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was this appropriate
May 29, 2014 1:27 PM   Subscribe

I work in an office that shares an office with a group of guys. The guy who is in charge of that office is sort of a dick, or at least I've always gotten that vibe. There is one bathroom and I am the only woman in the office. I used the bathroom once in the morning.

Later on I went back to use the bathroom again and found the toilet cover closed with a typed out sign taped to the cover that said "clean up your blood." I opened the cover and saw that there was a tiny drop of blood on the corner of the toilet cover (not the seat but the cover. I'm not sure how it got there and would have never noticed had he not pointed it out). I didn't realize at the time. Of course I always check after I use the toilet.

Several people had used the bathroom since me and I felt so embarrassed that he called attention to it. I cleaned it up and quietly left the bathroom and then had to pass both offices. I put two and two together and realized it was the male boss of the other company who had left it for me (I had seen him printing out a sheet earlier). I confided in another male coworker about what happened and told him I felt like this guy was being a dick and he said to me, "no, you should really clean up after yourself." I tried to explain to him that it was an accident.

Was this really fair?
posted by caseofyou to Human Relations (43 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
No, it's not.

Do you have an HR person or department?
posted by hijinx at 1:28 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Do you work for the same larger organization or just share the space? If the latter, I'm not sure what you can do, other than be happy that he's stuck being a dick for the rest of his life.

It's not ok behavior on any level. I would probably suggest he see a doctor about his bleeding hemorrhoids, rather than blaming it on any convenient woman. I'm not saying that's NICE, though.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:33 PM on May 29 [24 favorites]


Are you sure it's your blood? Men bleed too - from all sorts of places.

Sounds like a dick to me.
posted by jammy at 1:34 PM on May 29 [15 favorites]


Is the sign still there? Take a photo of it. Then go to HR. That's hella aggressive and embarrassing. I'm sorry that you're having to deal with it.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 1:34 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


very not okay, nohow. HR
posted by angrycat at 1:35 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Also if I was an immature person, which I am not, I would take great satisfaction from printing out "Dealing with your Bleeding Hemorrhoids" literature and leaving them in a big stack on his desk.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 1:38 PM on May 29 [39 favorites]


This seems totally inappropriate to me.

And unfair, considering how often guys probably piss on the seat.

This guy is a total dick. Is there someone in the organization you can trust, who you can report him to?
posted by winterportage at 1:39 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Wait, I'm a bit confused about something - is the guy who you think made the complaint someone in your office, or someone who isn't even with your company? As in, you share the same physical bathroom space, but you're two separate entities?

If this isn't even your company, I wouldn't even complain to HR - number one, it'd be unclear whose HR you'd report to, and number two, I'm not sure what they could do.

However, I also wouldn't stress about this at all. You made a mistake - a very MINOR mistake in the grand scheme of things - and whoever left the note was all prissy and passive-aggressive about it. This is the kind of thing I'd roll my eyes over and think "whatEVER," and just keep on keepin' on.

Seriously, this is like the gabillion "If you sprinkle while you tinkle" signs I've seen office busybodies put up in just about every office I've ever been in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:42 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I think it's totally fine. Women should clean up their mess, I always do and I would expect anyone to tell me if I didn't.
posted by Aranquis at 1:44 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


The sign wasn't addressed to you, just the person who left the blood. So you can't call it out as sexist or particularly aggressive to you personally. It's dickish to be sure, but even YOU don't know if you left it.

I would never have copped to it. I'm surprised you did.

Sometimes, not rising to the bait, is WAY more fun that making a BFD out of middle school behavior. You played right into his hands, but next time, you won't.

I wouldn't bother with HR, it just feeds the whole thing even more.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:46 PM on May 29 [19 favorites]


Well, maybe he left the sign there because he did not know who left the blood stain. Or he suspected it could have been you but did not want to make any assumptions. Had he singled you out and told you in your face to clean it up, it would have been worse.

Some people believe leaving signs/post-its is passive aggressive, but sometimes that's the best way to communicate. I think he would have left a sign if there was urine or fecal matter on the toilet seat/cover. We all prefer clean toilets. Don't be embarrassed and move on.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:46 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


This should really be in bold rather than parentheses:
not the seat but the cover. I'm not sure how it got there and would have never noticed had he not pointed it out

The cover?! In my 38 years as a woman, of which 26 spent bleeding monthly, sometimes profusely (oh hai endometriosis), I have NEVER gotten blood on the cover of a toilet seat. Never. Ever. Not once.

Seconding the two more recent commenters who mention that you've no need to feel embarrassed. Don't take responsibility for things that aren't your responsibility. It probably wasn't your blood. Maybe someone had a papercut on their finger and blood from that got on the cover.
posted by fraula at 1:49 PM on May 29 [17 favorites]


I have no idea what you can do about this if it was somebody who works for another company but just happens to share your bathroom, but I would like to back you up on feeling like this was aggressive, inappropriate, territorial, and almost certainly sexist bullshit. I guarantee you there are guys leaving random pee-splatter all over that bathroom who aren't having signs left for them.

And if I were you I would not use that particular coworker as a confidant a second time.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:49 PM on May 29 [17 favorites]


I cannot believe that people are comparing this to cutesy, passive-aggressive "if you tinkle" signs. It's NOT like that, at all. The OP is the ONLY WOMAN IN THE OFFICE. Any blood in a bathroom setting is, 99.999% of the time, going to be perceived as having ORIGINATED FROM A WOMAN (despite the fact that yeah, "guys can bleed, too"). The sign was not light-hearted; it was a nasty indictment.

The sign specifically called out and humiliated ONE particular office worker, sans evidence, in front of all of the OTHER workers in the office. Although it wasn't done in person, this was the effect.

I am the least boat-rockin' lady ever (I work with guys, and dick jokes are part of our workplace culture), but I would go to HR so fast that sign would combust in my wake.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:51 PM on May 29 [113 favorites]


This is totally misogyny week, isn't it? Because that's misogynist. If the dude thought that another guy had, like, had a bleeding ingrown hair on his leg or something, he would not have left the note. He left the note because he was all "ew menstrual blood so gross amirite". Now, I'm not saying that recurring and lavish grossness of any kind should just be written off - but seriously, someone who was not educated to hate and shame human physicality (especially female physicality) would just have accepted that...sometimes people are messy, as long as it's not massive and recurring then adults don't make a big deal, there's toilet paper right there and when one wraps one's hand in it, one does not need to touch an offending substance. I am hella squeamish, and I can handle that.

I add that I once lived with a fellow who...well, let's just say that his bathroom habits were really objectively persistently gross and messy, who got really angry when asked to be neater and less gross, and flipped out on all the women in the house on the one occasion when it appeared that someone had accidentally left a really tiny smudge of blood. He felt that his various kinds of effluvia were acceptable but that menstruation was just totally something One Must Never Mention or See Evidence Of. And that's misogynist.
posted by Frowner at 1:55 PM on May 29 [31 favorites]


Blood on the cover of the toilet seat (so at the back of the seat, from how you've explained it?) really sounds more like a nosebleed to me -- if you get a nosebleed suddenly and have insufficient tissues at your desk, you're generally going to rush to the bathroom to get toilet paper, which places your nose right over the toilet while it is bleeding. Do any of your coworkers get nosebleeds?

This doesn't sound like appropriate workplace practice to me. Unfortunately, it sounds like HR is not shared between the two offices, so I'm not sure what you can do in this situation without really escalating the situation. Are there any other workspaces/bathrooms in the building?
posted by pie ninja at 2:00 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I have NEVER gotten blood on the cover of a toilet seat. Never. Ever. Not once.

Oh, I have for sure. Very heavy flow + overenthusiastic tampon removal = spatter. And it doesn't even matter because this:

Any blood in a bathroom setting is, 99.999% of the time, going to be perceived as having ORIGINATED FROM A WOMAN (despite the fact that yeah, "guys can bleed, too"). The sign was not light-hearted; it was a nasty indictment.

which I wish I could favorite a million times.
posted by lalex at 2:01 PM on May 29 [9 favorites]


This is not okay for him to do. From what you've written, it seems that this is a pretty small office since there's only one bathroom and you can see the comings and goings of who goes in that bathroom. This means that he saw you go in the bathroom, then discovered a miniscule amount of blood on the cover, concluded it was yours, and then decided he would passive-aggressively shame you publicly. He's intentionally trying to humiliate you; this is not at all like a "sprinkle when you tinkle" sign.

Go to HR.
posted by Sal and Richard at 2:04 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


Is there an office manager or something? If you all are renting the offices then your hr wouldn't so anything but perhaps building managers don't want signs posted in their bathrooms.

In my revenge fantasy world I'd drop off a big box of pads on their desk with a nice note about sopping up blood. But in reality that's not a good plan and probably wouldn't do crap for these guys.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:05 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


One other idea - if he is not governed by the same HR as you are, he is likely governed by some sort of HR. If you are sharing office space with someone who works at a different company (not clear from your description), his supervisor should know that he is behaving aggressively and in a way that is unbecoming of a representative of his workplace. Whether that's going to his HR office or yours, making sure this is in his record somewhere will help build a case against him when other women unfortunate enough to interact with him inevitably complain.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 2:07 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


Any blood in a bathroom setting is, 99.999% of the time, going to be perceived as having ORIGINATED FROM A WOMAN (despite the fact that yeah, "guys can bleed, too"). The sign was not light-hearted; it was a nasty indictment.

To clarify my own statements for the OP - I don't think the man who left the note was being light-hearted, and I do hope it didn't come across that way. Rather - I think the man who left the note was being really fussy and fastidious. Yes, 99.999% of the time, men who see blood in a bathroom are going to assume it issued from a women; but 98.999% of the time, they're gonna roll with it and wipe it up and not make a big passive-aggressive deal about it.

That was the motivator behind my comments - not that I thought it was a light-hearted cutesy thing (and for the record, I don't think passive-aggressive notes about pee sprinkles on seats are "lighthearted" either, I think they're just as fussy and busybodyish). I just simply don't see this as a Huge Targeted Misogynistic Attack, but mainly because I imagine the perpetrator who hung the sign to be some kind of Felix Ungar wannabe, and I don't see the bother in taking such a person's hissy fits seriously.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but I honestly wouldn't lose sleep over this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:32 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I confided in another male coworker about what happened and told him I felt like this guy was being a dick and he said to me, "no, you should really clean up after yourself."

Yes men bleed too but as the interaction above clearly demonstrates, in an office with a bunch of guys and one woman, the presumption is going to be that it was the woman. Personally, I would put up this sign in the same place as the original:

To the people who suggested that the recent "Clean Up Your Blood" sign was addressed to me and the person who put up the sign in the first place:

1. Yes, I am the only WOMAN at the office. No, I am not the only MAMMAL at the office.

2. Fellow mammals, please take care of your paper cuts/shave nicks/hemorrhoids/etc before you go blaming it on me.

3. Should you see any more issues related to the office and/or facilities maintenance, the office manager can be reached at 555-555-5555.

Sincerely,
notyourcleaninglady


* I usually work in all-male environments (software development) and I would a 100% do this.
** Print out several copies so you can replace the sign if someone takes it down. I would keep it up for a couple days, at least.
posted by rada at 2:34 PM on May 29 [18 favorites]


This sounds like an extremely toxic work environment. Having been the first and/or only woman in most of the jobs I've had in the past 40 years, I know the signs. This could be your first concrete example of a sexually hostile workplace, which is grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit. Not that you're planning to bring one, but please, just in case: document, document, document. Take your phone with you to the bathroom and take pictures. Write down what happens, what is said, by whom, and when. You are not just doing this to protect yourself - you are doing it to protect the entire office, because no one wants to employ or work with a sexist asshole who is going to get them sued by the EEOC.

If the behavior escalates, you will be glad you have documentation. If it does not escalate, then no harm has been done. But don't just let it pass. This behavior will not just go away if you ignore it. You have to make it stop.

I definitely agree that you must tell HR about this, because this guy is not just a dick, he's a potential liability. It's HR's job to see that he doesn't become one, and to ensure you are never made to feel like this at work again - even if you don't work for the same company.
posted by caryatid at 2:36 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


OP's company is sharing facilities with another company so HR would not be of help:

I put two and two together and realized it was the male boss of the other company.
posted by rada at 2:38 PM on May 29


For now, I would document this at the very least. I don't agree with escalating the sign war with another sign, because most reasonable people would have looked at the original sign, looked for the blood, laughed (if it was just a small drop), and thought "whoever left this note is a pathetic jerk." Leaving another sign would be ceding the high ground.
posted by sallybrown at 2:50 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


While I would find this really embarrassing (regardless of whether I was the source of the blood or not), I would endeavor to just get over it. I just don't see any worthwhile outcome to escalating this or dwelling on it. But obviously, mileages are varying all over the place in this thread.
posted by sm1tten at 2:53 PM on May 29


OP's company is sharing facilities with another company so HR would not be of help:

That doesn't matter. It is something that happened to her in her workplace. It is HR's job to make sure it does not happen again. If that means addressing the problem with the other company, that is still HR's job.
posted by caryatid at 3:20 PM on May 29 [14 favorites]


Coming from a property management standpoint, if there are any cleanliness issues in shared restrooms, they should be brought to the attention of the property manager. I don't think what happened here would really warrant DickBoss talking to the building manager, but if it really troubled him that's what he should have done instead of writing a (nasty) note to another tenant. My advice to you would be to let this nastiness slide - don't play into his petty game. But you and your coworkers should document any trouble between DickBoss and other tenants. The building manager should be concerned about one tenant company's employees being jerks to other tenants in the building.
posted by youngergirl44 at 3:26 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


If you really want to escalate, then check on if having one unisex bathroom is even legal: most places in the US require offices to have two, even if there's only a couple employees and the business cheats and uses one as a supply closet.
posted by easily confused at 3:32 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


If you used a co-ed bathroom in the morning once and multiple people used it after you did... why did you automatically assume you had left the blood and the note was meant for you? There's was nothing to really indicate such. You weren't singled out. Your name wasn't on the note. There's no wording in the letter that indicated anything other than "We don't know who left this blood but whoever left it, clean up after yourself". No one knew who left it - not even you - so why did you go to a co-worker about it? In doing so, you pretty much claimed ownership of the blood ...hence your co-workers comment.

I don't really see any inappropriateness here. Someone got called out for leaving blood and you assumed it was meant for you for some reason. If you're considering going to HR over this, as some are suggesting, what are you going to tell them?

"There was a note left on the toilet that said "Clean up your blood". It didn't have my name on it. It wasn't handed to me directly. It's a shared bathroom. I used it once in the morning. I didn't notice/see any blood. Several other people used it after me. I don't have ANY proof whatsoever, but I SWEAR it was dickguy, who isn't one of our employees, that put that note there for ME."

Have that conversation with HR if you want, but I see it going poorly based on the fact that you have NO clue who left the note and you have NO clue whether the note was truly intended for you.
posted by stubbehtail at 3:39 PM on May 29 [8 favorites]


If you really want to escalate, then check on if having one unisex bathroom is even legal:

It's been a few decades, and things may have changed somewhat, but one all-male-but-me place I worked at had the women's restroom a block away in a different building. If I wanted to be all fastidious and avoid boy cooties, and put on my coat and boots in the winter for a hike in the cold, I could use that one. Instead, I put a sign that read "Humans" over the "Men" sign on the bathroom door in our building, making a subtle but important point.
posted by caryatid at 3:42 PM on May 29


If you really wanted to escalate talk about being coerced into cleaning up bodily fluids without PPE or training.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:04 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I think that's the thing. .. That this is a janitor issue. Who cleans the bathroom regularly? Proper procedure should have been followed. Also a note should have been generalized to

On blah blah date there was an incident involving a mess in our only bathroom. Please be considerate of others and clean up anything that may happen. If it is something you cannot address please contact janitor Dave at 123456789.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:08 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


You question is "was this really fair"?

Probably not, if the narrative you constructed is true (because Mr. Dick is making assumptions about whose blood it is just like you are making assumptions about who put the note there and that it was directed at you).

But since your narrative has no evidence behind it, your question is not possible to answer in my opinion.

I would not go to HR because you technically have no grounds to file a complaint against an individual. But you could complain about short tempered notes in the bathroom I suppose. In which case HR might send out a memo to everyone that says "please do a better job at cleaning up after yourself in the restroom and direct any concerns about that to the janitorial staff instead of leaving notes".
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:49 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I don't buy any arguments that this "wasn't directed at you", and i don't think you're over reacting. I've absolutely seen the phenomenon firsthand where regressively nerdy guys who poorly position themselves on the toilet seat leave greasy shit smears on the back rim of the seat constantly, but FREAK OUT if they see even a drop of blood if a woman was in the bathroom within the last month.

I've worked for a guy who i could absolutely see raging out and making a sign like this.

However, i can't think of a response other than Seymour Zamboni's here. You don't really have any concrete proof of who put this up, and a contrary asshole could easily make the point that there was no way that this targeted specifically you. I can't help but feel, as frustrating as it is, that unless you have someone above you in your organization who knows you, likes you, and knows you're reasonable and wouldn't "blow this out of proportion" or whatever and is willing to go to bat with you that anything could really be done with relation to their office directly.

Every rat-maze of possible outcomes i've run this through in my mind just ends in some sort of "Oh great, the office bitch" sort of endgame possibly even from someone at your company who doesn't get it, and just thinks you're making this about you with no evidence or whatever. Caryatid has the right idea here that this is a sign of a toxic environment that not only did someone see this as an ok thing to do, but it's the boss of their organization.

The only path i could think to take would be to contact the landlord and say you're being harassed by another tenant without grounds. They may very well tell you to pound sand and say they don't get involved though, i just recently encountered that when someone actually damaged my property in a shared, rented space. I'd frame this to them, at least in the introduction, as a dispute over common areas/resources and then ease into the harassment angle if they were receptive. Too many people just completely shut down when you try and talk about that sort of thing, but you probably already know that...

The best possible outcome i could see here is that something comes from the property owner on official letterhead out of both of your offices fax machines along the lines of "Please take any concerns about common areas and shared resources directly to our organization, and not to other tenants. Thanks, Al, FooBar property management INC".
posted by emptythought at 5:38 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


So this guy, the dick, left a note for you in your workplace asking you to clean up your menstrual blood. You know it was the dick because you saw him printing out a piece of paper, and also because he's a dick, which you know via "vibe" (did he do something?). Except that he didn't leave the note for you personally, he left it in the general use bathroom. And it didn't refer to your menstrual blood, or menstrual blood specifically at all; it referred to blood that was actually on the toilet there in the general use bathroom. You assumed it was your menstrual blood, even though you "have no idea how it got there." You decide to tell your co-worker about a) how this guy is a dick and b) about how he's left you a note to clean up your blood and c) how it was menstrual blood and d) ask him to weigh in on these dick-vibes, menstrual blood, bathroom use, and fairness issues. I'm feeling for your co-worker right now.

Going to HR or any equivalent with this scenario will get you nowhere you want to be. Perhaps your co-worker has a better case to make on behalf of everyone. Perhaps he should visit the HR department(s)/the boss and suggest that they ask all people to take care to clean up all their bodily fluids from the external toilet surfaces in the future and/or report bathrooms that need maintenance to management; that all people generally refrain from referring to others in the office by their genitalia (you may not have referred to the dick as "a dick" in the office, just here, granted); that all people generally refrain from making public judgements about other people's bodily fluids and use of the bathroom by co-workers; and that all people generally refrain from seeking opinions from co-workers about their own bodily fluids or the fluids of others, their use of the bathroom or the use of it by others, or other similar personal issues and complaints (serious or non serious) about their co-workers.

(I'm a woman if it matters.)
posted by beanie at 5:42 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


My name is Dick. But aside from that... I share a single throne rest room with many females. I rarely see blood, but sometimes things splash or don't get flushed entirely. I always check after myself. (Self conscious much?) I think a note as described by OP is inappropriate. (Even if it were a men only environment). Sh!t happens. By tomorrow, I hope, the custodian will have made it all better.
posted by Fortnight Bender at 8:50 PM on May 29


Something that technically could apply to both sexes but in practical reality almost always is applied to one: this is the definition of casual sexism. It is sexism. Full stop.

Pointing out hat the blood -might- have come from a man is buying into the casual sexism of, well, life. Don't miss the forest for the trees: this is very much sexism, and aimed at humiliating the women under the guise of the technical, plausible deniability of it.
posted by Dashy at 6:37 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


I don't buy any arguments that this "wasn't directed at you", and i don't think you're over reacting. I've absolutely seen the phenomenon firsthand where regressively nerdy guys who poorly position themselves on the toilet seat leave greasy shit smears on the back rim of the seat constantly, but FREAK OUT if they see even a drop of blood if a woman was in the bathroom within the last month.

This this this this this. If it were a drop of urine, would he even have noticed or done anything other than wiped it? Sexism to the core.
posted by corb at 7:22 AM on May 30 [10 favorites]


nobody knows for sure where the blood came from, or to whom the sign was directed. i have firsthand knowledge that blood can come out of a man's ass (excuse me, gentle readers).

if this was directed at you, my answer is no, this isn't appropriate, and you should go on the warpath against whomever is responsible.
posted by bruce at 8:29 AM on May 30


You're not overreacting. This is sexism - straight up. I know it, you know it, and the Amurrikan people know it, BUT - and this is the part that counts - on these facts, as you've presented them, this particular sexist act in and of itself is simply not actionable. Because --

as @emptythought's sagacious gem of a comment so eloquently put it:

You don't really have any concrete proof of who put this up, and a contrary asshole could easily make the point that there was no way that this targeted specifically you. I can't help but feel, as frustrating as it is, that unless you have someone above you in your organization who knows you, likes you, and knows you're reasonable and wouldn't "blow this out of proportion" or whatever and is willing to go to bat with you that anything could really be done with relation to their office directly.

So. Document, document, document. There will be other incidents. Create a paper trail. It sucks. You're not wrong.
posted by hush at 10:05 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


Re: how I know it was him. I don't for sure but...

He is frequently making, loud misogynistic comments to the other men who work in his office and he is the only guy who does this. For example, when the whole Woody Allen thing broke a few months ago he kept insisting that Mia Farrow was a crazy, scorned woman who had coerced her daughter into lying about the abuse. At another point he claimed that women who are harassed/catcalled on the streets have no right to complain because it's just part of our culture. The other guys on our floor are for the most part all quiet and polite. I'd be pretty shocked if it were one of them.

That and the fact that I saw him printing out a sheet of paper right around the time I found the note.
posted by caseofyou at 3:59 PM on May 31


He is frequently making, loud misogynistic comments to the other men who work in his office

Well there you go. Do not dismiss your own gut feelings about this, even in light of those who are telling you that you have no actual evidence. You are right. You DO have evidence. You are in a hostile workplace, thanks to this asshole, and the only reason this kind of behavior is still tolerated is because those who are victims of it do not speak up - because other people tell them they have no evidence. Fuck them.

Document his misogynistic remarks. Go to HR. Nip this shit in the bud. You are not only standing up for your own right to a tolerable work environment, you are standing up for the rights of all women who come after you to a tolerable work environment.

You are not wrong. You are right. This behavior is unacceptable. Don't accept it.
posted by caryatid at 9:57 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


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