There seems to be this thought process that women’s day celebration at work brings a divide between men and women. In a place where all genders work together harmoniously, celebrating women’s day is like glorifying the contributions of women and/or highlighting the achievements of only women. I can see why men feel left out and underappreciated on this day. If the celebrations aren’t done right, it could even be seen as subtle discriminating against men. Let me explain why celebrating women’s day at work is actually beneficial for the men in the next generations.
It is a well-known fact that most families around the world are financially supported by men. Where I come from, even if both men and women earn, most families do not use the women’s income and stash it away for the future while using the man’s earnings for household expenses. Women are never seen as breadwinners by society, even in cases where she is the sole earning member. So when the going gets tough in the office, women have the option to quit but men don’t.
For women, the choice of quitting has no social consequences. First off, compared to men, they have to face more obstacles to even have a career and it is very easy to drop out of the race. When they have too much pressure at work or have a hard time balancing work and life, no one questions their choice to quit. In fact, it would be applauded as a sacrifice to take care of their family. People actually persuade women to quit even if they want to work and that is a different issue. In general, they can be a career woman if they want or a homemaker if they want. No need to worry too much about what society would say (because it is going to say something either way).
Men typically bear the responsibility of the household’s finances and cannot quit without a backup option. No matter how hard things get in the workplace, they have to endure and keep working for the sake of their family. There may be many instances where they want to quit, but thinking about their kid’s school fees or the elder’s healthcare expenses or the general household expenses makes them continue working even in the most soul-sucking places.
Even if a household is financially stable and the woman in the house earns enough to cover all expenses and save for the future, society frowns upon men who don’t hold a good job and pressure them into working in domains outside their passion. How many men are forced to discard their passions and study in fields that have respectable job prospectives? How many men are pressured into taking up jobs they dislike because they pay well? How many men are mocked for their seemingly less prestigious job? How many men are made to feel worthless when they get fired?
When you think from this point of view, it is easy to assume that women have it easier these days and men’s struggles go unnoticed and unthanked. Think about the celebrations we observe. Mother’s day is celebrated with much more fervour than father’s day. There are so many advertisements and offers across products and services on mother’s day. Wherever you go, you are followed by ads and mother’s day wishes. Everyone who knows a mother wishes her a happy mother’s day, even her friends, colleagues and relatives. But what happens on father’s day? More often than not, only the children wish their fathers on this day. Advertisements aren’t as prevalent/persistent. Offers are mostly limited to gadgets on e-commerce sites.
Likewise, women’s day is widely celebrated. You see random strangers wishing any woman they see a happy women’s day. There are offers across products and services (brands love to target women to spend, don’t they?). You see advertisements emphasising that women can be anything. Most of these are simply femwashing, but the viewers are bound to be swayed into thinking that these brands are pro-women and all about women empowerment.
However, men’s day is not even a topic of discussion. Most people I know, including men themselves, don’t even know when men’s day is. So it can appear as if celebrating women’s day not just puts the spotlight on women but pushes men into the shadows. This is exactly the reason why we need to celebrate women’s day at work.
Only when we have more career women, the burden on men’s shoulders would reduce. While the traditional roles demand men to earn and women take care of the house, society has now become more accepting of working women but criticizes unemployed men.
From an economic standpoint, an average family needs at least one earning member. I am talking about an average middle-class family who hasn’t amassed enough wealth to spend a generation without working for a living. If the man of a house wants to be a homemaker, the woman has to earn. If the man wants to go for a less paying, unstable, freelance job because it is his passion, the woman has to have a job. If the man wants to take risky career decisions, the woman has to be financially stable.
It is difficult for a woman to survive in an office environment, let alone thrive and succeed. Many drop out due to various reasons, from lack of family support to unrealistic expectations from society to difficulty in striking work-life balance. If you think times have changed and women have it easy these days, read my post on the problems unique to women in their career.
Celebrating women’s day at work is a way of reminding female employees that we understand your struggles and appreciate that you are sticking with us. It is not meant to highlight women’s contributions in the workplace while ignoring men’s contributions. It is to remind women that their work is appreciated so that they don’t quit.
Only when a generation of women work and share the financial burden of their spouse, the next generation will offer more choice to all genders. Only when there is an almost equal number of women and men in an organization and more female leaders in higher management, the workspace can become women-friendly and new policies can be made with equality and fairness in mind.
I understand that celebrating women’s day in the office may alienate some men. It may hurt some good men who have always stood for equality, empathise with women’s issues and those who trust us even when they don’t understand. However, the future generation of men can be free to choose what they want to become and if they even want to work, only when we encourage more women to have a career. This is why celebrating Women’s Day at work is important.
I know some people will read this and call me out for focusing on men’s problems on women’s day. This is not about men having it harder or women having it harder. This isn’t about any gender being better or facing more issues or having an easier life. Life is easy for anyone who fits the stereotypes society has set for them. For anyone who doesn’t conform, it is difficult.
Women’s Day offers a space for women to voice out their opinions and break out of the expectations thrust upon women. By breaking one link, the whole chain will fall apart. By supporting more women to work, we can indirectly enable more men to dream. Women’s empowerment leads to men’s empowerment.
I’m not saying that it is the only way. If you hold a campaign for men’s rights, I would support it. If you share the problems faced by men, I would listen intently. All I’m saying is that celebrating women’s day is one of the ways for men’s liberation as well.
More women need to work despite all odds if they want their daughters to not tackle the same problems as they did. More men need to support women’s careers if they want their sons to not sacrifice their dreams like they did.
I hope that in the future men’s worth is not tied to their salary and bravery and women’s worth is not tied to their beauty and round roti. Within my lifetime, I hope to see people free from the shackles of society’s expectations. I hope we reach a day where we don’t have to dedicate a day to celebrate Women’s Day. Since we are not there yet, I wish you a happy women’s day.