When we talk about corporate structures and office settings, the concepts of glass ceilings and gender inequality are always relevant. Globally, we haven’t achieved an equal rate of pay for the same standard of work. Although there is a wage and pay gap, one would expect that the workforce would hold one thing equal: respect for our bodies. Regardless of how we identify, we should expect that our body’s needs and functions be respected and treated as normal.
For an office worker in the UK, that wouldn’t prove to be true.
According to Snuffalo, a user on Mumsnet, a British parenting site, she was experiencing menstrual cramps at work. Her cramps were so bad that “naproxin [wasn’t] touching it” and that her only comfort was remembering that she had “a hot water bottle in [her] desk drawer.”
Having a hot water bottle wasn’t uncommon though, the office had a rule again personal heaters, so these were often used to warm up during the colder months. The situation would go sour when one of her male coworkers noticed her water bottle.
“My sort-of-supervisor* we’ll call Guy comes over to talk to me about something, notices the hot water bottle, says “there’s no way you’re cold today, are you?” I say “um, no, just for the pain relief”. He looks confused and then literally horrified and then he walks away.”
Although Snuffalo may have thought that that was the end of her troubles, that was only the beginning. Less than ten minutes later, she received a message from HR that said Guy had complained and asked if everything was alright.
“I’m just completely flabbergasted. Especially considering that Guy has been known to take meetings with clients whilst laying flat on the floor on his back because of back problems – which seems to me both unprofessional and likely to make people uncomfortable, not that I really cared personally.”
Both Guy and HR’s attitudes toward Snuffalo isn’t isolated to their office, but rather reflects a larger issue that plagues society as a whole. Although there is much talk about equality for both genders, there still exists an invisible force that dictates what is appropriate. Maybe we’ll recognize this force if we call it by what it is: patriarchy.
In a patriarchal system, the focus is placed mainly on the society’s males. Patriarchy turns into an issue when the focus is only placed on the needs of men and valued over those of females. Snuffalo’s situation is a perfect example: Guy is allowed to take measures to be comfortable, but this woman can’t at all. While one could argue that this is only between those two, Snuffalo references a number of other accommodations the office makes.
“Other people have standing desks, weird foot rests, all kinds of chairs and special backrests for their back pain and wrist braces for their wrist pain and a hundred other things and I’m not allowed to have a hot water bottle for my menstrual cramps? Am I right to be completely furious?”
You have every right to your own comfort and every right to be furious. More than anything, the company should note that she was willing to endure discomfort for the sake her work. Here’s hoping that your company recognizes your needs Snuffalo.
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