"I didn't have a clue the women were using the room to cool off," said Peter Caton, 34, the library's network administrator who works out of the room. "I only found out it was the 'Hot Flash Room' after they put up the poster. I was shocked and kind of offended. It's my office. If I was an older man and I put an erectile dysfunction ad on your cubicle, how would you feel?"If I saw that in my cubicle I would feel harassed and demeaned, because the only two possible implications would be that I was either the cause of or solution to erectile dysfunction: clearly inappropriate. These women have not expressed anything remotely sexual with their sign, but they have committed the grave sin of acknowledging that they are women in the workplace. Next thing you know, women will be asking for complimentary tampons in the restrooms and generally asking the world to stop and accomodate their bodily functions.
Never mind that no one questions that toilet paper is provided for free in men's rooms. Never mind that the number of urinals and toilets in a men's bathroom often outnumbers the number of toilets in the women's bathroom. These are standard accomodations.
Why? Because men are the standard, and women are the freaks. The NYT article about growing public awareness of menopause is a perfect example of the way we treat something that every single woman goes through like some private, unique, secret shame. I realize that Americans are unncessarily squicked out about public talk of bodily functions - I'm one of those Americans - but if I'm able to reference universal bodily complications like the stomach flu, there's no reason I should feel like I have to tailor my reason for needing aspirin to the gender of the person from whom I'm requesting it.