Letter of Outrage
To The Association of Imaginary Schools Human Resources Department:
I am writing to protest Take Your Daughter Or Son To Work Day. If this stupid tradition is going to continue, at least make it gender-inclusive and call it Take Your Child To Work Day.
Let me begin by saying I don’t have children and never will. The planet is already at capacity, the last thing we need is more carbon generators. If I could give birth to a tree in the rainforest, well that would be worthwhile. That said, I’m not anti-child. I am anti-cruelty-to-children-who-are-forced-to-live-in-our-unfair-world.
The original premise of Take Your Daughter To Work Day, promoted in the early 1990s by feminist Gloria Steinem, was to promote girls’ self-esteem by showing them the empowering options available to them in the world of work outside the home.
Let’s meditate for a second on the idea that girls going to work in a massively sexist world would find it cheering or empowering to see their mothers treated as second-class citizens at work. Most women were subordinate to men at work in 1992, earned less than men, and were subject to sexual harassment for which there was little actionable remedy. It’s not much better today.
Now let’s think about the idea that the exercise would help girls choose their future careers. Do most people get to choose their dream job? How many female astronauts are there compared to women who clean airport toilets in the middle of the night? The idea of work outside the home as self-expression and empowerment is the privilege of a small group of mostly white women.
For the majority of mothers, a job is a way to earn money to support their families, not a What Color Is Your Rainbow Happy Dance for the self-care of their inner Sparkly Unicorn.
This is not to say honest work cleaning toilets is less important than well-paid work rewriting corporate mission statements. At the end of the day cleaning toilets you have something to show for yourself, you have made the world a better place, and you have provided a real service. The same cannot necessarily be said for white-collar jobs where you’ve moved money and words around all day mostly for your own benefit.
The fact is though that society values cleaning at next to nothing and mission statement rewriting very highly. So picture the situation of two children, boys as it happens, who came to work at the Association of Imaginary Schools with their parents, both fathers as it happens, last year.
Jose and Edward are both enrolled at the Association of Imaginary Schools Afternoon Daycare Program, where they have played together since they were two years old. At daycare they are equals, though Jose is better at adding and subtracting.
But on Take Your Child To Work Day, Jose follows his father around emptying trash cans and cleaning hair and spit off bathroom sinks, while Edward sits at his father’s shiny mahogany desk spinning in his Aeron chair playing video games on his father’s massive desktop screen.
Edward uses his father’s phone to order GrubHub snacks on his father’s expense account while Jose eats a sandwich from home in the windowless mop room sitting on a crate of roach bait. Edward’s dad beeps Jose’s dad when Edward vomits 5 bags of skittles on the thick-pile office carpet.
If this were a movie, we’d end up feeling sorry for Edward, whose father is too busy rewriting mission statements to spend any face-to-face time with him. And we’d see that Jose has a much closer connection to his father, who makes delicious sandwiches wrapped with love. Jose’s dad makes it fun to ride the wheelie recycling bin down the dumpster loading ramp (cue sentimental music).
Actually, that movie is true. Jose had a meaningful day and Edward ended up with eyestrain, a stomach ache, and a case of ennui after his day of being waited on by his father’s secretary. And studies show, “Working-class children are happier, more independent, whine less and are closer with family members,” than rich children.
But a huge part of what the kids learn each year is that Edward’s dad calls the shots and mispronounces Jose’s name after 8 years in the same office.
Jose learns how hard his father works to barely be able to afford the necessities of life, while Edward goes home with a sense that life owes him a box of pens, a bag of breath mints, a Fred’s University umbrella, and the undivided attention of a highly-trained 60-year old secretary.
That secretary is me. Take Your Child to work day is just more work for me dressing the wounds of racist capitalism. I am the invisible female worker whose unpaid labor it is to make this right for two boys who will never be friends past childhood.
On Take Your Child To Work Day, both of these children learn that they are devalued by capitalism. Jose because his father’s work is treated as of low value, and Edward because his father’s work rewriting mission statements is more important than spending time with his son.
Next year Edward will be old enough to shadow me while his father is off having sex with an intern, and I’m going to show Edward how to falsify expense reports, pay for video games with grant money, and order office furniture from the slush fund. Then I’m going to make him clean up his own vomit. Cue heartwarming music.
From the Association of Imaginary Schools
Thank you for bringing this Equity and Inclusion issue to our attention. Cuts are being made so that the children of maintenance workers will no longer be able to enroll their child in the Association’s childcare program. Rest assured, this problem should not arise in the future.