do not have a vagina. This would be breaking that unspoken agreement

    Reply
        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Please! In fact I would most like to not even think about any of my coworkers below the neck at all, except perhaps to occasionally compliment a really nice article of clothing. We are nicely-decorated brains in jars, please!

          Reply
  60. Guacamole Bob

    On a practical level, if I worked for this person I would just take supplies to the bathroom with me in a purse or coat pocket or something. I generally do that anyway – I have a little makeup-type case so that I’m not walking the halls of my government agency with visible menstrual products – but with a manager like this I’d go to greater lengths to be discreet. I wouldn’t put it past this woman to comment if she heard a wrapper ripping in the stall next to her, but it might help.

    Your friend and her colleagues shouldn’t have to worry about this, OP, but it might make it easier to cope.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      I was thinking about this. And I’d probably be doing that. BUT I still think they should go to the boss. Because Manager is stomping so hard on reasonable boundaries that it needs to be stopped, since there is every reason to believe that it will happen again.

      Reply
  61. Soveryanon

    Wow. Just…wow. I don’t even know how to respond to this! I can’t imagine anyone asking me about my choice of feminine hygiene products, or me asking anyone else, unless that person was related to me or a very close friend.

    Reply
  62. Marilyn

    I cannot STAND menstrual cup evangelism. Look dude, you do you. Maybe the cup doesn’t work for me (please don’t tell me to keep trying, or to use this or that fold Maybe I tried them. I do not care anymore). Maybe I’m perfectly fine with whatever method I use.

    The fact that somewhere, this has infiltrated a workplace is ridiculous.

    Reply
  63. Legal "At-Will" termination for..."menstrual product" reasons?

    If the employee is in an “At-Will” US state, is it legal to fire / refuse to hire an employee for “(non-) use of menstrual product” reasons? If the employee is (especially if flat-out told) fired / refused to be hired for “(non-) use of menstrual product” reasons and no other reason, then could it be wrongful termination due to “gender discrimination”-type reasons? Obviously this whole thing wouldn’t apply to “non-menstrual” age groups / genders…

    Reply
    1. JustaTech

      The only way I could possibly see this not being a blatant case of gender-based discrimination is if a person was *choosing* to free-bleed in a way that created a biohazard for the rest of the office/ the public. Like, if you work in food service or a hospital or something that would be a safety issue.

      But I’m fairly certain they can’t even tell astronauts what kind of menstrual products to use, so I don’t see how anyone else could fire a person for using the ‘wrong” product.

      Reply
  64. West

    I don’t have anything to add other than that every single ad on my page here is for the Tampax cup and it’s hilarious.

    Reply
  65. Sadie

    I’m a survivor of sexual assault and the menstrual cup is hideously triggering for my PTSD.

    They are also unworkable with an aspect of my disability that I do not care to share widely as it’s incredibly intimate and creates a lot of shame.

    I have no advice because if this happened to me I’d be so distressed I wouldn’t be able to work and experiencing mental health crisis.

    I cannot fathom the amount of privilege and boundary stomping this idea entails from issues around fertility, contraceptive choice, disability or miscarriage.

    People really need to dial it right down with the unsolicited advice about food, exercise and personal care. Especially at work.

    Reply
  66. Narise

    I think at the time my reaction would have been to throw the cup at manager’s head and say ‘Hell no’ and walked out the door.

    Reply
  67. Rebecca

    No. My employer DOES NOT have any right to tell me what I should use INSIDE MY BODY. Seriously, NOT. THEIR. BUSINESS.

    This makes me really, really angry. Sure, I use reusable coffee cups, stainless steel water bottles, reusable lunch containers, and real silverware that I wash instead of the disposable alternatives. I recycle. I’m not cycling to work (about 17 miles up and down hills and on a 4 lane highway!). I power off my computer every night. But if my manager presented me with a menstrual cup, I’d had it back, say no thanks, and walk away.

    Reply
  68. NewHerePleaseBeNice

    Ohh, I would so be playing the innocent face and wearing my gift as a jaunty, tiiiny little hat :)

    Reply
    1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius

      Oooh and feign ignorance too!

      Boss: Why are you wearing it on your head?
      OP’s friend: Is this not how you’re supposed to wear it?
      Boss: No, you’re supposed to put it in your………
      OP’s friend” *blank stare*

      Make her say it.
      Make her uncomfortable.

      Reply
  69. TooTiredToThink

    Anyone else glad that they are either teleworking or their computer screen is not visible to others right now because of the huge “Cup” ads showing? (I’m laughing, not complaining).

    OP – I am so sorry. As another person who couldn’t use them… I’d be like “yeah, no” and wouldn’t have even accepted it to begin with. I’m also too ornery to not speak up on behalf of someone else being bullied (which really, she is bullying them even if she is being sugar and spice about it). Now on my own behalf? Yeah, never. (sigh). But please get several of you to speak up and if she doesn’t stop, please report it to HR.

    Also, others said it – turning off your computer at night might not be the course of action. Please verify with IT that they don’t have updates – including anti-virus, system, and backups happening overnight.

    Reply
  70. Half-Caf Latte

    I can’t.
    I can’t even.
    I just can’t even.
    I cannot.
    I literally can’t even.

    This made me think the manager’s last position was at the company that was pressuring the LW to give up her car, which multiple disabled family members relied on, in the name of being green.

    Reply
  71. Formerly Known As

    That manager can put her menstrual cup where the sun don’t shine.

    How I handle my period is nobody’s business but my own–I’ve been doing just fine since 1991, thank you very much.

    I’ve tried cups, decided they didn’t work for me, and am back to using tampons. And I dare anyone but my doctor to tell me anything about how I should manage my menstrual cycle.

    Reply
    1. Batgirl

      Oohh I like that line: “I’ve been handling my own period since the year x, boss; I got this”
      Or *bemused expression* “I don’t think anyone’s given me product advice since I was 13”.
      It could be delivered either with a twist of snark or with good humour.

      Reply
    2. Flower

      “That manager can put her menstrual cup where the sun don’t shine.”

      I meeeean… Isn’t that the point? (Yes, I realize this phrase has a specific part in mind but come on what an easy joke.)

      Reply
  72. Amber Rose

    “I refuse to use them. This is not up for debate.”

    That’s how I would respond, because that’s how I feel. I refuse to use them, I never have and I never intend to even try. Why I feel that way is nobody’s business.

    Reply
    1. Anonfortoday

      Right? I was thinking that too, as someone who is going through perimenopause – my cycle has started to become irregular. The only person I discuss this with is my doctor, along with whatever medication needs I have. I can only imagine this manager’s reaction to someone being on hormone replacement therapy.

      Reply
  73. Anonymous

    I would definitely go to HR as it sounds like pushing back isn’t working. This is deeply inappropriate and intrusive. If you’re in a union, talk to the union rep as well.working
    It’s not

    Reply
    1. Not signing this.

      HR here. Oh, pleeeeeeeeaaaaaase bring this to me! There are hills to die on, and this is one of ’em!

      As a professional rule, I’ll wrestle any union rep necessary to protect my managers. Unless their own stupidity brings it upon themselves. Then they’re on their own. But I just might join the meeting to watch the carnage.

      Reply
  74. Allison

    Oh, oh dear no, I would feel so, SO weird if anyone at work gave me a menstrual cup. The only time it might be okay is if I ask someone for a pad or tampon, and they say “I don’t use those, but I keep a spare cup on hand that’s never been used, do you want it?” and be okay with me saying no. I am all about the environment, but y’all I am just not ready to make that change.

    Reply
    1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

      For a long time I used disposable menstrual cups, so very often I did end up telling someone “this is all I have, but you’re welcome to it if you want it!” (nobody ever took me up on the offer.)

      Reply
  75. AKchic

    Holy shiznit. This is so inappropriate. My jaw is two floors down, and I’m only on the second floor, so I think my jaw had to dig a bit to get as low as it is.

    I think that maybe being firm in the moment of “Jane, this is an inappropriate topic for you to be bringing up and pushing in the workplace, and I don’t wish to discuss my personal bodily functions or choices with you. Please don’t bring it up again” or something similar may be the best bet.

    I would bring it up to HR, just because she may not stop, and will probably change tactics to go one-on-one with new hires and see if that’s more effective.

    Reply
    1. RandomU...

      I am not a ‘bring it to HR’ kind of person. But this is one case that the manager shows a clear and distinct lack of judgement. So in this case, I think I would be having a little discussion with TPTB.

      Reply
  76. Notasecurityguard

    I understand that the world is full of savages but I didn’t think “don’t talk to your subordinates about their menstruation” needed to be said.

    I suppose it’s nice to know I can be surprised at least?

    Reply
  77. ArtK

    Re: “wary of getting her fired”

    It really bugs me when I hear that; it’s not healthy. If someone is behaving badly, for instance by persisting this when asked to stop, then they should be reported. If they get fired, it’s not because of the reporting, it’s because of the person behaving badly. Frankly, if a manager continues to push on something very personal like this, they should be fired or at the very least disciplined.

    Reply
  78. AD

    “Manager Lady, do you want me to tell [your boss] that you want to know all about what I stick in my vagina? No? Then please stop.”

    A little bit of shock to hopefully snap her back to reality…

    Reply
    1. AKchic

      Oh my goodness! I didn’t even consider *that* bit of impropriety in the grand scheme of things. And really, if she did, would everyone need to return the cups so she can try to get a refund for the card?
      (Things I did not think I didn’t need to know today)

      Reply
  79. Michaela Westen

    I hope the water bottles are stainless steel, not aluminum. Aluminum is not considered healthy because it’s linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

    Reply
      1. Michaela Westen

        It’s been several years since I checked – and at that time it had been observed Alzheimer’s patients have deposits of aluminum in their brains. It wasn’t known if the aluminum caused the Alzheimer’s, or was an effect of it.
        So people who are aware of this like to minimize the aluminum going into their bodies, just in case.
        As we all know, medical science moves at a glacial pace and when it comes to protecting ourselves it’s best not to wait for them to catch up.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          That was a strong popular belief for a while, yes, but it was never postulated as causal. It’s true that some people with Alzheimer’s have heightened aluminum, but many don’t. And there’s no correlation found with intake or exposure: people with higher exposure to aluminum occupationally don’t have higher rates of Alzheimer’s. As the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada says, “Current research provides no convincing evidence that exposure to trace elements of aluminum is connected to the development of dementia.”

          So I don’t think it’s true to say “Aluminum is not considered healthy because it’s linked to Alzheimer’s disease.” Sure, some people don’t consider it healthy, but for just about everything there’s somebody that doesn’t consider it healthy.

          Reply
          1. Michaela Westen

            Isn’t it true, though, that every Alzheimer’s patient who has been checked has had aluminum deposits in their brains? While people without Alzheimer’s do not?
            That’s enough to convince me. We’ll get old and die (hopefully not of Alzheimer’s) waiting for the medical establishment to reach a consensus.

            Reply
            1. LondonEngineer

              If that’s enough to convince you then you don’t have a very good understanding of how evidence works

              Reply
            2. Zev

              1) fposte said above “It’s true that some people with Alzheimer’s have heightened aluminum, but many don’t. And there’s no correlation found with intake or exposure: people with higher exposure to aluminum occupationally don’t have higher rates of Alzheimer’s.” So no, your “isn’t it true” comment isn’t true.

              2) As an epidemiologist by training and profession, I agree with fposte’s above comment. To explain further: sometimes two variables show correlation due to bias in a study (such as bias in who makes up the study population, or how the data is measured or collected). Sometimes two variables appear correlated because there is a third, unrecognized variable, called a confounder, which influences both (these can range from socioeconomic to physiological factors). This is why the medical establishment takes a long time to decide things — they want multiple studies examining different populations and different confounders to be sure there really IS a causal link between two variables. If one study showed an association between aluminum and Alzheimer’s whereas 20 other studies did not, it’s safe to assume something weird was going on in that one study.

              If you want to continue avoiding aluminum that’s your prerogative, but there’s enough going on in this letter without adding in the subtle implication that the manager is poisoning her employees in addition to pushing her gynecological agenda on them.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                It looks like there was an initial human study in a non-human mammal (mice, I presume) who process aluminum differently, and that may have skewed some initial perceptions. I remember this as coming up about the same time oat bran was in the popular press as the best thing ever for your heart, and I think they were at the same level of a single study that got popularly picked up and overgeneralized from into precepts that subsequent research didn’t support.

                Reply
              2. Michaela Westen

                “This is why the medical establishment takes a long time to decide things”
                And while they’re deciding, people are suffering because of their refusal to use available information. If I’d waited for them to help me with my allergies (both IgE and non-IgE) I would have had a miserable life of illness.
                Sorry this is getting a little off track, but I really think they could be faster if they tried.

                Reply
                1. Observer

                  Sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes that rush has some really nasty effects.

                  Look at the whole mess with High Dose Chemo for breast cancer. Because no one wanted women to die, insurance companies were forced to cover treatments that had not been well studied. It turns out that all of the really successful studies had been faked. Who cares about some insurance companies, you ask? Well, besides the fact that this stuff was EXPENSIVE and that’s just not fair, they weren’t even the real victims. The REAL victims were the families that shelled out 6 figures and more for worthless treatments and ALL of the women who got this treatment thinking it would help them, and instead got a useless treatment that, by itself, put them through hell.

                  There are a lot of other examples of this. So, yes, while there are some real issues with how science gets done some times, the need for caution is real.

                2. Michaela Westen

                  Yes, they should be cautious but they often take it too far.
                  Non-IgE food allergies were confirmed with in vivo tests in Sweden (IRRC) in the 1990’s.
                  The American medical establishment *still* refuses to use this information to help their patients. They didn’t even *acknowledge* the existence of non-IgE allergies until 2009.
                  Unlike with the chemo, addressing non-IgE food allergies is not likely to hurt anyone. It’s dietary change indicated either by symptoms or a blood test.

            3. fposte

              No. It’s not true that every Alzheimer’s patient who has been checked has had aluminum deposits in their brain, and it’s not true that people without Alzheimer’s never do. Nor do people who ingest more aluminum, like regular tea drinkers, have a higher rate of Alzheimer’s.

              There’s really pretty decent scientific consensus on this–it’s not something you have to wait for. It’s fine for an individual to opt out of aluminum as much as possible if they choose, but the statement that aluminum isn’t considered healthy is still incorrect.

              Reply
              1. Michaela Westen

                The study or article I originally read did say all (or most) Alzheimer’s patients examined to date did have aluminum deposits, and non-Alzheimer’s patients did not.
                Good to know there’s been some progress in this.
                Ingesting is not the only way aluminum enters the body, though. Aluminum is the main ingredient in many deoderants. Also, cooking with aluminum pans and drinking from aluminum tumblers.
                Do the studies take these other routes into account?
                I have little faith in the establishment because they did very little to help me with my allergies. I’ve had much better results by looking at the available info and drawing my own conclusions. So I’ll continue to do that with aluminum. :)
                Thanks!

                Reply
            4. Observer

              Is it true? What is your basis for saying that?

              Also, what we do know is that water in an aluminum container is not going to be a source of aluminum in your body – the aluminum does not dissolve, even in trace amounts.

              Reply
              1. Michaela Westen

                Hmm… yes, good to know. If it’s true.
                Or like many things, as with plastic, years later it will be discovered it was leaching into the water… in ways we didn’t detect because we were using a different test or something…
                IMHO steel is safest because it’s made of minerals we need anyway. If it leaches into the water it won’t hurt us.
                But I didn’t mean for this to be such a big discussion/derail. I’m sorry about the distraction from OP’s problem.

                Reply
                1. LondonEngineer

                  That doesn’t make any sense though… we all need water and salt but too much of those can definitely kill you. Carbon is in steel, sure. And it is in many organic compounds. And carbon monoxide, but that doesn’t mean the body is absorbing it that way.

                  There are issues with the way medical research is carried out and with reproducibility of results in science but you are literally saying that you refuse to trust any evidence unless is confirms a hunch you have.

                2. Michaela Westen

                  No, I’m saying the way I make sense of conflicting information and inconclusive studies and a medical establishment that refuses to acknowledge new information is to do enough research to understand my questions, add my experience and common sense, and go from there. I’ve had very good results with this approach.

  80. Interplanet Janet

    Wow, what a contrast to another poster who was disciplined because pads were visible in her parked car.

    This is way overstepping, particularly the manager’s monitoring products in the bathroom (!). Alison gave great advice, OP. Good luck to you and your teammates in hopefully shutting this down!

    Reply
    1. WellRed

      One day, maybe, women’s bodies will stop being fair game for everyone else to police, comment upon lay hands upon. Sadly, several letters in the past few weeks make it clear that’s not any time soon.

      Reply
  81. londonedit

    I love my Mooncup. I’ve been using mine for nearly 15 years and I absolutely love it. BUT…the only people who know I use one are my partner, my sister, my mother (even though we’re British, the women in my family talk about this stuff) and a couple of female friends. The friends only know because it’s come up in conversation at some point and I’ve mentioned it as an aside. I would never go into any detail unless someone asked me direct questions about my experience. I hate ‘My way is the Only Right Way and You Must Do It’ evangelism of all kinds, and unfortunately I’ve encountered rather a lot of ‘You Must Use A Menstrual Cup’ evangelism. That has no place among friends, let alone at work! I totally get that they’re not for everyone.

    I can understand the boss’s enthusiasm – reducing waste and single-use plastic is a hot topic in the UK at the moment. If it was a case where maybe the menstrual cup manufacturer had given the company a load of free product and she was saying ‘Hey everyone, we’ve got these available, please take one if you’d like’, then although some people might still find it odd, I don’t think it would be particularly offensive. But calling all the women into a meeting and personally handing out menstrual cups and insinuating that she wants them all to use them so the office can be ‘pad-free’…yeah, that’s just weird and it puts way too much pressure on people to take them when they might not want or need them (and not want to discuss why they don’t want or need them).

    Reply
    1. JPlummer

      I yield to your British expertise. Are Mooncups big enough to use as herb planters? I’m thinking OP could gather up the cups that have been distributed to co-workers and plant some parsley, sage rosemary and whatever. The cups could be stabilized somehow to keep them upright, and you have made something wonderful from a wretched overreach.

      Reply
  82. Lady Phoenix

    I would probably tell the boss about how this is SO NOT UP FOR DISCUSSION and any further talk or debate might make her liable for sexual harassment.

    Reply
    1. ello mate

      Honest I think this is sexual harassment as far as its gone. Commenting on products that go into personal body cavities is at least inappropriate harassment even if its not overtly sexual in nature. Sexual harassment can be something like commenting on a body part that’s private. Which this is.

      Reply
  83. Oregano

    Alison, I can’t use anything other than pads for serious physical medical reasons. Would this be grounds to sue under the ADA, if this were in the US?

    Reply
    1. fposte

      If the manager knew you had a disability, you were incurring consequences at your job for not using the cup, and your complaint to higher-ups/HR wasn’t acted on, possibly.

      Reply
  84. YoungTen

    What place does a boss have in discussing bodily functions with subordinates in the first place? I am female but that doesn’t mean I am automatically comfortable in talking about that time of the month with another female. This is a huge boundary issue.

    Reply
    1. JustaTech

      Given how much thought (and angst) have gone into coming up with sample dialog for how to talk to someone about body odor (how to be respectful, how to be kind and direct, what time of day to do it, what day of the week, etc etc), the idea that a manager would just merrily waltz into a topic a hundred times *more* sensitive?

      The mind boggles.

      Reply
  85. Kenneth

    This is about like a male manager berating a guy who uses a spray anti-fungal for jock itch or athlete’s foot (or prevention, e.g. after hitting the gym) instead of a cream. Talk about… not a conversation your manager needs to be involved in…

    At the same time, your manager must also not be aware that biodegradable tampons and pads do exist for the environmentally conscious. My wife has considered them, but they’re not available in local stores (that we’re aware of), she’s yet to jump on it. I think cost-wise they’re also more expensive than most off-the-shelf options.

    Reply
  86. Lime Lehmer

    Good Heavens!
    Next thing you know manager will be calling in the entire staff and suggesting that they use family cloths”, also known as reusable toilet paper. Yes it is a thing…. but ewww……

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Juniper

      Sounds like a way to spread STI’s and other nasty infections. And isn’t TP biodegradable and a renewable resource anyway?

      Reply
  87. PizzaDog

    But how would she know? Unless she’s digging through the trash looking for a tampon wrapper or something… but those are generally wrapped in tissue before they get thrown out.

    Reply
  88. Managercanuck

    “Lady, what I put between my legs is my business and is not related in any way in my ability to do my job.”

    Reply
  89. Knitting Cat Lady

    This is what we invented the word ‘Fremdschämen’ for.

    I wonder if she’ll hand out green condoms next.

    Seriously. I’m stuck with pads due to vaginism. Luckily I’m asexual so putting anything up my nethers being incredibly painful is an annoyance rather than distressing.

    If I had a manager like this I’d be sorely tempted to bring in a toilet plunger for her to try how it feels…

    Reply
  90. Salymander

    WTF? Ummm, my vagina is not a work topic. Performative “virtue” is not the same as actual virtue. Especially pushy, boundary-stomping performative virtue. This is just bizarre and horrible and really, really intrusive.

    I once worked in a medical office, filing and answering the phone. I was still in high school, so 16? 17? Not sure, it was long ago when dinosaurs ruled the earth.
    One of the nurses would school me daily about all the things she thought I should know. Not work stuff, but “life lessons.” Exhausting, but I was a kid and did not know how to shut it down without being rude to an adult.
    That is, until she told me that I needed a pelvic exam, so I could go on birth control. (I had already taken myself to Planned Parenthood awhile before that, because I was responsible for my *own* body and reproductive choices, for f**k sake!) (And I had never involved her in ANY of my medical decisions. Because WTF?) This nurse wanted my *55 year old male boss* and his other nurse to do the exam, with this boundary-stomping nurse standing there in the room as well to witness , because she wanted to be sure I would actually have the exam done and not lie about it to her (just the memory of this makes me grind my teeth). I very quickly got over my reluctance to say no to an adult. Actually, the TMI approach worked well for me. I told her that I had been sexually assaulted a few years before, that I was not ok with any man messing with my private parts, and that I was perfectly capable of dealing with any and all medical decisions for myself without unwanted and overbearing interference from people who needed to mind their own business, thank you very much. I was very loud and forceful, I gave a bit more detail, and I explained exactly why, even absent a history of abuse, this was not ok. The rest of the office knew nothing about all this. There was no policy, written or unwritten, of poking around in anyone’s lady parts. This was all just one pushy, self-righteous person’s performance of superiority and virtue. She wanted to feel like she was saving me from ignorance and showing off what an open minded and selfless person she was. She was older than I was, and above me in the heirarchy of the office, so she chose to use me as the target of her “helpful urges.”

    Yes, birth control should be available to everyone. Yes, diva cups, tampons and pads should be readily available and less of a financial burden on women. Yes, it is good to care for the environment. No, you should not involve yourself in my vagina. FFS!

    Like I said, the TMI method worked well for me, but I was a teenager living with my mom. I wasn’t an adult with lots of financial obligations to consider. Also, I don’t mind sharing painful personal details when I need to (obviously). And a caveat: some people are too self absorbed and too caught up in their crusade to really listen anyway. It is disheartening to open up about stuff like that, hoping they will see the light, only for them to just keep on with the boundary-stomping. Good luck with this, LW. I offer a mental (Jedi) fist-bump of solidarity and support.

    Reply
    1. AKchic

      Oh. My. Gods. I am so angry on your behalf. How dare she presume and then try to control and parent. It makes me very throat-punchy.

      Reply
      1. Salymander

        It was pretty bad at the time, but on the other hand who ever thought a person at work in an office would have to say any words like, “Please do not involve yourself in my business or my vagina!” So there’s that. I suppose the absurdity is amusing, you know, in retrospect. At the time, not so much.

        Reply
  91. Ick!

    Gender discrimination. Is she also handing out biodegradable condoms to the men? If there is such a thing…

    Reply
      1. anon for this.

        lambskin condoms are a thing, and presumably biodegradable. Protect against pregnancy only, not HIV transmission, or other viruses, IIRC.

        Reply
  92. OP

    I am passing on so many suggestions! As it’s been asked, boss paid for the cups out of her own pocket, so not company money, thank goodness.

    Reply
    1. Akcipitrokulo

      It would be awesome if company had a stash of them (and other options) in the toilet on a no questions asked, take what you need basis.

      Reply
    2. A different username than usual

      You mentioning that she paid for the cups out of pocket brings up something interesting. One of the challenges that I’ve had with someone who was a boundary violator like this was that they felt that their team wasn’t appreciative of their generosity. They spent a lot of their own resources (both time and money) on things that they would force on their team. With someone like this, it’ll be really important to make sure that you show your appreciation for her thinking of your needs (gah, so grossed out to even type this) while you make it clear that Boundaries Are Boundaries.

      Reply
      1. Salymander

        Yes, this is a good point. It is more about them and their need to be a savior of the earth and mentor to ladies everywhere, the superhero of periods. As in, it is about this person and her own self image and brain weasels, not about any actual caring for others. Sometimes doing things for people is just kind. Sometimes it is favor sharking manipulative crap.

        Reply
        1. A different username than usual

          I’m a woman so I don’t mean this to be sexist, but yeah, the “gals have to stick together in [industry]” was something that my Boundary Violator used to justify being particularly over-the-top with the women who reported to her.

          People who are doing things that can seem manipulative don’t always realize that they’re acting in a way that can be construed as manipulative, especially when they’re really invested in mentorship and capable of paying it forward. I hesitate to jump to the assumption that they don’t actually care for other people, but I think it’s more about them not understanding that people aren’t exercising their agency at them when they make different choices.

          With these folks, you have to find ways to validate their identity as a mentor, somehow. It’s a struggle, but assuming good intent yet holding the person accountable for massively messed-up execution is important.

          Reply
        2. Jennifer Juniper

          I would be tempted to do an L7 and throw a used tampon at the supervisor. Not actually, of course, because that’s unsanitary and gross.

          Reply
  93. Not Gary, Gareth

    Wouldn’t this also fall under gender-based discrimination of some sort? All the other changes she’s made to the office benefit all genders equally – but this is specifically targeting women. Not only that, but specifically targeting women based on characteristics related to their reproductive systems/ability. To me, that seems awfully close to harassment, especially considering the ongoing “jokey-jokes” about whether people are using them or not.

    Reply
    1. GingerHR

      Yes, it would potentially be sexual harassment. Harassment under UK law is defined as something which “has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a worker, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them”. Intention isn’t relevant, outcome is. It would be sexual harassment as it’s something that wouldn’t be aimed at men. It could also lead to direct discrimination, if the boss started dealing less fairly with those who didn’t take one – for instance marking down in performance reviews. Reasons for not wanting to use one are irrelevant, unless the co-worker’s complications would leave the boss open to disability discrimination as well,which is unlikely on the employment definition of disability. It’s just none of the boss’s business and she should reappraise what she considers to be an appropriate exercise of managerial authority.

      Reply
  94. Jaid

    Thank G-d I had that equipment taken out already. But I’d be like, Boss, I know you mean well, but how a person experiences their period varies so much, it’s impractical to apply a single method to deal with it. And this is really, really a personal thing. You could be hurting someone’s feelings by harping on it. So please stop with the comments. Thanks!

    Reply
  95. CheeryO

    Yeah, no. I work for an environmental agency, and we had a webinar on personal sustainability recently. Even the presenter (who is the crunchiest of crunchy granola types) didn’t try to pressure people to try menstrual cups, although she did briefly mention that they exist. It’s beyond inappropriate for the workplace. Also, at the risk of being a downer, plastics are absolutely ubiquitous, and with the recycling markets being in their current state, a LOT of plastics are no longer being recycled. Of course every bit helps, but trying to force people to use menstrual cups is about as small fry as you can get.

    Reply
  96. cactus lady

    Oh my god, have you ever tried changing one of these in a shared public bathroom!? I love mine, but I don’t wear it to work for that reason. And I would have NO PROBLEM saying that to a manager who tried to insist. I’m totally pro-cup and I’m horrified by this.

    Reply
  97. Ms Cappuccino

    OP since you are in the UK your friend could contact ACAS. She’ll get free advice on what to do.

    Reply
  98. RUKiddingMe

    Oooo! I despise this kind of thing.

    I would be making a point of walking past her with pads in full view. I would be buying coffee at whichever place sells it in styrofoam cups and make sure she saw me drinking from it. I’d only buy one cup one time and reuse it because…styrofoam…but I’d let her think I was getting a new one each day. Just because this would piss me off.

    Full disclosure: I use reusable bags, walk wherever I can, whenever I can, (not always easy with RA and my other immune problems). I don’t put produce in the plastic bags at the grocery store except for a few things (grapes…lettuces…) and all the coffee shops around here use recycled compostable/recyclable cups and lids anyway by default, so that’s not an issue. I do my best to be “green” without being a fanatic. I just can’t stand this level of intrusiveness and attempt at control so my inner rebel tends to take over.

    Reply
      1. SarahKay

        Also, buy a large box each of the most plastic-wrapped pads and tampons and leave them in the ladies bathroom with a note saying “Please help yourselves as needed”. Manager now ha