interviewer scolded me for my outfit, job requires an oath of allegiance, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My interviewer scolded me for what I was wearing

I am looking to relocate to a different city in my home state, and a couple of interviews I did with one company were video due to my not being able to do an in-person interview.

I was extremely successful in my first interview with them. A second interview was arranged last minute, three hours before the end of my work day. What proceeded to transpire was a very awkward interview.

After work, I had five minutes to get ready and prepare for my interview. I quickly throw on a dress shirt and tie because I want to be professional, and I jump on Microsoft Teams. As soon as my picture appears and I see the interview panel, the original interviewer from the first interview tells me, “You are wearing the same shirt as last time.” (It’s a different shirt but she basically scolds me. I also didn’t think she would remember what I was wearing a week ago; she probably sees tons of people every day.) Next she tells me to “take your tie off because it doesn’t fit with the company culture.” She didn’t tell me to take it off in the first interview. Is she just posturing for her boss? Safe to say that being critiqued right away killed my whole vibe during the interview.

But the end is where it got really weird for me. One of the interviewers, the president of this branch, asks, “Are you nervous, because you seem like it?” I said maybe a little bit, but unfortunately I didn’t have a ton of time to prepare to calm my nerves. Then he asks the original interviewer if I was nervous during the first interview and she says no. Then they go on a two-minute conversation in front of me about how I am nervous now but wasn’t before. I wasn’t any more nervous during this interview than my first. And I wasn’t so nervous that I was stuttering or not answering questions well. I was just blushing.

I am a recent college graduate with little interview experience for skilled jobs and this is an entry-level position, so I think most people they would be interviewing would be nervous. Was this my fault? Was the president just getting a nice little boost for himself making me feel bad about being nervous? Was this a stress test interview? Were they not very good interviewers?

They definitely weren’t good interviewers, but it sounds like much more than that. Scolding you for wearing the same shirt (whether or not you actually were) and telling you to take off your tie are both incredibly bizarre and rude. The president asking if you were nervous isn’t necessarily a big faux pas on its own, but the two of them having a sidebar right in front of you about your level of nervousness is rude and obnoxious.

These people both sound like jerks. It’s very unlikely this was some sort of deliberate stress test (those are really rare). They’re just asses. It’s a good reminder that interviews are two-way streets; you should be assessing your interviewers just as they’re assessing you, and if they don’t seem like people you’d want to work with, that’s valuable info that the process is designed to draw out (on both sides). So in that regard, the process worked.

2. Is return-to-office anti-feminist?

Like many, my company recently announced it will soon require employees to return to the office three times a week, after just about three years of fully remote work (during which, I might add, productivity improved). It remains to be seen what will happen, as many of us were hired during this period of remote work and don’t live within reasonable commuting distance of the office — but that isn’t why I’m writing.

The other day a colleague said to me in passing that they believe requiring employees back to the office hurts women the most. That it is anti-feminist. Why? Because women are generally the “default parent,” even if both partners work full-time. When a kid is sick or has to be picked up early from school or has a doctor’s appointment, the mother is usually the one who stays home and has to call out of work, or maybe it becomes clear that she cannot work full-time at all — just a few of the many, many examples. As someone who had their first child during the pandemic, I can’t help but agree. Do you see it this way? And, if so, is there anything we can be doing to further emphasize how remote work benefits everyone, but women especially?

I don’t know if I’d agree that bringing people back to the office is anti-feminist, but it’s certainly true in broad terms that it hurts women more than men because women do indeed generally get stuck with far more of the sorts of responsibilities you described. (It’s why far more women than men dropped out of the workforce in the first two years of the pandemic.) The solution to that is multi-pronged: more flexibility from employers, yes, but also better child care options, more societal support for parents, and men picking up an equal share of caretaking. Without the last three — and definitely without the last one — the problem will remain.

I do think that when you’re talking about remote work benefiting women, you have to be careful to be clear that you’re not suggesting companies embrace remote workers caring for young kids at home as a substitute for full-time child care — because it’s impossible to do both well at the same time. But when you’re talking about older kids, or the occasional unplanned or temporary circumstance like a school closure or a sick child, it’s absolutely true that remote work benefits anyone with caregiving responsibilities — and that means disproportionately women.

3. Can I ask to make my job part-time so I can attend graduate school?

I am unsure if I can ask if my current full-time position could be made into a part-time role so I could go to grad school full-time, and how I should broach the subject.

I work as an in-house illustrator for a 150-person company, and I really love my job (it’s honestly top 10% of my specific field in terms of easy, decently paid, and fulfilling) and I know I’m highly valued by my team and supervisor. But I REALLY want to go back to school, and my dream job would be going into academia as a career instead of trying to fit in research on the side (and without the clout of an MFA or being a freelancer). I am full-time and salaried with benefits, but my dream graduate program is full-time only. I am also the only dedicated illustrator in the company that needs new graphics made on a daily basis, and I know if I went part time they would have to either find a full-time person or at least one other part-timer (or worse, the workload would be put onto people who had been really relieved I took the task off their hands). I wouldn’t be going back this year, or even necessarily the next, but how far ahead should I bring it up? Is this a huge faux pas?

It’s a really big ask. If your job could become part-time without someone else needing to be hired, that would be one thing. But you’d be asking them to hire and manage a whole additional person, and they’d be doing that to accommodate you in attending a program that would presumably result in you leaving them at the end of it. If they deeply love you — not just “you do a good job and we like you” but more like “never leave us, you are phenomenal, and we don’t know what we’d do without you” — it’s possible they’d consider it. But even then, it’s a really big ask, and the chances of them agreeing are pretty low.

If you’re going to give it a shot anyway, I wouldn’t bring it up until you have a concrete plan in place (have been accepted to a program and know exactly when you’ll be starting) … and then you’ve got to factor in all the normal stuff about whether it’s safe to give more than a standard two weeks’ notice. If you’re hoping to raise it well before then because their answer will affect whether you pursue the program at all, that’s a lot trickier. In theory you could raise it to your boss earlier as a hypothetical (“just something I’m thinking about at this stage / no concrete plans / wondering whether you’d ever be open to this”) but an answer given to a hypothetical in 2023 won’t necessarily match up with what they decide when it’s really happening in 2024. So it’s tough. Your safest route is to assume they won’t approve it, plan accordingly, and have it be a pleasant surprise if they do.

4. Working when the heat is out

Something happened where my sister works, and I would like your input. My sister works for a credit union, and she works in the loan department located in the basement area of the central branch/administrative office building. Last Wednesday, there was a very bad ice storm and that building lost power. They had a generator, but although it did power computers and at least half the lights, there was extremely limited heat. Where my sister was in the basement, it was tolerable (about 68 degrees). But on the main floor in the actual branch, it averaged between 55-60 degrees. Employees wore their winter coats and were miserable. Space heaters were not allowed since they draw a ton of power and could have destroyed the generator. This mess started last Wednesday morning and power was restored Tuesday at 6:15 pm.

Is making your employees work in these conditions reasonable? (I would like to note that they could have closed the branch and sent the employees to other branches.)

No. OSHA recommends (but doesn’t require) temperatures of 68-76 degrees. 55-60 is really cold.

5. My new job requires me to take an oath of allegiance

I am a PhD student graduating this summer, and I have just signed on to a fantastic job that I am really excited about. I’m moving from the east coast to California, where I will work for the University of California with my salary paid by a federal grant.

I received my onboarding paperwork today, and along with all the normal stuff, it included an “Oath of Allegiance.” I am required to sign it in front of a witness who is “legally authorized to administer oaths.” Here’s the full text:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.”

Am I right in thinking this is insane? On the one hand, it doesn’t bother me that much because I can’t see it ever coming into play. I definitely don’t have the type of job where I’m likely to encounter enemies, foreign and domestic, seeking harm to the constitutions of my state or country (and if they do I’m peacing out, thanks). But I feel weird about signing something this intense, and I don’t really want to. Can they legally require this as a condition of employment?

Yep, they can require it. In fact, it looks like all California state employees are required to take that oath, and all federal employees have one too.

{ 913 comments… read them below }

  1. Double A*

    Ha, I’ve signed that Oath of Allegiance for jobs both paid and volunteer! It’s weird in the same way that the Pledge of Allegiance is weird (as in, it sort of is). I guess I assumed it was commonplace for government jobs or political volunteers. Do other states not do it?

    1. Anonymously*

      Yes, in California it is a requirement for those of us in education. I work in higher education and this was mandatory. I signed it–but as I did not want to I signed it with an indecipherable scrawl that is most definitely not my signature.

      Pardon my going anonymous for this. I do not agree with that crap I was forced to sign just so I could work and I do not want to risk outing myself.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Added fun: we had to sign a piece of paper saying that anything we create technically belongs to the state. I note this was for a making industry….they were all “well, just don’t let anyone know you created it on the grounds if you do” about it.

        What can you do? You can’t fight The Man on this. My lease just made me sign that I’ll never have a home business and I’ll test my smoke detectors WEEKLY and you know darned well nobody’s going to do that one.

        1. metadata minion*

          Isn’t that a usual clause for most intellectual-property-related jobs, that whatever you create on site belongs to your employer? I’m not saying it’s an *okay* clause, but this really doesn’t sound like the state is being particularly unusual here.

          1. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

            Copyright law is written to make anything a person creates in the course of their duties using company equipment as work for hire, and the copyright for that work automatically belongs to the company, not the individual who did the work.

            1. anon math*

              “In the course of their duties” is important here. I work for a large corp and just signed a number of such agreements, but they also specified that creations done not on company time, not using company resources, and not related to the industry are not the property of the company, and they had an additional clause about “retained inventions,” which we need to disclose and keep updated. I read these with attention and interest because I am doing a tiny bit of side research which is not industry-related, not done on company time, and doesn’t use company resources, and I was trying to figure out if I need to disclose it or not (happy to if needed, it’s evidence of my “thought leadership” and “technical expertise” and will never make any money, haha).

              1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

                I had to double check with my old corporate overlords that my open source software contributions wouldn’t conflict with their agreement. It turned out to be fine, but that could have been a significant souring point for me.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          It’s very very normal for a job to have you sign something stating that what you create is the property of the job. What you create using your job’s resources and the salary they pay you belongs to them. That’s why they hire people to do jobs.

        3. KatEnigma*

          When it comes to IP, you can absolutely fight “the man” on it. Maybe not as a college hire, but my husband has twice successfully pushed back on it. He negotiated with the hiring managers and crossed out and/or amended parts of the contract. Because senior engineers/developers often have side projects or contribute to open source stuff. So the hardest fight was a Fortune 500 manufacturing company, who are WAY paranoid about corporate espionage anyway (for actually good reasons) and they insisted that he couldn’t work on any projects that not only used their IP, but were related to the IP. Because if you know how they make teapots, you could start up a business that allowed you to make 3rd party lids, or made specialized teas related to knowledge you gained while working there. So he had to get prior approval for ANYTHING he did, but he didn’t have to sign the contract as-is.

          The fortune 100 Defense company just said it couldn’t be anything related. He didn’t need prior approval.

          But pushing back on IP clauses is totally common once you have experience – because often they need you way more than you need them. The best candidates are always going to have outside stuff they don’t want the company to have the rights to.

          1. Nina*

            Heck, in my first job out of grad school I pushed back on an IP clause.

            a) they were desperate and I was not b) I have a bunch of published literary stuff completely unrelated to anything I have ever or likely will ever do in my day job and c) their IP clause was way too fckn broad and could easily be read as laying claim to any IP I owned when I started working form them or any IP I created while I was employed there.

            They fixed it with a quickness when they realized I was prepared to walk over it. Always negotiate your contracts, people.

        4. JTP*

          Anything you create? Or anything you create in the course of your job? The latter is completely normal thing for jobs.

          1. KatEnigma*

            The former is allll to common in jobs too. But you don’t have to just sign it or turn down the job.

      2. Astounded*

        So you had reservations and actively evaded. You shouldn’t have signed at all. Those are the terms of the job.

        1. Anonymoose*

          The Canadian government requires an oath to the UK monarchy for employees, new citizens, and members of parliament. Many openly oppose it. We do it anyway, because it’s required, but I don’t think anyone has allegiance to the UK monarchy so it’s all pointless and wouldn’t matter if someone gave the wrong signature. They want people to not sell secrets to Russia or China, and have no interest in how one feels about Harry and William and Charles.

          1. Valancy Snaith*

            It isn’t the UK monarchy. Canadian feds swear their oath of loyalty to, specifically, the King or Queen of Canada. That person is the King of the United Kingdom as well, but as Canada is a sovereign nation, it is not an oath to the UK monarchy. Canada is not subordinate to the UK.

          2. Ed 'Massive Aggression' Teach*

            Interestingly, I’ve done 10+ years working for the UK government directly and never EVER sworn an oath!

            (The ones I direct at stubbornly malfunctioning printers don’t count.)

            1. workswitholdstuff*

              We don’t do in local authorities either in the UK

              I have a feeling it’s probably just the Armed forces, the police and people practicising law (as they do it ‘on behalf of the crown’?)

              Oh, and MPs/House of Lords I think.

              1. Nate The Great*

                While I’m American, I know MPs in the UK have to, because I read that Sinn Fein never takes their seats in Parliament because they refuse to swear allegiance to the King (or the Queen before him).

            2. Jasper*

              It’s probably the canadian version of the north american delusion. TTBOMK the dutch version of that oath is given only to parliamentary representatives and maybe people in the judiciary? and of course the king himself swears something similar at his coronation. Gotta have them under control a bit, after all.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          No, those are not really the terms of the job, no one at a state university actually expects their employees to defend the constitution against enemies, whatever that would even mean. They handled it fine.

          1. Observer*

            Oh yes they do. Oh, not one expects them to become an amateur James Bond or something. But in the context of your job? Absolutely. Mostly in cases like it’s more or less the same as being a mandated reporter of things that are illegal or possibly a threat.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Thank you. “In my interpretation this seems ridiculous so I’ll just go ahead and sign it” is a baaaaaaad idea. They have more context about what those words mean than you do, if you are ever unsure you should be asking followup questions.

            2. Jasper*

              For a completely nonrandom example — Abdul Qadeer Khan. Pakistani nuclear physicist who was studying at,. among others, Delft University.

              He came back to Pakistan with, apparently, enough knowledge of nuclear secrets to put them on the highway to hell — working nuclear gadgets in a mere few decades.

              If something similar were to happen at a California university you could expect visits from humorless men in bad suits that reminded you of the oath you signed.

          2. badger*

            It can mean things like ensuring free speech and freedom of the press and upholding other civil rights as enshrined in the Constitution, both for employees and for students. Things like that. It’s a government entity. It has to be cognizant of those things and its employees need to know that that’s part of their responsibility too.

          3. Twix*

            What it means is actually pretty well-established, it’s a common requirement for government jobs, and they absolutely do mean it. It’s not just talking about defending the country against foreign invaders. One of the places this tends to come up is if in the course of your job duties you’re instructed to knowingly violate or undermine someone’s constitutional rights. And it can be a double-edged sword – it makes “I was just following orders” a non-starter as a defense because you have an explicit individual responsibility to speak out if you know something like that it going on, but it can also be a justification for pushing back against being ordered to act inappropriately. Seriously, “I don’t know what this means but it sounds ridiculous, so I’m just gonna sign it and assuming it’s meaningless” is literally always a terrible idea even if it works out sometimes.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I feel like the proliferation of click-through EULAs and the various terms for online services have made people pretty numb to just agreeing to sign whatever is in front of them because there are just so very many things and the power relationship is so asymmetrical. We’re just not culturally encouraged to take meaning in our agreement to these things.

              (I’d like to further note that I see this as a major problem, and that we should expect people to agree to fewer, better things and to take it seriously when they do, but that’s not the cultural messaging we’re getting around agreeing to things when they’re put in front of us as part of signing up for something.)

              1. Twix*

                100% agree, and honestly I’m just as guilty when it comes to EULAs and Terms of Service and such. A lot of it is also the proliferation of legalese. I’m pretty fluent in it, but it seems like most people aren’t even for fairly basic clauses, and I’ve seen research about how understanding the kind of agreements we’re asked to sign on a daily basis correlates strongly with affluence and level of education.

                That said, it was pretty mind-boggling to me when I went for the drug test to apply to my current job and the lab tech said I was the first person she’d ever seen actually read the two-page plain English release before signing it.

              2. The Rules are Made Up*

                Oh deffinittellyy. My mom taught me to read everything I sign but outside of things like leases and contracts and financial paperwork I don’t do it for terms and conditions and all the “small” things we’re asked to sign constantly and I don’t know anyone who does. Most people I know don’t even fully read important stuff like leases and other agreements. We’re very lackadaisical about signing (and therefore agreeing) to things as a society for sure.

        3. nattie*

          That’s a bit silly. Those oaths are a formality required of *all* state employees regardless of their actual job. I was required to sign that as part of my onboarding to work as a barista at a campus coffee shop when I was 20. Do you think I should have refused the job because I had some reservations about defending the Constitution while making lattes?

          1. Splendid Colors*

            I was a lab TA and signed the oath for the University of California.

            I basically thought of it as affirming that I believe in the Constitution and am not taking the job to be a foreign spy or saboteur.

            Looking back, I presume I would’ve had a responsibility to report anyone who *was* trying to steal our IP for foreign governments, sabotage our research projects, or make chemical weapons in our lab. Or report a fellow TA if they boasted that they got someone expelled for using their free speech to protest the war in Iraq or campaign for Al Gore or whatever.

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            In the context of that job, defending the constitution would include things like, for example, reporting police misconduct you witnessed or refusing to comply with a racially discriminatory policy even if your supervisor told you to. It means, among other things, you promise to place following the constitution over and above following any other orders that conflict with the constitution. That’s something we should be able to count on from all public servants, regardless of the position or level they’re in.

            Another great example would be RAs asked to hand over keys to a dorm room for a warrantless search. Their oath to defend the constitution means refusing to cooperate with such a request since it’s unconstitutional, or reporting it if they’re not able to stop it. Or a custodial worker defending student’s first amendment rights when they’re asked to remove flyers from one political party even though others are left out.

            These oaths are not a formality. I do think you should have refused the job if you had reservations about defending the constitution, provided you understand that “defend the constitution” is not the same thing as “take up arms to fight invaders.”

      3. MK*

        Eh, if you signed it by your hand, that’s your signature on that document and it’s legally binding. You didn’t find a clever loophole by writing a different signature than you usually do.

      4. Fossil Gal*

        The Oath is a legacy of the Red Menace era. The original text of the 1950 oath required you to swear you aren’t a Communist. So at least that’s gone.

        1. Fleur-de-Lis*

          It’s still law that a public employee in California, particularly in education, cannot be a member of the Communist Party. Even with union protection, you can be fired immediately for it.

          1. Gerry Keay*

            Can’t have those pinkos teaching our kids to question capital!!! (signed, your friendly neighborhood ancom)

      5. California attorney*

        I’m an attorney who has passed the bar exam in California (as well as a former notary public). Just an FYI that signing it with a scrawl/different signature doesn’t invalidate it. If you signed it with your own hand it is valid. Doing a different signature than you normally use isn’t a loophole. You signed it so you can be held to it.

      6. Anonymouss poster*

        -1. Those oaths exist for a reason and rarely come into play; signing it doesn’t open yourself up unless you openly violate the law or the constitution (which I can’t imagine you’d do in the first place). Sounds like you had mental reservations and intended to evade.

        1. Anonymouss poster*

          Oops, my bad! Meant this for the person you were responding to. Totally agree with you! +2!

    2. Not Prepared to fight anyone on Mooseback*

      Ok so let’s say I did sign this and then tomorrow the Canadians invade. Is the state going to be like you signed that contract for an HR gig, so we’re requiring you to go fight those Moose riding maniacs. Go out and bash em with your knowledge about equitable hiring practices!!! What if I refuse? They gonna court marital me?

      1. Gerry Kaey*

        I always assumed it’s so that if they figure out you’re a communist they can fire you

        1. 1LFTW*

          Yes, it’s a holdover from the McCarthy era. I’ve worked for a couple of municipalities in CA and had to sign loyalty oaths each time. It’s super, super cringey, but ultimately it’s pretty toothless.

          I have a few colleagues who are open about their membership in left-leaning political parties (DSA, SWP, and IWW are the ones that I know of) and nobody cares.

          1. 1LFTW*

            Also, most state and municipal employees are mandatory Disaster Service Workers. We can be reassigned from our regular work to wherever they need an extra pair of hands… so in the first weeks of the pandemic, I was hearing about people who normally worked with, say, the youth sports program, who were told to report to the morgue for the night night.

            I guess that’s kind of like defeating Moose-Riding Maniacs with knowledge of equitable hiring practices?

            1. Lydia*

              In my mind, this has morphed into protecting the morgue from…invading necromantic Canadians.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Well, we tend to forget this in times of (relative) peace in the places we live, but if you are a citizen, your country can draft you anyway, pledge or no.

        1. Kat from County Government*

          Yeah our county explicitly states that you may be called upon to do Disaster Service work in hiring materials that you also sign onto and many of my coworkers were reassigned to call centers and Covid testing-vaccination sites (we are not healthcare workers). The Oath of Allegiance is separate from that notice in hiring materials that I’ve encountered, though.
          For election workers you say the oath out loud during training and at the beginning of opening a polling place. It was presented to us as the oath of office, so even though there are separate laws for prosecuting election workers who violate election laws, this was more like a legally-binding commitment to work in good faith. We were being sworn in, effectively. Good faith should be assumed for most jobs, but the standards are higher for government workers, as I imagine they are for lawyers. You have to pass the bar and they can disbar you for violating their standards, right? So the government oath of office is kind of like that. Maybe a disbarred lawyer can’t practice law in that state, and a government worker who violates their oath of office can’t work in the government anymore. Think of Kim Davis refusing to issue marriage certificates to gay couples, in California she’d be violating the oath of office. So, I get why the letter-writer was thrown by the request, and the seriousness of it, but it’s really not that odd when you consider that they’re going to work for a public institution.

          1. OP*

            Thanks! The Kim Davis situation is a really helpful example of when this sort of thing would be useful

            1. Lydia*

              When I was a teen, I had to take the federal oath to work a summer job. It was very weird to me then and especially now that I’m an adult who takes issue with federal, state, and local policy on the regular.

          2. Festively Dressed Earl*

            Kim Davis was exactly what I was thinking. The government isn’t necessarily going to ask you to man the barricades, but they will ask you to uphold the law even if it conflicts with your personal beliefs.

          3. Splendid Colors*

            I signed those oaths to be a local election volunteer, and I agree very much that election workers need to specifically swear to follow the election laws/procedures so that we can be confident our elections are run properly and give valid results. We also need to be confident that everyone who’s eligible to vote can cast their ballots.

        1. President Porpoise*

          I mean, we’ve gone to war with Canada over a pig before… so it might happen!

      3. E. Concetta*

        Actually the state of California can theoretically conscript certain citizens even without a loyalty oath or government job. California has its own state military reserve commanded by the governor in addition to the National Guard. It consists mostly of volunteers but there is reference to enrollment by draft as well. See California Military and Veterans Code section 550.

      4. Jam on Toast*

        Getting the moose to wear the laser guns was really tricky. Sure, they’re big and intimidating, but we found thnot really effective outside of boreal wetland fighting scenarios. We’ve since switched to battalions of Canadian geese and militarily, the results have been excellent. They’re ruthless, agile, great at stealth maneuvres and absolutely amoral. Sources tell me the advanced reconnaissance teams we’ve been sending down have already managed to intimidate and demoralize huge swathes of the US population.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          I don’t know why this comment doesn’t have any “I love this comment!” comments yet, but let me just say that I love this comment.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I visited the zoo with my young nephew, and the geese were the only animals he was afraid of. Which seemed extremely reasonable to me; the lions weren’t allowed to roam the picnic area trying to steal his sandwich.

          1. Lydia*

            I put Canada geese and raccoons into the same category of No Effs Given when you want them to move out of the road.

          2. zuzu*

            Some people use geese as guardian animals, because unlike dogs, they can’t be bribed.

            1. zuzu*

              Probably should say watch animals rather than guardian. Though they could probably provide protection as well as alarm.

              1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

                The difference between a watch goose and a guardian goose is which side of the fence they are on in relation to an intruder (or the family coming home from a party late at night)

      5. It's Sara not Sarah*

        It’s not just Canada we need to worry about. What if the Oregonians attack? I was a state worker who had to sign a similar oath. I always wondered when they were going to hand out weapons and start military training. Not much damage hitting someone over the head with my laptop would do.

        1. Lydia*

          Wait, who are we attacking? Are Oregonians supposed to be invading somewhere and nobody told me? Are you on the northern side of the river?

        2. dePizan*

          Oregon is busy planning to annex Washington and British Columbia to create Cascadia, and fighting off the “Greater Idaho” nonsense, we aren’t ready for a three front invasion at this time.

          (I work for an Oregon state agency and our state constitution doesn’t require general public employees to take any oaths of office, and so my agency doesn’t make us. But elected positions here do have to and then individual agencies or cities/counties can pass rules requiring it for their employees.)

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          I’m baffled that so many people seem to read “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and assume that must mean military defense.

          Defending the constitution means vigorously advocating for constitutionally-protected rights, refusing to act in violation of constitutional law, reporting corruption or abuse by officials, etc. At a college, for example, defending the constitution against all enemies would include protecting student’s right to free speech and assembly in the face of administrative pressure for censorship. Or documenting and reporting an incident of police misconduct you witness, even under threat of retaliation. Or refusing when asked to hand over keys so a student’s dorm room can be searched without a warrant.

      6. JB*

        No, but they might decide that you aren’t suited to hold a public office and fire you.

        If you are an American citizen, and you are employed by the government, then upholding and defending the Constitution should be the *minimum* job requirement. And I say that as a lifelong government employee who has taken -and administered- the oath.

        Imagine being a doctor and deciding you didn’t want to help sick people. If you aren’t willing to subscribe to the ethics of your profession, you need to find a new job.

        1. metadata minion*

          I can understand it for elected officials and their close associates, but it feels a bit…overblown? for a large swath of government jobs. It’s not like I’m planning to overthrow the government or anything, but if I got a job with the US Postal Service or Library of Congress or NIH, my job would be about whatever individual thing I was doing, not Upholding the Constitution and the American Way.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            If you work for those government agencies, then your job is upholding the Constitution. I don’t mean that defending the Constitution against random unrelated threats is and additional duty of your job, but that the duties of your job after themselves considered to be in service of the Constitution and by carrying them out faithfully and without corruption, refusing to commit or look the other way at wrongdoing, you are in fact upholding and defending the Constitution.

          2. LIBrarian*

            Actually, part of your job at the Library of Congress would be to uphold the Constitution. The First Amendment is a HUGE part of librarianship, particularly for the penultimate librarian position in the country.
            I’m not understanding why pledging an oath to the Constitution is such a bad thing. I’d think it’d be a rather clever way to fire nazis and fascists who might want to infiltrate a place. In terms of academia, there has been the occasional story of someone getting tenure and then coming out as an anti-Semite or trying to teach horrendous views. Very few cases, but mostly they end with the universities having issues legally getting rid of them… and so they get paid to not teach in the end.
            It’s not like you have to agree with a particular political group. The Constitution is pretty important in terms of giving minority groups rights like voting, eliminating slavery, and ensuring certain protections. It’s way better than what religious organizations have their employees sign.

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*


              We feds swear to uphold and protect the Constitution. Not the President, not the U.S. government, not even our particular agencies—but the Constitution itself. That’s been a meaningful distinction at times.

              1. Anon for this one*

                Yep. Living in the DC area I know a lot of feds, and there were a lot of quiet but serious conversations early in the Trump administration about what protecting the Constitution from domestic enemies could look like. That oath is important to the independent civil service. It’s actually based on, but longer than, the Presidential oath of office.

              2. Mr. Shark*

                Absolutely. I’m not sure why if you are from the USA, you would have a problem upholding the constitution.

            2. Albert "Call Me Al" Ias*

              Out of curiosity, if the LOC is the penultimate librarian in the country, which one is the ultimate?

            3. Parakeet*

              A lot of fascists consider themselves to be strict “constitutional nationalists,” and a lot of socialists (and others!) have issues with various parts of the Constitution (or think we need a governmental overhaul, where the objects are not “the Bill of Rights is bad.” As other commenters have pointed out, the loyalty oath is a Cold War relic.

            4. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              My partner is a librarian; one of the problems they face at work is other staff using the library rules in a way that unfairly affects Black teenagers. Another one is patrons bullying other patrons over characteristics that might or might not be protected, and then trying to make it seem like the bullied patron simply being there is the cause of the problem. My partner actively works to ensure that people aren’t unfairly being denied the use of the library.

          3. L.H. Puttgrass*

            “It’s not like I’m planning to overthrow the government or anything.”

            That’s actually a question on the federal background questionnaire: “Have you EVER advocated any acts of terrorism or activities designed to overthrow the U.S. Government by force?”

            A lot of people would have to answer “yes” to that question after Jan. 6.

            1. Marna Nightingale*

              They can ask you that when you cross into the US, too.

              I may, once well away from DHS, have loudly expressed my gratitude for the inclusion of the words “by force” a time or two.

          4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            I don’t understand the hullabaloo about this but I am a long-time fed. I’m not taking an oath to protect “the American Way.” And any agency could be weaponized against the government in one way or another. Eg, postal workers have to deliver mail-in ballots; not doing that would be failing to uphold the US Constitution.

          5. JB*

            You might not be planning to overthrow the government, but remember that there was a time not too long ago when a government office might not serve people with the “wrong” skin color.

            Remember Kim Davis? She a low-level clerk tasked to serve everyone equally, but she decided she would only do her job for people who met the standards of her personal religious beliefs. Do you think government employees should be allowed to ignore the Supreme Court and only serve the people *they* want to serve?

            You mentioned the USPS, so let’s take another example: What if the USPS “lost” ballots that came from the “wrong” neighborhood? Or delivered a politician’s mail to their political opponents? Or denied resources to post offices to prevent people from voting by mail, as the Trump Administration did?

            I get that some jobs offer a bigger threat to national security, but lets not pretend that these employees don’t make decisions that actually impact people’s lives.

          6. LadyVet*

            If it makes more sense this way, consider the fact that while, yes, everyone who joins the military does basic combat training for their branch, but most of the people in the military are in jobs that don’t usually see combat. But everyone’s job is in service of defending the Constitution.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I think the modern context makes this a lot less straightforward. The Oath Keepers is an anti-government militia that claims to uphold the constitution; its Florida leaders were also convicted of insurrection for trying to violently overturn legitimate election results.

          Regrettably, “upholding and defending the constitution” can be a dogwhistle for violent conspiracy theorists such as the sovereign citizens movement.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            They either lied or were wrong about what actually is in the Constitution.

            1. 1LFTW*

              Then there’s the “Constitutional Sheriff” movement, wherein a number of county sheriffs have decided that the Constitution somehow imbues them with absolute authority to decide which laws to enforce.

          2. Here for the Insurance*

            I know you’re correct about the dogwhistle, but I’ll be damned if I let them have it. They’ve already taken the flag, they don’t get the Constitution, too.

        3. Random Dice*

          Oh come on, that’s a horrifying comparison.

          Red Scare McCarthyist loyalty oaths are a fundamentally fascist requirement, and fascism is ALWAYS antithetical to justice and democratic ideals.

      7. Lenora Rose*

        I’ve never met a fellow Canuck who’d ride a moose. (Most of us think the attempt would result in a coroner describing our corpse in terms of lots of moose-hoof shaped marks.)

        Or am I hanging around in the wrong crowds?

      8. fleapot*

        I’m Canadian, and signed a similar oath when I was employed at a state university in the US (not California).

        This scenario… had not occurred to me.

      9. TomatoSoup*

        Um, what? You’re not signing up for the military. You seem to be confusing this with the draft. You’re saying you won’t sell government secrets or in any way intentionally harm the government in your role. Since, again, you’re not in the military, you won’t be court martialed.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            No, there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a required oath in California, and please trust that the Great State of California does not give a tinker’s dam whether a DMV staffer is now, or ever was, a member of the Communist Party.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              On the other hand, they would probably be pretty upset if a DMV staffer decided to reject someone’s car registration because they wore a t-shirt for the wrong candidate to the DMV that day (and all their documents were in order).

      10. Lizzianna*

        I signed the oath when I started at the Federal government. I never understood it meaning I’d take up arms to fight off invading Canadians, or whatever, but more that I was agreeing to uphold the type of government created by the Constitution (separation of powers, Constitutional rights of citizens and residents, etc). It doesn’t come up often, but there have been times as a group that we’ve had to remind political appointees that our oath was to the constitution and not the President as an individual or the Presidents political party.

        I don’t know. I know it sounds high minded, but it can be grounding when you’re in the civil service and things above you are getting weirdly political.

      11. Tiger Snake*

        The serious-but-candid answer to your not serious question is that they’re not asking you to be a soldier, they’re expecting you to not turn traitor. Act with the values that the organisation wants to embody at all times and don’t share secrets, regardless of whether you think they’d be useful or not.

        The big part for people in public service is actually that bit I put in the middle, but is what you missed: acting with the valuse and standards the organisation expects you to embody, regardless of whether you’re on the clock. They’re not saying they want you to work for free, they’re saying that optics still look at you as representing the state even when you’re off the clock and you need to behave properly accordingly.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          Yeah. If I’m a poll worker, I’d better not joke about refusing to let people vote if they don’t look like they’re going to vote my way.

    3. John Smith*

      I’m curious – are the Californian powers that be expecting a war or mass insurrection from public sector workers? This really does come across as being a bit extra and has hints of paranoia. I can understand oaths (as in the UK) taken by the likes of military, police, judiciary, CoE clergy etc, but there’s no requirement for such a thing for other workers, public sector or not (though people who gain UK citizenship have to take an oath, but not natural subjects).

      1. FisherCat*

        Its not really about war or insurrection. Aside from the fancy language, its basically “I won’t be treasonous while the government is paying my salary” which seems like a very low baseline expectation to me.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It’s totally about insurrection–more specifically the Cold War scare of Communist agitation. My first comment is in moderation because I am poorly caffeinated and added a wikipedia link.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Well yes, it is not so much to defend as to make sure you don’t I dunno — invade the capitol to overturn an election because your guy lost.

            It might be a holdover from the McCarthy era but it is still very relevant in 2023. Just don’t do insurrection okay?

            1. JB*

              Exactly. A government employee should *uphold American laws* rather than using their office to get rich, steal classified documents, or attack the legislature when they lose an election.

              Seems like a pretty simple expectation to me.

              1. A Bureaucrat*

                I work for a governmental agency in California and have taken that oath. That’s how I’ve always interpreted it.

          2. Observer*

            It’s totally about insurrection–more specifically the Cold War scare of Communist agitation.

            That’s where it started. But policy is not frozen in time.

            At this point, it’s about pledging to not be treasonous and to do what is reasonable to help prevent others from being treasonous. Like if you heard a bunch of your students planning to kidnap the Governor, you would have an obligation to report that.

            This is not as theoretical as one would hope – the example I used is exactly a real plot that was actually hatched and prevented, with a lot of airtime about it.

            1. OP*

              Gotcha. Yeah, that is the type of scenario that, while unlikely, could technically arise in my job. It’s just odd because in my current job I would have the same responsibility, just without an oath attached to it.

            2. a*

              It’s actually from the first bill that the Senate passed in 1789- the Oath Act. The Oath Act required member and civil servants to swear to support the Constitution of the United States.

      2. JB*

        Well, we’ve had people placed in positions of public trust who have sold our country’s protected information to Cuba, Russia, and China (among others). And then there was the Army Major who murdered people because he was more loyal to the Taliban than the American military. Or the guy who incited a violent revolt to attack Congress because he lost an election (remember that?).

        So, yeah, expecting government employees to be loyal to America and uphold American laws is a pretty low expectation to me.

      3. doreen*

        Confirming its not just California – I worked for a municipal and state government and took an oath in each. I believe the “enemies foreign and domestic” part was Civil War so yes, it’s about treason – but in my view “upholding the Constitution” also involves respecting people’s Constitutional rights – which not nearly every public sector worker does but they all should.

      4. Governmint Condition*

        Think about it this way: a highway worker has access to structural plans for bridges. We want to make sure he does not use the plans to show terrorists exactly where to put a bomb to make sure a bridge falls down. Not that an oath is really going to stop him if he’s determined, but if they catch him in the process, it can be prosecuted as a violation of the oath.

        1. OP*

          When you put it that way, it makes more sense. Still seems like overkill, since he could presumably be prosecuted in that case regardless of whether he’d taken an oath. I see what you’re saying, though

          1. Governmint Condition*

            Yes, he could be prosecuted anyway. But with the oath, that’s an additional charge of violating it that they could add on to everything else, increasing the penalty.

      5. OP*

        Yeah, what it seems to actually be saying (don’t commit treason) is totally reasonable, it just seems odd to include it for jobs that are not in any way related to politics

        1. Here for the Insurance*

          It’s not just on politicians (or those in politics-adjacent jobs) or the military to uphold the Constitution. The whole idea of America is that we the people have the power to say what’s what. It’s on us to uphold our ideals, not just the people we employ to do the day-to-day work.

          I’m a government worker and a lawyer. I’ve taken a version of the oath in both cases. For me, part of what I was saying was that, as a government employee and a member of the court, my first loyalty isn’t to the government that employs me or to the judiciary that gave me a license, but to the people and to the ideals that the Constitution expresses.

    4. Brain the Brian*

      I had to take a similar path of allegiance when I played as a substitute musician in a paid commencement band gig at a state college in New York. I think my total pay was about $200, but I was technically a temporary state employee for the weekend. Bizarre if taken literally, but utterly normal.

    5. M*

      Yep. I signed it when I worked for University of California. I do wish they did a better job explaining it – it’s just casually there in your onboarding paperwork.

      1. OP*

        Yeah, it was just mixed into the same email with my I-9, W4, and direct deposit forms. A 1-sentence explainer would have helped

        1. Annalee*

          For what it’s worth, I was required to take the oath as a federal employee (not California) and I refused because I’m a Quaker (some Quakers will affirm, but I refuse because that “option” is a cop-out that allows the government to pretend they’re accommodating us without actually addressing the theological objection we have to oaths).

          I took the form and crossed out the reference to an oath so it just said “I will respect and defend the constitution of the United States…” and then crossed out “so help me God” at the end (that’s in the Federal version).

          No one said a single word to me about it, and in fact the person who administered the oath very pointedly looked away from me when I didn’t raise my right hand, and then looked away from the form and shuffled it in with the other paperwork without reading it.

          I had several colleagues who crossed out “so help me God” even though they were willing to take the oath, and they likewise got zero pushback. No guarantee it’d go the same way for you, and people shouldn’t have to rely on a single person to informally excuse them from this, but there’s at least a decent chance that if you just quietly don’t do it, or cross out the part that makes it an oath to just turn it into a declarative statement, they will choose not to care.

          1. Bureaucratic Hospice*

            ^^^THIS . As a avowed atheist and career-fed (both management and HR, DOD, NARA, and DVA) – I’ve crossed out “so help me god” and refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance at every onboarding I’ve ever personally done for myself. No one has ever commented, not even when I was an USAF Historian, and they have chaplains at *everything*. I now (as HR) administer this to new hires. And to echo the multiple people above – As a multi-hyphenate fed, the “to the constitution” distinction was super important to me mentally over the 45 administration.

    6. fanciestcat*

      Required for local government jobs in California too. We actually had to read it out in front of the City Clerk. As a millennial, I had to really fight myself not to say “I solemnly swear I am up to no good” which would have been awkward. They gave us a copy of the oath to take home. It’s weird but I worked with people who’d been there 30 years and they’ve never had to fight a Canadian or whatever.

      1. Kat from County Government*

        Lol to that. Yeah the first time it was very Pledge of allegiance

      2. Sally*

        I worked for CA in the district office of a state legislator in the mid-’80s, and I signed the same oath. I was excited to have such an important job that required an oath. Ha! It wasn’t a big, fancy job, but while I was there I was able to help some constituents, and that made me happy. I also learned a lot about how politicians operate, and I got out of that field pretty quick.

      3. Anon for this one*

        It’s interesting how many people are hung up on the “foreign” part. Day to day for most feds the “domestic” in the form of attempting flagrantly unconstitutional things like refusing marriage licenses to couples you don’t approve of is more of an issue.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          Or telling Black voters they’re not on the rolls at this polling place when they really are…

    7. Roland*

      The oath for becoming a US citizen is even wilder! I was internally rolling my eyes the whole time.

      1. Liz*

        You are not under any obligation to become a US citizen. Finding the oath to be unreasonable is an excellent reason not to become a citizen.

        1. Burger Bob*

          Well that is a wild oversimplification of the many and varied situations that lead people to seek US citizenship. There are lots of reasons someone might find the oath a little ridiculous or unreasonable and still may feel it is in their best interest to become a citizen.

      2. JB*

        The citizenship oath asks you to give up loyalty to your previous country, and support your new country, even in times of crisis. If you aren’t willing to do that, why would you want to become a citizen?

        More importantly, if a person wants to be a citizen but refuses the responsibilities that come with citizenship, why should we accept them? I mean, if a person asked you for a job but then rolled their eyes when you told them the job description, would you want to hire that person?

        1. MissElizaTudor*

          People become citizens so the government where they live will treat you more like a person, so they don’t have to live with as much fear and uncertainty, and for the benefits. People don’t generally become citizens because they’re particularly loyal to a new country.

          People born here don’t have to swear that oath to stay here, so it isn’t a responsibility that comes with citizenship. It’s messed up that people trying to become citizens a much more difficult way have to do it. They’ve already shown more commitment to the country than people who just got lucky.

          We accept people who come to live here because they’re human beings, just like people born here, even if they don’t really mean it when they swear an oath. Countries shouldn’t be special clubs where full legal rights are limited based on fully agreeing with an oath.

          1. pope suburban*

            I want to add, as a person who was born here, that the Pledge of Allegiance weirded me out even when I was a little kid forced to say it in school. I couldn’t put my finger on why at the time, which is no great shock because six year-olds aren’t noted for their nuanced and long-range perspective, but it wasn’t comfortable. Part of it was being raised not religious, I think (Both parents are lapsed Catholic; mom in particular is actively hostile toward the church), so I felt like I was going to be in trouble or that I was doing a bad thing saying “under God.” Little-kid logic, basically, that I shouldn’t go against my parents- but it was my teachers insisting on it, which was fun for a nervous child. But as an adult, I still think it’s weird, and in fact actively oppose it. I take Roland’s pint here and I don’t think it indicates anything negative about his character, or that it should invalidate his perfectly reasonable desire for the same benefits/protections that I enjoy as an accident of birth.

        2. Burger Bob*

          Not all countries require you to give up the citizenship of your former country. Some allow for dual citizenship. People become citizens for all kinds of reasons, and very few of them do it because they have no sense of loyalty to their home country.

      3. anon for this*

        I mean, other nations have oaths of citizenship too. Per wikipedia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, and Switzerland have them. Other nations have “pledges” that newly naturalized citizens. It’s not a unique U.S. thing to have an oath of citizenship.

      4. anon2*

        you were…rolling your eyes internally during (your? someone else’s?) naturalization ceremony? That’s extremely disrespectful

    8. Anony Nony Fed*

      I actually had to recite it as part of my onboarding process – as did spouse and one of our relatives. But then we are all federal employees (at three different agencies).

    9. AnotherAnonFed*

      I’m a fed and also recited the oath my first day, although I will note we were in a very large room and did it all together as part of a mass agency onboarding so it’s not like anyone was checking that closely.

      I don’t think there are actually any legal implications to the oath itself. There are lots of specific rules that govern my job but they are very clear and we get training on them (like Hatch Act training on political activities).

      1. Astounded*

        Check your records. There should be a record of it in your file – you probably signed something even if you don’t remember it, even as a group. If it’s old enough, could be handwritten and scanned. So yeah, legal implications. Some organizations also consider it an integrity issue and a negative connotation associated with you will hold you back.

        1. AnonForThis*

          I’ve never heard of any organization blanket refusing to hire former feds. That would be quite bizarre.

        2. JB*

          >Some organizations also consider it an integrity issue and a negative connotation associated with you will hold you back.

          I’m confused by this.

        3. TomatoSoup*

          If you violate it, there are going to be criminal legal ramifications far more impactful than, “I filed a FOIA request for their work file and found out they signed something in onboarding they didn’t mean, so can’t trust ’em.”

          1. AnonForThis*

            But the oath itself isn’t a law or regulation. There’s no vague “must defend the US” law, when you’re a fed you’re bound by very specific rules, like that falsifying your timesheet you violate a very specific statute. As a government employee you should be aware of your public trust obligations and laws but trying to argue someone’s bound to a specific action by a very vague oath isn’t legally supported. That’s why there are specific laws and regulations governing things like acceptong gifts and conflicts of interest and why government employees get training on them.

    10. alas rainy again*

      Yes I had to chant (recite?) the Pledge of allegiance daily when I attended a US highschool. Never mind that I was not a US citizen, but a European exchange student on a one year program. I found weird to pledge to a flag, as opposed to a state or a chief of state. I dared checking , and the school prefect was adamant that I must pledge. Though they did not want me to get my diploma because “I would skew the Honours roll” or something of the kind. I found their priorities exotic.

      1. LJ*

        It’s like they don’t even think about the content of the Pledge, just the ritual of pledging it. Why would you expect a foreigner on an exchange program bear allegiance to your country?

        1. alas rainy again*

          Yes exactly! I was bothered by the implications in case of a war declared between the USA and my country of citizenship. Fortunately we were (and are) part of NATO so basically sworn allies. Still, teenager me resolved to quit the US highschool before being drafted

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            In the other direction I met an American in college who was getting increasingly strident letters from the Italian government about skipping his mandatory military service. He had started school there as a child because his dad worked there for a year. (Yes he had officially explained. Several times. I suspect a shiny new 1980s computerization did not program the possibility of a non-citizen child.)

            1. My Cabbages!*

              I’ve had two friends with the same experience! One was born in San Francisco to Italian immigrants, the other was born to two Americans on a work assignment in Rome but had not been to the country since he was 18 months old.

              Italy is serious about tracking down their young fellows.

      2. American Abroad*

        West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) established the right to refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, so you would have been legally protected had you refused to say it.

        1. Dilly*

          Yep, I never ever said the pledge during my 6 years in public school. I had to stand while everyone else was saying, but I wasn’t required to recite it.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Same. Right around junior high age I suddenly thought about it and decided it was weird and creepy, and I never said it again after that. The school rule in both junior high and high school was basically “don’t be disruptive during the pledge,” so I stood quietly and sat back down every day for my last 5 or 6 years of school.

            Never had any teacher take issue with it, and while most of my peers did say it I wasn’t the only one who stood quietly in many of my classes. Then again I went to school in the DC suburbs so 1) liberal teachers who weren’t the type to care about a student’s insufficient patriotism and 2) we always had a handful of ambassadors’ kids and other foreign nationals who attended and it would have been super weird to insist they pledge.

      3. Emmy Noether*

        Would anyone have noticed if you did not pledge? I was in a similar situation and I just stood with the others, but didn’t put my hand on my heart or say anything. I didn’t ask, it seemed evident to me that I couldn’t pledge to a country that isn’t mine.

        1. Kacihall*

          In my experience, yes. If its the kind of teacher that will tell you to say it, they can tell if you don’t say it, or even just leave out the ‘Under God’ part.

          Granted, once I did research and told them that no, the Supreme Court said they CAN’T make me say it, I mostly got dirty looks from that teacher the rest of the year. I also started sitting and not saying any of it.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Now that I think of it, I believe a classmate did notice once. I think I rolled my eyes and told her I’m not American, duh. It stopped there because it was just a classmate. Our teachers would not have cared, at all.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              As an American, it is absolutely wild to me that anyone even cared. I went to a private elementary school, where we didn’t do the pledge at all, but when I was in public middle school/high school in the early to mid aughts, they had someone recite it over the loudspeaker in homeroom every day with the morning announcements. You could stand up and/or say it along with them if you wanted to, but almost nobody ever did (it was considered deeply uncool). The teachers didn’t care as long as people weren’t disruptive. It was in a very liberal town, though, so I guess regional differences would explain it.

          2. Burninating the countryside*

            I always just recited my own version of the pledge, inserting a lot of “nos” and “don’ts”* where my lips were moving more or less normally, but I was definitely not speaking at normal volume or reciting the actual pledge. Also held my hand just over my chest without touching it, as a further act of defiance. Never once got called out, and they would put you in detention for refusing to do the pledge where I went to school. Illegal? Yes. But where I lived, you could also get detention for simply not being “Christian enough” even though it was a public school (where of course it was up to each individual teacher’s preferences to determine that), so I really don’t think compliance with the law ranked highly with the school staff.

            Mostly, they only cared about whether you could play football or be a good little cheerleader for the boys on the football teams. Yes, this was Alabama. Fsck that state forever.

            *”I don’t pledge allegiance to a cloth…” “One nation, no god…” etc.

            1. Burninating the countryside*

              I should also add that I am Indigenous American, so I have and had plenty of reasons to be snarky about the pledge that go way beyond “defiant child.”

            2. Phoebe*

              I’m shaking with anger and partial disbelief (only partial, because I do have friends from Alabama and I’ve heard stories) at you getting in trouble for not being christian enough. I’m so privileged living in Massachusetts.

      4. anon math*

        You *don’t* need to pledge allegiance to the flag in school, though. They may pressure you, they may lie to you, but there is plenty of Supreme Court decision-making that supports your right to conscientiously object and refrain from pledging. That is the beauty of the First Amendment and the Constitution. That is the point of America — to me.

        This California loyalty oath — I’m not sure of where that’s at. In 2020 a Jehovah’s Witness claimed she was fired/lost her job because of her religious objection to pledging loyalty to any entity. She returned to a job at a different entity where I believe they allowed her to sign with an addendum saying that her primary loyalty was to God, and only secondarily the state of California. Apparently back in 2008 there were a couple Quakers who were going to have offers from CSU rescinded because they also refused to sign, as pacifists; after significant public criticism somehow it worked out that they were hired?

        I’m not super knowledgeable about all this law. But it’s an important thread of American jurisprudence that certain groups refuse to sign oaths of this type, or pledge allegiance to flags or entities, and this is not new and is part of the very fabric of American freedom. Again, my opinion (and West Virginia vs Barnette’s :) )

        1. TomatoSoup*

          Some agencies have alternate versions that are more clearly focused on “I won’t break the law or undermine the government.” I think everyone should just have to sign those because clearly there are some wild misunderstandings of what these oaths are.

      5. spruce*

        Samesies! The first day of school when they happened I had a real “omg what is happening” moment. I was so confused as to what I was supposed to do. I eventually settled on standing up, but not saying anything.

      6. ProRata*

        Years ago, James Clavell (King Rat, Tai-Pan, Shogun) was inspired to write a novelette, The Children’s Story, after his then-6 year old daughter came home explaining how she learned the Pledge of Allegiance. He thought it interesting she had memorized the pledge, but had no idea what many of the words meant.

      7. Random Dice*

        That’s because it’s a flagrant holdover from the McCartyist days, and is part of a decades-long government attempt to tie unthinking “patriotism” into fundamentalist Christianity and from there into the rest of society, for control. The pledge of allegiance is fundamentally flawed.

    11. allathian*

      I work for a governmental agency in Finland and I haven’t been asked to take an oath because I’m an employee, but my manager has because she’s a civil servant.

        1. TomatoSoup*

          We have this difference in the US too. It can vary by area but usually civil service rules will apply to higher level employees plus those who have worked at the agency a specific amount of time, taken a specific exam, and scored above a certain level. For the latter, it seems to be like tenure in that you have more protections but agencies are phasing them out.

    12. FoiledAgain*

      I served on the board of a local Chamber of Commerce in Louisiana that did had essentially the same pledge and was administered by a local retired judge. I can’t imagine it being anything other than ritual at this point. Although it did get me to look up the state constitution purely out of curiosity.

    13. Bagpuss*

      To me (from a non US perspective) it’s not having some form of of oath of office that’s odd but the wording and the scope seem stage. It is were simply “I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter” it would seem much less weird, and it also seems strange that it is extended to people like teachers rather than simply those directly holding offices in government.

      I am in the UK and some office holders (Judges being the one I am most aware if, becaue I am alawyer) do have to swear an oath when they are appointed but it is :-
      “I, ____________ , do solemnly sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign King Charles the Third in the office of ____________ , and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this Realm without fear or favour, affection or ill will.” so it is limited to service in the office you are appointed to and about maintaining the law impartially, it doesn’t go beyond that.

      (and can as in this wording be affirmed, or alternatively can be sworn in the name of the deity appropriate to your religion) Members of the armed services do take an oath to defend the country against all enemies, but that element isn’t in the oaths taken by others types of government employees.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Weird question: do you have to retake the oath when a new sovereign comes into office?

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          If it’s anything like Canada, no. Our oath includes a clause referencing “[current sovereign], her heirs and successors” because the hassle of retaking an oath for millions of people would be unwieldy to say the least.

          1. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

            I remember there being a lot of confusion when the Queen died, because there were citizenship ceremonies being held the same day (this was for Canada) and no one was sure who to pledge to when. It’s totally possible that people were sworn in as citizens when the Queen had passed but it hadn’t been announced yet.

        2. UKDancer*

          No because it’s worded that it’s her Maj, her heirs and imagine after the next election or any new MPs will wind up swearing it to Chuck now.

      2. Bob*

        From a US perspective, its bonkers that people are required to pledge to serve King Charles. Pledging to serve a specific person is so much weirder than pledging allegiance to a country.

        1. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

          Maybe don’t call other countries’ customs “bonkers”? Just a thought.

          1. Arts Admin*

            Nah, as a Brit, it is bonkers, I’m glad no situation comes up where I have to pledge to any monarch or member of the royal family!

          2. Gerry Kaey*

            I think the British monarchy has enough power and has done enough damage to the rest of the world that they can handle some light mockery.

        2. BubbleTea*

          It’s functionally the same as pledging to serve the President or the flag or whatever – it’s only King Charles because he happens to be monarch, it could just as easily be Queen BubbleTea or Monarch Enby in a parallel universe with different lineage. It’s symbolic.

          1. Nephron*

            The pledge to country and Constitution is very different than a pledge to the President. This distinction is big for things like Jan 6 or the Civil War. You might not like the current President, or the new President, but you are sworn to uphold the government not the people you like. Same in terms of job, you are providing a service to the country not the parts of the country you like or agree with.

            1. Lizzianna*

              I mean, it’s big for day to day functioning of the federal government sometimes. More than one president or person claiming to act on behalf of the president has asked civil servants to violate the law or constitution.

            2. LJ*

              The difference is the sovereign is supposed to be neutral, above politics. Were they to start meddling in day to day governance in an obvious way, there would probably be a constitutional crisis.

              It’s almost like the idea of a nuclear deterrent – there’s theoretical power, but there’s no going back once you use it.

          2. Database Developer Dude*

            No, no it is not.

            As an officer in the Army Reserve, my oath is to the Constitution. I do not swear or affirm allegiance to any person. My loyalty is owed to the Constitution and to the nation as a whole. As distasteful as it may have been because of his words and actions, I was just as required to follow lawful orders coming from Donald Trump as I am now from Joe Biden.

        3. Nina*

          From a NZ perspective, it’s bonkers that people (small children!) are required to pledge allegiance to a piece of overpriced fabric. At least King Charles is sentient and can be reasonably assumed to know or care either way if the majority of people do or don’t say the words.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Children are not required to pledge allegiance to the flag. Students in public schools have the constitutional right to decline.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              Maybe “required” isn’t technically correct because you have the right to decline, but “expected as a social norm” covers it pretty well. And is 99% as weird as “required.”

    14. LaFramboise*

      My public library’s board has to take it. Given all the censorship and suppression attempts around the country, I think it’s a good idea for them to have to do so. Don’t know if betraying the oath with board-mandated book bans or similar would be prosecutable.

    15. Lea*

      Yeah I had to sign one before I think that person is taking it way more seriously than most people ha.

      At heart it just means you’re going to do your job

    16. Lawyer Spice*

      I moved to a rural area a few years ago and routinely attend local township and village meetings on behalf of clients. The first time everyone stood up for the Pledge at one, I immediately felt like I was back in first grade. But every single municipality I work in does this at the start of every single meeting. It’s so weird and uncomfortable. I just stand there and silently mouth random song lyrics.

      1. Kit*

        > I immediately felt like I was back in first grade

        That so perfectly encapsulates the experience! Fellow rural type here and, yes, it is weird and uncomfortable but I am positive there would be trenchant resistance to any attempt to suggest it might be unnecessary. (The irony that a number of the most vociferous proponents supported an act of insurrection does not escape me, but dyed-in-the-wool Democrats do it too.)

    17. Yes Anastasia*

      I’ve worked for local and state government for a decade in three different states and never heard of it.

      I continue to be bemused by the quirks of public sector work as they vary by location. Was just chatting with someone whose locality does civil service exams, which has always struck me as the worst possible way to hire a specialized position. Meanwhile, the weirdest thing I’ve ever done for a government job is to get a physical exam (like, in a doctor’s office).

      1. TomatoSoup*

        Was it a particularly physical job or were you being sent somewhere extremely remote and couldn’t readily access medical care?

    18. Jupiter*

      I was asked to take this oath (or a similar one) in the city clerk’s office when I was appointed to the Board for our local transit service, but not for my unrelated local civil government job and not when I was working in a legislative office at the state level. It is interesting how and where it pops up. I was surprised thought it was pretty cool when I was asked to take it, honestly.

    19. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

      I’ve been working in local government since college, and I’ve had to sign an oath of allegiance for every job I’ve ever had. It’s really normal for government funded jobs.

      1. OP*

        That’s interesting to hear. This is my first time having a government job, so maybe it’s more common than I realized

    20. ENFP in Texas*

      I’ve worked in both Texas and Illinois and have never had to sign something like that, but I’ve always been in corporate America, so I don’t know if it would be different for government/political/education jobs.

    21. Sasha*

      What if you are a foreign national? You can’t really expect a French citizen (for example) to swear allegiance to the US constitution.

      There may not be many foreign nationals appointed to federal positions, but I’d assume University of California must have a lot of overseas nationals on post-docs etc.

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Maybe a quibble, but upholding and defending the U.S. Constitution (a document that outlines what government and its representatives can and cannot do) is not precisely the same as pledging loyalty or allegiance to the United States (a political entity).

        Even if you’re a foreign national, if you’re working in a government agency or a government funded jobs, swearing that you won’t engage in unconstitutional acts or look the other way while someone else does, is not betraying your loyalty to your home country – it’s a basic requirement of the job you took.

        1. Sasha*

          Oh, would totally depend on the text of the oath – from the descriptions above it sounded very much like an oath of allegiance, but perhaps that is only for military/government positions (where I can absolutely see the justification) and there is a “pledge-lite” version for UCLA janitorial staff, adjuncts etc (where I can’t, but wouldn’t get my knickers in a twist about signing a generic pledge to act within the law).

    22. Infrequent_Commenter*

      I took that oath as an officer in the military, but didn’t realize it applied so broadly. It seems…aggressive, especially for worker bees. Sure, you can read “support and defend…against all enemies” literally or figuratively, but for most workers the stakes really aren’t that high. And you don’t need to take an oath to be held accountable.

    23. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      It’s commonplace in my state, which is the opposite end of the US from California both physically and politically/culturally.
      I’ve signed as a state university employee, a state university student volunteer, a state non-university employee, and a volunteer with state orgs (think like, park ranger assistant, that kind of thing).

    24. iliketoknit*

      Federal employee here, I’ve taken that oath three times I think. It’s clearly a holdover from communist scare days and it’s never come up in the slightest other than the actual administration of the oath. But I also go through a background check where they interview my friends to make sure I’m not being blackmailed to hand over government secrets to keep secret my drug use or deviant sexuality, so… /shrug. (No one wants my secrets, I promise.) I’ve also never understood “defend” to mean anything more vigorous than doing my job and not breaking the law and I’m pretty sure my colleagues and I have criticized various elements of it before without any consequences.

      I used to be in academia and when I was applying for jobs, I had a much worse reaction to (some) religious colleges’ requirements that you be willing to adhere to a statement of faith. Mind you I know that it’s perfectly legal for a private religiously-affiliated institution to do this, but I just really wanted a job and there was NO way I could sign. I’m sure I would have hated working anywhere that required such a statement, but again, employment. I’m much better with agreeing to defend the Constitution than affirming Jesus Christ as my lord and savior (not that there’s anything wrong with that, if it’s what you actually believe! just not my thing).

    25. Kim*

      But the Oath and the Pledge seem INSANE to me, as a Dutch person. Very indoctrinating. But you got to do what you got to do sometimes.

      1. OP*

        Haha! Yes! I have a British officemate now who called it “the most American thing I’ve ever heard of”

        1. a*

          That’s a wild take since their MPs and civil servants take an oath to the KING!. You are being asked to uphold the Constitution. Not a king, or president, or political party or gov. etc.

          1. Sasha*

            The crown hold the same constitutional status in the UK as the constitution does in the US. So politicians have to swear not to stage a coup, and judges have to swear to uphold the justice system (criminal cases are “the Crown vs [criminal’s name]”).

            Nobody is literally swearing allegiance to Charlie himself, plenty of us are vocal republicans. Or just don’t like him. And random university adjuncts/park keepers etc don’t have to swear allegiance to anything.

      2. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Eh, I think they’re silly, but I don’t think it’s a uniquely American thing. Canadian and British civil servants have to say or sign an oath pledging loyalty to the current monarch. In Australia too, I believe (though maybe that’s just for elected officials).

    26. Data Nerd*

      I did it when I worked in California, and oddly again when I moved back to New York, where it had been abolished at one time (or so I thought). I spent a lot of time over the last decade thinking about what it actually means. I’ve determined that my job is primarily to uphold the Preamble, which I can live with. I do a lot to promote the general welfare.

    27. Good Enough For Government Work*

      Can’t speak for US states, but I’ve worked for my country’s central government for over a decade and have never heard of anyone taking an oath.

      I’m hopefully (interview this afternoon!) now moving on to work for another national government and nobody’s suggested an oath there either so far. (I’m not at all sure that we actually have one…)

      From an outside perspective, it does seem awfully odd. What happens if someone is not a US citizen?

      1. TomatoSoup*

        You will still have to promise to not attempt to overthrow or undermine the government. You’re not swearing allegiance, just support.

    28. Momma Bear*

      The first thing I thought was all feds have to pledge that, too. It only pertains to a subset of government-type jobs.

    29. OP*

      No, I’ve worked in 5 other states and haven’t seen anything like it before. It makes sense that it’s just one of those weird “patriotic” things we have to do sometimes. It just really surprised me, especially since I viewed CA and the university has more liberal and less likely to have this sort of thing.

      1. TomatoSoup*

        I’ve worked for feds as well as NY state and NYC government agencies. They all had versions of this.

      2. Nephron*

        Public University and how the civil service is structured, might be an artifact of the liberal state actually. Many states employees of the public Universities would not be considered civil servants with the protections that includes so no oath while California does consider you fully a state employee with those protections.

      3. Kit*

        Some states – including California – treat their state schools as part of the state government infrastructure, and signing such an oath is typical for government employees across the US, as has been noted! California has quite a bit spelled out in their state constitution about funding and administration of the state’s public colleges and universities, so supporting and defending the constitution is somewhat more relevant than it might appear at first.

        If this is the UC system, by the by, it also neatly addresses the DoE labs administered by UC staff; lots of people who wouldn’t think of their work as having serious national security implications on a day-to-day basis might encounter information from, say, Lawrence Livermore. It’s “patriotic” in the oldest-school sense (taking our laws, especially those enshrined in state and federal constitutions, seriously) but doesn’t require any flag-waving rah-rah enthusiasm whatsoever.

    30. Van Wilder*

      Oaths seem kind of outdated in this day and age, where “honor” isn’t as big of a commodity as it used to be. If you break it, are the treason charges going to be worse than if you hadn’t signed an oath? I just don’t get the point.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        It might serve a legal purpose of proving the employee knew they weren’t supposed to spy for Russia/China/whoever on the job. Or that they knew they were supposed to follow nondiscrimination laws in the course of their work–they can’t refuse to register Black people to vote or gay people to marry.

    31. Ex-prof*

      New York certainly did it at one time if it doesn’t now; I had to sign it.

      I felt squicky about it, on the one hand. On the other hand, why wouldn’t I want to defend my Intro to Economics students from all enemies, foreign and domestic?

    32. Artemesia*

      I remember my first job still pretty much during the tail end of the McCarthy era and that ‘loyalty oaths’ were a thing as part of the anti-commie hysteria of the times (before the GOP lined up behind Russia LOL). I found it really insulting, but if you didn’t sign you didn’t work. This one seems fairly anodyne — pretty much the same one the US President has to swear to. They do come from a sort of fascist impulse to have everyone swear loyalty to the regime, so yeah, icky.

    33. Sloanicota*

      I did it, or something very similar, because my job required me to be a notary. I went to City Hall to do it and took the oath from the clerk, and the people behind me in line were super impressed – even though they were there to get married! I thought it was hilarious that their lifetime commitment was less weighty than our office need to have me witness my boss signing documents.

    34. Anon for this*

      Am I the only one who really enjoyed signing the oath? I am a federal worker and I have no problem defending the constitution, I greatly prefer that to defending a flag or a specific leader.
      Working under the previous US administration, I feared getting ordered to do work that I considered unlawful. I understand that the legal protection of an oath is scant,
      but I enjoyed the idea that I could potentially refuse, on the grounds that I signed an oath to protect the constitution.

      1. a*

        Nope. I really enjoyed it too. Seems like a lot of folks here a)haven’t read the Constitution and b)are misinformed that this is some McCarthy era hold over and c) think that defending the Constitution means take up arms and go to war.

    35. asterisk*

      The California Oath of Office is pretty reasonable compared to the one that folks in Kentucky have to take. It’s written into the state constitution, hasn’t been changed since 1891, and fully half of the text of the oath is an affirmation that the person hasn’t been involved in **duels with deadly weapons**. I had to swear to it when I was commissioned as a notary public in a former job.,Members%20of%20the%20General%20Assembly%20and%20all%20officers%2C%20before%20they,case%20may%20be)%20that%20I

    36. April May June*

      Arizona definitely does — I worked for a municipality and volunteered at a county and had to take that oath both times.

    37. lyonite*

      My husband’s aunt (Canadian) had to take that oath in order to officiate our wedding! It’s weird, but it just a thing in California government.

    38. Fullaboti*

      I don’t remember if I signed one when I worked for city government, but I did have to sign one when I started working for state (AK) government.

    39. Lapsed Historian*

      I had to sign the loyalty oath twice over the course of my time in grad school in California. It’s a ridiculous holdover from McCarthyism. I was more offended by the patent transfer agreement I was also required to sign (I am not a STEM person).

      1. OP*

        Oh yeah, I’ve had to sign the patent one at every school and it is definitely never going to apply to me. I wish I could come up with something cool enough for it to matter!

    40. TrixieD*

      I’m in California, and as a Notary Public, I had to swear the same oath to the Constitution. I didn’t think it was crazy at all–just made me a little awe-struck by the weightiness of the career I was launching.

    41. Some Dude*

      I just joined a city commission and the first thing I had to do was submit the signed oath of allegiance. It is so dumb. What the f*&(( am I supposed to do in my role as commissioner for a small city to protect the constitution. Get the f$%& outta here.

      Especially in the light of jan. 6 and various sitting members of congress complicity in it.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        You’re supposed to apply the laws and regulations fairly to all, in accordance with the constitution. That’s what you’re supposed to do in your role as commissioner for a small city.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          Even if you have other commissioners who are NOT applying the laws fairly to all.

    42. Aussie Anon*

      From the perspective of other *countries*, it’s weird and unsettling. Listening to kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance fills me with the same squirmy feelings in my belly as watching old film of the Hitler Youth. Like, this is an authoritarian requirement that can NOT bode well… even though I know America’s been doing it long enough that I should be able to relax about gas chambers, I kinda can’t, you know?

    43. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      I signed an oath like that when I interviewed for a job at a state university in GA (faculty level position in the library). (They said they ask everyone to sign it when they come for an interview, because it had to be done before someone can start work, and it’s a lot easier that way).

      It was mam years ago, so I don’t remember the exact wording, but nothing in it seemed problematic to me, so I signed.

      As it happened, I did not receive a job offer in GA. Instead, I ended up working at a state university in North Carolina (which incidentally didn’t ask ne to sign an oath of any kind.

      I have no idea if GA still has that reqirement or not, but it was my first and only experience being asked to sign anything like that, anywhere.

    44. Cavia Porcellus*

      I worked for the State of PA before moving to CA – no oath.

      Here in CA I have worked for 4 public agencies. Exactly one required an oath (county-level, but 2 of the other positions were also county-level).

  2. AcademiaNut*

    For LW #3 – it sounds like you want to do a graduate program in the fine arts, with the goal of an academic career. If that’s true, I have to strongly recommend that you only do the graduate degree if you are okay with not getting an academic job, ever – ie, the pleasure of doing the program for personal enrichment will justify the cost and time it takes. Because academic careers are really hard to establish, and academic careers in the fine arts are one of the absolute hardest. (Also, fully tenured professors often complain about having to fit research in on the side, because teaching and administrative duties are easily a full time job.).

    If you do go for the program, you might offer to do freelance work for your former employer. They’ll have to hire someone to replace you, but if there’s extra work that can be done on a contractor basis, having a reliable person to go to might be appreciated.

    1. coffee*

      Yes, I definitely encourage LW3 to do some research on what an academic career in the fine arts is currently like. It may be quite different from when the LW was in school, particularly with the impact of the pandemic.

      1. Cece*

        Thirded, I can’t imagine giving up an “easy, decently paid, and fulfilling” job to launch into the crumbling hellhole of academia.

        1. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

          Anne Helen Peterson’s Work Appropriate podcast did an episode recently on how jobs in higher education are becoming more and more unsustainable. It may be a good starting point for someone considering a job in academia, so you can get an idea of what you’d be getting yourself into.

    2. fueled by coffee*

      Came here to say this. Will the degree be worth it to you, even if you don’t land in academia? I’m currently technically “on the market” for academic jobs (not in fine arts), and this year there were a handful of tenure track jobs posted in my field but mostly short term 1-2 year visiting positions, many of which are at what I’m sure are lovely institutions but are in places that are unsafe for me to live. I’m glad I got the degree, and I think I picked up some useful skills that will transfer over into an industry job that will let me live somewhere I can thrive, but definitely give this some thought if your only reason for going to school is to enter academia.

      I know this is very common advice about grad school (especially terminal degrees). I didn’t really pay much attention to it when I started, mostly because I had *always* been good at school and talented in my area of study, so I assumed that while academic jobs were competitive, I’d also be a very competitive candidate. I didn’t consider that nearly *everyone* enrolled in grad school is *also* good at school and talented in their area of study. Again, I wouldn’t undo the decision to do the PhD, but definitely come up with some backup plans for career options if academia doesn’t work out.

    3. Mid*

      Yeah. I know of many professors (well into double digits) who were award-winning grant-magnets and also liked teaching, and they are leaving academia. Some because being an adjunct for 10-15 years wasn’t paying the bills, some were even on tenure track (or tenured!) and burnt out by the constantly increasing demands to research more, publish more, teach more, and also do more paperwork every year. It’s a pretty brutal career path, and not one that is looking to get any easier anytime soon.

      I wonder if OP can look at a part-time program (that maybe isn’t the dream program, but is still a good program) and keep their seemingly wonderful job full time? And if they are fortunate enough to have an academic career path open up to them in the future, they can leave their great job then.

    4. fanciestcat*

      Also, speaking as someone who just this year left a stable job for my dream grad program, realized I’d made a mistake during the first semester, dropped out and luckily found another job in my old field: The program will only be as good as the people involved. Doesn’t matter how good it sounds on paper or how perfectly the research fits. If the people running it can’t teach or organize their way out of a paper bag you will have a bad time.

      I would not recommend anyone appy for a grad program without getting a chance to talk to current students or recent alumni. Check the school directory or LinkedIn. That’s 100% the advice I’d give my past self.

    5. MM*

      Yeah, I was thinking similar things. I’d be the first to say that if you honestly believe a grad program will be worth it to you for the experience itself, it’s a valid choice–that’s why I’m doing it! Getting paid + health insurance to read and think and research for several years is better than anything else I could be doing right now! But I did have some really hard conversations with myself to try to make sure that I wasn’t hiding some conviction that of course I’d get a good professor job at the end of it, that I really would be ok doing it even if I didn’t get that brass ring.

      And the key difference is: I wasn’t leaving a good, stable job that I liked to take this risk. I don’t want to be telling OP “don’t ever pursue this, bury your love of research,” but…I hope OP will direct their love of research toward the realities of academia and its job prospects before doing anything irrevocable, is all.

    6. Bob Howard*

      Yes, read this:

      While Dr. Bret C. Devereaux is focused on humanities, I suspect much of what is in there about the value of the promises the university makes and the dependence on your Advisor will be true; certainly there are replies stating that STEM is very similar.

      You have a job using your skills that you say is “easy, decently paid, and fulfilling”. I think that you have to look very hard at why you want to give that up. All the accounts of academia are clear that it is none of those things. What is missing from your life, and is joining the academic treadmill really the way to find it? Are you comfortable with the statistical reality that at best you might be swapping a reasonable job for perpetual insecurity as an adjunct?

      Are there alterative ways you could engage with an academic institution? Internships? A lecture on what life as a commercial illustrator is really like? A practical: “You have to do 40 illustrations for a publication with a deadline in 1 week. That means no more than 1 hour on each. Here is the specification for an illustration, do the best you can in 1 hour or less”.

      1. LW3 Asker!*

        Thank you for this article! I read through it really nervous but while I definitely agree with a lot of it luckily (or me being a bit foolhardy) I know a LOT about the program I plan to go into. It’s the graduate extension of the same university I did my undergraduate degree through – I know all the professors and I’m actually friendly with a lot of the current grad students. I talked to a bunch of the current professors and I know at least one that was able to go from adjunct to Assistant Professor in like two years. It’s a fairly specific program, there are only a few like it in the US. The program is two year and I wouldn’t have to do anything beyond that (an MFA in the applied arts world is basically a PhD), and it’s upwards about 20k per year full time. I’ve been working full-time for the past two years after graduation so I do have decent experience in my particular sub-field (which is fairly hot right now). After reading through it and a lot of other comments, though, I might fish around and see if there could be an option where I am funded during it, or if there’s a better track. I might also build out my personal practice a bit more on the side and see where it goes, give it and the economy another two years or so to improve/get worse. I mostly just really miss the culture of getting to talk about the more theoretical side of my art field with other people who are really interested I think :/

        1. Ginger Baker*

          “I mostly just really miss the culture of getting to talk about the more theoretical side of my art field with other people who are really interested I think :/”

          I think it’s really worth pulling this out and thinking about it more. Are there any *other* ways to engage in this without dropping your current career/alternate paths to finding this specific satisfaction? Are there groups you could join (formal or informal)? Places you could volunteer? Could you start a classic salon with some of the students and professors you are friendly with??

          As someone who is helping her art student kid figure out ways to keep the stuff she loves centered while likely *not* making art her career, this is something very active on my mind these days (tho in her case, less theory discussions and more practical applications are her focus).

        2. Dr. Vibrissae*

          “I mostly just really miss the culture of getting to talk about the more theoretical side of my art field with other people who are really interested I think :/”

          That’s a really great and specific insight. If true, that’s something you could tackle in the next 2 years, to see if you can build that into your current life. For instance, in my field there are very niche conferences and associations many of which also have journal or publications that are always looking for member involvement and article reviewers. My position does not require me to run my own research, but lets me talk research with a lot of interesting people who are pursuing it. I don’t know your feild, but in mine industry partnerships are not uncommon, perhaps there is a way to form something like that with an academic institution that would let you stay tangentially involved in the research that interests you, and could open up opportunities later?

          1. LW3 Asker!*

            Ohh that is a really good point! I’m currently working on a project that’ll give me access to more events where I’ll be able to talk and interact with people in my dream field. I’ve currently been tabling at more fan convention type things because it’s easier to make money selling there and I can crank out merch that sells well enough, which made me realize it was a specific academic community I was missing as opposed to just art in general. I might just be getting impatient and wishing I had more feedback from my peers LOL. I think I’ll focus on trying to break into that circle with my side projects on my own!

            1. Hamster Manager*

              I think this an excellent area to explore before going back to school, there are A LOT of ways you can engage academically with peers (and even teach) without going back to school or joining academia. Your job is definitely not going to be cool with you going part time with the goal of leaving the field, but they might be cool with you flexing hours to teach a class or two, though it sounds like you’re more interested in critique and theoretical discussion parts of academia? You don’t mention teaching in your post (or you did and I’m just already fried today, haha).

              My experience: I taught one class as an adjunct while holding a full time creative job, and the experience was miserable. I had no support from the school (had to figure out syllabus and the point of the whole class on my own), literally never saw or spoke to any other professors, and raked in a whopping $1,800 for the ENTIRE SEMESTER.

              What WAS super cool, was after I declined to return for another semester, the school asked me if I could give a project to a class and act as their client, so they could get real-life-style feedback, and the one whose work was selected would get really published through my job. I loved that, 10/10 would do again, and starting a program like that through your work might scratch the itch for you.

              Good luck!

              1. LW3 Asker!*

                Thank you, this is really valuable experience (plus, OOF). And you’re right, while I’ve always liked teaching I think I really prefer the community/discussion aspects as opposed to a lot of the backend administration/planning. I never considered alternative ways to be involved, though!

                1. nonny*

                  It sounds like you’ve gotten a lot of really good info from this thread, so I don’t want to pile on– but almost any career in academia is going to be primarily teaching!

            2. Gracely*

              If it’s the community aspect of it that you’re missing, definitely don’t give up a good job just to go to grad school to get that. For one, grad school would only you give you that for a couple-to-three years, and then you’ll be almost right back where you started (especially since often, universities don’t hire from within their own grad schools–they usually want to hire people from other places/experiences/etc. to create depth in their programs, so even if you do get an academic job, the odds are extremely against it being with that university/program). You’re going to do a lot better building out with your own side projects in your free time outside work. Lots of universities love to get involved in community partnerships, and that could be a way to get back in from the outside.

              Also, when you make the thing you love your job/career, sometimes (not always, but more often than you might thing), you can end up hating it, because it becomes work, not fun.

            3. Gracely*

              If it’s the community aspect of it that you’re missing, definitely don’t give up a good job just to go to grad school to get that. For one, grad school would only you give you that for a couple-to-three years, and then you’ll be almost right back where you started (especially since often, universities don’t hire from within their own grad schools–they usually want to hire people from other places/experiences/etc. to create depth in their programs, so even if you do get an academic job, the odds are extremely against it being with that university/program). You’re going to do a lot better building out with your own side projects in your free time outside work. Lots of universities love to get involved in community partnerships, and that could be a way to get back in from the outside.

              Also, when you make the thing you love your job/career, sometimes (not always, but more often than you might think), you can end up hating it, because it becomes work, not fun.

            4. Boof*

              Go LW!! This is really interesting and helpful – I’m currently on the medicine / science side of academics and things, and I totally get it. I strongly suspect you could participate in academic conferences and orgs without getting a degree, and you will likely find it just as rewarding. Maybe even more so since you will be a different type of voice/participant! While perhaps the easiest way is paying out of pocket to participate (most conferences have fees etc), it seems entirely likely you might be able to sell 1-2 events a year to your org as part of continuing education or something. I think that would be a much more doable/normal thing to ask for (some extra time / funds for professional development, basically).

              1. Boof*

                (most of our academic conferences for providers have heavy participation from industry, advocates, and patients – which I suppose the art equivalent would be consumers / enthusiasts – so it seems a perfect outlet for your interest! )

        3. Dr. Vibrissae*

          “I mostly just really miss the culture of getting to talk about the more theoretical side of my art field with other people who are really interested I think :/”

          That’s a really great and specific insight. If true, that’s something you could tackle in the next 2 years, to see if you can build that into your current life. For instance, in my field there are very niche conferences and associations many of which also have journal or publications that are always looking for member involvement and article reviewers. My position does not require me to run my own research, but lets me talk research with a lot of interesting people who are pursuing it. I don’t know your feild, but in mine industry partnerships are not uncommon, perhaps there is a way to form something like that with an academic institution that would let you stay tangentially involved in the research that interests you, and could open up opportunities later?

          1. TomatoSoup*

            This is excellent advice! There are definitely ways to engage outside of returning fully to academia.

            Also, OP mentioned being 2 years post undergrad graduation. The change from the way work and expectations are structured in school vs full-time work can be a bit disorienting. There’s often less training, structure, or feedback than new grads expect based on their academic background. It is very common to find this change overwhelming and confusing. I would encourage OP to explore their feelings a bit on this one. In general, undergrads are often given the impression that “real life” will begin after graduation when the reality is…something else.

        4. virago*

          1. Do NOT do this if you aren’t funded. Do NOT.

          2. “I talked to a bunch of the current professors and I know at least one that was able to go from adjunct to assistant professor in like two years.”

          But have any of them become tenured? Job security in academia is sorely lacking these days, and I would hate to see you trade a well-paid job that you like for an uncertain future in higher education. Please pay attention to the commenters who suggest that maybe what you need is not an MFA, but people to talk to about “the theoretical side” of your field.

          1. Not like a regular teacher*

            This is a good point. “Assistant Professor” as a job title can mean different things at different institutions. Does this person have job security, or a contract that may or may not be renewed next year? Does this person have health insurance? Is this person paid fairly? And, to the things OP3 said they were hoping to get out of academia, does this person have time to research? Is this person treated with respect within the university community?

            I’m highly skeptical that all the answers to these questions are yes.

            1. nonny*

              Also, the one you’re talking to is by definition the one who achieved that. What is the rest of their cohort up to?

          2. SometimesCharlotte*

            Seconding statement 1. Never go to grad school in a program that won’t fund you through TA/RA position – especially a full-time program! If they aren’t funding you and you have to attend school full time, how are you supporting yourself? If they believe in your abilities, they should fund you.

            As for your current job – it sounds like you’re work is project based. Maybe they’d consider allowing you to work full-time flexible schedule as long as your projects are completed as required?

        5. My Cabbages!*

          Have you considered reaching out to one of the professors you know to see about doing a guest lecture every once in a while? It can be really nice to give students the opportunity to speak to people that do the actual work, but can be hard to arrange for a professor. If you speak to a grad student class, they may be super interested in talking about those esoteric aspects about your work in particular, and would let you get a feel for academia a little without giving up what sounds like a great job.

        6. Wombats and Tequila*

          Here’s another article about how college enrollments have been falling for the 8th consecutive year:

          Academia uses prestige, a rigid hierarchy, and a shrinking pool of funding that has been shrinking for decades, in good times and bad, to exploit those foolhardy enough to pursue careers in it. As such, economic nstability is rampant, as is a level of racism and sexism whose relentlessness and casual brutality would take your breath away.

          I had once though to go into academia, and have some friends who actually succeeded, but at a tremendous cost. If you are a woman and/or a person of color, prepare for multiple people to attempt to destroy your career and your health. I wish this dramatic statement were even remotely an exaggeration. One of my friends had to pull two all nighters *per week* during the year she was an adjunct due to the number of classes she had to teach in order to afford to pay rent. She also calculated recently that in the 8 years she worked at her institution, she worked 2 full years worth of extra courses. Both she and another friend had their health severely compromised due to the stress of having multiple administrators decide that they were too troublesome. Both had to reject sexual advances, innuendo, and racist micro- and macroaggressions from multiple colleagues and administrators.

          Do not leave a job you love, or even a job you tolerate, for academia.

          Considee that the view of your department from a student’s vantage point is quite likely to be far rosier than the reality, because professors generally shield their students from such things. If they swear on DaVinci grave that this department is all candy hearts and pink balloons, they may just be attempting to save their funding by keeping enrollment up.

          Even if the program you’re looking at seems different, even if it really is a unicorn, you cannot ever count on funding stability. The program could be closed at any time. The tiny program where I got my Master’s was closed despite its worldwide reputation,, cutting loose 3 tenured professors, by faceless bureaucrats who couldn’t have been bothered to set foot in a classroom. Oh, and this was almost 27 years ago. The funding crisis has only gotten exponentially worse as culture warriors target any programs that are not business or technical due to their perceived politics.

          If you like thinking about art criticism, theory, and trends, sadly, this is increasingly impossible within formal academia. Nobody can think straight about anything under that level of chronic stress. This culture had been systematically neglecting and dismantling any spaces devoted to learning and knowledge for its own sake for at over a half century at this point. I think the last time academia was a viable career was during the 60s.

          Do yourself a favor. Don’t book that ticket on the Titanic. It has already hit the iceberg.

          Start a salon group, in person and online, with like minded friends and colleagues. Why not reach out to other practicing graphic artists as well? Start a salon. Attend academic conferences as an independent scholar. Publish a zine. Organize periodic meet ups.

          But for the love of all you hold dear, do not destroy your finances, health, sanity, and will to live by abandoning a happy career for the house of horrors that is academia.

          1. LW3 Asker!*

            This is really helpful, thank you for sharing your experience!! It took me a bit to find out exactly what you meant by salon (outside of hair lol) but I think that’s something I really am interested in!

          2. Freelance Historian*

            Jumping on to second all of this. Additionally, since the article cited is from 2019, we’re headed for a demographic iceberg in 2026. That is the year when those born in 2008 will turn 18. The problem? There were fewer children born that year because of the Great Recession. Colleges are going to take hits in the traditional-age demographic.

    7. bamcheeks*

      Not necessarily– they might want to teach applied arts such as graphic design or illustration. Which doesn’t necessarily make it *easy*, but having a professional background as an illustrator would certainly give them an advantage in the UK. Most people who make a transition into a vocationally-linked higher education role with industry experience have a much smoother time of it than someone who is going a pure academic route.

      (partly, IMO, because they’ve got a decent fallback option and they know what it’s like to have a good job where you’re treated properly, so they put up with less shit.)

    8. ToDoList*

      Agreeing with others here, please proceed with caution! I’m a former professor, and academic jobs are extremely difficult to come by, particularly in humanities and fine arts. Another thing to look into is what you need to earn in order to live comfortably: many academic jobs (even full time ones) don’t pay a lot.

    9. JSPA*


      Is there’s something in it for the company to be able to tout your degree if you return to them full-time after not finding an academic route (beyond, perhaps, the underpaid grind that is Community College teaching as it is handled in most states / communities?) Then, maybe. (Heck, you might be able to give them a short list of other talented students equally willing to work part time / no benefits, though there’s always the risk that they will like one of those people even more than they like you.) Maybe if continuity of style is extremely important, that might factor in??? But in general, ” I have worked out a plan that would work great for me” is not intrinsically a selling point for the people who employ you, unless you’re an underpaid star whom they’d happily pay twice what you’re currently getting. In which case, it may make more sense to go for the raise, bank the money, then give grad school 100% of your attention in 2 or 3 years.

    10. Not like a regular teacher*

      OP3, please take this whole thread to heart. Im sure this isn’t what you were hoping to hear and for that I am sorry, but academia is a nightmare right now, especially in the humanities and especially especially in the fine arts. I don’t think it will get better during your working years. Tenure track positions are so so so very rare and becoming rarer all the time (whenever anyone retires the position gets replaced by adjuncts) and faculty at most institutions are treated very poorly by admin. You are talking about leaving a good paying job that you like for a path of financial instability, stress, and misery. And you’d still just be fitting a bit of research in between crushing teaching loads, departmental politics, and committee assessments. I really really hope you can find a “second-best” grad program that you can do part time while working, with no other goal than personal fulfillment.

    11. nonny*

      I’m really happy this threat is here, I read that letter with my heart in my throat. It’s SO hard not to instinctively imagine that you will be the exception to the horror stories– there are jobs, someone has to get them, why not me! But increasingly there literally -aren’t- jobs, and the jobs there are may not leave you any time for research anyway.

    12. Bob Howard*

      I strongly suggest you read what Dr. Bret C. Devereaux has to say in his blog post “so you want to go to grad school in the academic humanities”. Link in response to this post.

      While Dr. Bret C. Devereaux is focused on humanities, I suspect much of what is in there about the value of the promises the university makes and the dependence on your Advisor will be true; certainly there are replies stating that STEM is very similar.

      You have a job using your skills that you say is “easy, decently paid, and fulfilling”. I think that you have to look very hard at why you want to give that up. All the accounts of academia are clear that it is none of those things. What is missing from your life, and is joining the academic treadmill really the way to find it? Are you comfortable with the statistical reality that at best you might be swapping a reasonable job for perpetual insecurity as an adjunct?

      Are there alterative ways you could engage with an academic institution? Internships? A lecture on what life as a commercial illustrator is really like? A practical: “You have to do 40 illustrations for a publication with a deadline in 1 week. That means no more than 1 hour on each. Here is the specification for an illustration, do the best you can in 1 hour or less”.

    13. WellRed*

      I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of “The clout of an MFA or a freelancer.”
      I’d also hesitate to leave a great job for a possible academic career.

      1. nonny*

        I think it means they believe their research will be better received and/or get more attention if they have an MFA behind their name, or are seen as an independent illustrator who sets their own agenda/makes their own stuff rather than “just” someone who works in-house for a company. Credentialism, basically!

    14. Boof*

      YES. My experience was in the sciences but my sense is academics is a top heavy bubble that is either bursting or will sooner or later. Don’t get me wrong, I think college and higher education is very interesting, but paying 50K/year or more + lost income for 4 years (average) is a lot, and to what end? It’s one thing if it’s a trade school but it’s increasingly weird to me that, say, a liberal arts degree in philosophy + the min basic science courses leads to medical school, or is required to be a secretary, or whatever.
      In my experience usually there’s not much talk of careers and if there is, it’s more academics, but everyone can’t make a career out of academics for 30+ years teaching everyone else 4 years. My experience in the sciences seemed like this; maybe in the 1980s there was a huge call to get scientists trained, lots of money to support it, etc, so a lot of PhD programs started up; people went on into industry or academics with lots of grant support. But now after a PhD most people go on to do these low paid postdocs for a long time before they get to the “academic ideal” of running their own lab, and trying to teach at the same time, manage students… often all badly / the only thing that really matters is if they can pull in money to support the lab, not how well they teach or manage their students.
      Or just go on to industry, which is fine. But when you’re in academics industry seems really ignored even if it’s probably going to be a much bigger source of jobs than more academics.
      … yes I’m still a little bitter about my grad school days.
      LW3, think carefully about what you want out of grad school and whether grad school will really get you there or if there are other ways. Ie, can you just enroll in a class or two instead of a full time program if it’s the classes you’re interested in; if it’s the research, will doing grad school really let you do the research you want to do, etc.

      1. Pine Tree*

        Yes to all of this. I know people love to support grad students and early career professionals in STEM, but – please will everyone in STEM stop telling everyone to go to grad school! I know so many M.Sc. and PhDs who are working tech positions because there just aren’t enough M.Sc. and PhD level jobs out there! What about supporting the mid-career STEM professionals who have all been clawing their way around the crab bucket amongst everyone else with an M.Sc. and PhD? I’m so tired of having to write grad students into grants because the funding agency just loves, loves, loves funding grad students, when the work could actually be done much quicker and better by a Research Professional, post-doc, or even the professor themselves. And then at the end of the project we have yet another M.Sc. or PhD to add to the crab bucket. Ugh, sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

    15. Dr. Rebecca*

      Thank you for starting this thread…so I/the rest of us didn’t have to.

      LW3: the academic job market is brutal. If I had your job I’d hold on to it so tight there’d be finger marks on the office coffee cups. I’m one of the “lucky” ones–it only took me 10 years of adjuncting, several of those while doing grad degrees, to land a full time (non-tenure track) job in my field.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        To further clarify for LW3 and/or other people who are unfamiliar with the term “adjunct” it’s a per-course teacher doing work for hire, generally restricted to fewer than three courses per term per university (so as to not accidentally count as full time). The salary ranges between $2500 and $9000 per course, but is MUCH more likely to be at the $2500 end. There are no benefits. You do not get insurance. You do not get to park in their parking garages unless you pay for it. You do not get to use the campus health center. Any research you do is on the side, worked in around the teaching, administration of coursework/policies, and grading. That’s the majority of academic positions that are available these days, as colleges and universities rely more and more on contingent faculty for cost cutting.

        There are temporary research positions, but those too (usually postdocs/residencies) are competitive and dwindling. To become a full time academic, with research support, you have to get very lucky, be very in demand, or wait a long time and find a department willing to overlook the “adjunct stigma” that lingers from not starting out in demand/lucky.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          I did my undergrad from 2003-2007. Between my freshman and senior year, my tuition increased by 50%, while my major’s department lost several facility to retirement who were replaced by adjuncts, and in my senior year my department (sociology) was folded entirely into another one (public affairs) because it had too few full professors remaining. Tragically, my understand research advisor studied the sociology of religious movements and cults, so unlike a sociologist who studied international affairs or family policy, his work had no applicability to public affairs. I felt so bad for him, I seem to recall they gave him an office in some inconvenient satellite building since it wasn’t like they ever wanted to talk to him about anything professionally.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Touch screen keyboard will be my undoing! They lost *faculty* to retirement and I had an *undergrad* research advisor.

            Meant to include also that instead of hiring full professors, they spent our ever-increasing tuition on some really fancy new buildings on campus. I’m sure those students who came after me learned a lot from those buildings. /S

          2. Dr. Rebecca*

            MMMHMM. My alma mater is about to see a retirement where they won’t be replacing her line, so. Yeah.

    16. PhD survivor*

      I got a PhD and then left academia for industry. Academia is far more exploitative than most people realize, especially to students and early career folks. Salaries are low compared to working outside academia and many faculty regularly work 80+ hour weeks. Work-life balance is not valued. Getting funding for research has become difficult especially for early career folks. Getting a tenure track position is extremely difficult- it’s far more common for individuals to be hired as adjunct faculty where they are paid almost nothing to teach classes with no job security or status. I’ve been at multiple institutions where faculty treated students or staff badly and there were no consequences for them because they brought in research funding.

      I would never recommend anyone to get a PhD unless there are clear career paths outside academia for their field or they want to do it for their own personal enrichment. OP- it sounds like you have a great situation with your current job. Only you can know if it’s worth the risk of giving that up for a chance to work in academia. But please be sure you understand the risks, it’s very difficult to get into academia and even if you do, it might be a lot less appealing than it seems from the outside.

    17. amari*

      I had the same reaction. LW, you have a good job that pays well that you like, and you’re considering giving that up for the 1% chance you’ll get a stable academia job at the end of it? The most likely outcome is that even if you have a great time while in school, you’ll leave with massive loans, 5-6 years worth of lost wages, and your only academia job prospects will be adjunct positions where you have to live out of your car and have no health insurance. I hate to be so negative and stomp on LW’s dream, but… I just want them to be very very careful and go into this with eyes open!


      I just wanted to add that in the Fine Arts, particularly Illustration or Graphic Design LW3 is more likely to be able to find a stable adjuncting role based on their professional career than any academic qualifications. Pursuing an MFA is not a terrible idea, but if they already have a good job, they would be much better off finding a part time or remote/low residency program. As long as the program is ranked in the top 50, it really doesn’t matter that it’s not their “dream program.” Ironically, even if LW3 does eventually want to pursue a career in acadmia, the departments in their field are much more likely to see any academic work as a rubber stamp and be far more interested in their industry experience.

    19. Van Wilder*

      I know nothing about your specific field but I would caution you against leaving a job that you love for the fantasy of what you think an academic career in the arts might look like. I’ve never had a job that I love and if I did, I would ride it out for as long as I could.

    20. Artemesia*

      This. I have a relative who is an excellent fine arts grad and who has had success in getting academic jobs BUT when she was looking there were maybe 2 or 3 in a year in the whole country; she got one — but hundreds didn’t. All academic positions are hard to find but arts are particularly so.

      On the other hand, I have another relatives who was in a high powered commercial real estate role in NYC who was handling among other things their publications i.e. ad writing, web site, offerings etc. He was able to go part time for a much lower salary (he was one in the crazy well paid rolls) and retaining his health insurance to JUST do the writing portion of his larger job. So he has continued to work for them doing their ads, offerings etc while writing his novel. IF your illustrating job can be done without them having to hire others, they might buy it.

    21. My Cabbages!*

      I love (or maybe “love”) this thread full of academics shouting like an audience at a horror film telling the protagonist “NO! DON’T GO TO THE BASEMENT!!”

      I am a teaching professor, and I actually love my job, but I know exactly how lucky I was and I still make only about half of what my public school teacher husband makes. I see all the other people I went to school with working insane hours for what ends up being a ridiculous hourly wage, spending all their time chasing after funding, so that they might beat the odds and get a tenure-track position where they can finally relax and…spend even more time chasing funding.

      Or finding adjunct work where they have to teach classes at three different colleges across the metro region each day and don’t know if they will have appointments again in 12 weeks. I knew one friend who was thrilled to find a full-time adjunct position that only required a two-hour drive each way.

      1. LW3 Asker!*

        YEAH haha I still live really close to the university so I think I end up getting background radiation of “oh this is totally achievable and something worthwhile” – I’ve been getting major vapors since the program just had a call for hiring faculty through non-adjuncts. I think I needed to have a group of people say “NOOO” at at least one point, all my peers are people who also have been considering it so I might have been in a bit of a “this is definitely a good idea” bubble.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          all my peers are people who also have been considering it so I might have been in a bit of a “this is definitely a good idea” bubble

          My advice (related to this bit specifically) is to wait a few years and see (1) how many of your peers go into a grad program, (2) how they like it, and (3) what they do after grad school. I graduated with no particular desire to go or not go to grad school, and having a few friends go pushed me in the direction of “grad school is not for me.”

          Which isn’t to say you’ll feel the same way (and I am in engineering–a different field from the arts). But it is easy to hype it up and focus on the positives when it’s a hypothetical, and once you/your friends are in the thick of it you’ll have to deal with department politics, evenings and weekends being subsumed by school work, tighter budgets than when you were working full time, etc.

        2. Chidi has a stomach ache*

          Part of why I did my PhD after my masters was the influence of all the peers I met (already in grad school) who were also planning to do PhDs. So I completely understand how that adds a shine to academia, and makes what is statistically unlikely seem possible.

          FWIW: I don’t regret the opportunities and formation of my graduate work, but 1) I was fully funded for both my masters and Phd, 2) in a city with (at the time) super low COL so I could actually live on the stipend, and 3) I had a tight knit community in said city to provide moral support.

          BUT, I did lose 9 years of real earning power (and retirement savings!) to grad school. I honestly may never financially recover from that loss of compound interest. I’m lucky enough to be married to a very financially prudent spouse who has helped, as best he can, to allow me to save as much as possible since I started working fulltime (and has robustly invested his retirement, too). I have just now reached an income level (by leaving academia for industry) where I feel confident I could support our family if my spouse was unable to work.

          If you’re only taking a couple of years out of the workforce, the financial penalty may not be that high, but you will want to have clear data on salaries (and salary growth) in the academic area you want to go in. Universities without faculty unions almost never give COL or merit raises; benefits like pensions and/or 403b contributions vary *widely.* Academia sells passion over practicality.

          1. Pine Tree*

            My fellow labmates from grad school and I are just now starting to realize/understand the impact of those lost earning years. A lot of us (me included) are kinda regretting grad school. And that’s even from a group of us who, for the most part, have relatively good jobs for our industry.

    22. baffled*

      I work in academia and have been on some faculty hiring committees. It’s really really tough to score a job, and there is ferocious competition. Hundreds of applicants in some cases, willing to move cross country for project positions based on temporary grants etc. for very low pay.

  3. Sue*

    Another possible view on the feminist/WFH thing: it is much much easier to manage menstruation, especially endometriosis.

          1. HannahS*

            Yes, and if you want to breastfeed or pump milk longer than the period you want to be away from work, working remotely means you can take breaks to do so, or pump while working.

            1. CheesePlease*

              I never worked from home and thanks to accommodations from my job, I can take breaks to pump or pump while working.

              I mean yes, would it be easier to do it on my couch and leave all the milk in my own fridge? Sure. But I still think that there are ways companies can be supportive of new parents while being in-person.

              1. HannahS*

                Well, yeah, exactly. It would have been easier. It’s not a zero-sum game. Companies can make accommodations to support equity at work, one of which is remote work.

                1. Happy meal with extra happy*

                  But there are trade offs to working remotely. It may be easier to breastfeed, but they may lose out in other ways if they’re remote. That’s why it’s a balancing act.

                2. Loulou*

                  There are also tradeoffs to lengthy parental leave, though! There’s no magical way to allow people to physically recover from childbirth while also being in the office as much as people who have not just given birth. (Not saying I agree with WFH being a solution to this because I certainly don’t, just saying the other humane option also arguably disadvantages the people who take it)

            2. DocVonMitte*

              Yep, I nursed for 18 months. I did not plan to (nor want to) take 18 months off work. WFH allowed me to continue to nurse this long (had enough time to pump, could pump while working, easy to store milk, etc).

          2. Ally McBeal*

            A great deal of parents breastfeed for much longer than the parental-leave period offered by their employers – 9-12+ months vs 6-12 weeks.

            1. Sasha*

              I think that poster was suggesting longer parental leave, rather than just making it easier to pump at work.

              1. BubbleTea*

                I could have taken a full year (though the last 3 months would have been unpaid). I was still pumping for those three months, because I did go back. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to pump in the office (I’m in the UK where we don’t have legal protection for pumping) so working from home was fundamental for me.

              2. HannahS*

                Ok but some parents STILL want to nurse longer than their leave, even in countries with longer leaves (source: am Canadian.) It can be both/and, not either/or.

      1. Dr. Hyphem*

        [Please read this comment as gently as possible]

        When someone is talking about endometriosis, it’s really not the time to pivot to pregnancy discussion. Like, that’s a separate thread, a separate conversation, and sure, it’s a valid consideration, but like, there are two things that this really brings to mind for me: 1. Many people with endo will experience infertility, so adding that on feels harsh. 2. Having had endometriosis, it frequently gets trivialized, and pivoting the conversation to pregnancy can kind of feel like “this is more important”.

        Just a thought.

    1. nnn*

      But that doesn’t make it anti-feminist of companies that prefer to have workers return to the office.

      1. Mid*

        How so? While not everyone who gets periods or breastfeeds is a woman, the majority of people are. (I’m saying this as someone who is AFAB and trans, so please don’t jump on me for this.) And if a policy is disproportionately impacting women, how is it not anti-feminist?

        If there’s a policy in place that disproportionately impacts Jewish people, is that not clearly anti-Semitic? If a policy disproportionately impacts Chinese people, is that not clearly racist?

        So how does something that has a disproportionate impact on women differ here?

        1. NR*

          Companies can have good reasons for RTO. Society is sexist but it doesn’t follow that everything that happens in a sexist society is anti-feminist. If a company has business reasons for requiring people to be in office it might affect women more but that doesn’t mean the policy is biased. Unless you’re going to say it’s biased against people who have longer commutes or elderly parents living with them or dogs who need to be walked. All those groups will be more effected too but it’s not anti-dog to need your workers in office.

          1. JSPA*

            Courts have been pretty clear that difference in impact is the yardstick, not difference in intent.

            We’re not using the term in the individual sense (except for people being nearly willfully blind to the impacts). We’re using it in the structural (and legal) sense.

            1. JSPA*

              And yes, it can also impact other groups, and still matter more (from a legal standpoint) where it intersects with one of the standard “do not discriminate on these bases” categories (race, sex, religion, etc).

              1. Loulou*

                Okay, but the concept of accomodations still exists. It’s not “never do anything because it could impact a protected group.”

                For ex, I’m sure it’s harder to pray 5x a day if you’re not WFH, but I doubt most serious people would call RTO islamophobic…

                1. SpaceySteph*

                  I think what you’re describing would be the equivalent of calling RTO “misogynistic” which is the equivalent of racist, Islamophobic, etc.

                  It is not a hateful act against women (or Muslims, or whoever) to do it. But it could still be anti-feminist in that it runs counter to a feminist cause. (Whether it does or doesn’t counter a feminist cause is actually something I would debate)

            2. JSPA*

              Also, while companies can have reasons that are most obviously solved by return to office (such as productivity being down or customer satisfaction being down during work from home times), the LW specifies here that productivity was actually up. Wanting to Getting the best tax write-off for your headquarters, or not being able to creatively work around a long term lease? Those are not problems that are best solved by instituting work from office, when WFH increases productivity. The fact that some of your managers are raving extroverts who are trying to justify their paycheck by wanting more direct hands on time (when it turns out that this is actually a productivity sapping distraction)–is a particularly bad reason.

              1. Prospect gone bad*

                The issue is that everyone and their brother has been saying their productivity is up since 2020 and then saying “well I said productivity is up” anytime you question why, you know, productivity is not up. Or they’re spending more time “paper pushing” than having results

                I really wish people just said they prefer WFH because at least I can work with that, instead of pretending everyone is super productive but not productive in the office

                All I see in real life is people having rare in office days where they hash out loads of projects

                1. Prospect gone bad*

                  And the usual concerned that not everyone has a place at home to work or they have loud neighbors or multiple roommates or they just don’t concentrate at home so having a dedicated office space is actually an accommodation for them

                  I don’t get why we only talk about accommodating people in the opposite direction. I work with people going to the office occasionally just to get out of the house as well

                2. Katara's side braids*

                  It’s because in-person office work has been the status quo for so long that it doesn’t really need defending on a macro level. The flexibility/freedom afforded during the beginning of COVID was always going to be more fragile than the previous status quo, which has the huge advantage of being associated with the “normal” people are so desperate to get back to. I agree that people who prefer working in an office should be able to do so, and that in many cases the push to normalize WFH is taken too far (like that one boss who falsified a write-up to retaliate against an employee who preferred in-office work). But whether or not I agree with those actions, I understand the anxiety about slowly losing something that has changed SO many people’s work lives for the better. I can only speak for the US, but I can say that the culture here has been so incredibly resistant to any change that tips toward benefiting workers rather than profit, so it makes sense that people will be defensive when someone prefers the “old normal”, even when they don’t necessarily want to deprive them of having that option.

                3. Random Dice*

                  Your view of how this works is really limited.

                  I work with managers all across my multinational mega-corp, which has historically been ragingly anti-WFH. Every single manager has publicly eaten crow at some point in the pandemic about WFH and how much better it is for productivity. I have heard them go on at length about how wrong they were.

                  I can assure you that we have very strong measures of productivity for most jobs, and people have a wide variety of jobs.

            3. Observer*

              Courts have been pretty clear that difference in impact is the yardstick, not difference in intent.

              The yardstick is difference in impact absent a genuine business rationale.

              That is a significant difference. That is why, for instance, some jobs are allowed to have some physical requirements (eg that you can carry a certain amount of weight) even when they effectively affect one group disproportionately.

        2. GythaOgden*

          Plenty of women work in-person. We have all the issues women face with none of the benefits, and it’s getting really old to see people forget that WFH is a privilege only available to a small part of the workforce.

          1. Violet Fox*

            Yeah, and it gets really old that it has become the work-place issue.

            Healthcare and other fields that are female-dominated are jobs that require in-person work.

            Not everyone has a living situation conducive to home-office even if they wanted to.

          2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            This sort of sounds like “if I’m miserable, everyone should be miserable.” There are pluses and minuses to every job. If you can’t work from home, that means you’re off once you leave the job site. That’s not necessarily true for people who can work remotely.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              It’s not, it’s saying “we can’t frame this as feminism without looking at the whole of how women are impacted right now”.

            2. Humble Schoolmarm*

              I don’t think that’s accurate. First, I’m a teacher and I certainly don’t leave my work at my job site. Honestly, I had better work-life boundaries when doing virtual school because I didn’t have to supervise kids for safety. That meant I could multitask as long as I was available to answer questions and I could keep up with a lot more of my job during work hours.

              As to your first point, I completely understand that my friend in recruitment can do her job effectively from home and that’s just not possible for me as a seventh grade teacher. The frustration is that at the beginning of the pandemic there were a lot of really thought-provoking discussions about how the pandemic was putting feminism back by decades because women (disproportionately) were handling full time work and child care. Now this argument is being turned on its ear, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that it comes thanks to female dominated professions who are back to working in the traditional way.

          3. Katara's side braids*

            Absolutely true, and the tunnel vision of privileged workers has led to an overemphasis on issues that affect them directly. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a disparate impact here for jobs that *can* be done remotely but are not being allowed to. The reality is that WFH has been life-changing for many workers marginalized on axes other than race and class (especially disability), so I do think it’s worth fighting for as part of a larger worker’s rights movement, even if it isn’t relevant to the majority of jobs. I just don’t see how a forced return to office meaningfully helps the liberation of women who never had the option to WFH.

            1. Sandals*

              “privileged workers”

              I’d bet many classroom teachers working from home, or who worked from home, would object to being labeled as “privileged.” I really that label were used more judiciously, because otherwise, it’s just a textbook application of the word, which is useless.

            2. Random Dice*

              I’m a disabled woman, and was able to get 100% WFH as an ADA reasonable accommodation. It had to be signed off by the CEO (!!) of my mega-corp along with the other requests to WFH, but it was squarely within ADA.

          4. ferrina*

            So….because some jobs are required to be in-person, all jobs should be in-person? It’s a little silly to refuse a benefit wholesale just because some people can’t use it. By that logic, we should also abolish parental leave, FMLA and retirement.
            Alison points out that WFH isn’t the Be All End All solution to gender equality in the workplace. But it does help mitigate some of the other issues that women face.

          5. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yeah I find this conversation generally devoid of nuance. Teaching is another female dominated field that *can* be done virtually but we’ve seen that there’s a negative impact to that. Return to office impacts a chunk of the pie graph that was ever remote to begin with, made smaller by those that prefer remote work or actually work better from home, made smaller by the percentage of those that are AFAB, made smaller everytime we bring up something specific like childcare or endometriosis or other groups that may have an argument.

            Now those small chunks of the graph still MATTER, of course they do, but using broad strokes like “antifeminist” aren’t really helpful in painting the real picture.

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              Thank you! I really, really don’t object to people who can work from home continuing to do so. I also sincerely believe that the added flexibility of WFH can benefit a lot of women. That doesn’t mean we should ignore that this expression of feminism is only available because folks are making use of the labour of other women who can’t work from home. I guess it’s a clash between socialism and feminism, but it’s an uncomfortable philosophical place.

        3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          You know what I find anti-feminist? Suggesting that women should stay at home to work instead of mingling with other people in the workplace and being out in public in general, because we can’t cope with our biological processes, health issues, or family responsibilities while working out of the home.

          1. ClaireW*

            Nobody’s saying “You should stay home” though – they’re saying we, as the people experiencing these things, should have the OPTION to stay home if we find that at times these things make it harder for us to go to the office.

            For example, women who get debilitating periods should have the OPTION to work from home on those days instead of taking a sick day if they can, because repeated sick leave days can have a more negative impact on our careers that prevent us from getting the promotions/recognition we deserve.

          2. SnowyRose*

            Thank you. You just far more succinctly than I could part of what about framing RTO as anti-feminist really irks me.

          3. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

            Thank you. You encapsulated what I was feeling and couldn’t figure out how to put into words.

            I love that my current job lets me work from home three days a week. It’s made some of my home responsibilities easier to manage, and it’s been great to spend at least part of my period working in comfortable clothes less than 10 feet from my own bathroom that’s a lot more comfortable than the shared one at work.

            But I’m also glad that I get to go in to the office twice a week. I’ve been in this job for less than a year, and it’s just harder to make yourself visible in an online environment. My two days a week in office mean that I get face time with the higher ups that I don’t have on WFH days. I can network with the other people in my office and become a known entity to people who aren’t in my specific team, and it’s easier to find subject matter experts when I need them. As a woman who is brand new to a data field, I feel like the connections I’m making on my in office days are putting me in a better position for potential future advancement.

            Women got the short end of the “working during the pandemic” stick. That’s 1000% true. But the lesson to take away is like Alison said, we need to fix the structures that make working as a woman harder, not lock women away in their homes.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              Who the heck said anything about “locking women away?” This is about options. Neither OP nor the pro-WFH commenters here are advocating for forcing anyone to work from home if it’s not what they prefer.

              1. Observer*

                When you frame the RTO as anti-feminist, it does have that effect though. Because it says quite clearly that *women* “can’t” work in the office effectively. Yes, there is a lot of other stuff in there, but this is one of the pieces, and it really stinks.

                It’s also a lazy way out. As others have noted repeatedly, WFH is not an option for many jobs, and for many people. (My son’s job requires WFH. We’re lucky that he lives 3 blocks from me, so he can come over to my house to work, because it’s just not possible for him to work at home.) Pushing back on RTO is going help a tiny fraction of people – even of women. Instead of spending energy on something that only benefits a really privileged subset of women while subliminally pushing an image of women which is simply inaccurate, maybe use that energy to push for things that can actually help a significant proportion of women.

                1. Katara's side braids*

                  I don’t think the interpretation that women “can’t” work in the office is necessarily correct, though. I agree that the framing as “anti-feminist” is unproductive, and that too much energy has been spent on what is essentially a bandaid for a privileged few. But I didn’t see the insult to women’s capability that everyone else seems to be seeing – only the fact that in our current misogynist work culture, working from home did lessen the disparate impact of that culture *on the women who were able to do so.* That last part is why I think it’s kind of ridiculous to frame it as THE feminist issue for our work culture, but if we’re hoping to create an equitable society, I fully believe remote work will have a part in that.

            2. ferrina*

              I was with you until “lock women away”. Huh?
              No one is saying women should only work from home (or that only men should return to office). It’s that the option to WFH can help mitigate some of the other societal issues (obviously won’t solve all of them, or even a majority, but every bit helps).

              That’s great that the hybrid model is working for you! I don’t think anyone should take that away. But when everyone is required to follow the same model, it will naturally advantage some people more than others. I work remotely because otherwise I have an hour long commute (2 hours total) and a tricky family situation that that would exacerbate. My role is such that I make better connections working remotely than I do in office. For me, the remote model works better, and I love that I can work remotely while my colleagues can work hybrid or in-office.

          4. Fives*

            I had pretty serious endometriosis, and I can’t tell you how much having the option to work from home as needed would have helped me before I had my hysterectomy. I was in so much pain so frequently but had to still be in office and function. So while I could “cope with [my] biological processes,” my life would have been so much better working at home where I could be as comfortable as possible (and not in business clothes) and close to a bathroom.

            1. Loulou*

              But don’t you think that’s about having a severe health condition, rather than about being a woman? (I think women are more likely to have chronic illnesses, so maybe we are back at the same place, but I guess I would rather see issues like that framed in terms of disability accomodations rather than sex discrimination)

              1. Fives*

                Sure, but I objected to the wording about coping with our biological processes. My condition was a usually-female biological process, it was just exacerbated.

              2. Avery*

                It’s definitely both, with the third factor that chronic illnesses that are most common in AFAB people, such as endometriosis, are understudied scientifically, and new medications, treatments, etc. are usually tested on cis men first and thus often overlook possible complications specific to AFAB folks (to say nothing of the lack of research on how medical transitioning impacts various health risks over time).

          5. Dona Florinda*

            But this is about giving women OPTIONS, not switching from one kind of control to another.

        4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          We were actually having this discussion at my job over a job description we were posting — the original description listed a requirement to be able to lift 50 lbs. And the need for someone to be able to lift 50 lbs is legit: heavy things need to be lifted as part of the job, and the team is small enough that we can’t necessarily rely on someone else being able to do it. At the same time, as a woman who does not want to lift 50 lbs, I was aware that treating that as a firm requirement would probably exclude somewhere upwards of 90% of women, not to mention disabled people.

          We hashed it over a lot, and eventually settled on 30 lbs. Which probably does still disproportionately exclude women and nonbinary folks, but not as badly as 50 lbs did.

          Is that anti-feminist? It’s a reality of the job. One could make an argument that a true feminist stance would de-prioritize the need for lifting entirely, but that requires widespread systemic change on everything from what society considers a “normal” level of physical ability, to how our equipment is manufactured, to what assistive devices are available in the facility where said equipment is installed. By and large my company doesn’t have control over those things, and I’m disinclined to label them anti-feminist for needing someone to do the work that needs doing. I’m very glad we got it down from 50 lbs, though.

          1. Need More Sunshine*

            A good way to navigate specifically physical requirements for job descriptions where someone may truly need to lift 50 pounds is “ability to lift up to 50 pounds with or without accommodations” – maybe the candidate needs to lift it with the help of another person, for example, or the business needs to buy a dolly. I work in HR and have been increasingly aware of adding language like this to our job descriptions wherever possible.

            1. I have RBF*

              Yeah, I see a lot of “lift 50 pounds” requirements in my line of work.

              But the reality is, a lot of senior people in my line of work have bad backs, because of having to “lift 50 pounds” or more, instead of having lift carts to handle the heavy machines that need to be installed. Requiring a person to lift a 50 or 100 pound machine that costs thousands is very penny wise, pound foolish – there are carts that can do it, and protect both the equipment and the worker.

              Having lift requirements in what is otherwise a desk job has always felt to me as a way to discriminate against petite women and the disabled.

        5. doreen*

          Sometimes the disproportionate impact is not due to the employer at all. I worked for a municipal employer 30 years ago. All employees who became parents (male, female birth, adoption) were entitled to an unpaid, job-protected child care leave of up to four years for the first leave and up to three years for subsequent ones. ( No, that was not a typo).* Men never took more than a few weeks – ever. Not even if their wife worked at the same agency and/or earned more. My later state job offered seven months of job-protected leave – I only know of one man who took that. Was there a disproportionate impact on women? – absolutely . Was it the employers fault? I don’t see how.

          * Interestingly, the situation that led to that involved a judge refusing to allow a class action lawsuit .The plaintiff was the first man ever to apply for the leave women were routinely granted and only one additional man applied while the lawsuit was pending – and two is not enough for a class action.

          1. Random Dice*

            30 years ago.

            I hear frequently about X guy with an important job being on extended paternity leave.

            My husband took paternity leave.

        6. harvey 6'3.5"*

          I agree and I say that as a father who was the parent responsible 95% of the time for a sick kid, a doctors visit, driving to afternoon activities, etc., in the late 90s, early 2000s because I had (and still have) a much more flexible job so it just made sense for me to handle these roles. But that is, unfortunately, unusual and women normally end up doing these sorts of things that strongly benefit from work at home.

      2. Violet Fox*

        It does make me uncomfortable that every issue for women in the workplace boils down to children, childcare, etc in some form or another. There are other things going on.

        It is okay for people to have a preference for work from home, work from office, the kind of job that has to be in person, hybrid, very flexible etc. It should be okay to have a preference without having to go our of one’s way to justify it.

        Some of this also strikes me that by calling it antifeminist they are speaking for all women, and honestly the work from home crowd really are not speaking for me. They are speaking against my own preference, what works for me, and my wellbeing physically and mentally.

        1. Jenny*

          For me, working from rhe office was actually significantly easier for childcare/nursing because my kid attended the work daycare.

          As echoed by Alison a lot of people assume work at home means you’re free to provide childcare at the same time which just is wildly unrealistic for my job (and probably many others).

          I really feel uncomfortable calling it anti feminist because it’s way too broad a brush that requires a more traditional view of gender roles.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I think that depends on what you think the “work from home crowd” are calling for. Work from home for everyone forever? I agree with you that that’s a bad option. Flexibility that recognises that everyone has different needs and wants to meet as many people’s needs as possible? Hell yeah.

          I’m an extrovert who likes working with people and vastly prefers being able to meet people face-to-face and have all the inconsequential not-formal-meetings conversations that we missed during lockdown, but I also have two young kids in school. Either me or my partner would have had to cut back our hours to 0.5FTE in summer 2020 if we hadn’t had the pandemic and our employers hadn’t switched to hybrid and flexible working, because there is simply no childcare available that would allow us both to work 0.8 FTE and commute during the summer vacation. Working from home means that we can pop out to pick them up at 3.30-4pm, and still work a full day.

          I don’t think it’s good to polarise this as “everyone in the workplace” or “everyone working from home”. But it is good to recognise that the traditional “leave the house between 7-8.30 in the morning, travel to a workplace, do 8 hours of work, return home between 5:30-7pm, five days a week” is a model that entirely depends on having a whole other person available to take care of any children under 10, whether that’s another parent, a grandparent or a paid nanny or childminder. If you want a workforce that makes decisions for a diverse population, you need are going to need to offer diverse ways of working.

          1. Violet Fox*

            This goes back to my thing of different things work for different people, and that people also get to have preferences and what works better for them. This is fine.

            Saying everyone should home office because it is more feminist is something that I have huge problems with. It also just is not true. Having options, and having clear expectations are both good things. I’m all for flexibility, and giving people as much flexibility as possible. What I am really tired of is people having a solution for them and vocally pushing it on everyone as a one-size fits all thing.

            It also strikes me as using where people work as a cover so people aren’t pushing about issues like lack of stable and affordable child care. Lack of paid parental leave, etc. Also pay disparities, levelling, that the glass ceiling is still a thing, that glass cliffing is a thing. The way minorities are often treated in the workplace, that people can still be fired or worse for being gay, the way trans people are being treated. Also just living wages, especially with the cost of living and cost of housing in so many places.

            The whole thing starts to feel like wagging the dog.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              Can you point out where someone said “everyone should home office?” All I’m seeing is anxiety over having the *option* taken away. But maybe I missed something.

              1. bamcheeks*

                There definitely is a “home working 4eva, nobody ever wants to go back to the office” crowd– I have also encountered it and the idea is fairly horrifying to me too. But I don’t really see anything that suggests that’s what LW or anyone else is here is arguing, so it does feel like a bit of a strawman.

                1. Katara's side braids*

                  Yeah, I meant in this post/the comments on this post specifically. Some people absolutely let their anxiety about the fragility of these new options get the best of them, which leads to some ridiculous actions (like the manager who retaliated against a worker who wanted to be in office when it had absolutely 0 effect on her).

                2. I have RBF*

                  Whereas I keep seeing people criticizing full time remote people as being “privileged”, “entitled”, “not good for teamwork”, blah, blah, blah.

                  Okay, I get it – they are either jealous because their job is not suited for WFH, or they are extreme extroverts that need social contact to keep their sanity – but not everyone is suited to in-office work.

                  If people are better off working from the office, great, more power to them. But don’t act like the people with the opposite requirement are some sort of freak or entitled prat.

                  In my case, my disability becomes invisible when I work from home. Plus, my medical issues become much more manageable working from home. I don’t consider it some sort of unearned “privilege” or “entitlement” – it is essential for me to manage my health, my disability, and my household’s safety at this point, and I refused to be shamed as some sort of petite bourgeoisie for having the expertise to obtain a remote job.

                  TL;DR: There’s room for both preferences in the modern workforce, and there shouldn’t be any shame in that.

              2. Adrian*

                This was long before remote work was even a thing, but a friend’s employer made all its employees WFH so it could give up its office spaces. They issued company laptops that were restricted to work-related stuff.

                The company later went out of business, for other reasons.

          2. amoeba*

            Yeah, I feel that offering flexibility will, in general, help make the workforce more diverse. Not just for women, but also people with disabilities, for instance!
            I’m also an extrovert who doesn’t like working from home at all, but wouldn’t be thrilled to go back to 0 flexibility, office 8-18 h every day. (Even though I have no kids, disabilities or whatever else, it’s super helpful to be able to work from home for a day for doctor’s appointments, when I’m staying with my long-distance boyfriend, etc…)

            I think offering flexibility for general “life things” will enable a lot more people to work (more hours/at all) just because it makes it so much easier to fit other parts of your life in. Whether these are children or other responsibilities.

            1. Tuesday*

              Totally agree, amoeba. Plenty of women can work just fine when they have their period and/or aren’t responsible for childcare, but plenty of others would benefit from more flexibility. And more men would be able to step up and help with childcare if more companies were chill about it!

            2. Modesty Poncho*

              Totally, for all kinds of reasons. I left the office world because of my autistic meltdowns, although they weren’t diagnosed at the time, which wouldn’t have disturbed anyone else if I’d been allowed to work from home. Because I was around others, they were a problem, but if I’m alone I can just melt down for 5-10 minutes and then be done with it. I also get migraines that can be significantly reduced by taking a nap in the middle of the day and working a split shift, say 10-3 and 5-7. I don’t know of any way to get that working in an office.

              1. I have RBF*

                As a fellow migraine sufferer, I hear you! If I get a mid-day migraine and am in the office, it can be very hard to manage to drive home for up to an hour while having a migraine. (BTDT, don’t want to do that again.)

        3. J*

          Yeah, this also rubs me up the wrong way a bit. In particular, I really resent the assumption that women automatically bear the brunt of childcare, which feels like it’s letting male parents off the hook somewhat.

          1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

            The assumption that women will be taking care of family duties while working at home hurts us, especially if men rightly or wrongly are assumed not to be doing so.

            1. GrooveBat*

              Yes! That is what I was coming here to say. What is anti-feminist is the idea that *women* must have flexibility because they are the default child-carer. That, to me, is exactly backwards and antithetical to what egalitarian partnerships are all about. And structuring workplace policies around that assumption only reinforces a faulty paradigm.

              I would love to get to a world where families can make decisions about how they operate freely, without either partner being penalized for their choices.

              1. Sasha*

                Yep, there is a real risk that this comes across as “women need to stay in the home, cooking, cleaning and looking after children, and maybe doing a little work on the side”, with an added helping of conservative Christian not-mingling-with-unknown-men thrown in (if you can’t meet a female subordinate for a 1:1 without being “tempted”, best she stays on the wrong side of a Teams call).

                It’s nice to have flexibility. For everyone. Not because women can’t cope with working in an office and still manage their “real” responsibilities at home.

                1. VeraWang*

                  There’s also the risk that by saying women need WFH because they menstruate reintroduces the idea that menstruation women are incapable of doing their job effectively. It took a long freaking time to debase society of this (and it wasn’t entirely successful) and I’m not sure that’s a road to go down.

            2. bamcheeks*

              I think there’s some misreading of the argument here. There’s a fairly crude feminist argument that goes, “Working from home is good for people who look after children; women mostly look after children; feminism is about making things better for women; ergo it’s anti-feminist to require people to return to the office.” There are tons of oversimplifications and generalisations there, and it’s fair enough to point them out.

              But there is a more nuanced feminist view which is:
              – care work, both of children and elderly or disabled adults, is *disproportionately* carried out by women *and* is regarded as feminised labour, and consequently devalued
              – our working patterns are still overwhelmingly designed around the assumption that the worker is abled and doesn’t have caring responsibilities, or can be absent from those caring responsibilities for an 8-hour working day, plus 60-120 minutes travel time
              – this doesn’t reflect the realities of the lives of a large proportion of the workforce, and is one of many reasons why certain demographics get pushed out of the workforce and subsequently are not at the table which decisions which perpetuate those inequalities are made
              – changing the assumptions around working patterns so that more of those people can be included is GOOD, for a whole host of reasons to do with equity and inclusion, including but not limited to feminist ones.

              1. Observer*

                changing the assumptions around working patterns so that more of those people can be included is GOOD, for a whole host of reasons to do with equity and inclusion, including but not limited to feminist ones.

                Right. But that is an extremely different argument than the idea that it is specifically “anti-feminist” to require any level of RTO.

                People in general, and women in particular, will benefit a LOT more from companies giving people as much flexibility as they can than from just letting everyone work from home if it is at all possible. Because, despite what the OP says, I would be willing to bet that ONE of the reasons that productivity was up, not down, was because there WERE a lot of people who were on site, making things work.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  Echoing this. Some of these comments are devolving into the same rote “here is why I like work from home” arguments we have once a week, that is not addressing what LW actually asked.

                2. ferrina*

                  It doesn’t sound like LW is saying “any level of RTO” is anti-feminist; they’re saying that blanket RTO is anti-feminist. Some jobs require people to be on-site. It isn’t anti-feminist that those jobs exist (especially gynecologists- I don’t think we’ll call them anti-feminist for being on-site).

                  It’s that blanket RTO disproportionately hurts women. Is it the only factor? Absolutely not. If the rest of society had no sexism, this would be a far lesser issue. But in until the rest of society is equal, RTO will continue to have an outsized impact.

                  Example from my own life: A child is sick. The father claims he can’t watch the child, because he has an important meeting. The mother ends up staying home with the child.
                  If she has RTO, she needs to take a sick day (which will reinforce the Mommy Track). If she has the option to WFH, she can flex her hours so she’s able to make key meetings and get her work done. It’s a long day, but she’s able to lessen the impact.
                  Other issues are obviously there- the father assumes his work is more important that the mother’s (which will vary based on individual circumstances- in this case, it definitely wasn’t) and assumed that his wife should always be the default caregiver. Society often reinforces those messages through workplace visibility, expectations, media portrayals, etc. WFH won’t solve those issues, but it will help the mother be able to navigate around them.

                  Also- WFH allowed this mother to build her career to the point that she divorced this father who refused to take any sick days for his kids. Because she had the flexibility to build her career, she was able to find a high-paying job that allowed her to buy him out of his share of the house. He is now required by the divorce decree to take his share of sick days when the kids are sick.

              2. Paige*

                Nice, succinct summary! Thanks.

                I laterally support/supervise folks in another country with deeply ingrained gender norms. We – well, some of us – have been trying for years to get more women in highly technical roles. They exist, they’re capable, and they’re needed, but it’s not happening. WFH has helped the women in that office stay more engaged but it has done zero to promote them into roles with real power.

                And yes, the job norms that are actively making it impossible for women to be in these roles in this context are sorely in need of fixing. It’s hard to push on both ends of something at the same time… So yeah, it’s kind of anti-feminist to default to WFH as a bandaid for deeply skewed gender expectations, and kind of anti-feminist to go back to the status quo. Ugh.

        4. Amy*

          Yeah, I have 3 young kids and there’s something weirdly icky about this perspective.

          My spouse and I both benefit from flexibility with our children. But is the suggestion that I (the woman) specifically belong at home? That feels like it could just as easily be a 1950s viewpoint.

          I want to be where the work action is and increasingly that’s back at the office. I don’t need anyone patting my head and saying it’s better for me to stay in close proximity to the kinder and küche.

          1. Jackalope*

            I don’t think that’s the OP’s point, though. Greater flexibility on WFH makes it much more possible for BOTH parents to participate in childcare; it gives them both more time not commuting to do drop offs and pick ups, for example, or to throw laundry in, start dinner on breaks, and so on.

              1. amoeba*

                Because when jobs don’t allow for flexibility, the person who stays home is generally the woman. Basically, lack of flexibility only works with traditional gender roles, and I think we all know who’s mostly suffering from those.

                1. Amy*

                  I am not interested in being defined by motherhood in my office. The idea that women specifically need to be the ones who stay home is patronizing.

                2. amoeba*

                  I… did not say that? But this is what happens in disproportionate amounts in practice, unfortunately. Flexibility doesn’t have to lead to the mother working from home, it helps just as much by enabling fathers to take on a larger share of childcare?
                  Or, in general – it helps parents who *both* want to work instead of living in a sole breadwinner model.

                3. GrooveBat*

                  And changing the workplace to accommodate those traditional gender roles, versus giving families the flexibility to define those roles themselves, only reinforces the stereotypes. That’s why I disapprove of the framing of WFH as a “feminist” issue.

                4. amoeba*

                  Ran out of nestings, but @GrooveBat – but that’s exactly what we’re asking for? Nobody wants to let only women have flexibility in the workplace. The workplace is supposed to offer exactly that flexibility to everybody, exactly so that families can have that freedom. Especially for men – if their schedule is super inflexible, that’s a great excuse to not do their fair part of share work…

              2. Eldritch Office Worker*

                When it comes to disparate impact we have to look at what actually happens, not what would happen in theory, and the numbers do say this disproportionally impacts women. I don’t agree RTO is anti-feminist, but if we’re talking about things that make things difficult for parents we’re always talking about something that impacts women more. That’s the hard data.

                1. Amy*

                  About 1/3 of women in the workforce have children under 18. Probably 1/4-1/5 as parents to young children.

                  Flexibility is good. Deciding the RTO is bad for women in general because all women are mothers of young children who should ideally all be at home is not. I know I’m not the only mother who finds WFH a blurring of home and work in an uncomfortable way. And ironically seems enforce gender norms.

                  I completely disagree with the anti-feminist phrasing here and see the logical consequences of looking at WFH as a special female need to be deeply unfeminist.

                  Just have flexibility. Don’t insist WFH is best for all women. It’s not.

                2. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  I’m not positive you read my comment, because I completely agree with you. But the issue is that while WFH is not bad for all women, it is statistically and verifiably worse for women than men. What the letter writer is trying to bring to the table is the idea that if we see that, and if we’re making policies, those policies have to exist through that lens.

                  Now I don’t disagree with you at all that this is a broad brush to paint the issue with, that flexibility benefits all workers, and that not all women want to work from home. Totally true on all counts. But when that data exists, it is negligent and in some contexts illegal not to acknowledge it as women’s issue. Because that’s what disparate impact entails.

              3. Nephron*

                Because due to larger societal structures anti-parent situations will often impact women more. There was a great study about how part of the wage gap was from becoming a parent that impacted career advancement in women, usually not in men. I had a married couple as teachers in high school, both had kids at the same point in their job, both were active parents in their kids lives, due to pregnancy and at the time there being only maternity leave and not parental leave, my female teacher was 3 years further from retirement than her husband.

                There are male employees and parents impacted and those needs to be fixed as well, but the shift to parental leave rather than just maternal leave helped women because their spouses could not take time off and be more active in childcare.
                Recognizing that society as a whole has expectations and structures in place that pushed mothers into taking time off to raise the children is not saying women are the childcare. It is recognizing we need to fix the disparate impact while hopefully fixing the larger issues that pushed women into that role.

                1. amoeba*

                  Yes, thank you. I’m actually quite surprised at the number of comments here that basically ignore the structural sexism and societal expectations women (and especially mothers) encounter in reality. (Honestly, some of it reads a little “I don’t see gender”!)

                2. GrooveBat*

                  @amoeba, I don’t believe anyone is ignoring structural sexism and societal expectations. We are arguing that we shouldn’t be reinforcing them by framing WFH vs. RTO as a “feminist” issue.

              4. ferrina*

                For me, the feminism element comes from mitigating the Mommy Track.

                When I had my kids, my boss and senior leadership put me on the Mommy Track. From the moment I announced my pregnancy, I was put on less high profile projects. Normal parenting burdens were seen as a burden to the company and in their minds, justified the Mommy Track. I had to leave at 5 to pick up my kid? Good thing they didn’t put me on an important project.

                Because I was able to WFH, I was able to mitigate that. My boss/executive leadership didn’t see me physically leave the office, but they knew I was sending emails at 9pm (I would pick up my kids, then work when they were asleep). If they’d bothered to look at my timesheet, they’d have seen that I actually worked more hours after becoming a parent, but that was too much work for them and they preferred to rely on their assumptions (or “gut instinct”, as they called it). WFH helped me neutralize the Mommy Track, and I was put on higher profile projects (which I rocked).

                I totally agree that blanket RTO hurts both parents, but the outsized impact is on the mother.

                1. Allonge*

                  I am glad to hear that it worked ut for you but can you see that for other mothers, WFH will reinforce the Mommy Track?

                  She is at home taking care of the kiddies and sometimes working, she is never around when projects are discussed because she is WFH taking care of the kids etc. Crappy bossess will be crappy.

          2. I have RBF*

            Flexibility around WFH for both genders makes the distribution of caring responsibilities between them more possible. That is a feminist outlook – making equality more possible.

            It doesn’t mean women have to be shoved back into the house and childcare role. It means that both women and men have more flexibility to take on those tasks in ways that suit their family needs.

            The ability of a father to WFH and handle daycare pickups is destroyed by hard RTO policies too.

        5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I’m really uncomfortable with this conversation and the entrenched assumption that women are/should be/will continue to be the primary parent and solely responsible for balancing work and childcare. THAT’s what’s antifeminist, and if we want to equalize the impact of childrearing on working parents we should push for fathers to bear their equal share, get the same amount of leave, and take 50% of the kiddo’s sick days.

          1. Random Dice*

            We’re not setting the effed-up policy, we’re acknowledging an effed-up reality.

            How many men HAD to quit during the pandemic, vs women? Yeah…

            It’s bullshirt, but it’s reality, and just pretending things aren’t forked isn’t actually helpful.

            1. GrooveBat*

              Neither is making it easier to sustain that reality.

              I’m not claiming there are easy answers. But I am deeply uncomfortable with workplace policies that purport to “help” women but really just make it easier for everyone to continually shift the brunt of family labor onto women’s already overburdened shoulders. Your kid’s sick? Oh, no problem, mom works from home, so she can take them to the doctor and then clean the house, make dinner, and work until 1 a.m. to make up the time!

    2. urguncle*

      I definitely don’t know how I would have gone through fertility treatments for the past 3 years while working full time in the office. Early morning monitoring, waiting for important phone call updates, self-administered injections and (now) being violently ill all day every day for the past month and requiring a mid-day nap in order to be able to not seem drunk by 4pm.

      1. GrooveBat*

        And that makes sense for your individual circumstances. But we are talking about the overall assumption behind workplace policies. I cannot help but think if you are creating a remote work model that is informed by the presumption that “women need it because they have to take care of kids, get fertility treatments, have cramps, or whatever,” that just reinforces the presumption that women are the default child carers, and that we are prisoners of our biology.

        1. Amy*

          Agreed. I took intermittent FMLA for hyperemesis for two pregnancies but that doesn’t mean I want to work from home for my entire career because of it.

        2. ferrina*

          I agree that the assumption that women are default childcarers is a much bigger societal issue, but I do think WFH can help mitigate that a bit:

          1. WFH doesn’t fix the childcare disparity, but it also doesn’t advertise that you are out because you are taking care of kids. I was put on the Mommy Track as soon as I had kids- the (male) senior leaders assumed that now that I had kids, my career should be tamped down. Any time they perceived I was doing something with my kids, it reinforced the Mommy Track. When I worked from home, they couldn’t see me leave to pick up my kids, but they could see that I was sending emails at 9pm. They eventually forgot I had kids and I got my high profile assignments back (yes, theoretically I could sue, but they had enough plausible deniability that it would be a waste of time and money).

          2. Men get the same advantage, but in the opposite way. They don’t get asked “why doesn’t your wife do that?” or any of that other nonsense (and yes, I’ve heard men asked that, and other ridiculous implications that their wife is a bad mother if the father needs to leave work for his kid).

          3. The people that like to hide behind “I’m busy at work” aren’t able to do that as easily. When a critical mass of people work remotely, businesses can’t depend on butts-in-seats as a productivity metric. A reasonable business will look at actual productivity metrics. We’ve all known that person that “worked late” yet somehow did the same level of work as others, and I’ve known a few of those that were promoted over more qualified colleagues because of “commitment”. When companies are looking at their actual productivity metrics, different people stand out. The mother who leaves at 5, then continues coding from the minivan while at her child’s soccer practice. The mother who is standing just outside her kid’s daycare talking her staff through an emergency, then spends the rest of the evening simultaneously wrangling her 3yo and 1yo while responding to a flurry of work texts. The dad who picks up his kids, cares for his twins for three hours, then spends another 2 hours doing work requests that have come in from his colleagues in another time zone.

          4. This might be just me, but WFH allowed me to see how full of BS my (now-ex)husband was. Pre-pandemic, he always got home just a little too late to help with dinner, he always had an important meeting any day the kid got sick, he was too busy to help with this or that, etc. When we were both working from home, I could see that he spent at least a couple hours each day doing nothing. Now that he didn’t commute, I assumed he would help with dinner- nope. It made blazingly obvious that he was a false feminist- “feminism is great, as long as my wife keeps taking care of the kids, the housework, and doesn’t expect me to support her career”. WFH meant that I had the flexibility to meet with a lawyer, pack his stuff during my lunch hours (he happily moved out of the house, but refused to pack any of his stuff because he was “busy”) and navigate the divorce process more easily (still sucked, wasn’t what I wanted, but has made life so much better).

    3. RagingADHD*

      No. It is not feminist to push a narrative that women can’t leave the house or go to work because they’re having their period. Or that they can’t go to the office because they are pregnant.

      That is, in fact, setting feminism back fifty to a hundred years. My own mother was forced to resign from her job when she started showing, because it was company policy that they would not employ (visibly) pregnant women. “For their own good.”

      If someone has a medical condition like endometriosis or hyperemesis gravidarum, then sure. They need medical accommodation. Just like people with any other medical condition.

      But the idea that half the population is automatically more delicate and in need of protection from the harsh outside world when their bodies are doing totally normal, regular functions is the kind of dangerous nonsense people literally died to overcome.

      1. Chick (on laptop)*

        And what stinks is this argument is so close to a much better argument: managers need to assess individual employee needs as they come up, should be flexible in order to retain good talent, and should re-assess when circumstances change! So, so frustrating!

      2. Susie*

        Thank you! Yes, menstruation is the worst, but this feels way to close to “women are too fragile to work”. Horrifying and incredibly antifeminist.

      3. Staying Anon*

        Thank you. This is medical accommodations territory, not anti-feminist rhetoric. Men can have medical issues that would make it easier to work from home some days. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a gendered medical thing, you could simply have a bad back injury that would keep you from working in person some days. If you want to push it to the parenting argument, BOTH parents should have flex time to take care of their children. There are plenty of single fathers who would benefit.

        I think this comes down to advocating for flexibility with WFH. It is so icky to me to try and frame returning to the office as anti-feminist. It’s just… not. There are inequalities we still face in the office and society, but being asking to return to the office along with every other coworker is not one of them.

    4. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

      To me, this feels a lot like the conversation we were having the other day about the church employee who called a disciplinary meeting “non-consensual.”

      I feel like there’s been an uptick in people a) learning about psychology/social justice words and phenomenons, and b) wanting to frame their opinions in strong language that makes the opinion seem more like a non-debatable fact. When you put the two together, you get these claims that situations are abusive/gaslighting/non-consensual/anti-feminist, when they actually don’t reach that threshold and it waters down the language for situations that actually do.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Hm, I think it’s the opposite– people are assuming a really narrow definition of what “anti-feminist” means (“women should be able to work from home so they can cook and clean for their husband”) and not looking at the bigger picture of structural sexism and how so many of our working patterns are still designed around a model of a two-parent, one-income family that was never universal and even at its height lasted less than a few decades.

    5. Chick (on laptop)*

      Um. I don’t think “I can’t go to work because of my period” is the feminist argument you think it is.

      1. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

        But it is a human one, and some human females have period pain that is so incredibly debilitating that even getting up off the floor is a struggle each month. To have to use the one day a month of PTO that many of earn just on period pain days is not right. We shouldn’t have to use that one sick day every single month. Being allowed to WFH gives us time to let the meds kick in and work from the couch with a hot water bottle, heating pad, loose clothing and closeness to a private bathroom at any moment. Why is this such a struggle for so many people to understand and accommodate with humanity and compassion.

        1. bamcheeks*

          right, exactly.

          Do all women need Time Off because of menstruation? No!
          Do some women, non-binary people and trans men need time off because of menstruation or conditions related ? Yes!
          Do they all need a full day off work, or could they benefit from being able to work more flexibly, work from home, take more breaks? The latter!
          Does a much wider group benefit when we understand that the workplace doesn’t have be designed around a default abled, default male human who rarely gets sick? Yes!

          Do some people lose out, because they’re actually enjoying invisible privileges by fitting into the current Default Human model, and people who might otherwise be competitors being excluded from it? Yeah, probably, sorry/notsorry!

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            “Does a much wider group benefit when we understand that the workplace doesn’t have be designed around a default abled, default male human who rarely gets sick?”

            This is the crux of the argument, though, and you should make it under this umbrella not on the backs of women who have worked really, really hard not to be perceived as lesser because of their biology. It’s great in some ways that we feel far away enough from women’s liberation that this doesn’t set off a choir of alarm bells for everyone, but in reality it still should.

            1. RagingADHD*

              Considering the current political climate I cant’ imagine how anyone feels comfortable taking women’s liberation for granted.

            2. bamcheeks*

              on the backs of women who have worked really, really hard not to be perceived as lesser because of their biology

              I think my response to any argument like this is, lesser than what? why are you not naming the fact that men are the Default Human and Default Worker in this argument?

              I personally am not in favour of any argument that sounds like, “women are just as good as men!” because it is still using the framework of men as Default Human.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                In this particular case? Because it was called out in detail in the comment I was responding to so I didn’t think I needed to repeat it.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  Ok, to put it another way, I don’t want a workplace that values me because I’m a woman who isn’t constrained by my biology. I want a workplace that recognises we’re all constrained by our biology in different ways, and values us anyway.

          2. I have RBF*

            “Does a much wider group benefit when we understand that the workplace doesn’t have be designed around a default abled, default male human who rarely gets sick?”

            IMO, that is an intersectional feminist argument!

            IMO, something that benefits people who do not fit the “default abled, default male human who rarely gets sick and never has to take care of others” is feminist, because feminism tries to make things fair for everyone, and free men from toxic masculinity and harmful gender norms.

            YMMV, of course, but these things are part of feminism to me.

      2. ferrina*

        Person with a uterus: “I can’t go to work because of my endometriosis pain.”

        Person without a uterus: “I can’t go to work because of my kidney stones.”

        One of these people is more likely to face stigma than the other. Especially since the people in power in many industries are more likely to be men. I’ve seen men with power faced with both of these, and immediately shirked from any talk of uterine anything, but bonded over kidney stones. Guess who is more likely to get promotions and raises?

    6. GrooveBat*

      I’m REALLY uncomfortable tying WFH to female biology in any way shape or form. If workplaces want to offer flexible working conditions to all employees because it provides a better work-life balance, that’s one thing. But someone’s menstrual issues are nobody else’s business, particularly their employer’s, and I think it’s really problematic to make blanket statements like, “Women need WFH arrangements because menstruation.”

  4. Fikly*

    A return to office is also incredibly biased against people with lower incomes in many ways. Beyond cost of living issues (from housing to transportation) it prevents many types flexibility that people with lower incomes simply cannot afford.

    Guess who is more likely to have a lower income? Minorities, people with disabilities, and women.

    1. nnn*

      I think you’re talking about a disparate impact but that doesn’t make it inherently antifeminist if there are reasons to prefer employees in the office.

      1. Mid*

        You commented that before, but can you explain your meaning further? If something is impacting one group more than another, how is it not anti-that group?

        1. Marine (not a Marine)*

          Potentially because, as Allison mentions, it’s a combination of issues, including societal expectations, childcare provision, and individual family dynamics that contribute – if childcare is back up to pre-pandemic levels and your husband takes on his share of the child rearing, then it shouldn’t be affecting women more. So it’s not just the on-site part.

          Also, one could argue this is affecting parents/mothers, rather than all women. (Saying this as a working mother whose partner works for himself and therefore takes on the flexibility of picking up the kids if there’s a reason to, in a country where childcare provision is back up and running – so super privileged!)

          1. Myrin*

            I would also say – and maybe that’s nitpicky and just arguing semantics, I’m not sure, but it feels like it does have meaning in this case – that for something to be explicitly “anti-X” it would have to be detrimental to basically all X and to solely X. It’s possible this is just a matter of how one understands “anti” as a prefix, though.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I would argue that any policy that takes one particular group–in this case, women– out of the workplace or out of hierarchies does impact all women, even if some women continue to thrive there. Because workplaces are where decisions are made that impact all of us: it’s where products and buildings are designed, laws and policy are created, streets are planned, curricula are written, and so on. The less diverse those workplaces are, the more the entire world is built according to the vision of those who are there, and the more exclusionary it is.

              1. Observer*

                The thing is that your definition could as easily apply to WFH policies and RTO policies.

                1. ferrina*

                  It couldn’t, though. Yes, some people struggle more with WFH. But I suspect this group is more diverse- it’s about brain processing, not societal systems. (please correct me if I’m wrong!)

                  Whereas due to our other societal systems, RTO hurts women and minorities more (see: studies that show that minorities have way less stress due to less microagressions during WFH). It also disproportionately hurts people with disabilities, and people that may not have reliable transportation or caregiving obligations that limit how far they can commute (again, disproportionately women, who tend to be caregivers more often than men. Yes, that’s another issue that would be good to solve, but it’s also an issue that directly impacts the WFH/RTO question)

                  So assuming blanket RTO or WFH were our only options (which they aren’t- many offices are leaving it at employees’ discretion), we have either something that hurts a randomized sample of the population or something that disproportionately hurts women/minorities/people with disabilities.

                2. bamcheeks*

                  Right, and I am not anywhere making the argument that one is better than the other. I am making the argument that flexibility is better than either one as a static system that applies to all.

                3. Observer*


                  – it’s about brain processing, not societal systems. (please correct me if I’m wrong!)

                  Yes, you are wrong. Many of the issues that make WFH difficult for people are systemic, and tend to be most likely to affect people with low income, marginalized communities, and women.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              I think that’s too strict a definition. For example, I’d say expecting mothers to do most of the childcare is clearly anti-feminist, even though it doesn’t impact all women, or all feminists, just the subset that have children in their care. I’d also be careful with the “solely”, because things that negatively impact women on their face often also negatively impact men in more hidden ways (for example, fathers that *do* want to be involved more), plus it gets complicated for people outside the assigned gender binary. If you get that strict, nothing counts.

              1. Myrin*

                I hear what both of you are saying and I don’t disagree but still, something about this situation in particular – calling a return to the office “anti-feminist” – simply doesn’t sit right with me. I’ll be thinking more about whether I can put my finger on why exactly that is.

                1. Emmy Noether*

                  It’s actually not quite the term I would have used either. Probably because it’s conditional on other things? If society at large were less sexist (and the gender care gap were less), the effect would not be as disparate, by a long shot. So if we lived in an otherwise fair world, it wouldn’t be anti-feminist.

                2. Amy*

                  It’s suggesting we women belong at home and people are doing us a favor by keeping us there.

                3. Boof*

                  I agree with you. I’m fine with saying it “Disproportionately impacts women”, but “anti feminist” to me implies a certain amount of deliberacy / directness against women’s rights specifically, like “women shouldn’t vote”.

                4. JB*

                  Saying it’s “anti-feminist” comes across as if someone was deliberately and maliciously looking for ways to hurt women. It ignores the possibility that – as Alison pointed out – sometimes a confluence of factors results in an unequal outcome, even though those factors are outside of our control.

                  It’s very tiresome to assume that every unfortunate outcome is the result of malicious racism, misogyny, bigotry, etc etc.

                5. Engineer*

                  @Amy that’s precisely why this phrasing bothers me. The underlying assumption reinforces that women need to be at home caring for children. Its also circular logic – women carry a disproportionate burden of childcare therefore they need to work from home so they can continue caring for children.

                  It dilutes what feminism and institutionalized misogyny actually *mean*, much like that priest that “didn’t consent” to the meeting to fire her.

                6. bamcheeks*

                  JB– excluding or ignoring a particular groups needs during decision-making IS homophobic, transphobic, racist etc, regardless of whether it’s done deliberately or it’s the result of institutional and structural factors. That’s exactly what institutionalised oppression is.

                  And when you’re the one experiencing the oppression, whether it’s the result of malice or institutionalised ignorance is often not that important. Sometimes it might be, but sometimes it really really isn’t.

                7. My Cabbages!*

                  I feel like “anti-feminist” should be tied to things that themselves disproportionately harm women, whether purposefully or accidentally. For example, the expectation of childcare being a woman’s job would be anti-feminist.

                  But I am uncomfortable using the term to describe things like RTO that only have a disproportionate impact on women solely due to societal issues that are harmful to women. If not for the actual anti-feminist practices if society, RTO would have no disproportionate impact at all.

                8. ferrina*

                  I had a gut reaction against the term “anti-feminist”, but I’m emotionally comfortable with calling WFH “feminist”. When I reflected on this, it’s because I don’t want to ‘attack’ people who don’t intend to cause harm, but I want to support people who are actively mitigating harm. People (including myself) would rather be called out on our good deeds than called out on our unintentional but still real poor choices. “Anti-feminist” isn’t the word that I’d use, but I don’t think it’s an inaccurate word.

                  I agree with Emmy Noether- if society at large were fair and equal, RTO wouldn’t be an issue.

        2. Sasha*

          Depends on the reason. I think we can all agree that a surgeon cannot work from home, right? It isn’t anti-feminist to require surgeons to work in an operating theatre, it is just a requirement of the role.

          UK employment law has the concept of “reasonable adjustments” to roles to mitigate discrimination – but that would not be deemed a reasonable adjustment.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I’m in the UK and this type of this is expressly recognised as indirect discrimination (which is illegal under our Equalities Act) where a policy has a disproportionate impact of people of a protected call (so for instance, requiring all employees to work full time would be indirect discrimination as it discriminates against people who are carers for children or others, which is likely to affect women more than men.
        A ban on wearing headscarves / head coverings would be likely to be be indirect religious discrimination because it will affect Muslims and Jews and could also be indirect racial and sex discrimination because f the specific groups of people most likely to be affected by that kind of ban.

        Are there protections in the US against indirect discrimination?

    2. Anonymously*

      This just came up this afternoon at the community college where I work. They are talking about how forcing classified works to come in to the campus during spring break affects the lower-paid employees far, far more than the highest managers who make this decision. Union members are avidly discussing it and no doubt it will continue on tomorrow.

    3. Marine (not a Marine)*

      That’s very interesting and I agree with you mostly, but during Covid we surveyed people on whether they wanted to be fully remote or come into the office some of the week, and a lot of the junior people wanted to come in because they felt their living arrangements were not set up for working in all week (house sharing, or living in small one-bedroom apartments with their partner also working from home…), whereas the middle/upper middle management were constantly joining video meetings from their home office in lovely houses/second homes in the countryside

      1. American Abroad*

        As a young person who hates working from home, I would second these findings! I appreciate the flexibility of having the option to WFH, but overall I achieve far less working in my bedroom (roommates…) than I do with my two monitors and proper keyboard in my office. I also really value the opportunity to interact with my coworkers in person and in general find WFH to be fairly alienating. That being said, I know many others feel differently! Since there are real advantages and disadvantages on both sides, there’s never going to be one consensus about the correct way of working. I think it’s painting with an awfully broad brush to say working in the office is bad for women, especially since WFH isn’t a panacea without addressing the larger societal issues affecting women/caregivers/etc. that Alison mentioned.

      2. EchoGirl*

        This occurred to me as well. Not to discount the issues that the top comment brings up, but I can just as easily see how having a lower income could lead to situations that make WFH more difficult. Ideally, companies would let people decide for themselves which one is the lesser burden.

        1. Lexi Vipond*

          Yes – going from being able to spend 8 or 9 hours a day in an environment which comes provided with heat, light, suitable furniture and equipment and power for that equipment, to having to pay for at least most those things in your own environment has never seem like an obvious win to me, although it will depend.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’m torn about it too. I admit I had the realization, after I interviewed with a company two years ago and they casually mentioned it at the end that they were in-office 5 days a week, that it’d essentially feel like a paycut to me with all the gas, wear and tear on my car (that is 11 years old and keeps getting closer to needing to be replaced), and lost time every day. Oh, and “work clothes”, of which I hardly have any left. But my living arrangements were good and in each of the three places I’ve lived since WFH started, I always had a designated office. And I already had my own equipment as well (the perks of being exempt and therefore expected to be able to log in from home on evenings or wekeends – at some point years ago I’d started setting up my own work space at home because it was easier than trying to peer at a tiny laptop screen and type on the laptop keyboard while working). So, yes, it really depends.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          “Ideally, companies would let people decide for themselves which one is the lesser burden.”

          This is where I come down

          1. ferrina*

            My company does this, and I love it. I thrive in WFH, but some of my colleagues do their best work in office. Some do best with a hybrid model. We’re actively setting up systems so that everyone is able to thrive in the model that works for them, and each group feels included, valued and has equal promotion and professional opportunities. The business impact of setting this up has been way less than the impact of not doing it- before this, our retention was in the toilet; since we’ve started this initiative, retention has significantly improved and profit metrics have been steadily climbing. Our industry has been hard-hit by the pandemic, so it’s been a steady recovery process, and it’s made us more adaptable for future challenges and opportunities.

            1. I have RBF*

              This is the way.

              My workplace is also “blended” in that some people are fully remote, some people are fully on-site, and some people are a mixture of both. With sites and data centers in multiple states it is a positive thing. We have a “remote first” meeting culture, so people are not penalized for not being in a particular office, but there are still plenty of opportunities for in-person work for those who thrive with it.

      3. I take tea*

        This so much. I had a boss saying something along the lines of people coming into the office for the social aspect, all work demanding concentration would surely be done at home, right? Um, nope. Not everyone can afford their own office, thank you.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Before my kids started moving out and I got a spare bedroom that I converted to an office, my workspace at home was an old kitchen table in the basement, tucked in between a desk where my mom liked to sit when she came over, and a treadmill that my sons exercised on during the day. Can confirm, I wouldn’t have wanted to work fulltime in that setting, and it would’ve nothing to do with “the social aspect”. Honestly, breakroom chats about the weather with Bob from the BI team for the five minutes while we both wait for our coffee to be ready, isn’t the motivator this boss thinks it is.

      4. UKDancer*

        Can confirm most of my new starters especially the younger ones want to be in the office where possible. It’s a mix of less than ideal home working (house shares and flat shares) and increasing electricity costs at the moment making it expensive to heat and run technology.

      5. Fikly*

        While this is entirely true, it is based on where people are and/or were living due to needing to be within physical distance of the office they had to commute to.

        If people can choose where to live without that constraint, their housing options vastly increase, and correspondingly, their ability to afford housing in areas where they can have a setup that works for remote work, including things like more affordable childcare, be that something like daycare, or living close enough to family.

        Surveying workers based on how remote worked for them when they were living in a setup that was never intended for remote work to begin with will of course get you responses from people with lower socioeconomic statuses that this placed more hardship on them, on average. That’s because people with less money never have the ability to flex with changes, which is one of the many problems of poverty. But to draw a conclusion from that that remote work isn’t potentially a better option for that group is misunderstanding your survey to begin with, and in error.

        1. GrooveBat*

          Many people prefer to live in cities, not in suburbs or remote locations where they need a car and where high density housing is less available. I agree with others that having an office to go to is a better arrangement than squeezing into a corner of your bedroom trying to function normally.

          The assumption that “everyone wants remote work” simply isn’t true. Forcing people to move out of cities to accommodate a WFH model brings an entirely different set of costs and issues.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Oddly, remote work is the reason I was able to move out of a suburb 20ish miles from downtown to a near one. My new neighborhood is a historic one and as such does not have a freeway running through the city and never will. I probably would’ve still moved, but my commute would’ve doubled.

            Where I live, most offices are out in the suburbs. A few are downtown, but all my jobs and most of the job interviews I had were in suburban office campuses where I wouldn’t want to live. I’m assuming it was cheaper for the companies to build or rent there? All this is to say, I’m not sure that “full time remote” = “forcing people to move out of cities” is true for all or even most cities? (See also: Bay Area. definitely a big mass of suburbs with offices.)

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Can confirm. I work in the DC area and have a good number of recently college grads on my team. Most of them live in the District, often in shared housing, do not have cars, and prefer to come into the office. We provided a stipend for home office set-up and a portal to purchase discounted office supplies and electronics (like a second monitor), and most of them still prefer to come into the office for work.

            Suburban living can be really lonely if you don’t have transportation or live near a metro station. My recent grads come from all over the country and don’t necessarily have local family, maybe just some college or HS friends that live in the area. They like being in the urban center where there are (free) museums, lots of events, and things are walkable/bikeable.

            1. Smithy*

              My DC office has free gym access. We were never told we had to be in the office and almost immediately had some people coming into the office 5 days a week.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                A friend of mine works in DC and their office is the same. They told me that people take their work to the gym – it requires a lot of reading through paperwork and they do it while walking on a treadmill. I was jealous.

        2. American Abroad*

          It’s not exactly a solution to force younger/lower-income workers out into the exurbs or countryside to where they may actually be able to afford the kind of space that allows for that kind of set-up though. Many people may not want to leave the expensive urban areas they live in for non-job-related reasons.

          1. GrooveBat*

            Yeah, it’s an interesting juxtaposition of “forcing people to live in the city to be near the office” with “forcing people to live in the suburbs so they can have enough room to work from home.”

            1. I have RBF*

              The problem with both of those options is the “forcing people to …” paradigm. This is why flexibility and choices are a good thing, because it removes the “forced to live in the city”, “forced to live in the suburbs”, or “forced to commute for hours every day”.

              I do not miss the last in-person job I had where my daily commute was a total of two and a half hours per day. I put over a hundred thousand miles on my car in under ten years because of commutes like that.

        3. Observer*

          While this is entirely true, it is based on where people are and/or were living due to needing to be within physical distance of the office they had to commute to.

          Only partially true. There are many reasons people live in the areas they live in, and being in proximity to the job is only one of them.

          Also having *space* is not the only issue. If you have kids at home, for instance, it can be a real issue regardless. If you live in an apartment building with people who have kids at home, or who have their TV / Stereo / Home theater set up really loud, you may very well have a problem. Look at the archives for some good stories. It’s a lot more common that you think. I was just having a conversation in which a few people were lamenting that they are having a hard time getting their work done because the kids were outside in the common hallway playing and the person was trying to manage a meeting with the noise bleeding in. Different people, in different neighborhoods with similar stories – kids playing, kids yelling and crying, arguments from the next apartment, etc.

      6. Lily Rowan*

        At my job, you can basically come in or not whenever you want, and I’m honestly shocked at how little the junior people come in, for these exact reasons.

        And general to the topic, there are some fathers here who are also happy to have the flexibility of WFH to handle taking kids to activities, etc.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Depressingly, a survey in the UK found that mothers were most likely to want work from home options, and fathers were most likely to want to return to the office.

      7. Smithy*

        For jobs where it’s an option, I think unfortunately that too many workplaces have taken an “optimal” view at either remote or in-person work at the expense of investing more fully in the benefit that truly flexible workspaces offer.

        My industry is international development/humanitarian work – and in the US, those employers are typically congregated in larger/expensive cities. For ngo staff we’re not paid badly, but they are still ngo salaries – particularly for junior staff. Having the flexibility to be full time remote and in the office has expanded our recruiting for junior staff in a way that I hope expands equity and onboarding in ways that did not exist when I was starting in an industry that rarely pay for relocation of US based staff.

        At my job, for a large variety of junior roles, you can start fully remote. Aka, living with family, in the final months of university housing, or anywhere in the US. Based on your life and timeline of saving, you are able to relocate on your own clock and into housing that doesn’t have to continue supporting full time remote work. The reality for junior employees is that they often do onboard a lot quicker when they are in the office more than they’re fully remote, and they often do pick this work because they want to be in these areas, in the urban core. However, they now can wait a few months (and few pay checks) and often with at least one visit to the city paid for by work before doing so.

        Someone starting this way may have a slower 6-9 months than someone starting closer to the office, but over a career – that’s a lot different than the advice given for how to break into this field 10-20 years ago. For our work, it also means that our talent pool isn’t narrowed to junior candidates able to relocate to expensive places before getting hired/paid. I think this is just one example of how flexibility can help one type of candidate in one type of role for one industry. But I’m sure there are more cases where the flexibility back and forth from remote to in-office makes a difference.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          We’re not as flexible as that, but I think my work does a decent job at offering flexibility while requiring a hybrid schedule. We have to be in the office two days a week, but which days can change week to week, and it’s an average of two days a week, so you can do more one week (3-4 days) and less the next (0-1 days). Also, at least right now, it’s not uncommon for people to leave mid-afternoon and work from home the rest of the day.

      8. ferrina*

        I think we’re confusing RTO vs employee discretion vs mandated WFH. Just because someone is against RTO doesn’t mean that they want mandated WFH- usually that person is advocating employee discretion (with reasonable limitations- some jobs can’t be done remotely, employees can’t move out of state without informing the employer, etc.).

        I’m anti-RTO and anti-mandated WFH; I’m a big fan of the employee discretion model.

        1. I have RBF*


          I want workplaces to be flexible enough to accommodate the work format which is best for the job and the employee. I acknowledge that there are economic advantages to 100% remote companies from savings on real estate. I acknowledge that some jobs can’t be done remotely. There is no one true way.

    4. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      More lower paid jobs can’t at all be performed from home – retail, delivery, warehouse work, service work like cleaning, child care…

      Women are also almost the entire work force for personal care aides who travel to people’s homes or work in institutions.

      Flexibility for office workers doesn’t begin to touch on the needs of large groups of these workers, who need child care, sick leave, and other larger provisions.

      1. Binky*

        But the question posed is about office workers. The company in question can’t grapple with the struggles of people who aren’t its employees.

    5. L-squared*

      I was going to bring something like this up. If you want to make the argument that its antifeminist, couldn’t you just as easily make the argument that its racist? Black people in the USA are less likely to have a reliable vehicle, so making everyone go to the office has a bigger impact on black people.

      Now, to be clear, I don’t find it racist that I have to go to the office 3 days a week (I’m black). It sucks, but I don’t think its discriminatory. But when you try to apply this kind of logic to it, then at some point you can get to “the only people who should be going to the office are able bodied straight white men aged 25-40” or something like that.

      1. Knope Knope Knope*

        Yeah. The office was built around a patriarchal system that favored white men. Why not evolve it now?

      2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Exactly my fear when these notions come up. Marking out the office as a place for white men only does not seem very progressive.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          There are so many long term impacts to some of these arguments that I don’t see people thinking all the way through. This is definitely one of them.

      3. Dr. Hyphem*

        This is the problem that I have with the argument–I’ve read a lot of comments on either side that boil down to people choosing their preference and creating a reason why it is the feminist/anti-racist/social justice approved path. People who dislike WFH are making arguments against it from this lens , while people who prefer it are talking about why it is anti-feminist to require people to come into the office. You can find an argument for either side of the Office/WFH debate to make the claim that it is somehow discriminatory, and while the individual circumstances described may have merit, it feels like people are just trying to one-up each other to make an argument.

        My workplace has a flexibility first policy where everyone can choose the balance that works for them. I choose to be home pretty much full time because I have immunocompromised family members and also would have to rely on public transportation. Some people choose to go into the office daily. If this sort of approach can be executed for a business, that really feels like the only way to be equitable, as it allows individuals to choose the path that works best for their circumstances without sweeping pronouncements of what is The BEST Path.

    6. Macrina*

      Only having the option to WFH is also disproportionately hard on those who are low income—paying more for electricity and internet, not necessarily having a quiet or comfortable space to do work, etc. I think what we’re all landing on is that it’s harder to be poor, or a woman, or a minority in the workplace (virtual or in office), and it seems that there isn’t one work location policy that can solve these underlying inequities.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        And we should absolutely call those out! And work on them, come at them from different angles, innovate where we can. But a blanket “work from home solves x”…isn’t it. There’s not a significant enough portion of the population working from home, for starters. And hybrid solutions that result in overwhelmingly women/POC/disabled folks working from home introductions segregation dynamics. There’s a LOT to unpack on this issue and it’s going to be ongoing work.

    7. Observer*

      A return to office is also incredibly biased against people with lower incomes in many ways. Beyond cost of living issues (from housing to transportation) it prevents many types flexibility that people with lower incomes simply cannot afford.

      On the other hand, WFH is often difficult or even impossible for some people. And yes, the people most likely to have these issues are the people with the lowest incomes, minorities and women.

      When we had to send people home at the start of Covid, we were in a pretty good place because I had always pushed to have the kind of infrastructure in place to make something like this possible. I was largely successful because having that infrastructure was what let us get back into business within 2 days of Sandy, even though we couldn’t move back into our space for 18 months.

      But after Sandy, most of our staff were NOT working from home, rather from a few remote locations that we managed to pull together. That was necessary for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it was literally impossible for a number of our staff to work from home. Many of them didn’t HAVE homes for weeks (and in a few cases months) after the storm. Others had homes of a sort, but had trouble getting the internet access the would have needed.

      When we sent everyone home because of Covid everyone assumed that it would be a totally different scene. No one was losing their homes and we all assumed that in NYC of all places people could for sure get decent internet. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. I wound up having to help a number of people with all sorts of situations that made WFH challenging, although I was able to turn at least two situations from “impossible” to Challenging. Like the person living in a shelter. If we hadn’t been willing to pay a ridiculous amount for her to get a data plan for the laptop we gave her, it just would not have been possible. Once she had that, it was still a struggle, but she could manage it. But our organization is a bit unusual that we were willing to spend a significant amount of money to make this work. The employee could never have been able to do it themselves. (And, not it’s not that we pay ridiculous wages. We don’t pay HIGH wages, but we try to pay reasonably. But there were life circumstances that, well, they wind up costing a lot of money. Which I normally wouldn’t have known about, but they were germane to the situation that I needed to deal with.)

  5. CatCat*

    Fun facts: the California oath is a requirement of the State Constitution, Article XX, Section 3, found at

    OP#5 didn’t have to subscribe to that second paragraph because it was struck down by the California Supreme Court decades ago because they found it violated the Federal Constitution based on US Supreme Court precedent.

    Also, I used to be a federal employee and that oath required me to say “So help me God,” a phrase that I personally oppose. No alternative was offered and I was in absolutely zero position to make waves. So I said it, but it felt very coercive and bugs me to this day.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Yes, I had to say aloud the “So help me God” thing when I took a federal job. When I objected, I was told it wan not optional. It annoyed me then and still does. I looked it up and that wording is still required in the federal oath. At least the California version doesn’t include a religious reference.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I would find that problematic too. I am in the uk and here, for anything that requires an oath there are different versions to use depending on the beliefs of the person taking the oath, and the option to affirm if you are not religious. As a lawyer I used to administer the oath a lot, and in a previous job in an area which was more diverse than where I currently live, we had copies of the Qur’an and Torah as well as the bible, for people to swear on, and copies are provided in courts so witnesses can take the oath on the holy book appropriate to their beliefs, or affirm if they prefer.

      1. JustAnoning*

        The option to affirm is also very important for some religious people, such as Quakers. Swearing on a deity is akin to blasphemy.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Same for Anabaptists/Mennonites – I was taught growing up never to swear an oath (doesn’t even have to involve a diety) but to affirm if needed.

        2. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

          I’ve been working for various local governments since I was in my teens, and I always go the “I do solemnly affirm” route for that exact reason.

      2. UKDancer*

        It’s the same for MPs. They can use any religious text they select or affirm if they prefer. I always like watching the first session of Parliament to see who uses what when they take the oath of loyalty. Some of them take the oath in Welsh as an alternative (especially Plaid Cymru MPs).

    3. Watry*

      I also had to take this sort of oath (local, not fed) and at some point they changed it to ‘swear or affirm’, but they still left the God language in. For Job 1 I just had to sign it so I just rolled my eyes and did it. For Job 2 there were three of us doing the oath-taking at the same time so I sort of hiccuped over it.

    4. Floome*

      I became a civil servant 7 years ago, and simply told the person on-boarding me that I would need it modified to remove the reference to god. They were very accommodating and actually apologized for it even being in there, despite the fact that we were located in a VERY conservative region of the country. So maybe things have improved (or are just inconsistent across different parts of the government).

      I think they should really bring it up with the job offer, so that prospective employees know it’s a requirement.

    5. Phony Genius*

      Interesting thing about “So help me God.” It is required in most federal oaths except President of the United States. Every president since Chester Arthur has added the phrase voluntarily. Abraham Lincoln has been documented to have said it. George Washington may have said it, but it’s disputed. If they wanted to make it mandatory for presidents, they’d need a constitutional amendment, since it is written out in Article II without the phrase.

    6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      The choice between swearing (“so help me God”) and affirming is in the federal constitution. It wasn’t originally intended to protect nonbelievers, but Quakers (and other Christians) who believe that it would be wrong to say “I swear to do X/I swear this is true.”

      When I was called for jury duty in New York, the court officer told us that we could either swear or affirm, and I wasn’t the only person there who chose to affirm.

    7. TomatoSoup*

      I find that phrase kinda funny because, outside of oaths, I’ve only heard it in situations where someone is frustrated to the end of their rope but is trying to keep it together.

  6. Oysters and Gender Freedom*

    #5 The short version is that the state loyalty oath was instated after a McCarthy-era loyalty oath went down in flames. I remember signing something similar in the 1980s. I think you can decide privately what you think the constitution says and who its enemies are.

    1. Kat from County Government*

      The difference being in this case that government employees can be fired or sued for failing to uphold the constitution/laws of the government. It’s not a loyalty oath, it’s an oath to uphold the law. Is it weird? Yes, sort of. But it’s less weird when you consider that op#5 is going to be working for a state government agency (University of California), and that upholding the laws/constitution of California is going to be an integral part of their job.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        This is it. In NYS, we call it an “Oath of Office,” which is required of all employees. I think this term is better than “allegiance,” personally, but the intent is the same.

    2. Morning reader*

      I’ve been under the impression that the loyalty oath was instituted after the US civil war, or maybe just the part about “enemies foreign and domestic.” It was to weed out confederate traitors.

      It’s a bit disturbing to me that someone could object to taking this oath. If you don’t support the government you work for, maybe you shouldn’t be a government employee. Or president, for instance. Not having people in government actively working to undermine it seems reasonable to me. But then saying some words doesn’t exactly ensure that.

      1. MissElizaTudor*

        It’s not so disturbing. Someone can want to work for a university or do a job that happens to be for the government without feeling comfortable taking a pledge of allegiance to the government. It could be something as innocent as pledging allegiance feels weird or up to and including the fact that you can want to overthrow the US government as part of seeking a better world (viva la révolution etc.) while doing your best in your job as a researcher, social worker, or administrative assistant.

      2. Red*

        As a non-American, I find it quite easy to object to such an oath – in the UK, the only people who have to swear it are judges, police, MPs, notaries, Anglican priests, the military, and naturalised citizens.

        Frankly, most people find it deeply weird that naturalised citizens have to swear that oath. Why should a random person working in admin for the civil service have to swear allegiance? We’re a democracy, you should be able to oppose the government – and even MPs can choose to make a “solemn affirmation” instead of swearing an oath (the oath involves God).

        1. nona*

          You’re swearing allegiance to the Governing Document (Constitution) not the Government that has been formed by the elected official under than governing document. So it would be your duty (under that oath) to oppose the action of the government when it is in opposition of the governing document (and its principles). Or to work to change/improved the governing document using the methods of the governing document, in order to hold the government formed under the governing document accountable.

          You aren’t swearing allegiance to the Governor of California, you’re swearing allegiance to the *People* of California (or US) that the governing document represents. At least, that’s how I would read it.

      3. loons*

        Many years ago, I had to sign one of these oaths swearing to uphold a state constitution that included a DOMA. If I’d had the opportunity, I would certainly have objected to this as an LGBTQ person but I needed the job and was reassured by HR that my existence was not in conflict with the oath. The fact that you find this “a bit disturbing” is really a bit out of touch with experiences that are (apparently) not your own.

  7. Kat from County Government*

    I’ve signed a variation on that California oath of allegiance before as a county worker and election aide. It’s sometimes referred to as an oath of office, which makes sense because the UC system is ultimately an arm of California state government. It’s essentially you saying that you’ll uphold the laws of the state in your work (unlike a loyalty oath for a private company). It’s no weirder than the President being sworn in, you’re essentially being sworn in to your job.

    1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

      The oath I had to sign made me swear not to overthrow the federal and Georgia state governments. I daresay were I inclined to do so, I would sign the oath and overthrow them anyway. I believe God was referenced as well.

      1. Watry*

        I just had to take it again after moving jobs (same state), and assuming it’s the same all over the state you are correct.

        As far as overthrow is concerned, I figure anything less than violence against people isn’t overthrowing.

      2. Newly minted*

        I had to sign that for my grad school stipend at a state school in Georgia too! It also implied that belonging to a union was a Very Bad Thing. I don’t know the history, but felt it was more about communists, Klan, and union members. I joined a union anyway and nobody cared. It was still weird. I didn’t have to sign one in Alabama but would have expected it there.

      1. Anthony-mouse*

        Maybe I’m just a weird woman who loves the cold but I work from home and generally in winter my home will drop to 16 Celsius in the day while I’m working and that’s fine. I agree the 12 end is way too cold but if it’s just for a week with broken equipment I could definitely wear some extra layers clothes and be fine without needing a coat or hat.
        On the other end, if I was in an office kept at 24 Celsius, I’d have to wear summer clothes all year round and would be regularly sweating through my shirts!

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think my office at home during the winter is probably around 16-17, and I’m wearing a duvet under my desk and a cashmere jumper. :)

        2. Cat*

          Yeah, my personal optimal temperature range is around 15 – 20 °C. 24 °C deliberately? No thank you. At least when it’s cold layering up is an option.

          1. Oska*

            I can’t layer my fingers, I need them to type, and they typ veryt bsadl whern xcold. :_(

            1. ecnaseener*

              Same (Reynaud’s) – but btw I have these heated fingerless gloves that plug into a USB, they’re great. But that’s for my home with no thermostat. I’d be annoyed if I had to use them in an office deliberately kept too cold for optimal circulation.

              1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

                omg this is genius! I’ve seen ads for usb-powered slippers (for under the desk, not for walking around) and I’m considering getting some, because it’s awfully cold this spring, but I’ve never thought about usb-powered fingerless gloves. Off to the online shops!

          2. Cat*

            Point taken about 15 being a bit on the low end for most people – I acknowledge that it’s colder than general population preference, and there are legitimate reasons it could be an actual issue for some people – but 24 still seems uncomfortably warm from my perspective. Over about 22° and I’m constantly aware of how uncomfortable I am. (Why yes I do absolutely despise summer weather and spend most of the season suffering, although I’ve learned to limit how much I voice my complaints.)

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I try to stay closer to the weather outside than most Americans around me. In winter I wear layers with wool & quilted down and underliners made for skiers.

          And even I push the thermostat up to 64°F / 27.3°C to sit at a desk.

          1. Madame Arcati*

            Woah, if you are saying you have quite cool conditions, then I think your conversions are off – 27.3 celsius is hot hot hot! 64F equates to 17-18 Celsius, which is cool but not ridiculous. 27 celsius is pushing you over 80F.

        4. amoeba*

          Yup, in these discussions, 24 always seems crazy to me (in the winter! In summer, everything below 28 or so is fine with me…)
          In Germany, they lowered the required minimum temp to 19 °C because of the gas shortage. Some people were still cold – but I’d say 20-22 would be standard. 12-16 definitely sounds too cold!

        5. NforKnowledge*

          For most people, having their home/space they spend lots of time in at less than 18 degrees C is detrimental to their health. This is especially important for anyone elderly or in any way… frail. So while it might be fine for you personally, it’s really not acceptable for a working space. Sweden had to tell people not to set their thermostats too low in an effort to save money with the crazy electricity prices this winter.

        6. Capybarely*

          I believe that the range is intended more generally to capture a reasonable and safe upper limit, not a suggestion of winter heating goals.
          Though I have friends who work with the very elderly, and those facilities are kept much warmer. Since it’s for patient health, and a consistent temp, employees are able to plan for that situation.

      2. Manglement Survivor*

        Once at work, the heater wasn’t functioning properly and it got really cold in my office. I called facility services and they didn’t seem very responsive. So the next day I came in and I put on my husband’s very heavy, fingerless gloves, and snagged a thermometer from the stockroom. I placed the thermometer on my keyboard and put my gloved hands next to it and took a photo. It was 57° in my office. I sent the photo back to facility services and CCed the Director. Next day they fixed my heat lol.

    1. Mangled Metaphor*

      The UK’s HSE (Health & Safety Executive – roughly the equivalent of OSHA, but not) also has minimum working temps of 16°C. But it also clarifies that this depends on the type of work involved and activity level (if the work requires vigorous physical effort, the minimum is 13°C). For an office, this is definitely too cold.

      As with all things, there are nuances to how the cold should be dealt with (HSE guidelines list things like heaters, for example). But if all reasonable accomodations are in place and the temperature is still too cold, they should have closed the branch.

    2. ceiswyn*

      What? Nope.

      I used to work in an office that was constantly set to 16 because the guy who looked after the environmental stuff ran hot. I would be wearing thermal leggings and a thermal vest under a thick woollen dress, with wrist warmers, chain-drinking hot tea, and losing sensation in my fingers. That is not a reasonable temperature.

    3. ThatGirl*

      As a random aside, I’ve considered such things, and I think Fahrenheit makes much more sense for human scales of temperature. You wanna use Celsius for science, go for it, but the range of temps humans can exist in being basically 0-100 is just more logical IMHO – the closer to zero, the colder and less comfortable it is; the closer to 100, the closer to internal body temperature/hotter it is.

      1. Lily*

        I’m betting you’re American? For most of the rest of the world, it feels more logical for water to freeze at 0 and boil at 100.

      2. CorgiDoc*

        Also for those of us where it regularly gets down to -40 (which is the same, -40F = -40C) it makes more sense for 0 to be freezing rather than an arbitrary “cold but not really THAT cold for this time of year” which is what 0F/-17C is for me.

      3. Failure to Fahrenheit*

        Meh, as a Celsius user I find having 0 as the marker of freezing seems logical to me (it is frequently below freezing here and I don’t find it particularly confusing that 40 is real hot… higher is still hotter). I don’t think there’s any real advantage either way, we’re mostly going to find reasons to prefer what we know best

      4. Modesty Poncho*

        Someone once explained Fahrenheit as “percentage of hot” and it makes sense LOL

        100F? 100% hot, quite hot. More than that, very hot
        70F? 70% hot, nice and warm but not overwhelming
        50F? 50% hot, getting chilly but not awful
        30F (freezing)? 30% hot, getting down there, feels quite cold.
        0F? 0% hot, extremely cold

      5. Burger Bob*

        This is what I always say to my husband. When based on what feels comfortable to a human body, Fahrenheit has kind of a nice feel. 0 F is Not Good cold. 100 F is….not horrifying, but pretty uncomfortable, and you wouldn’t want to be out in it for super long without taking extra precautions (mindfully hydrating, etc.). 50 is halfway, and it feels like kind of a halfway temperature. But Celsius is just wacky in relation to a human body. 0 C is really not too bad. You shouldn’t stay out in it for long, but you can walk out to your mailbox and back without a coat. Meanwhile, at 100 C, you are very dead. And 50 C is not a halfway-feeling temp. It’s also dead. Not as quickly, but it will still overheat you in a hurry. Fahrenheit is a nice percentage-y, human body experience temperature scale.

        But, of course I am American. So……. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    4. Mondestrucken*

      LW#4 here. Just as a side note, I am now retired, but I was a branch manager for my state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Years ago, the strip mall where my branch was located had a power failure in August. We also had limited half power: computers worked, and the region manager’s office dropped off 3 large fans. At 9 am, when we opened, it was 80 degrees F (26.7 C). It didn’t last long. Before 11 am, the union demanded that the office be shut down (the clerks were all union). We shut down, and clerks were routed to nearby offices. When they left, the temperature in the office was 85 degrees F (29.4 C) and climbing. I was management, but on that day, I was so grateful for the union.

    5. Amsterdam local*

      Wow, like…this just isn’t that cold? In my apartment we don’t turn the heat higher than 16; the room I work in is usually 11-12. I keep a blanket over my lap just as I would at a local cafe, it’s not a big deal.
      68 (20?) seems awfully warm! My office keeps it at 19 and that is comfortable-but-on-the-warmish side to me. Of course, the Netherlands government asked everyone to keep the heat down this winter, and we were happy to comply.

  8. Fahrenheit to Celsius Translator*

    55 F = 12.7778 C
    60 F = 15.5556 C
    68 F = 20 C
    76 F = 24.4444 C

  9. RinaL*

    #1 It seems you have dodged a bullet here. That doesn’t sound like a healthy work environment. If an interviewer doesn’t show at least some basic form of respect, you wouldn’t want to work for them in the long run. And it really doesn’t matter if you have 10 years of experience in the field or 2 months.

    Regarding last minute interviews: I am really not a fan of them, because, as you have written in your post, it robs you of time to prepare for the interview (either by reading through notes or calming your nerves). I had some last minute interviews myself – they aren’t “fun” at all (last time, I got called in the afternoon for a timeslot on the next day at lunchtime.. it was very stressful to find a quiet space at work because I couldn’t get a vacation day last minute and it ended with me telling some colleagues to stall my boss if he wanted to come into the lab where I hid to have the interview on my lunchbreak..). I understand that some interviewers might want to move forward really fast with an ideal candidate, but as a candidate, you are allowed to say “No, that doesn’t fit into my timeline. Can you please propose another date?”

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Last minute interviews are generally kind of a bad sign. The one time I got hit up for a last minute interview, it turned out to be at an office where bullying went on.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Yeah, I was on a hiring team once and we did one last-minute interview. I don’t recall why it happened, but the team called the person, and he said “I can come now!” so we did it over lunch or something. I found that very odd. He turned out to be sociopathically chipper, and I felt his whole bit and persona were cloying and phony. So naturally the other team members wanted to hire him, so we did. Then it turned out he’s actually very dark and possibly violent. He got fired within about 3 weeks.

        1. Expelliarmus*

          It sounds like this employee would have been a red flag no matter what time or day he was interviewed, though.

    2. Justme, The OG*

      Last time I said a quick turnaround interview time didn’t work for me, the company ghosted me and never responded. But it all worked out for the nest.

      1. Miette*

        This has happened to me, too. That said, both your interviewer and the president displayed some real prize jerk behavior, OP. I’m sorry you had that happen. I mean, if a person is clearly nervous, why call it out? Unless you’re going to make an effort to make them feel comfortable, doing it makes you a jerk.

    3. Delta Delta*

      This whole thing sounded bizarre. Based on the letter, I’m assuming OP is a man. I also suspect that as a man in a shirt-and-tie profession, he may have more than one blue or white dress shirt since those are common shirt colors (he didn’t specify the color, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to guess it might be something like this). OP grabs a clean shirt that happens to be the same color as the one he wore last time, and this is considered a crime against humanity. OP should run for the hills. This place sounds bananacrackers.

      1. TomatoSoup*

        Yup. Unless it got rumpled or dirty, I bet a many could get away with wearing the same suit and short every day while rotating through a few ties.

      2. Observer*

        OP should run for the hills. This place sounds bananacrackers.

        Yes. If the OP can afford to walk away, the should.

        1. Random Dice*

          So totally bananapants. Utter jerks. They’re clearly enjoyed making OP1 deeply uncomfortable. Feudal lord isn’t actually a job these days.

          OP, please feel empowered to end an interview if they are rude to you. It’s helpful to decide now that is an option for you.

      3. I have RBF*

        Seriously. It could even be the same shirt, since it wasn’t the same day, and laundry happens. Plus, some folks who have to wear a certain type of clothes for work will buy several of the same thing that fits and is presentable. It’s a really bizarre thing to have come up in an interview.

      4. Paulina*

        My guess is that someone involved didn’t want to move OP1 forward in the process, either because they had their preferred candidate already, or because they didn’t like dealing with a remote candidate who intended to relocate. So they didn’t take interviewing OP1 seriously. The shirt comment was potentially intended to pick at OP’s inexperience.

    4. Momma Bear*

      Being able to speak up for your needs and schedule is also an employment skill. OP says they’re new to all this, so of course they didn’t think to reschedule. It’s a good reminder.

      Regarding the interview itself, I agree that it would be off-putting and I wouldn’t want to work for them. OP could have said about the tie, “Noted, thanks. I’ll take it off if I get the job. I don’t feel comfortable removing it right now.” Many people come to my office in a suit to interview and wear jeans on the job. OP did nothing wrong. I’d chalk it up to experience and keep looking.

      1. Ann Onymous*

        I realize removing a tie isn’t going to compromise someone’s modesty, but an interviewer asking you to remove part of your clothing during an interview still feels weird and a bit icky to me.

        1. Qwerty*

          Yeah, I had to pause when I got to that part and re-read it. And then was shocked when it was followed by asking if the OP was nervous. I hope no one is in that situation again, but please return awkward to sender with a comment like “of course I’m nervous, my interviewer just told me to undress!”.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      OP1, I think you had a walk-on role in the Ongoing Drama Of This Office, where the two interviewers are the leads. Nothing you did was going to make it more normal, because that was not the role they had scripted for you.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I love this description! It’s another excellent way to put weirdness into perspective (along with “you are an anthropologist studying the unique behavior of coworker X”).

        And that sounded like a truly weird and off-putting interview, like “I’ll show myself out now” level of weird.

      2. Zelda*

        What stood out to me was the “how dare LW be nervous during a job interview.” Like, this is the capital-N Nature of job interviews, is The Candidate Will Be Nervous. I guess there’s some limit on that; an employer doesn’t want someone with no confidence or ability to focus on the actual discussion due to freaking out about its context.

        Kind interviewers will try to put a candidate at ease and forgive some of the stupid crap we all say when we’re nervous. It takes a top-drawer jerk to call attention to the nerves and treat being nervous like a moral or professional failing. Sheesh.

  10. MassMatt*

    I can see why there are so many fights about office thermostats, IMO 68 F is too warm especially if I have to wear a coat and tie, but I recall a coworker who wore a wool overcoat when the office was maybe mid-60’s.

    But the 50’s is way too cold, my fingers would get stiff typing. The business should have shut down or sent people to WFH if at all feasible.

    1. ItIsWhatItIs*

      Mid sixties is really cold honestly. I would be hard pressed to stay warm even in pants/a long coat in an office environment where I’m mostly inactive at that temperature.

    2. Bearly Containing Myself*

      I’m glad I’m at home right now where I can keep the temperature a toasty 77 F.

      1. Anthony-mouse*

        Wait you’re keeping your house constantly at 25 degrees celsius?! I’m a woman who keeps my home at 64 Fahrenheit and occasionally lets it drop to 60 and that’s not cold

        1. misspiggy*

          I am also a woman (with poor circulation) who needs at least 24 degrees C to be comfortable working. Goes back to the point about who benefits from working at home, I guess.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Right? No thermostat wars! (flashbacks to working in offices that were too hot/too cold for me)

            One office I worked in, I was getting worried that I was getting hot flashes at age 40 (I wasn’t), until an officemate brought a room thermometer from home and it showed a nice and toasty 80F/27C and there was nothing any of us could do about it.

      2. allathian*

        20 C/68 F is fine for me, but 25 C/77 F would definitely be too hot to be comfortable. Maybe that’s because I’m a woman in my early 50s, so in perimenopause, but I haven’t had any hot flashes yet (my mom only had one when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 50 and put on estrogen blockers -> chemically induced menopause).

    3. Bit o' Brit*

      Moving around it’s a perfectly fine temperature but for sedentary office work 68°F is way too cold for me. That’s about where we keep our home thermostat and I literally get goosebumps under my hoodie while working from home (yay energy crisis). I’m usually wearing leggings under jogging trousers and then draping a blanket over my lap to stay warm these days.

      Fun fact: when businesses were using those handheld temperature gun things, my husband consistently registered about 3 degrees higher than I did while both of us were healthy. I’d take the specific numbers with a pinch of salt, but it’s definitely true that some people run significantly hotter than others.

      1. Mangled Metaphor*

        Without derailing, men do tend to feel warmer than women. It’s been documented multiple times.

        Up to a point – I worked in an office with a lot of very lovely women, all in their 50’s and they kept the temp at the equivalent of about 61F. Fortunately, attitudes are changing, but it was uncomfortable for all concerned (I learned how many layers can be worn without restricting movement though)

      2. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. I have a sweater and a space heater to keep myself comfortable. I have had days where my fingers were too cold to type well. Unless everyone is in a suit, then the temp should be adjusted a little higher.

    4. anxiousGrad*

      I have pretty well controlled asthma and anything below 68 makes me physically ill if I’m sitting still for a while, no matter how many layers I wear (the air I’m breathing is still too cold for my lungs). When I realized that my office was only being heated to 65 F/18 C this fall, I ended up just going home early one day and using the afternoon to buy a space heater because I was wheezing. I don’t know what I would do if I had to work in an office below 60 degrees for multiple days. I guess I would be forced to take sick days.

    5. Just a different redhead*

      Yeah, one of the reasons I like wfh (among so many) is controlling the temperature. We keep it nominally high 60s in the winter, to a max of about 72, but that starts to get warm. The thing is while I try to move around a bit when I can, I’m frequently stuck in one place which amounts to feeling colder than I would if I were moving around. In the office that movement pattern was similar, while who was sitting under a vent and which windows got the sun was a massive problem for the temperature in there and its stability.

    6. thatoneoverthere*

      I really think temp is a personal preference and also the space really matters. We just moved into a new house. We kept our old house at 65 in the winter and it really felt warm and comfortable to us. Our new house is a little bigger and has a different layout. 65 feels absolutely freezing in this house. Now we keep it at about 68-69.

    7. Justme, The OG*

      Fun fact is that the metabolisms of men and women are different so while men (in general) might be okay with 65, women (in general) prefer it warmer.

    8. Applesauced*

      Like many standards in the US, the typical office temp was designed for a man in a suit.

      I run hot and still get annoyed at formal events where I (a woman) am expected to wear a sleeveless dress and my husband is wearing a full suit.

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      There are biological factors, and also cultural factors. Men tend to run warmer than women (but not always of course), and if you look at traditional men’s office wear they’re wearing long pants, long sleeves, etc. Women tend to run cooler than men, and their traditional office wear is often less clothing.

      Basically, we need to fix the cultural factors because the biological aren’t going anywhere. Once all the men have the option to wear cooler clothing they’ll be able to tolerate the warmer temperatures that are closer to what women need (generalization). Women’s clothing should also be made of more sturdy, and thus warmer, fabrics. Add fans, space heaters, etc and that will help everyone be comfortable. But defaulting office temperatures to one end of the temperature range isn’t ok.

    10. sundae funday*

      I freeze at 68, no matter what I’m wearing! 70 is my sweet spot. My office is often 65 and I use a space heater to get it up to 70. 65 is intolerably cold to me.

    11. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is an ISSUE in my office. And the typing thing is real. Even if you like it cold your extremities can get stiff, but that threshold is a little different for everyone and being outside your personal threshold can make actually doing work uncomfortable. It’s a hard balance to strike.

      We do a median 68-72 and let people have space heaters, typically.

    12. I have RBF*

      I had a job in a lab that had to be cooled to the low 60s F to keep the equipment running properly. I often wore a sweater under my lab coat even when it was 90 deg F outside. But the part that wasn’t the machine room wasn’t that cold. We would constantly be moving into the warmer area to warm up our fingers before going back into the machine area.

  11. learnedthehardway*

    OP1 – the interviewers were very rude and unprofessional to you. Even if you HAD worn the same shirt as in last week’s interview – it should never have been held against you or even mentioned. Telling you to take your tie off in the middle of the interview just plain out of line. Discussing a candidate in front of the candidate like that is beyond unprofessional, and just downright mean.

    I really think that you dodged a bullet here. Anyone who behaves that way when they should be trying to attract good talent to the company wasn’t going to turn out better as an employer. Luckily, they flew their red flags high and you can tell them you’re no longer interested.

    1. Emma2*

      Totally agree. Also, you may not have been wearing the same shirt but (1) it would be fine if you were; and (2) the interviewer’s behaviour was not only rude but also likely to exclude those who are less well off.
      Particularly when interviewing for entry level jobs where people may not have been in the workforce before, but also in general, interviewers should remember that work clothes are expensive and not everyone has a wardrobe full of them. You could have been a new grad who had stretched to purchase an interview outfit and were now wondering how to afford another one for future interview rounds.
      Definitely a company to avoid.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly a week later – with a weekend in between – could the thought of Laundry has been Done not have crossed their minds?

      Unless they live in the magical land of the Laundry Fairies who make clean clothing always appear when needed?

      1. Not Australian*

        I think the sensible answer is “Oh, I have five or six identical shirts – it keeps things simple!” …

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          That’s what the main character did in my favorite movie, The Fly! The one with Jeff Goldblum *swoon* Honest admission, I thought about it when I was reading OP’s letter.

        2. That's Not How You Spell That*

          Does anyone else think it would have been awesome if the LW had responded to the nervous question with “no, just still surprised you had me take off an article of clothing during a job interview and not sure what to expect next”??
          I’m with Allison on these interviewers being unusual and seeing red flags.

          1. Boop*

            Oh my gosh, my first thought was for OP to say “are you asking me to…take off clothing…?” Just to hammer home how wild that request was! Taking off a tie is unlikely to reveal anything inappropriate but it’s still an outrageous thing to say.

            My brain is still reeling!

      2. KateM*

        Exactly. So I can only think that her problem was that OP didn’t remember that they had worn the same shirt to previous interview (except she herself didn’t remember…).
        (Is OP a woman or did he wear some kind of noticable shirt because how do you even…)

      3. TacoBelljobfair*

        That reminded me of that Seinfeld episode when Jerry dates that lady who keeps wearing the same dress.

      4. WellRed*

        The interviewer obviously prides herself on wearing a different outfit every day of the month.

      5. rayray*

        I couldn’t even tell you what any of my co-workers or family members wore yesterday. Unless it was a really bold or loud outfit, I don’t get why you’d bother keeping track of what someone wore. It gives me serious middle school mean girl energy, making fun of someone for wearing the same shirt twice.

        1. I have RBF*

          Twice, a week apart.

          It’s not that unusual, especially for an early career person who may not have more than five work appropriate shirts, but does laundry every week. Or they could be someone like me, who buys shirts in sets of two or three because they fit and are the right color.

          Serious red flag territory, IMO.

        2. Random Dice*

          I care about fashion and would in a heartbeat notice clothes.

          Not in a million years would I comment on it, or demand that they remove clothing on-camera to fit an arbitrary unannounced dress code (or really any reason), or be a jerk in any of the power-flexing ways these wannabe feudal lords did.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Given the discussion of the tie, it is likely that the LW is male. A male recent graduate having just one dress shirt seems perfectly normal? This is once we get past the “So what?” part of the discussion. Also typical of male dress shirts is that they tend to look pretty similar. Indeed, when I find one I like, I go buy the store’s stock of them. All in all, it sounds very weird, and a bullet dodged.

      1. doreen*

        I was actually wondering what color the shirt was – because if it was a white or light blue shirt, I’m going to assume lots of men have multiples. I probably wouldn’t assume that if it was light green – but I also doubt I would remember it from last time. .

    4. TacoBelljobfair*

      I remember once during an inperson interview the guy interviewing me told me my polo shirt was too bright.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Came here to say this. In all my years of interviewing, never have I ever been asked by an interviewer to take any of my clothes off! How absurd. (And how does this person even remember what shirt one of the candidates wore last week? unless it was my favorite band’s T-shirt, I’d have been oblivious.) Never had them discuss me in front of me, either. And I’ve interviewed with some real characters over the years. This is 1000% not normal, OP. You did dodge a bullet. An interview is a two-way street – you’re interviewing them as much as they do you – and they failed spectacularly.

      1. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

        And the “ties aren’t in line with our workplace culture” but is also incredibly weird. At my last job we were at the more casual end of business casual, but there was one guy who was into fashion and we wore a lot of great vest-tie-pocket square combos. It wasn’t in line with what everybody else was wearing, but he looked work appropriate and it made him happy, so what’s the big deal?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Exactly. Now that I think of it, we had a guy who wore a bowtie to work, when the dress code had been relaxed to jeans every day. He was great at his job. Nobody cared (other than maybe to admire his style).

        2. Sparkle Llama*

          And most interviewees dress a step or two more formal for interviews. I work in a field that is generally in the casual side of business casual and while a sweater and dress pants is my go to, it isn’t what I would wear to an interview. So if LW is interviewing somewhere that is a dress pants and shirt, no tie place, it would seem very normal to be wearing a tie to the interview. Always seems safer to err on the side of a bit more formal than feel underdressed.

        3. Momma Bear*

          Exactly. Work culture is different than “you can’t wear a tie because you might get caught in a machine.” And even then, this is the *interview*. OP wasn’t even offered the job yet.

    6. Boof*

      Yes it’s so bizarre! Like why does it matter as long as the shirt is clean/neat/presentable? I totally get why the OP flustered but this place sounds terrible. Who’d want to work for someone like that?

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My first job in the US was an entry-level job and I kind of had the interview dropped into my lap unexpectedly. (I’d applied to a grad school and was under the impression that one had to have an “American degree” before they’d even have a chance of getting an interview.) We’d been in the country less than three months and I did not have interview clothes, or know what they’d look like. I came in wearing a blue dress shirt, a houndstooth skirt, and a checkered blazer, plus a pair of beat-up shoes that was the dressiest pair of shoes I had. It was the best I could come up with on a day’s notice. My boss later told me, “I took one look at your outfit and could tell you were struggling financially”. But he never said it to my face and he was a man with some really unprofessional thoughts and no filter between his brain and his mouth – if he could keep that one to himself, anybody can. No excuse for this interviewer.

  12. Introvert girl*

    2. There are two problems here:
    Firstly childcare hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. Making people go back to the office and be away from home for 10 hours when child minders don’t work late anymore will affect women more then men. My coworkers preschool closes at 16:00 now when pre-pandemic it was open till 18:00. WFH works for her as she can take her kid there at 7:00, start working at 7:30 till 15:30 and be back in time to pick him up.
    Secondly those who were taken on WFH with a promise that they will be WFH and now have to get “back to the office” we’re lied to. I myself work over three hours away (by car) from my office and was hired on a WFH basis. Now my boss wants to force everyone to come in once a week. I plainly refused. Going once a week to the office will result in a 6-7 hour commute and me being 15 hours away from home. It will also mean I’ll need to pay someone to walk my dog (now imagine instead of a dog I was a single mom).

    1. thanks Covid*

      Everywhere I have seen and heard (Europe and Americas) it is mostly fathers’ responsibility to take the kids to preschool (or school, if they cannot go independently). May be traditions, or practical issue, as most families have one car typically driven by the male parent.

      In Europe it is even more typical that father cares the sick child. Usually the mother decides that and typical male professions are typically more flexible than typical female professions. (And the more gender-equal country, the more the professions have polarized to male and female work places.)

      1. Mid*

        That’s an interesting experience, but one that statistics don’t match up with. And not just in the US, but globally.

        1. Random Dice*

          Hahaha ha NOPE that little statement does not square with the data.

          But I’m heartened that there are tiny little pockets where men parent better.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Um. Which parts of Europe? Because the ones I’m familiar with, childcare is still predominantly done by women, and mothers take most of the child sick days. Typically male professions are not flexible at all (changing slooooowly). Also have the opposite experience for gender-equality and polarized professions.

        Though at least it is very common to have one parent bring and the other pick up from childcare.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Same here. Lived in Russia for the first half of my life and not only am I unable to recall my dad ever staying home with sick me, or my male coworkers taking off work to stay with their sick kids; employers there also frequently tried to wiggle out of hiring women for that exact reason, that a woman would take a lot of sick days to stay home with her kids. (That, and maternity leave.)

            The drop-off was also mostly done by women, but back then and in my socioeconomic circles, no one had cars, so it was walking your kids to school or taking public transportation. The kids also used to start walking to school on their own fairly early. My parents picked me up and dropped me off on the first day of my first year in school and that was it. Day 2 and on, I was on my own. It was about a 20 minute walk.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’m astounded because thanks Covid‘s experience is basically opposite to mine.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Honestly, it reads like an example of one of those skewed perception studies, where women are perceived to be in the majority of a crowd if they are more than 1/3, and men do the majority of childcare if they do 10%.

              1. ecnaseener*

                What stereotype? The studies Emmy’s referencing found skewed perception in everyone, not in any particular group. You’re being “stereotyped” as…a person who lived in society.

          2. Observer*

            It’s opposite every statistic I have seen, as well.

            The ONLY possible exception is the drop offs in situations where OF COURSE Dad gets the one car.

        2. UKDancer*

          Yeah in my team those with children tend to take turns with pick up and drop off (one drops the other picks up).

        3. thanks Covid*

          Currently I live in the far north.

          Sure there are bosses that have attitude problems against men taking paternity leaves or going regularly home “early” to pick up children (like my previous one) but typical STEM professions allow more flexibility than social and nursing professions. My wife never took a sick child day.

          1. Cat Tree*

            Nobody is saying they it *never* happens that the male parent takes on more childcare work, only that it is much rarer statistically when you look at at the group level of working parents.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            Well, you might wan to check your personal experience against actual data. I looked up Sweden (often considered a feminist utopia and it does at least have gender symmetric laws and regulations). I found this: “Figures from Sweden’s Social Insurance Agency suggest that while Sweden is on its way towards gender-equal VAB [note: paid child sick days] taking, mothers still take the majority of days, with a 60:40 split of days between women and men”*.

            So one of the most gender equal places on earth still has an unequal split, even though it is way, way better than a lot of places.

            *Source link incoming as reply

            1. TomatoSoup*

              Anecdotally from living in the Netherlands, it is mostly mothers. Granted, the Netherlands is not as feminist as some people assume because of general liberal attitudes in other social/cultural areas.

          3. doreen*

            I am more than willing to believe that STEM professions allow more flexibility than nursing ( and I guess the other one is social work?). But do the men picking up garbage have more flexibility than women working in offices as administrative assistants? Just because men taking kids to preschool or caring for sick kids is common in your circles doesn’t mean it’s common in the wider society.

        4. amoeba*

          Yeah, seconding that. This really doesn’t match anything I’ve experienced in any European country (and I’ve lived in a few).

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Hmm, not the part of the Americas I live in, at least not when mine attended school and preschool. It was always a line of moms in the drop-off line at school, moms dropping the kids off at daycare etc.

      4. Irish Teacher*

        That is definitely not my experience in Ireland. It is very much the norm for a mother to be the one to stay home if a child is sick, to the point that I think fathers might often find it harder to get the time off.

        And I think it is also more common for women to drive children to school although this can vary depending on who works closer to the school, etc. Most families have two cars nowadays.

    2. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

      This is the exact problem.

      There’s no actual reason that working outside the home is more difficult for women than for men apart from the fact that we live in a patriarchal world. My (hypothetical, nonexistent) husband should be equally capable of picking up our (hypothetical, nonexistent) children from school. The only reason that many husbands don’t do that is because it’s not part of our societal script. Giving mothers flexible schedules to accommodate their caretaking responsibilities can help, yes, but it’s a bandaid.

      What would actually help would be things like subsidized childcare and parental leave and flexibility for all parents regardless of gender or birthing status.

    3. GrooveBat*

      That doesn’t make an RTO policy inherently anti-feminist, though. Unless your definition of feminism is “Women should always carry the brunt of childcare responsibilities for a family.”

      Families should have the flexibility and options to define arrangements that work best for them, regardless of which family member is doing what, un-defined by biology.

  13. CivilServant*

    Federal employee here—yep, we swear a version of that oath, and at least in my part of the bureaucracy we make a pretty big deal of it. We’re all very proud of our service and what it means.

    Then again, considering how awful the federal hiring process is, you’d better want to do this for a long time if you make it through.

  14. xtine*

    Regarding #5, I had to sign an oath like that as part of my graduate school enrollment paperwork in Florida.

    1. Kat from County Government*

      Oooh fascinating. Was it at a state school? Were they assuming that you’d be teaching?

  15. Emmy Noether*

    Interesting about the oath. When I worked for a university in Germany, I had to sign a paper that I agreed with the “freiheitlich demokratische Grundordnung” (“liberal democratic basic order” in English according to wikipedia, though it’s “liberal” in the sense of “freedom”, not in the US political sense). This is also part of our constitution, but we explicitly pledge to the *values*, not to the constitution or the state itself.

    I thought of it as the I-am-not-a-Nazi declaration and proudly signed.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      When I worked for a University in Bavaria, I had to sign a paper declaring I’ve never been a member of a list of organisations hostile to the constitution (NSDAP and RAF among others).

      And swear fealty to the constitution of the Free State of Bavaria.

    2. amoeba*

      Yeah – never had to sign one of those, as far as I remember, but would be happy to.

    3. Red*

      Yeah, I’m from the UK and I would find that perfectly acceptable. Swearing allegiance to the government itself is arguably anti-democratic and lends itself to exploitation.

      1. TomatoSoup*

        There are the people working in government at any given time and then there’s government as a structure and set of ideals. The oath pertains to the latter.

  16. philmar*

    That oath is identical to the old oath of office, which you swear when you commission as a US military officer, except for the parts about California (the oath of enlistment is a little different). Makes sense to me that federal employee would also have to swear it. In my experience you can say “affirm” instead of “swear” and leave out “so help me god” if you ask the person administering the oath. If it’s written I guess it’s harder to change.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Fun fact: the California National Guard does have to include that bit about California!

  17. Cece*

    If OP3 wants to dip into research and feel part of an intellectual community, they could test the waters by approaching a college or two to act as an industry partner on a grant application or PhD project (not available in all jurisdictions, obviously, but in some). This would be a way to get a closer look at the unvarnished reality of what it means to work as a professor these days.

  18. GythaOgden*

    For every one woman working at home, there are half a dozen in in-person work who never really had a choice in the matter. Return to office is only anti-feminist if you ignore about 80% of the workforce, including most of the service sector.

    1. Binky*

      But the company in question doesn’t employ 80% of the workforce. It has a number of employees who can work from home. Offering flexibility to those employees would be a net good. Why should those employees not advocate for a more inclusive work environment?

      1. Staying Anon*

        Because the question isn’t using just their company as the scope. Their company telling workers they had to come back was the catalyst for this discussion between coworkers. The LW wrote in with a general question overall, not just specific to their workplace even if the answers here can help their argument.

        1. Binky*

          But it’s specific to workers who were WFH for a period of time. It’s not about the entire workforce.

      2. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

        Of course they should advocate for a more inclusive working environment. That doesn’t mean that working in person is inherently anti-feminist, though, which is the point we’re discussing here.

  19. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    People are confused. It’s not returning to work that’s anti-feminist, it’s women having to do the bulk of child care that’s anti-feminist. This should be more evenly distributed in order to keep women from absorbing most of the negative effects.

    1. bamcheeks*

      But flexibility in work location and hours is still a feminist issue, because it also enables men to take a greater role in care work.

      1. bamcheeks*

        (Broader point: feminism is not just “what is good for women”, it is “dismantling the gender hierarchy”, and that means not devaluing care work and other labour traditionally associated with femininity regardless of the gender of the person who performs it.)

        1. I have RBF*


          IMO, workplace flexibility enables both men and women to manage caretaking responsibilities, both for children and elders. This is a feminist position, in that liberating both men and women to be able to fulfill caretaking/childrearing is a major step toward equality.

    2. Melissa*

      Exactly!! The idea of the person in 2 is that we (women) should be working from home so we can all continue the cooking and cleaning??

      1. ecnaseener*

        That we should have the *option* to work from home in recognition of the reality that we live in. Many more women had to leave the workforce due to covid than men, not because their sexist husbands unilaterally refused to help with childcare, but often because couples had to choose which salary to keep – and the pre-existing gender pay gap meant the man’s salary was likely to be the higher one.

      2. Random Dice*

        So you’re saying that in reality women should be harmed… because in theory women shouldn’t be harmed?

        That’s special.

    3. amoeba*

      But the point is that that’s not the current reality. And as bamcheeks rightly points out – it also won’t become the reality while there’s no flexibility because *somebody* does need to do the care work – and flexibility allows it for both men and women.
      But in the current situation (as we’ve sadly seen during the lockdowns), less flexibility/childcare/etc. just leads to a retraditionalisation of roles, with women the ones who give up their jobs to solve the problems created by missing childcare etc.

      1. Binky*

        Yes! You can’t make policy well if it’s not rooted in reality! Pretending no workers have caretaking responsibilities is part of what reinforces the gender gap.

        The only way forward is to offer flexibility widely, not tell women that they’re hurting the cause by needing it.

    4. The Person from the Resume*

      I absolutely agree with this.

      The acceptance of “yep, that’s just how it is. The moms/female parents must take care of the sick children and take them to appoinments” so the flexibility of working from home benefits women is sexist. Without the underlying assumption that the female parent must bear more burden of childcare (coming from outside the company), the return to work may impact parents more, but not parents of a particular gender.

      I’m not agree that return to the office makes sense (that’s situational and job dependent), but I’m saying one thing it’s not anti-feminist.

      1. amoeba*

        No, what the policy (100% in office, no flexibility) does, is basically making it impossible to work full time for anybody with small children who doesn’t live in a very classical role model with the partner taking care of the housework. And sure, in theory this could also be the guy, but this is not the reality we’re living in (and I’d argue it would still not be a great model!)
        But basically it just leads to more traditional roles. And yes, women suffer a lot more from that, in general.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Impossible? What? Er…I am not being snarky, but how long have you been in the workforce?

          I assure you, 3+ years ago, and 20+ years ago, and 30+ years ago before the Internet existed, there were lots and lots of families with children where both parents (of any gender) worked full time jobs outside of the home. There are still lots and lots of families with both parents working FT outside the home because their jobs can’t be done remotely. And lots and lots of single parents (of any gender) working full time jobs. It’s difficult, but by no means impossible.

          And working a full time job when you have kids is still difficult if you WFH. Because you can’t take care of little kids at the same time you work an unrelated full time job.

          The policy isn’t making anything impossible. You’re just seeing the difficulties that already existed, and continue to exist. It doesn’t help anything to use over the top hyperbole like “this thing that people have always done and continue to do right now is impossible.”

          It just isn’t so.

          1. amoeba*

            Might be different in the US, but in Germany, less than 30% of mothers with kids younger than 18 actually work full time. For women with small children, it was less than 8% (!) in 2017.
            Also, for a lot of the ones who do manage, grandparents take over a lot of the work. Of course, mostly grandmothers so again, women who work for free. In many regions, there is just no real full time childcare available (after, like, 3 p.m.), unless you can afford a nanny.

            For sure there are other factors at play – lack of childcare options, societal expectations, patriarchy in general. But flexibility at work (for both women and men) definitely helps to be able to work more hours.

            1. RagingADHD*

              One of the factors at play is the fact that in Germany, you have the Elterngeldgesetz. Of course parents are going to take time away from work if they have the option to do so. As they should.

              Having *more* beneficial parental leave policies-which workers rightfully use- is hardly an argument that it is impossible to do otherwise, nor is it an example of patriarchal oppression. Better parental leave benefits give people more freedom, not less.

              1. amoeba*

                Well, yes, but that doesn’t explain the gender disparity, nor the fact that most women work only part time *after* the end of parental leave…
                Parental leave is great, and there are countries where it works much better (the Nordic countries come to mind). In Germany, the system is still deeply flawed and sexist.

        2. Jack Russell Terrier*

          YES! and further, it’s about people just needing flexibility in their life. Parents are obviously on the front line, but just about everyone goes through a personal experience in life where they need extended flexibility.

          the most common
          *aging parents
          *health issues with spouse

          We need to start thinking of this outside of a feminist / women issue.

          1. amoeba*

            But feminism argues for higher appreciation of all care work, so that would actually be included! (Also, but not only because at least caring for aging parents is also a task that falls disproportionally on women…)

    5. UnpopularOpinion*

      Yes, I just saw this pop up at work as an argument against our slow back to the office policy and it made me cringe. “Women have to do so much, it’s mean to make them come back to the office.” No, no, no! Not the point! Not the right WFH argument!

    1. All Het Up About It*

      Someone on the update yesterday mentioned the “mama bear” feeling of wanting to yell at the people wronging an OP and comfort the OP and LW1 is bringing that out in me some. I just hate to see someone young and new to the workforce questioning themselves like this when they literally did NOTHING wrong.

      I wish the OP had felt confident enough to say. “Well yes, I might appear more nervous in this interview as it started off with me being attacked for my perfectly acceptable professional appearance.”

  20. abca*

    It’s sad that “women are the default parent and will of course be the one to pick up a child from school” is still non-controversial. I am a bit worried though that talking about it as a statement of fact will normalize it even more.

    I realize that the LW is in a position of having a very flexible job, but the question was posed more generally and I want to push back about working from home being equal to just being able to go to a doctor’s appointment with your child during the work day. There are many work from home positions where you are very much expected to be butts-in-seat for 8 hours/day (think call center jobs for one example).

    Looking at health issues, though, I think I agree that women as a group are more effected by returning to office. Menstruation is a big one as mentioned above. But also, women are more likely to have incontinence and being at home makes that incredibly much easier to manage. (Peri)menopause comes with a whole new set of additional challenges that only affect people with female hormones, and that are much easier to manage at home.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I want to push back about working from home being equal to just being able to go to a doctor’s appointment with your child during the work day. There are many work from home positions where you are very much expected to be butts-in-seat for 8 hours/day (think call center jobs for one example).

      I think you’re unfairly moving the goalposts on LW’s question here. They’re talking about one specific office, with work that can be done in-office or at home, and from the sound of it is not a constant-butts-in-seats type of work. They’re saying workers at this office should be allowed WFH, all else equal about the work. You’re saying that this is an invalid point because there exist some constant-butts-in-seats jobs in the world? Call center work is call center work, in an office or at home. The type of office work where you can take a 20 minute break when you need one is that type of work, in an office or at home.

      1. abca*

        Not meaning to be unfair, I read it as a more general statement which is why I said that specifically in my comment as context.

    2. WellRed*

      Millions of women manage to work while being women. I’m all for flexibility but don’t agree with it this idea of assuming women are in need of multi accommodations. Many do, many don’t.

      1. Avril Ludgateaux*

        Tangentially related, but during the pandemic, the disabled workforce participation rate tripled (from 11-12% in 2019 to 34% in 2022). People who were previously under the impression they could not work because accommodations were lacking, were suddenly empowered by an environment that abruptly changed to allow for remote work. You may be surprised to learn that the CDC claims 1 in 4 American adults has a disability.

        Pivoting from that, consider there are a lot of women (and men and others, but this conversation is about women) who do need various accommodations, who have simply “sucked it up” their entire careers because the alternative was to starve. Many have suffered stalled careers because the alternative was to neglect their children.

        Why shouldn’t we consider the people most in need when making broad policy decisions, especially ones like “provide a WFH option to those who request it,” decisions that don’t harm anybody but do benefit those who are struggling? Because their predecessors had it hard and kept silent about it, we shouldn’t make anything better for anybody?

  21. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: How do you even distinguish one dress shirt from another over MS Teams call?!

    The quality of the video isn’t all that good!

    And most people I know stick to one or two dress shirt colours, or even buy a few of the same version at a time when they need new ones.

    Also, who cares? Dress shirts are basically inoffensive visual background noise as it is…

    1. Random Bystander*

      Yes! Many times, it seems like the shirts come in only 1-4 color variants in the store (mother of three sons who do, at least at times, wear dress shirts). Add in that there was a week in between, even if it were the exact same shirt, the odds that it would have been through the laundry, as mentioned above, is very high. Dress shirts just aren’t meant to be noticed, really.

      And worrying about wearing the same thing in two separated times is something that I haven’t really done since middle school. We had a period with extreme cold–wind chills went down to -77 F, and even the high of the day actual temperature was often sub-zero fahrenheit. School was closed frequently, such that I worried over whether I was wearing the same clothes to school as I had the last time we had had school, even though there had been five to eight weekdays in between those attendance days.

    2. Some words*

      For decades the wardrobe of one of my friends was off-white oxford shirts, khaki pants and desert boots (those crepe soled tan suede shoes). His closet was full of them and nothing else. That interviewer’s head would have exploded if she’d had to see him every day at work.

      Those interviewers were rude and a bit bizarre.

      1. I have RBF*

        My wardrobe is purple polos, black turtlenecks, purple printed tees and black pants. The polos or turtlenecks are what I wear in an office, with the black pants. The tees are for WFH. Yes, I have multiple identical items. I no longer have to worry about clashing if I get dressed while it’s still dark.

    3. The Eye of Argon*

      In the early 00s, I worked in the menswear department of a store. Most men would wait for a sale and then buy up every plain white (and maybe light blue) dress shirt in their size. They were part of a working man’s uniform and as such were… uniform.

      A man doing an interview in a dress shirt and tie is about the most unremarkable thing I can think of.

    4. thatoneoverthere*

      In the 90s and 2000s my Dad wore a suit and tie everyday to work. He often wore the same color shirt several times a week. Most men (or at least the one I have seen), have white and blue dress shirts with the occasional fun color thrown in. Esp a younger male who just graduated would probably only have 1 or 2 dress shirts. And more importantly who cares?

    5. Observer*

      Dress shirts are basically inoffensive visual background noise as it is…

      Not the point of your comment, which I agree with, but I *love* this characterization!

    6. Random Dice*

      I can see details of people’s clothing. I think your internet may be poor, not Teams.

  22. Dumpster Fire*

    OP1, I think I might’ve answered the nervousness question with a comment asking the lines of, “of course I’m nervous, the first two things I heard were critiques of my clothes!” This would make sense if you had already (rightfully) decided that this was not the job for you.

  23. Nora*

    When I was in college (at a UC school actually), I worked part-time for a city government. I had to do an oath when I did all my onboarding. It went so fast I barely heard the clerk. All I had to do was say yes at the end. If I recall correctly there was no actual defending of the constitution in the job.

  24. Melissa*

    #2: So companies should allow people to work from home so that women can more easily continue cooking and cleaning for their husbands? How about NO.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Your interpretation of this situation and the letter writer’s question is way off. Nowhere was that ever said.

    2. amoeba*

      Or, you know, give everybody flexibility so that men don’t actually *need* a partner at home doing all of that for them? The current 40 h in office plus commute plus multiple children model is based on somebody else doing all the care work. I mean, sure, women could go to the office and men could stay home, or you could outsource all childcare/housekeeping if you can afford it, but otherwise it’s just… not possible in that model at all.

    3. ecnaseener*

      So many bad-faith interpretations of “we shouldn’t be forced back into the office” –> “we should be forced to stay home” in the comments today! Not just you.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Sorry- on closer reading, you didn’t say the forced to stay home part – I still think it’s a bad faith interpretation to see it as –> “acknowledging structural sexism means agreeing with it.”

        1. Random Dice*

          I’m getting pretty pissed too at that.

          “acknowledging structural sexism means agreeing with it.”

    4. Avril Ludgateaux*

      Interesting, heteronormative, and telling that you assume women cook and clean only for their “husbands” and not themselves. Personally, I need to eat and have clean clothes, too. But in my dynamic, I’m the WFH and my partner does all the cooking.

      Chores are also not something that the OP expressed concern about at all.

    5. Sloanicota*

      I wasn’t thrilled about the answer to #2. I would have said “remote work can be great for people with caregiving responsibilities” but I don’t see that we need to add gender here. Yes, people understand that one gender currently has statistically more caregiving responsibilities, but as a woman who doesn’t, I don’t know that making it a women thing is necessary or great. And I’d like to see us change the culture around how we talk about caregiving, so this is a part of it.

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah, men can/should participate in caregiving too, so WFH flexibility for everyone enables that. Hard RTO causes problems for caregivers regardless of gender or whether those cared for are children or elders.

  25. happybat*

    I quit a full time permanent job for full time PhD study, and my employers hired someone else and kept me on one day a week. We’re now in year 4 of the arrangment. It worked because I was a very long term employee in good standing, but also because I had a particular skillset that no-one else was all that interested in developing. I don’t think goodwill alone would have resulting in this long of a relationship

  26. Knope Knope Knope*

    I am extremely disappointed in Alison’s answer to number 2. The traditional office model was designed around traditional roles where men went to work and women cared for the home. In my opinion it continues to favor this dynamic and is anti-feminist in that it makes it particularly hard for women to succeed in positions of leadership or in higher-earning roles. It was disappointing to see Alison caution the reader not to frame it as an excuse to work without childcare while not also acknowledging this fact.

    Here’s an example from my own life. I have a husband and two kids in daycare. I make over $160k a year and am our primary earner. We pay for 4 full days of daycare, and did so during the pandemic and after when we were remote. I was promoted twice, and exceeded my goals. Now we are back in the office 3 days a week and pay $4200 a month for 4 days a week in daycare, maximizing all before and aftercare. We cannot afford the $1,000 extra a month for a 5th day, so we rely on family and have exhausted all family backup care options to cover Fridays, so my husband or I have to take off when the kids are sick (which is always). We have had to sell our second car to pay for daycare, so we all have to work around my commute and I have to work around daycare hours. I get a full 2-3 hours less of productive time a day than when I was working from home, or have to bear the cost of taxis/Ubers on top of my commute. The pay cut works out to $400 on average. We cannot afford to move closer to the city where I work. If I quit and get a local job I’m looking at $40k pay it minimum.

    Even with a supportive husband and family help, society reinforces the stereotypes that mom’s are primary carers. My children’s daycare and doctors have never once called my husband before me despite having both of our numbers. Often they will call multiple times. After leading an hour long meeting for a huge division of my Fortune 50 company, during which I tried to mute multiple calls from my kids school I finally answered thinking it was an emergency, only for it to be a question about diaper cream. I had so many people come up to me afterwards not to commend me on my work but for “doing two jobs”. I am seen as a mom first. There’s no subtle text to my husband offscreen to go call the school back.

    On top of that, domestic work does indeed fall more on women. A load of laundry done between meetings or a meal I didn’t have to plan two days in advance gives me time I can actually spend with my kids. And as much as husbands need to pull their weight and are getting better at this, the numbers of women who left the workforce during the pandemic show us were not their yet. But it’s not only the mental load, it’s normal to have a biological and loving attachment to your baby. Working from home was the only time in my life when I really believed maybe women could “have it all” in America where maternity leave is woefully under-protected.

    Which brings me to my last point. Of course the approach needs to be multi-pronged and we need societal support. But in the US we don’t have them. We can still argue for them without saying it’s ok for women to go backwards when technology Thad levels the playing field already exists.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      The schools drive me nuts. I told our elementary school repeatedly that my husband worked from home and was less than 10 minutes away while I was working in the office in the district and over an hour from a pickup. The vast majority of the time, he was the better parent to call for a sick kid or incident. We finally just set up a Google voice number that rings to both phones and whomever is closest to the school that day picks it up.

      A much more minor pet peeve, but the schools are also the primary ones that call me Mrs. Husband’s Name, despite the fact that every bit of school paperwork I’ve submitted and email I’ve sent has my actual name on it. And I live in an area where women keeping their names or having a different last name than their children is not unusual at all.

      I am also the primary earner in our household with a demanding job, and there’s no way I could do what I do without my husband handling a lot of the kid stuff. He went to 2/3 time at work for over a year to deal with a scheduling issue while we were on the wait list for school-aged childcare and has shifted his work hours multiple times for the same reason – my job does not offer that sort of flexibly. We established pretty early on that he was less interested in having a career than I was, so he’d handle most kid-related running (and he does meals, bless him, because I’m not a good cook). I just don’t think that it’s possible for two people to work full-time, have kids, and spend time together as adult humans without major support (family, money to outsource, etc.) the way the world is set up now.

      1. Knope Knope Knope*

        Right? My husband always works from home and is literally the only parent who has ever picked them up sick, and does drop off and pick up every day. Yet they call me first every.single.time.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Wait. How is who the school calls a problem for businesses? This is just a series of rants about what’s hard for you. It’s not about the original question. No one said there are not issues. Alison does say that there are other areas that have to improve.
      But going off about your kids daycare is irrelevant here.

      1. Knope Knope Knope*

        It isn’t just daycare. It is doctors (plural). Activities. The point is, society tends to see moms as the primary parent–and they don’t work around working hours. As a women and especially a mom, the flexibility of WFH allowed me to really hit my potential when it comes to productivity and results. The office was built around men being at work all day and women being at home. And then being secretaries and support staff. And then having equal representation but lower pay. The more succesful you are, the greater the demands the higher up the chain you go. But society hasn’t really changed radically enough to support that IMO, until we had the flexibility of remote work.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Because it’s a problem for working women when your kids’ school/activity/daycare/whatever calls Mom repeatedly because the default assumption is that Mom has the less important job and will be the one picking the children up despite the fact that the thousand pieces of paperwork that you gave them says “please call Dad during the day, here’s three phone numbers for him”. Especially when you’re doing something high-profile, and they’re unnecessarily blowing up your phone and making you panic about whether or not something’s happened to your spouse that they’re not taking care of this. Bonus points if, when you step out to answer and suggest they call your husband – the primary contact – they get all judgy about how MOTHERS should be the ones picking up their sick kids and they don’t want to “bother” dad.

        It’s an example of persistent sexism in our society that 100% impacts working mothers far more than fathers. People fawn all over my husband for doing what the majority of moms do with no recognition on a day to day basis, even though he works from home all but one day per month and is clearly the one better suited to the task.

  27. Long Time Fed*

    I’m older and it makes me so uncomfortable when younger women use gender as an excuse cloaked in feminism.

    We’ve fought for equality and to have our place in leadership and elsewhere. Claiming then that bringing women back to the office is painful and anti-feminist because of kids…activities…responsibilities…just gives ammunition to the people who want us to be at home serving our families while our husbands support us.

    And easier to manage our periods? Oh my, let’s cancel all meetings and retreat to the menstruation hut for a few days a month.

    1. Melody*

      Yeah, I always have mixed feelings about this stuff.

      I heard a couple 20-something ladies talking about how they’re destigmatizing periods by telling their boss that’s why they’re requesting sick time and I thought, “No, that’s not what’s happening! You don’t have to give your boss details anyway!”

      I do think companies should try to have more flexibility over all – I have a coworker who is caring for her elderly mother, I have another who has to pick his kids up from work, another just has an illness to work around – but I wouldn’t want it framed as women inherently needing special treatment. That will be a problem.

      1. amoeba*

        It’s not women, it’s people in general. And the reason men don’t have that issue at the moment is because women are doing the invisible work in the background.
        If we want to stop doing that, we need flexibility for everybody.

    2. Adrian*

      I worked in BigLaw for a long time (staff, not attorney). A colleague said that several young women attorneys came to big firms not to build a career, but to find rich husbands so they wouldn’t have to work.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        That is grossly misogynist. I worked in BigLaw for two decades (staff side as well), and that is really insulting to the smart, hardworking women I worked for and with. Some of the associates paired off, but no one was picking off partners for a SAHW gig. Why the hell would you accrue six figures of loans from a T1 school to get an MRS? The only person at my office who picked herself up a rich husband was a cliched secretary having an affair with her married boss and then marrying him after the divorce.

        Many, many women started dropping out of BigLaw when they had children, and there is a working theory that you can do one kid + BigLaw but not 2+.

        1. Delta Delta*

          As someone who was Very Good At School, I found law school to be kind of a fun, albeit expensive, adventure. Although I acquired the husband from the law school experience, not from my job, so maybe I did it wrong.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Long, hard, and expensive! Source: have several friends with massive law-school student debt, that they either paid off after years of working in BigLaw and getting paid wildly high (to senior software engineer me) salaries, or working at a place that had a student debt forgiveness program.

          I also witnessed one of these friends studying for their bar exam. There are definitely easier ways to find a rich husband (I assume; never found, or looked for, one myself) I’m curious how that colleague came to that conclusion. Did he hear them say it or ???

          1. Observer*

            Did he hear them say it or ???

            That is the ONE thing I am certain did NOT happen.

            Most likely he came to that conclusion because he’s a misogynist idiot who can’t imagine women actually “bothering their sill heads” with a MANLY career, and assumed that any time a woman decided to leave the firm or BigLaw, it could ONLY be because they were disappointed that they couldn’t find a husband. Because WHY ELSE would they leave? The fact that it’s an insane and inhuman environment doesn’t seem to have crossed his mind.

      2. TomatoSoup*

        That colleague was out of their gourd (and super sexist). Going through law school is tough (and expensive) as it is, but then to make the grades to get a Big Law job and bill all the hours to, at the very least, not get fired? Absolutely not.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          It also cracks me up how that comment comes a couple days after the post about work-life balance, where many commenters attested to work in BigLaw being extremely stressful, coming with 100-hour weeks and expectations of constant availability, even when on vacation or out sick. All that to find a rich husband? is he even worth it haha

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I think when people say “easier to manage our periods” they mean “I can lie on the floor for twenty minutes when the cramps get too bad” and not “I must hide the shame of my monthly bleed from my colleagues.”

      1. Kiki*

        Yes, I think sometimes folks with normal/less painful periods overlook. It’s not that women need to hide out in shame during their period, it’s that a significant portion of women would benefit from an accommodation that allows them work more comfortably during a painful time once a month.

        My periods aren’t painful, but they are extremely heavy (I’m seeing a doctor about it). It is much less stressful for me to work from home 2 days a month where I am close to a private bathroom and have all my heavy-duty supplies close at hand than to go into an office and run back and forth between my desk and the bathroom 6 times a day with a tampon tucked up my sleeve.

        I think only some fringe internet voices think all women should/need to stay at home during their periods. Most people are saying, “This is an uncomfortable time for a lot of people women— it’d make things better for them if they had the option to work from home.” I could take a sick day, but I only get five. And I think it’s better for my career to have me working, albeit remotely, than to call out once a month.

      2. Observer*

        That’s true. But to be honest, that’s a medical / disability accommodation, not a feminist accommodation.

        What is REALLY sexist about this particular issue that this level of pain is almost always cause be a medical issue, and one that can usually be treated. But instead of treating it that way, we tell women that “this is what it means to have a period”; we refuse to do research on the issue; and doctors, who should know better! give women terrible advice and simply ignore the medical science that we already do have.

        And this is a perfect example of why this kind of conversation makes me nuts. Talking about WFH as a feminist issue because “women need time to deal with excruciating periods” is NOT feminist! In fact, if I’m going to label anything as “anti-feminist” it’s this idea that normalizes a medical issue as “the way things are” *and* advocates for bandaid solutions rather than pushing for the things that would ACTUALLY HELP.

        Yes, I’m mad. Because I *was* one of the women who had those kinds of periods. I was one of the lucky ones, because although not one doctor would take it seriously, I wound up developing other incontrovertible symptoms of the underlying problem so I got the treatment I needed. I *still* talk to women whose doctors brush them off.

    4. CheeryO*

      Yep. And let’s remember that many managers value in-person interactions and butts in seats, for better or worse. Having an office full of men with women at home, out of sight and out of mind, is not exactly ideal.

      WFH is a nice perk and should be allowed when practical as part of a generally flexible workplace, but I also don’t think it’s shocking that many places are asking for a return to the office. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to have a plethora of permanent remote options outside of select fields.

    5. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I really have mixed feelings about the periods thing. I have several chronic health issues and periods have never been anything like the other things that require me to take sick days. Periods just aren’t a big deal for me.

      I recognize that women have a spectrum of experiences so my mundane periods aren’t universal. But I also think that when periods are severe enough to interfere with daily life that warrants medical attention and isn’t really about periods in a general sense. In some ways it’s harmful to women with bad periods to act like it’s just a normal, nearly universal experience and you just need to stick it up and miss work because it can’t be better. And I’ve known women with severe issues that were dismissed by doctors for too long.

      1. Observer*

        . But I also think that when periods are severe enough to interfere with daily life that warrants medical attention and isn’t really about periods in a general sense.

        Yes, And the fact that it gets treated as “well that’s periods” rather than the medical issue that it is, it a real problem.

        In some ways it’s harmful to women with bad periods to act like it’s just a normal, nearly universal experience and you just need to stick it up and miss work because it can’t be better. And I’ve known women with severe issues that were dismissed by doctors for too long.

        Exactly this.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same, and not in the “I endured some shit so you should have to as well” hazing mentality, but it feels like giving people a reason to assume I need more accommodation and am less capable because I’m a woman and not based on my reality. I think accommodations should be more universally available and acceptable so that men pull their weight in the family support department as well.

      The menstruation excuse makes me actively angry. It harkens back to the days when it was just assumed that women were “PMSing” any time they displayed a negative emotion or were incapable of functioning while having their period. Certainly there are people who are incapacitated by mensuration for medical reasons, but that should be treated as a medical need, not just how all women having periods are.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I was at one point active on an online forum where almost everyone was an IT professional, and we had a regular comment that, as a manager, he would do whatever possible to avoid hiring a woman, because “who wants an employee that’s doubled over in pain clutching her stomach five days out of each month” And no one called him out on that. The guys all just… silently agreed? He was the nicest, sensitive, caring person otherwise (kind of /s, but point being, you couldn’t tell how sexist he was by looking at his posts outside of that one). So yeah, with that in mind… Maybe not a good idea to remind the men that we are not capable of functioning in an office while on our periods.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I need more accommodation

        The hidden part of this sentence is the comparitor: “more accommodation [in comparison to the default, a Man.]” What if we didn’t treat men as the default, and workplaces were based on the specific business needs and availability of their employees, rather than a model in which the unencumbered available-50-hours-a-week abled employee is the default?

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Happy to rephrase – I would prefer that it not be assumed I need *any* accommodation unless I request it myself, being a grown-up and able to articulate my own needs.

      3. Divergent*

        Yes, this general acceptance that disabling periods are normal and not a medical issue is why I didn’t get my PMDD diagnosis and support until I was in my 40s.

    7. AnonForThis*

      I remember in law school we read this article arguing that the prohibition in dating clients was anti-feminist which basically boiled down to “it’s hard to date as a female lawyer”. The women in the room were not supportive of the article.

    8. Binky*

      I don’t see how ignoring many womens’ lived reality and refusing to adopt policies that will better enable women to stay in and thrive in a work environment is the better option.

      Workplaces shouldn’t make policy based on wishful thinking. Yes, caregivers shouldn’t be disproportionately women, but they are. Refusing to address the inclusion issues raised by general societal inequity doesn’t serve to increase womens’ success. And having a full-time WFH job is not being at “home serving our families while our husbands support us.” It’s the opposite, since it enables people to do work, and be self-supporting, when they otherwise might not be able to!

      The best way forward is to offer WFH to all qualified employees, so that everyone who can benefit from that arrangement, whether because they have caregiving responsibilities, or are dealing with physical or mental health issues or whatever else, can thrive in the work place.

      The policy doesn’t and shouldn’t be about women as mothers, but it should exist to help anyone who needs it, including mothers.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes! “The best way forward is to offer WFH to all qualified employees, so that everyone who can benefit from that arrangement, whether because they have caregiving responsibilities, or are dealing with physical or mental health issues or whatever else, can thrive in the work place … The policy doesn’t and shouldn’t be about women as mothers, but it should exist to help anyone who needs it, including mothers.” As a woman who doesn’t have caregiving responsibilities, I support this statement.

    9. Delta Delta*

      I mean, I’m overworked enough that a couple days uninterrupted in a hut sounds pretty divine. Except that probably the hut has blazing fast wifi to enable WFH.

    10. NYWeasel*

      Well, I’m older, fought for equality my whole life, but I also recognize that I bought into a work paradigm that isn’t a universal truth and disproportionately affects women, disabled workers and lower income employees. So I advocate for dropping a “one-size fits all” approach and flexing work environments to what makes the most sense for the types of work and benefits the most workers.

      This means that at the far ends of the spectrum, work generally *is* more productive in person. A coffee shop can’t be staffed by people working outside their home, but likewise, VPs tend to take lots of face to face meetings with their directors, and those are way easier in person. But in between those two ends, there are lots of different variables, and I see no reason for companies to force solutions that aren’t the best for a specific team just to “return” to an environment that was never optimal in the first place.

      For example, I work best at 2-3 in the office, but my team works best with 1-2 days in the office. So we currently do 2 days in office and 3 at home. Our company is rolling out a 3 days in model with no flexibility for me to adjust to what suits my team best. Why should I lose high performing women bc they value being in the house when the kids get home from school so they don’t have to pay as much for childcare each month? Why should I tell any of my team that instead of taking calls early with their global partners on their “at home” days, they need to use that time to drive a third day into the office, and then have to book a meeting room, etc, just to sit on Teams meetings all day anyway?

      I think the challenge with these discussions is that every situation has so many unique factors that when I explain my team’s optimal setup, your team’s experience may be completely different. But ultimately technology has empowered the ability to flex work in ways that previous generations never envisioned, so why shouldn’t we embrace any option that helps everyone, and not just a select cross-section of workers, become productive?

    11. bamcheeks*

      I’m 44. If you fought for a place in leadership and didn’t try and change the culture so that the next generation wouldn’t have to fight so hard– What. Was. The. Fucking. Point.

      More women in leadership roles so they can enact the same policies that men did? Give me a break.

    12. The Ginger Ginger*

      I think one of the things to keep in mind is the idea that feminism benefits everyone. It’s not JUST about women. It’s about equality for all without gender being a factor. So masculine folks who WANT to be caregivers should have the work flexibility (and paid parental leave) to support that the same way mothers (kind of) do. That’s feminism too.

      It’s about options. If someone wants to work remotely while they’re breastfeeding, the flexibility to do that is a huge benefit. Someone at the same workplace in the same situation may decide it’s worth it to go back to the office. The point is the OPTION (when it’s possible based on the workplace). Forcing new parents to work from home is just as anti-feminist than forcing them to go back to the office if neither is a requirement of doing the job.

      I also don’t think it’s helpful to pretend that equality means treating women exactly like men it terms of physical needs or vice versa. (I’m speaking in terms of binary here for ease of expression, please know I totally understand that’s not how gender works in practicality). I’m not a man and I have different needs from a man sometimes. I don’t think it’s special treatment or a threat to “real” feminism to acknowledge that. Flexibility benefits me for many reasons, some of which are specific to my experience as a woman. Flexibility has benefits for men that overlap in some ways with mine, but in other ways specific to them being men. Same for non-binary people – they will benefit from flexibility for similar and different reasons than I will.

      All of that is more reason to have flexible options. Not less. And I think it’s disingenuous to interpret someone saying it’s easier to manage a period from home than it is in the office to them saying women should just disappear for a few days every month. I have worked both from home and from an office, and yeah – Home is better FOR ME when I’m on my period. I don’t have to have that constant low level worry about leaks, running inventory of my supply of hygiene products, grit my teeth through painful cramps while walking up and down the office stairs to attend a string of meetings, have a spare outfit on hand if I bleed through, all while generally feeling crappy. Can I do all that? Yeah. And I have, and still did my job well. Is it my preference? No. It doesn’t make me a worse feminist than you to say I don’t want to do that any more.

    13. Solokid*


      If we’re going to analyze the traditional office model, I think it’s also valid to analyze the traditional feelings of how much joy children really bring to women. Everything is really just individual preferences informed by long term stereotypes.

    14. Knope Knope Knope*

      Hard disagree. Why should a system built around one stay at home parent–moms!–and one working parent be immoveable at a time when we have the technology to be more flexible? Working from home doesn’t mean doing the childcare and working. It means creating conditions for a new kind of family structure. One that prioritizes work and family. Working from home let me excel as a business leader and a mother.

    15. yala*

      “And easier to manage our periods? Oh my, let’s cancel all meetings and retreat to the menstruation hut for a few days a month.”

      I mean, look, sometimes I do want that menstruation hut. Or at least a long hot bath, and then to be horizontal and hugging a pillow for the next several hours. I don’t have killer periods as often as I did when I was younger (the kind where at some point my manager decided I looked like death warmed over and sent me home, because standing was excruciating).

      Which isn’t to say I think the whole “back to the office” thing is antifeminist so much as it’s just…bad for everyone.

      Because someone doesn’t have to have a period to have a bad pain day where maybe they could still get their work done, but not also get dressed, get out of bed, drive to work, sit up in an office chair all day, etc etc. Heck, the normalization of working from home has been a godsend for my friend’s husband, who is very good at what he does, but also deals with severe chronic pain and mobility issues, and is loads better off if he can do what he does from bed, instead of an office.

      Working from home *did* make it easier for me on Killer Period days. Or days when my insomnia hit hard and I couldn’t sleep all night.

      I do think the letter is a bit backwards about coming forwards–the expectation and default that women are going to be the ones caring for home-related things instead of/in addition to working outside of the home is certainly antifeminist. But the problems created by needlessly bringing folks back to the office are just anti-human in general.

  28. Four out of Five*

    Re: asking to work part-time while going to grad school full time. I kind of did this, but I asked to work 4 days a week and only took classes in the evening and on Fridays. It took me twice as long to finish grad school, but my job was very amenable to it. I think, though, the key was that my degree would benefit my employer and they didn’t need to hire anyone to cover the time I was taking off. I presented a proposal to my boss before I applied for the grad program in a “here’s what I’m thinking. What do you think?” kind of way. And when she said yes I applied for the program.

  29. Dr. Student*

    I’m a doctoral student who works as a TA for my stipend. I had to sign something similar when I started that was for my own state. It’s not that weird.

  30. Squamous & Rugose LLP*

    LW#5: It’s worth noting that depending on the particular field of work/research (e.g. aerospace) there is the possibility of encountering “enemies” in the intelligence/spying sense of the word. In common with other scammer/social engineering types they’ll quite happily exploit the feeling that “I definitely don’t have the type of job where X might happen” to get past any initial defences. Not that it’s by any means a likely possibility, but something to bear in mind depending on the context they’re working in.

    1. This Old House*

      I had to take that oath when I was a student worker in college – at the National Archives. Obviously it’s just the standard federal oath, but there were lots of jokes about how we would have to literally defend the actual physical Constitution (because it’s part of the National Archives’ holdings, of course). Sometimes it’s (sort of) relevant!

    1. Melody*

      Right? I’m like, “Where is this job so I can poach it from the LW when they throw it away?”

    2. virago*


      THIS IS AN EXAGGERATION, but I only know about 10,000 illustrators who would love that job. (I live in a city with an art school, and I work for a newspaper that eliminated its graphic artist-illustrator position when the person in that position retired.)

  31. Melody*

    LW4: What is it with Credit Unions and making their employees work in the cold?

    I had a similar situation several years ago. It was during a snow storm that shut down all the other banks & credit unions in our area, so they could have just closed for the day with everyone else. But they didn’t.

    Instead, they sent around an email that we could wear jeans to work. Of course, hourly employees didn’t get it until they were already at the office in their thin work slacks.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I literally opened up a new credit union account a couple of weeks ago with my phone. I never had to go to the local branch (which is only about 10 minutes’ walk from here), never had to call, nothing.

      Unless you are CASHING a PAPER check (good lord, why???), there is no need for a credit union to be open under such circumstances. Businesses that need to make their deposits can use the night deposit box. You can deposit paper checks on your phone.

      This is a ridiculous expectation of credit union employees.

  32. Professor Ronny*

    I was working for a Fortune 100 company when I was accepted into a nearby Ph.D. program that required students to be full time. I just lied. Well, not exactly, I just never told them I had a full-time position. All the classes started at 3:30 and I arranged with my employer to start work early, leave for class, and then come back after class to finish up. Once the classes ended, timing was not an issue.

    It took me longer to graduate that normal but not excessively long.

    1. TomatoSoup*

      It is astounding how many *funded* phD programs want you to promise to do no other work. It’s super rare to find that in any other academic programs. My friend got a funded phD program that was theoretically well-funded. It was $19k/year in Manhattan and you had to be on campus for classes, etc very regularly and they said you weren’t allowed to work.

  33. Michelle Smith*

    LW5: That oath is normal and common in the US. You might think it’s insane, but that’s just kind of how it works here. Unless you’re planning to commit treason you’re fine lol.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Before anyone comments to rip me a new one, I’m obviously talking about federal government jobs and many state ones. Not private industry. I’ve had to take an oath of some sort for any government job I’ve had.

  34. Bored Fed*

    When i saw LW5, i thought it would be another case of an oath of fealty to a private company, like the cross-referenced letter in the “you may also like” section.
    That WAS weird. If you want to work for a government, that is, to be a civil servant, this … is just something you need to decide if you are willing to do.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Exactly. 99% of jobs in the federal government fall under the executive branch, whose primary responsibility is to implement & discharge the laws passed by Congress, according to the powers granted by the Constitution. Everything you do, in a 6-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon sense, is preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution.