No Good Deed, Tampon Edition

It’s become commonplace in the start-up business world to provide certain office perks for employees, such as healthy nut and grain bars, dipped in chocolate to kill the vitamins, or the Millennial version of Old Miss Frothingslosh, the stale pale ale with the foam on the bottom. It keeps employees at work and caters to their fond memories of mommy bringing Cheetos to them while they sat on the basement couch playing Mortal Kombat. Good times.

But do something nice and, naturally, it’s problematic.

I run a small but growing start-up and employ many young female employees. As is standard for the start-up world, we buy kitchen items for our staff, including snacks, beer and wine, paper towels and facial tissues. We have a board in the break area that we use to remind me what items we are getting low on.

My employees keep putting feminine sanitary items on that board. I quizzed building maintenance and found that these items are for sale in all the ladies’ restrooms for 25 cents each. Should I be buying these items with corporate money, and how can I justify it one way or the other?

— Atlanta

While I’m not entirely clear on the wisdom of providing beer and wine for employees at work, unless the start-up is engaged in the design of gender-neutral fashion accessories, if that’s what it takes to get them to show up around ten o’clock to start work, so be it.

The New York Times has a “Dear Abbey”-type advice column “work friend,” Megan Greenwell, fresh off her gig as Editor-in-Chief of Deadspin.

Deadspin’s editor in chief has left the company, saying the new leadership of parent company G/O Media have made it “impossible” for her to continue working there.

“I have been repeatedly undermined, lied to, and gaslit in my job,” Megan Greenwell said in a brief phone call with The Daily Beast on Friday.

Clearly, a natural to give advice to businesses, and so she does.

How nice that you keep your staff well fed and with access to multiple booze options. While it is of course not necessary for workers to have access to Kind bars and hazy IPAs in the office, it is a nice way for you to show them that their happiness matters.

In the old days, employers showed employees that their “happiness matters” by paying them every two weeks, and they could then use their income to buy whatever turned their frown upside down.

You know what is absolutely necessary for workers to have access to? Tampons and pads! Why are we having a conversation about how to justify the cost of necessary hygiene products when kegs and chardonnay are considered essential!

Greenwell is now an editor at Wired, well known for its slavish devotion to logic and critical thinking, which explains why she has none left for the Times. First, the writer didn’t say, or even suggest, that “kegs and chardonnay are considered essential!” But it was a necessary creation to ground her adorably cute opening sentence about how tampons are also “absolutely necessary” for workers.

Workers? I’ve worked. Tampons were never a necessity for either my work or me. There is something awry in Greenwell’s argument.

Your well-compensated employees also could surely afford their own snacks, but you have made the wise decision that offering some options is a cheap and easy way to make people more satisfied at work. Now you want to undo all that good will by telling a significant portion of those people that you can’t “justify” the cost of products they need for their physical health. A box of 96 tampons will run you 15 bucks at Costco, which is a small price to pay to not look like a total jerk.

There could be a different problem that shockingly eludes Greenwell’s business-brain. Everything provided can be equally enjoyed by employees of any gender. But it seems the female employees want the boss to provide a free perk that can neither be eaten nor imbibed, but rather employed by only those employees who menstruate. These employees used to be called women years ago.

This raises two questions which Greenwell, unfortunately, neglects to recognize. First, would providing a employer-paid perk solely for the benefit of one sex violate Title VII or any local law? If the employer provided a company perk that could only be used by male employees, some feathers might properly get ruffled. But men don’t need tampons.

The second question is why the employer, gracious enough to provide the means to get employees drunk in the office, would be a “jerk” for not catering to feminine hygiene needs? If someone was a vegan, would he be a jerk for not providing vegan candy bars? If someone was an alcoholic, would he be a jerk for not providing alcohol-free beer? Would he be a jerk for providing beer at all, thus tempting his alcoholic employee, and instead eliminating the perk so as not to traumatize the one who can’t drink?

Tampons are a battleground in the Gender War. Historically, personal hygiene items were personal, and not an employer benefit. But tampons (and pads) are unique in that they are a necessity, but only for women. There is no male equivalent, and so they stand out as an expense that women, but only women (transgender males notwithstanding), must abide. We all eat. We all drink. We all go to the bathroom. Women menstruate, and so they need tampons.

What are you gonna do about it, boss?

Notably ignored is that this is a one-gender demand when placed on the break-area board. Women want it for women, for themselves. Is it fair that women need tampons when men don’t? Is biology the boss’ fault? Then again, if he provided feminine hygiene products for his workers, would any guy complain that he was being discriminated against?

But there is one more foundational fallacy that Greenwell ignores, for which there is no excuse. If the boss didn’t want to be a jerk to his female workers and provided tampons, what would come of his failure to satisfy the demands of size, shape and structure? As most men eventually come to realize, some pads have wings. One size does not fit all. Who knew? Just another minefield to be traversed with the best of intentions.

33 thoughts on “No Good Deed, Tampon Edition

  1. Guitardave

    I’m thinking we need to have free clean underwear dispensers after ingesting vegan candy bars and those foul IPA’s.
    PS; Please don’t make me listen to the Fuggs again, dear Admiral …

  2. Jay

    Ah, the “I’m a dinosaur and the world I grew up in was the correct one”Greenfield. Because the male dominated world that makes a vasectomy a covered medical procedure and a Tubal ligation optional and uncovered was right all along. Why does your wife put up with you? It’s no wonder your daughter wants nothing to do with your bullshit

  3. Hunting Guy

    As long as there are Mr. Goodbars and diet Cokes I don’t care what else they provide.

    (So I have plebeian taste. Deal with it.)

  4. Cinnamongirl

    Viagara was covered before birth control was. Nuff said. I only have one child and when I was pregnant I wanted my only child to be a girl like me. So when I received the results of the amino by phone and was told by the nurse that I was carrying a boy I was crushed. For 15 minutes. Then I realized while this is not so good for me it is very good for him. It is after all, a man’s world. That was the first of many times to follow that I would place my child’s best interest before my own without regret.

    1. SHG Post author

      “Nuff said” if this had anything in the world to do with viagra, even if its also used as a remedy for a medical condition. There’s a disconnect happening here, and much as I want to protect you from it, you run at it head first as fast as you can. I can’t save you from yourself.

      1. Cinnamongirl

        Ok let me practical if not reasoned. You know how it is when you have to go, you have to go! Same thing with a period. You don’t know when it’s gonna hit and when it does you need to be ready. That dread when you look in your purse and you don’t have supplies. The panic when the machine, if your lucky enough to be in a bathroom with a machine, is empty or spits back your quarter for some stupid reason and the other ladies in the room come up empty handed. Then you do the last resort. Take toilet paper and fold it over and over and stick it in your underpants. Back to court. Your case is called. You are arguing for your client but you are distracted. Why? Because you are scared to death that your skirt is a bloody mess and everyone in the courtroom can see it. That is why it’s a no brainer to have feminine hygiene products stocked and available. Any kind will do light, super, superplus, wings or no wings. When you’re desperate anything will suffice. Is t this the least we can do for the ladies?

        1. Skink

          “Because you are scared to death that your skirt is a bloody mess and everyone in the courtroom can see it.”

          You are out-of-touch with the times: some judge banned skirts several years ago. I have his name somewhere.

        2. Clerkette

          I can understand that emergencies happen, though it’s really not that hard to be prepared by keeping a tampon in your purse just in case.

          But even if it couldn’t be helped, or somebody just lacks the foresight to be prepared, aren’t there women around to ask to borrow a tampon in an emergency? And what does your emergency or lack of preparedness have to do with your employer? How does that become his problem?

    2. Suzi

      The only comfort I take from this is the knowledge that you are not representative of all women, and most of us are capable of intelligent rational thought and argument. Otherwise, I would just ask you to stop embarrassing us, but you be you.

  5. Black Bellamy

    My employer provides soap, paper towels, toilet paper, mouthwash, razors, tampons, pads, toothbrushes and dental floss and every couple of minutes you can hear a gentle hiss of lavender mist that tries to cover up your miasma. When someone complained, they put in another garbage can right by the door so that you could dump that paper towel you were using so you don’t have to touch the door handle. Also, there is now a table outside so you can leave your stuff so it does’t become contaminated. Best of all, someone is always apologizing for being there. I’m sorry. Oh, I’m sorry. Sorry for just being here. Sorry for existing.

  6. Julia

    It’s weird when tampons are viewed as kitchen items. The column also conflates emergency with routine access.

    Big employers have their own bathrooms and have to buy all kinds of supplies. But a small startup likely rents an office in a building with shared bathrooms maintained by the landlord. This landlord provides tampons for $0.25 a piece but you may argue that landlords have to provide them for free. But what has it to do with the tenant? If the startup rents an office with a kitchen, they stuff it with snacks, drinks, tissues and medication like Tylenol and Alka Seltzer. Periods are more predictable than headache but not always, so they may put there a big box of tampons *for emergency*. But women reaching out to the kitchen before every bathroom visit (some may want panty liners as well) or staffing your kitchen with toilet paper just in case, give me a break. And do you have enough space to store all this stuff?

    1. SHG Post author

      If by the column, you mean the NYT article, it’s unclear what the women are asking in the break area, although it appears the advice, to buy one box of tampons, addresses only emergency need.

  7. L. Phillips

    I guess I’ll be Captain Obvious:

    No snacks, beer, wine, paper towels or facial tissues – no problem. The empty space in the break room can be used to post a copy of the complaint.

    1. SHG Post author

      If doing something nice for employees turns into yet another “problem,” that’s likely the best reaction. No good deed…

  8. Keith

    Tampons, Douches, Feminine hygiene sprays and feminine hygiene wipes, Biore’s (remove buttblackheads) ,Morning after Pills, Condoms, Vibrators, Buttplugs, Batteries, Astroglide, KY Jelly, ANALEASE, Crisco, Polaroid Film, Gerbils, Gerbil Funnels, Gerbil lube. Gerbil Cages and Gerbil Food, Gerbil Medical coverage, Alcohol,Medical Marijuana, Narconon, Methadone, Handcuffs,Speculums, Enemas,Prostate Milking,Tooth Whitener Strips, Miracle Grow, Cialis, Ambien, Adderall, Morphine, LSD, PP, STP, MDA, Quaaludes, Cocaine ,Rock or Powder,Methamphetamine, Crank, Heroin,Meth pipes, Scales, Baggies, Eyebrow Tattooing, Permanent Lipstick, False Eyelashes, Tongue Scrapers,Amyl Nitrate, Rohypnol, Xanax, Valium, Codeine Cough Syrup, Colonoscopies, Mamograms, EKG’s, Cat scans, MRI’s, Haircuts, Bank, Chiropractic, Taxman, Psychic, Sex counselor, Rehab, Teenage enema nurses, are all typically covered in most hipster contracts.

  9. Ringmaster

    One thing that everyone seems to forget is that management of staff is like being a parent of children. You supply the staff (children) with the necessities that you feel would create the proper work environment (or in the case of parents, raising of the healthy child). You can choose to spoil or you can give only the necessities for survival. But there is a 3rd option. Provide a balance. Ultimately as managers, don’t let the tail wag the dog, but do provide a work environment where you can reduce turnover and maybe compensate for the negative sides of the job/company. There are always solutions to every problem. And the key parenting tip: you can say no…but back it up with logic.

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