all the men I work with go on an annual camping trip together, and women aren’t allowed

A reader writes:

I work at a religiously-affiliated single-sex secondary school in the U.S. (all male). About 65% of our faculty is male, compared with the 35% of us who are female (myself included).

For 40 years, each year after school lets out for the summer, the men who teach and work here organize an all-male camping trip. It is three nights, four days, and it takes place a few hours away from where I live.

The institution I work for does not pay for or outright endorse this annual trip. Women are not invited and would be prohibited from attending. About 40 men attend it each year, including most of the men who retired from the school (even those who retired 10+ years ago).

I dislike this trip on principle. From my understanding, it used to be quite rowdy, with heavy drinking and gossiping about the women who work there (which is definitely a gross and sexist practice). Over the last 10 years, according to my male colleagues (some of whom are my friends), it’s become much more tame, and there really isn’t a lot of gossiping or anything like that. It’s a chance for the men to bond with one another. Since we teach at an all-male school, a high emphasis is put on brotherhood where I work. (No such emphasis on sisterhood.)

Our bosses do not attend this trip, so it’s not like there is a question of networking or face time with administrators. There aren’t really professional benefits to attending, I guess, except that it feels … exclusionary? Which it is. I’ve raised this point to three or four of my male colleagues, who are generally really nice people. They responded by asking me (with genuine sincerity) if I’d even want to attend, if women were invited. I guess the answer is no … camping is not really my thing. Then they say, “Well, don’t worry about it then.”

I’m really struggling to articulate why this trip bothers me, since my employer doesn’t pay for it, it’s not “officially” a work trip (although only employees attend, or are invited to attend), my bosses don’t go, no promotions or networking happens there, AND I dislike the activity in question. But it feels as though women are simply valued less, and generally thought of as people who should be excluded from bonding activities.

For the record, if the school were to force this trip to shut down, there would be a RIOT. People (men) might quit over it. The men describe it as the best four days of the entire year.

Please help me do a gut check here. Is this something worth being upset about? I have worked here for over a decade so I might have lost a sense of what’s normal elsewhere.

It bothers you because they’re saying they see you and other women as Different from them in some fundamental way. It’s injecting sex and gender into a sphere it doesn’t belong in. Sex and gender can matter very much in some situations; they are not supposed to matter in work relationships and at work social events.

It’s a problem even though the trip doesn’t involve extra face time with administrators — because even if no work is ever discussed on the trips at all, the men in attendance are deepening their relationships with each other and building a camaraderie and trust that you will never be permitted to benefit from. Relationships matter at work — they influence who gets turned to for input, who gets extra help, whose voices are listened to and elevated, who get mentored and supported, who’s given grace and the benefit of the doubt (and who isn’t), who’s more comfortable with who, and who gets thought of for a job years from now when you’ve all moved on to other employers. There’s a reason networking with coworkers is valuable, and they’re cutting you out of it in a big way. (I’m sure they’d say you have other opportunities to network with them — but this event sounds like a massive trust-builder and relationship-builder that you don’t get access to because you are without a penis.) They are literally creating a boy’s club where all the men who work together will get to know and trust each other more, and they are deliberately excluding women from that.

It also bothers you because its origins (“heavy drinking and gossiping about the women who work there”) are gross.

And it bothers you because there is a long history of men excluding women from business networking by barring them from spaces where it’s happening (think private social clubs and golf clubs that didn’t allow women) and using spaces where women would be less likely to want to go (think strip clubs). Historically, that has been something that’s kept women on a different playing field than men, both literally and figuratively.

These are all solid reasons to be bothered.

Based on what you’ve said, it sounds like it would take an enormous amount of capital to do anything about it and your chances of success might be low. But you’re not off-base in having a problem with it.

Read an update to this letter. 

{ 538 comments… read them below }

  1. Without a Penis*

    Time to plan a Ladies Only spa weekend*. Don’t compete with these dudes. Beat them at their own game. Be better than them. Make them complain about the Ladies Only fun weekends y’all are having.

    *or something.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Unfortunately, this will do nothing to ameliorate the situation for the LW. “Separate but equal” is generally anything but equal, as history as shown us.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Whenever I’ve worked in male dominated spaces, women’s groups and women’s events were actually really important. This feels somehow different though, because teaching isn’t traditionally male dominated (I also work in a boys school that used to be taught exclusively by priests and this type of male camping trip would be viewed as archaic and bonkers rude to our heavy numbers of female staff, even like 30 years ago). OP isn’t looking at a traditional industry issue, it’s just weirdly out of place, dogged sexism. So, in this situation…. hmmm, I wouldn’t do anything that was a female coded activity, and I would consider selectively inviting male members of staff who I felt were good allies. I would behave how they should be behaving. Or you know, I would leaving. There are plenty of schools where you’re not getting your looks rated over a campfire (or whatever they’re hiding).

          1. Ellie*

            Yep. This is an old boys club, you will never get anywhere there. Best to build a reputation in a place that deserves you.

      2. SometimesCharlotte*

        I agree that this doesn’t fix anything on it’s own, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the point. The point is to do things that start a conversation about sexism and inclusion.

        I would start by inviting all the women to an after hours or weekend socializing and planning event and get some fun things on the calendar for the women. Not just one thing, several things. Maybe a thing each month. Probably not a spa day because a) it’s a sexist assumption that women like spa days and b) I want these events to have wide appeal. I want them to sound like something the guys want to do too. Maybe a dinner club, everyone eats. The point is I want the men to want to join the women’s group activities. I want them to whine about being excluded and how it’s not fair.

        This is a far as I’ve envisioned it. I can’t decide if I’d say, of course you’re welcome! We value inclusion and just want to have outside of work bonding time with our colleagues. Or if my response would be different. I guess it depends on the others in the group and how a lot of other factors.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        There’s nothing to solve, from a workplace perspective. These dudes can’t be forced to open up their camping trip because it’s not officially sanctioned or paid for by the school, and the school can’t shut down the trip because it’s not school-sanctioned. There’s no law forcing them to open up the trip. All the women can do is create their own networking/bonding activities. It’s a bad situation but there’s no way to solve it externally.

        1. Cmdrshrd*

          “These dudes can’t be forced to open up their camping trip because it’s not officially sanctioned or paid for by the school, and the school can’t shut down the trip because it’s not school-sanctioned.”

          I disagree that the school/employers can’t do anything about it. The school/employer could do something about it, the same way employers can fire people in at-will employment (in a higher ed/school context with tenure that might be harder) for their actions outside the job that might make the company look bad. Being a holes to service staff etc…

          Not to say the school will actually want to do anything, based on being an all male school and religiously affiliated I suspect they are fine with it.

          1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

            I’m curious what they actually could do about it? “Don’t go on any more camping trips or you’re fired?”

            1. Ex-prof*

              Well, it’s probably organized on school property. Discussed in the teachers’ lounge or in classrooms before school starts, plans made on the school email system. At the very least, the school has standing to prevent that.

              1. Florence Reece*

                They can, but IMO this would just force the conversation into more personal spheres and deepen the exclusionary feeling a tiiiiny bit more.

              2. evens*

                Maybe, but would it be worth the capital it would take to end it? You can’t just say “This feels icky, stop it.” This is a fun tradition for men who aren’t doing anything wrong, and if you came after them on technicalities, you would be making enemies. In the real world (as opposed to on the internet), these things matter.

          2. RagingADHD*

            You think they’re going to fire 65% of their staff? Or make them mad enough to quit en masse?

            Even if they weren’t fine with the trip, it would be a stupid move from a business perspective.

            1. Cmdrshrd*

              No, that is why I said:

              “Not to say the school will actually want to do anything, based on being an all male school and religiously affiliated I suspect they are fine with it.”

          3. Caliente Papillon*

            I mean technically what can they do? If I decide I’m taking 5 people of any gender from my office for pedicures after work and someone I didn’t invite complained about it, can I not take people to get pedicures? I know something will be said about optics or whatever but the bottom line is if a bunch of employees want to do x while not at work, they can.
            I kinda feel like Without A Penis is just saying do something else in general, not that it’s going to affect the dudes. Put your attention elsewhere.
            Why can’t the crew of women at this school get together and bond doing an activity that they enjoy? Sure it’s not going to fix the problem, but it may make them feel better and closer as coworkers.

            1. Cmdrshrd*

              “I mean technically what can they do? If I decide I’m taking 5 people of any gender from my office for pedicures after work and someone I didn’t invite complained about it, can I not take people to get pedicures?”

              At the end of the day they can tell you to stop or you will be fired. The same way they could tell you don’t ever wear a blue shirt in the office or at home and if you do you will be fired.

              I get saying you can’t go with these 5 people to get pedicures may initially seem unreasonable, but if the team is made up of 8 people and 2-3 people are getting left out it can create problems at work. Same reason AAM usually recommends you can invite a small handful of people to your wedding, but more people should not be invited. You can invite 2 out of 7, but you can’t do 5 out of 7.

              1. allathian*

                I mean I guess in an at-will environment you can be fired for any reason whatever, except for a cause directly related to a protected status. But a reasonable employer wouldn’t attempt to dictate their employees’ social relationships outside of the immediate work environment. As long as they don’t talk about the pedicures in front of the team members who aren’t invited and don’t discuss going there on company-owned devices, the employer has (or at least should have) no recourse.

                When it’s not an at-will environment, the employer has even less influence. Several years ago a few coworkers were talking about going to lunch together in my hearing, and I asked if I could come too. One of them refused in a way that felt unnecessarily nasty to me, something like “You’re more than welcome to come to our monthly team lunches, butnot today because I’m only going with my *actual* friends.” I was bullied by exclusion in middle school, so I reacted more strongly to this than I probably should have. I left without saying another word to avoid bursting into tears. My boss happened to come by my desk not long afterwards while I was still a bit upset and she asked what had happened, and when I told her she said that they could’ve been nicer about it, but that there was nothing she could do because lunch is off the clock and people are allowed to choose who they go to lunch with in their own time.

                A year or so later the coworker was promoted and became our interim manager. The friend who she hung out most with switched to another team because neither of them wanted to lose the friendship. For as long as she was our manager, she was impeccably professional and we had a pretty decent relationship, and I was initially quite sad that she wasn’t hired when the interim period ended. They went with an external hire, who it has to be said has also been great, and the interim manager was demoted to team lead.

          4. Ellis Bell*

            Yeah, they absolutely can. I work for a Catholic boys school headed by a woman, and she would be just impressively scathing about this. You don’t have to shut things down or fire people when you’re the boss, you just have to be very unimpressed and ask awkward questions, which I can totally picture her doing. She’d definitely have a meeting with the most senior person and ask them what century do they think women might earn an invite in, and probably force an invite for herself and some senior women if she thought she could get away with it. At the very least she’d make it clear that she didn’t ever want an all male trip mentioned at school, or the school mentioned as part of an all male trip. You may be thinking that this is only because we have a female head teacher, but a male boss could do all the same things.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              My gut reaction is that the kind of school that would have a woman in charge would already not have this kind of bullshit going on.

              I asked myself what would happen if the parents got wind of this annual event, and my answer depressed me. They’d be fine with it. Of course they would. Because it entrenches exactly the privilege they seek in the education they choose.

              1. Verthandi*

                Not to mention that the students probbly hear about the camping trip. What fine role models these male faculty members are, making sure the idea of the Boy’s Club stays alive into the future. (note the sarcasm)

          5. Caroline*

            So you would actually fire people who are breaking no laws for going camping on their own time and dime because that definitely would not look like a crazy over-step.

            1. zinzarin*

              You don’t actually have to fire people to shut this down. There are other tools in the management arsenal; lots of corrections happen in the workplace without firing people.

            2. AH*

              People are fired for petty reasons all the time. This is not a petty reason to fire someone. This is a deliberately exclusionary practice.

            3. Boof*

              I would potentially fire people for routinely sexist or otherwise bigoted behavior, even if it occurred outside of work, if the people doing it refused to stop

            4. just some guy*

              There is a very large amount of precedent for religious-affiliated schools firing people for what they do in their own time, without it even having the workplace connections that this event does.

          6. Just Another Zebra*

            But it’s not even happening during the school year. So, really, the trip has even less to do with the employer. It’s a group of friends who met at work who all take a trip together when they are mutually off from work. There is nothing really actionable here, as far as the employer goes.

            It doesn’t make it less gross. OP is right to be upset. But from a workplace perspective… there isn’t much to be done, unfortunately.

            1. STLBlues*

              That’s just absolutely not correct.

              You can be fired for activity outside of work. It doesn’t make it FAIR but it’s absolutely legal to do so. The employer could say tomorrow that anyone who goes on that trip is fired. Will they? No. Should they? Probably not. But they absolutely can.

              And if I were the administration, the fact that there was an employee activity explicitly excluding people based on gender, I’d have a very legitimate cause to worry about how that impacts my staff.

      2. Without a Penis*

        I’m not trying to solve it. It won’t be solved. Do what you can, which is create something else and not even worry about them.

    2. Friendo*

      You can’t outplay sexism like this. All that is going to do is reinforce the idea that their male bonding is necessary and important and that segregation of the sexes makes perfect sense. This is especially true if Ladies Weekend is a traditionally feminine activity like going to the spa.

      1. saskia*

        I think the religious tradition, the single-gender school and the four decades of dude-only camping trips are the things reinforcing the ‘male-bonding’ idea, not a hypothetical women’s trip.

        1. Friendo*

          Yes, the many reasons why this is already an enforced tradition is a good reason not to add another on top of that.

          1. saskia*

            It wouldn’t be an enforced tradition. It’s a chance for women to build rapport, solidarity, support and relationships when previously there was none. But agree to disagree.

              1. saskia*

                I’m speaking about what might be realistic in OP’s circumstance, not my deeply held morals against sexism and racism. The Supreme Court is a poor reference here anyway. They’ve said many times that religious entities are welcome to discriminate in a variety of ridiculous ways that are far worse than the example in this letter.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Exactly. Doing an all-female activity will only reinforce the men’s insistence that this is not sexist (it is) and that they have bonafide reasons for having the all-men’s weekend (they don’t).

      3. STLBlues*

        Friendo, I agree completely. I can’t stress enough how apoplectic with rage I would be (as a woman) if the answer to “all the men are excluding the women by going camping” was “WELL THEN LET’S DO A SPA DAY, LADIES!”

        Like, so enraged I might quit. A response to weird gender discrimination is NOT to double and triple down on every gender stereotype there is.

        1. Eucalyptus*

          I worked at a place where there were practices like this: men’s bible study, tennis with the boss (which admittedly could happen with a woman but almost never did and would not include non-tennis-playing me) and other less egregious sexist practices. I did quit.

    3. ZSD*

      I agree that this solution is less than ideal, but I disagree with the statement that it solves nothing. Given that it sounds like, in this case, stopping the men-only (or males-only?) retreat isn’t feasible, then at least giving the other 35% of the staff a chance to socialize, build trust, mentor each other, etc., is better than *nothing*.
      (And maybe it will only take another 40 years for someone to decide that the two events should be combined.)

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed. Doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s also not petty or pointless. There’s a minority rapport to be built here.

      2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        Granted that it’s unlikely a nonbinary person would be comfortable working in this environment for a variety of reasons anyway, I could see this making things worse for them.

      3. Jessica*

        I think what a lot of people, myself included, are responding to with exhaustion in the comment is the whole “beat them at their own game” tone.

        If you’re a woman who’s worked in a misogynist environment, you’re likely well aware that separate but equal is never equal. And, moreover, when men are the ones holding all the power, setting the rules, and controlling the understanding of what success looks like, you’ll never “beat them at their own game,” because they will always define you as losing. In most of life there’s no Great Supreme Objective Judge observing our endeavors and handing down evaluations. The best you can hope for is a public audience, and the public has its own biases and prejudices. If Billie Jean King had been playing Bobby Riggs in a secret, unrecorded match with no recording, and an audience solely of men, you’d better believe that the narrative that would have emerged about the game would have been that she lost.

        We can’t “beat them at their own game” when they’re the ones that define what constitutes winning.

        And regardless of what the women at the school do, as long as they are vastly outnumbered and men hold all the positions of power, they won’t gain anything in some sort of head-to-head competition or comparison.

        I *do* think the women at the school should be forming a very tight, mutually supportive group. Maybe that involves going on retreats together, maybe it doesn’t. But it’s a losing battle to try to position any of their meetings as an equivalent or competitor to the men’s retreat.

        Because the men will always treat the women’s retreat as a cute little thing the girls are doing. At best with condescension and at worst with outright contempt.

        So the women should do whatever meetings/offsites/etc. they need for their own sanity and functionality, to survive and succeed as much as possible at work, rather than to be perceived in a particular way by the men, to “win” some sort of competition, etc.

        You can’t win a rigged game with a judge determined to see you lose and no objective observers.

        1. Purpleshark*

          I have to agree with this on sooooo many levels. I don’t think the answer is really, “Well just plan your own activity.” I think there needs to be an effort to plan an “inclusive” activity sponsored by the workplace. This would at least recognize that this separation is not supported by the workplace and recognizes the need to have a bonding activity for the staff as a whole that does not leave those who want to participate out.

        2. Barr*

          “Because the men will always treat the women’s retreat as a cute little thing the girls are doing.”

          Thank you. Every time someone does the spa nonsense it’s so depressing

          1. I Have RBF*


            “Spa Day” is so gender stereotyped that it’s disgusting. What’s next, a shopping trip for perfume and makeup? Maybe an Avon party?

            A women’s camping trip on the same weekend might be amusing, but it would still leave out enbies.

            1. Barr*

              Yuppp I made the same enby point below, wild how many ppl aren’t considering this, and also think that “separate but equal” is cool. LOL at Avon party it might as well be

        3. Without a Penis*

          ::Or something::

          You can either sit and complain and that solves nothing, or do something else and you can ignore them. It’s not a perfect “solutuion”, but it’s something you can do. You can’t force someone else to do something, but you can change your behavior. Empower yourself. Ignore them. Do your own thing. But whining to make them stop? You sound pathetic.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      I realize that you added “or something”, but the suggestion of a spa weekend is really just playing into the gender stereotypes that are already a part this situation.

      1. Jessica*

        Agreed. The “or something” still feels dismissive. “The girls can go have a spa day or… whatever things The Females do.”

    5. MBK*

      The only effective “separate but equal” event that I can think of would be for the women who work at the school to arrange their own camping trip – for the same four days, at a campsite close enough to the men to make them really uncomfortable. And even that comes with some serious personal, social, and professional risks.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Wasn’t this an entire episode of Parks and Recreation?

        If OP’s camping trip involves puppies and candy, maybe it will be a win! :)

    6. A Simple Narwhal*

      If this “boys trip” happens at all during the work week, absolutely make the women’s weekend a weekday trip as well.

      1. Fiona Orange*

        It said that it happens during summer vacation, so it doesn’t really matter what day of the week it happens since they’re not working then.

    7. Ess Ess*

      Definitely not spa. It needs to be something that the men would have REALLY wanted to do and are excluded. Such as a retreat to someplace with tickets to a great sporting event or rally.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It should be something the women want to do. Because the point is not that the women really want to go (some probably do, some don’t), it’s that they’re excluded.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’d say that the point is also what women want to do. I think that we can all agree that having a work networking event at a club with female strippers would also be an issue, even if the women were invited. Employment law would look at the impact (men get more networking time) even if all the women chose not to go.

          Of course, this is a religious institution, so a lot of employment laws can be ignored completely.

          1. Fiona Orange*

            You just gave me a great idea. The women should go to a club with male strippers!

            (joking, of course)

    8. Mouse*

      This doesn’t fix anything at all, though. It would only deepen the divide between men and women. The problem isn’t that women don’t get a fun event of their own, it’s that they’re being excluded from this relationship-building opportunity.

      1. Lurker Cat*

        Sometimes you can’t fix it but you can make it less horrible. If the women’s event is “more fun” than the men’s event it might be easier to combine them later. In the meantime it encourages sisterhood so the women don’t feel completely left out.

        1. Mouse*

          I would think that it would make it less likely that they’d come together in the future. With a women’s event, the men will have an excuse for why their event is reasonable and okay. It will seem *to the men* that the problem is solved, so there’s less of a chance of anything changing.

      2. Sarah M*

        I think (hope) we’re all on the same page with re: the actual problem. Unfortunately, given the specifics of OPs work environment (all-male religious school where female staff are in the minority), and taking her word that the most productive solutions (e.g., ones which would create immediate and noticable change) are off the table, then we are left with lateral solutions. Ones that may not tackle the problem head on or show results immediately, but can hopefully provide the excluded staff with their own support network and put a spotlight on how stupid segregation is.

        To that effect, I’d say that male staff should absolutely NOT be invited or allowed to join whatever event the female staff sets up. It needs to be for excluded/female staff only. It sounds petty, but it isn’t. At a minimum, excluded staff could use a dedicated space just for thenselves. Any questions can be met with a flat “We’ve decided to keep it women-only.” What’s good for the goose, etc etc. Of course, the menfolk will likely get pretty miffed at being left out (which is why I’d also avoid any stereotypically “feminine” pursuits like mani-pedis and spa days). They will then be left to explain why their male-only camping trip is just fine, while the women’s event is not.

        1. Barr*

          The men will absolutely not be miffed at getting left out this will further entrench their idea that women and men should be separate. I don’t understand why no one is considering NB employees at all either.

          1. allathian*

            Because macho men in general feel even more threatened by people who identify as non-cis than they do by women doing something as a sisterhood?

    9. Beth*

      The only “make a ladies event” I’d seriously consider is making a “womens camping weekend” that just HAPPENS to be on the same weekend and just HAPPENS to reserve tent spaces in the same campground. I’m betting a year or two of that would defang the boys club one way or another–if the boys weekend actually an acceptable event, then the two would merge without a problem, and if it’s still an excuse to be sexist assholes without women there, then having the women around would probably make it fall apart. But whoever planned that would really need a lot of cred–I’m sure it would piss a LOT of people off that she was overtly organizing to crash the event.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        This makes the most sense to me, but OP is not in a position to do that if she doesn’t want to go camping.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Precisely. This is the only way a women-only retreat will work.
        Also, bring better food, better camping gear, and do more entertaining things. If they guys have beer, bring wine. Plan out some spectacular event that the guys will be envious of.
        Of course, this depends on the female employees being willing to go camping, but I (even if I didn’t like camping) would go camping on a trip like this to make a point.

      3. Verthandi*

        My guess is that for such a long-standing tradition involving alcohol, the men are reserving a private group camp in a place that allows alcohol..

        They are not likely to be in a cluster of singles that your group could intersperse among. They’ll likely have rented an entire resort or something similar.

      1. Dana Lynne*

        This is the issue. There is nothing one woman can do to change this. For many conservative religious traditions, the sexism is baked in and is centuries old. This is just one example.

        Holding a “ladies only” event would not fix anything and would be just another part of the tradition of gender segregation and the relentless consigning of men and women to their separate and unequal spheres.

        I would be interested to know what types of positions the school hires women for, actually.

        1. Feckless Rando*

          “ I would be interested to know what types of positions the school hires women for, actually”

          This is such a good point. I use to work for a company that bragged about how focused on growth they were and how often they “promoted from within” and it turned out that mostly meant that men were hired on as junior VPs and quickly became VPs and executives and women were hired as admins and receptionists then quickly became marketing or hr associates. When I went from receptionists to associate I was told it was a lateral move and no raise would be given. I highly doubt the newly minted executives got the same speech.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Yes, and I think if you were going to try and address it with a women-only activity, I wouldn’t try and organise a “comparable” event, but instead something that leans much more heavily into criticising and opposing the whole patriarchal context of the organisation. If the female staff tend to share the religious ethos of the organisation, maybe a talk from a female spiritual leader about feminist traditions within that religikn. Or maybe mentorship opportunities for women if they tend to be more secular, or leadership training. But something which addresses the much broader devaluing of female experience and female lives in the context of this organisation, of which this camping activity is a symptom, not the whole.

        1. Fiona Orange*

          “If the female staff tend to share the religious ethos of the organisation, maybe a talk from a female spiritual leader about feminist traditions within that religion.”

          Ooh, I like that! For instance, if it’s a Catholic school, they can maybe learn about Mary/female saints and apostles/famous nuns in history.

        2. There You Are*

          I am not a fan of this approach because it’s one more iteration of talking to women about how women are discriminated against in the workplace by men. Or telling women what to do to protect themselves against sexual harassment / assault.

          If anything, those conversations should be directed at the men.

          1. Jessica*


            It’s like how every time an executive gets publicly exposed as being a sexual harasser, the company holds trainings for the workforce–not the executives–about how sexual harassment is bad.

            As long as we insist on treating sexism as A Women’s Issue (TM), nothing is going to improve.

      3. zuzu*

        When I first started practicing law, in the late 90s, I worked for a small, old-school law firm in NYC that had 13 partners and 13 associates. 11 of the partners were men and 9 of the associates were women; all of the most senior associates were men, including two who were going to be associates, happily, forever. They were very pleased with the work the female associates did (as well as the female partners, who were the youngest of the bunch).

        The older partners were the kinds of guys who made us wear skirts to work and everyone had to wear their jackets out of the office, and wouldn’t send female associates to small claims court in the Bronx because it meant going to the Bronx at night. Even though the court was across the street from Yankee Stadium, and frankly, the neighborhood around the Queens court was a little sketchier, but they sent us there.

        So you get the picture – old fashioned, patronizingly sexist. Which I could have lived with, except for Steak Night. Steak Night was when one of the senior partners, who considered himself a raconteur, took all the junior male associates out for steak, cigars, whiskey, and poker with former associates who’d moved on to other firms. This was a quarterly thing. The associates all hated it, and felt pressured to go, but they were making contacts the rest of us couldn’t. It wasn’t a firm thing, though. But then there was the Favorite Sons of Ireland (?) annual dinner (I think that was their name) — an annual bash thrown by an all-male society, attended by the City’s (male) power brokers around St. Patrick’s Day. ALL the men in the firm attended, in black tie, because this *was* a firm event; they got a table. And left all the women behind. To stew.

        One of those nights was the nights one of the female partners told the female associates she’d gone shopping for pantsuits that afternoon, and from then on, the skirts-only rule died.

    10. DramaQ*

      The problem with this is the 35% of women working there are still at a disadvantage. While it is great to support and mentor each other they are missing out on the perks the other 65% of the work force are getting from their bonding experience. Alison is right the men are networking even if it isn’t with the bosses. That networking is what contributes to the glass ceiling women face. Having a spa day together does nothing to solve the problem that they are being shut out of the camping trip. The majority are still in control of everything and making sure the other 35% cannot. It actually makes it worse because it will further justify in their minds that women have no interest in this event and are only suited for “girly” things. Which then bleeds into work stereotypes like having to be the one to organize office birthday parties, being the secretary or getting mommy tracked.

    11. President Porpoise*

      No guys, the answer is not to have a women’s only activity. That only allows for relationship building with 35% of the company and doesn’t do anything to help counter the idea that these guys’ “best days of the year” only happen when there are no women around. Plan and implement a genuinely fun activity for everyone! Men and women (and any others) all get together for, say, an overnight resort stay, a boating day at the local lake, an outing to a popular sporting event, etc.
      Be the change you want to see!!

      1. KatyKat*

        Yes – I think a women’s event is a terrible idea. A genuinely fun, everyone’s invited social event does much more to set the tone that LW would prefer, and to create an environment where women get what they actually want, which is a meaningful relationship building opportunity across the full staff.

        1. KatyKat*

          I will add – it is NOT on LW’s shoulders to create such an event! But the example helps illustrate what doesn’t work about the “separate but equal” solutions, which primarily reinforce the existing structure.

          1. Cmdrshrd*

            “it is NOT on LW’s shoulders to create such an event!”

            You are right that OP is not responsible, but then OP has to decide what matters more to them, “how things should be” or “how things are.”

            Under “how things should be”, it is not her responsibility to fix this. Under “how things are” if OP wants better results and creating similar bonding with male/female coworkers, trying to create an inclusive event that appeals and allows for bonding might be the best/”easiest” option. I say easiest in relative terms to trying to end the activity or getting to men to change it and allow everyone to join.

            Personally I would not make the effort and find a new job, but that is a choice people have to make for themselves, OP might have several reasons for staying there.

            1. KatyKat*

              Yes, that’s a better articulation of what I meant. It’s not her responsibility to fight this particular battle on behalf of the women if she’s not up for it. Personally I would also probably move on to a different job, at least in the long term.

    12. Ferret*

      As an example of why some of this are finding this a pretty off-putting solution…

      Imagine a company where all of the executives and senior managers are male (very difficult I know) but there are a few women in support roles, working as admins, cleaners, receptionists etc. If the men all went on a big retreat every year but the women organised a spa day or flower arranging or baking lesson would you really expect that to have any impact on the company culture and everyday sexism they face?

    13. OP*

      I’ve seen this comment a lot on this post. I’m the original letter-writer/original poster (OP). I wanted to postulate that it’s usually harder for women to leave their families for 4 days, 3 nights–I’m not saying it should be like this, only that it is. Women usually carry more of the home/children load, both physically and mentally. So in that sense even if this trip were opened up to both men and women (which would honestly blow my mind, coming from the place where I work) any overnight experience is just going to get more men than women anyway. Which really bums me out.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah, on reading this, I tried to imagined our busy teaching staff being invited to an away trip and just no, because they’re busy teachers! I don’t even mean the women; most of the guys are really involved parents too, and the childfree have other commitments. What we do is we have a Christmas party and staff speeches with food end of term. Babies are often present at the tables!

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        The suggestion above would really just reinforce the idea that the camping trip is ok while not addressing the legitimate problems that Alison and you both identified.

      3. Chirpy*

        I would actually suggest organizing something co-ed instead of “ladies weekend”, just so the men get used to the idea of socializing with the women in the first place. (ideally, something truly amazing so they have a hard decision to make between the camping and the other event, but I realize this probably isn’t feasible.)

        I do like the idea of a women’s support group though. That can be useful.

        (The time this happened to me, it was 4 guys and I was the only one left out. They held the event at work, next to the room I was in, so I tried to make it as awkward as possible for them by being visibly there, though I’m not sure the organizer picked up on that.)

    14. lilsheba*

      I was going to say the same thing. Organize something for the women! I feel it’s ok for men and women to have separate events that are not an official part of the workplace.

        1. Sarah M*

          For their sakes, I hope they don’t work there. Does it sound like non-binary people would be welcome at this “male-only” camping trip?

          1. Barr*

            …..the solution is to hope they keep being excluded from the workplace rather than doing everything you can to create an inclusive environment and opening it up? My entire point is they would be welcome at NEITHER a men’s only or a, to directly quote your example, “a flat “We’ve decided to keep it women-only”’event. So where would they go even if we implemented your solution? Also “separate but equal” is nonsense so many years of history have taught us this.

    15. Jaydee*

      I think planning something specific for the ladies (to primarily build support and community and discuss the sexism in the workplace) is a decent idea. Maybe not a spa weekend, but just an affinity group that meets for an hour or two at a local coffee shop or someone’s house once a month.

      I also think planning non-gendered, non-exclusionary events for *current* staff is important. Start of year/end of year picnics for staff and their families. It’s a religious institution, so you can go all-in on holiday parties. Start a co-ed softball team or bowling league. Have a get-together at a local restaurant. Have a book study or book club for either all faculty or for specific departments. Get groups together to volunteer at a local charity. You might not get rid of the camping trip, but you can dilute its impact on the relationship building among faculty and staff. Not everyone will be interested in every activity, but hopefully everyone will find one or two things of interest and start building relationships with different groups of coworkers than they used to.

      I do think using the spa weekend idea as an example can be helpful when talking to individual male colleagues/friends to explain that her objection to the men-only camping trips is not about the camping, it’s about the gendered, exclusionary nature of the camping trip. She can ask her male friend to imagine working at a school with predominantly female colleagues where the women organized a “girls-only” spa weekend every year. He wouldn’t be upset about missing out on facials and mani-pedis. But he’d probably be upset that his female coworkers had an opportunity to talk and bond and hang out that he didn’t have access to. He’d probably be upset when they came back with new inside jokes or when they made some change to even a minor thing at work and said “oh, we talked about it on the spa weekend.”

    16. Project Maniac-ger*

      I’m not sure everyone’s grasping the magnitude of sexism here. Separate but equal is probably the short/medium term goal in a religious, boy-only school. This is not a few dudebro accountants. This is a two thousand year old belief system based in sexism (presuming it’s Christianity) – if the creation story is a woman came from a man’s rib and then proceeded to ruin everything, distrust of women is a pillar of the system. (I’m not saying Christians can’t evolve and express gender equality in modern practice!!) Add in it’s literally a boy’s school, the premise of which is boys relate and function better when surrounded with other boys, and you’ve got a Mount Everest of sexism. Minority bonding is probably best case scenario here.

      1. Fiona Orange*

        “I’m not saying Christians can’t evolve and express gender equality in modern practice!!”

        They absolutely can! Let’s hear it for progressive churches!

      2. Sarah M*

        I’m on the minority bonding as best case scenario side as well. Not because I don’t see the problem, not because I think the situation is okay, but because of where OP specifically works and how she describes this particular environment. At a minimum, the women at this school need a space/time to bond and conclave with each other.

      3. Jewish-raised Pagan*

        Christians don’t own Torah or the interpretation thereof, and blaming Christian sexism on the B’reishit myth is pretty insulting to Judaism tbh

        1. Jessica*

          Plus they literally can’t even describe the story correctly.

          If you’re going to steal our texts, at least describe them accurately.

    17. kkt*

      Speaking only for myself, being a man, being excluded from a Spa Weekend wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. I’d walk a mile in tight shoes to avoid it.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yeah, this suggestion completely misses the point and would not address any of the OP’s concerns. It is more likely to reinforce the idea that this camping excursion is actually ok.

    18. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      This is a terrible suggestion. It reinforces the idea of gender specific preferred activities as acceptable in workplace related events. It does not address any of the problems posed by the continuation of this camping trip. It reinforces the idea of it actually being ok to do this! I know you mean well and were thinking this might be empowering, but it is not going to have the effect you are expecting.

    19. Self Employed Employee*

      The spa weekend seems a bit sexist. I am a woman and would rather go on a hiking trip, weld a sculpture for the office weekend, or anything else. “For the ladies” has a certain systemic misogyny attached to it.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        As a woman, I would avoid both of these! I don’t camp, but I also don’t do spas, or much of other “girly” stuff either, especially not in company of coworkers.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I wear dresses, paint my nails, wear makeup, etc.
          But I am not going to do pedicures next to my coworkers.

    20. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      I am a butch and I am really icked out by the level of disgust and disdain that is being levelled at feminine pursuits in this comment thread! “Ugh a SPA what’s next, like SHOPPING for MAKEUP or FLOWER ARRANGING or some other gross girly shit? The women should do CAMPING or SPORTS or WELDING!!!!”

      1. whingedrinking*

        I don’t think it’s so much that “spa days are GROSS” that’s the issue. It’s that if the no-boys-allowed activity is something stereotypically feminine that has no obvious professional benefit, it gives fuel to the men who want to argue that the camping trip is just a fun outing and doesn’t have any broader significance. After all, they’d argue, “the girls” also get to hang out together and have fun, and even if men were welcome most of them wouldn’t want to go, so how is this different?
        The problem, of course, is that this isn’t just a chill hang, it’s indicative of a profound problem within the school’s culture. If an alternative event is planned, it should be something that offers some kind of advantage to the people disadvantaged by being shut out of the camping trip.

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’m curious about the ratio of current employees to retirees. Because that speaks to the exclusionary principle as well — the culture is being set by a bunch of people who no longer work there.

    1. Myrin*

      That stood out to me as well.

      Also, whenever I see a this rhetoric come up – and it’s happened a few times on this very site, even! – I always wonder… I don’t even know, what these people’s lives are like, I guess? What can possibly be so bombastic about this dudebro camping trip (or that holiday party… or that pizza get-together… or that karaoke night…) that they consider it as literally the best four days of the year?

      I’m a bit notorious for being pretty apathetic towards even widely-recognised-as-cool things but I’m really having a hard time understanding this whole “trope” whenever I hear about it.

      1. Foxglove*

        My guess would be some of the “best days of the year” is posturing (maybe aggressively so/ reinforcing the sexist in group/ out group behavior) but it’s also four days of the year where the men have no responsibilities to partners/ children/ elders/ bosses and they perceive it as something guaranteed, that will definitely happen (did it happen in 2020 I wonder?).

        I’ve had better days each year then my annual camping trips but I always know the camping trip days are going to be good before they happen.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        I’ve always thought it means they have nothing else going on in their lives, so it really stands out to them.
        Most American towns and small cities are really boring. If you have a job that keeps you engaged and fulfills all your needs for something interesting and fun to do, you’re very lucky. Most jobs are not like that and outside of work, there’s nothing going on. No live music, no dancing, no theater, no cooking/dance/art classes, few if any organized activities. There are restaurants, movie theaters, church, and that’s it.
        Trust me, I grew up in one of those places. It’s even worse for young people, because we weren’t even allowed to go to bars. In high school we used to drive up and down one of the main streets and that was our fun activity.
        A four day camping trip with friends could easily be the highlight of the year in a place like that.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Yes – when the local school is also your recreation (football games, etc) then that break is even more enticing.

      3. Llama Identity Thief*

        I can totally see it. End of the school year, so it’s the big kickoff event for the fun part of the year, with people who you realize you’d usually bond very tight with but can’t be your full “having fun” self while at the workplace, so you’re able to be looser (and in this case I’d argue too loose), while being so far escaped from the rest of the world that you’re able to really let go of the stress.

        I lead a full, active life with plenty of fun times, in a decently populated and “things to do” urban area, and I’m not going to say that this upcoming trip is going to be my favorite weekend of the year. But in a couple weekends I’ll be in an AirBNB with 7 of my coworkers, hiking and getting some scenery and probably doing some Mario Kart or board games at nights, and I am very excited for it. Add in a structured, almost ritualized nature to it, a timing where it defines the break for the stress-free part of the year, and the historical gross sexist “letting guys be guys” bullshit that this trip entailed, and it’s rather easy for me to see how it could be best part of the year.

      4. The Prettiest Curse*

        I have always assumed the answer to this type of question is “giant circle jerk” or a similar opportunity for participants to compare their, er, bathroom equipment.

      5. metadata minion*

        I’m not much of one for camping specifically, but I could easily imagine an annual trip with my friends, with tons of tradition and shared micro-culture behind it, being a high point of the year.

      6. Anna*

        I work by myself, in a very niche field. My llamas come from country A, I groom them in the style of my country B. I have very few colleagues here in country B and I don’t get much feedback about how people enjoy the llamas I groom. There are other llama groomers in other countries, grooming the llamas in the style of their countries.

        Once a year, country A has a big llama fair, and the national llama farming organisation invites me and other groomers to the fair. There, I see the new types of llamas, I meet the llama farmers, and my grooming colleagues from other countries. It is a fantastic week. I’m not sure if I’d call it the Best Week of the Year… well perhaps I would. I enjoy llama grooming, but my work takes place alone at home with the llama, and it’s fantastic to meet so many other groomers and farmers, hang out with them, talk about all things llama, get inspiration for new styles…

        So even though my life is full and interesting, I get the idea about one small bit of time being amazing.

        And the sexism of the event in the letter is wrong and backwards, something should be done about it.

    2. OP*

      Yes–that’s an excellent point. There are many people where I work, mostly men but a couple women too, who are committed to keeping the school as much like it was in 1960 as possible. The presence of retirees on this trip helps to service that goal.

      1. RIP Pillowfort*

        Honestly OP it sounds like you’re fighting an uphill battle here. I think people mean well when they point to adding more inclusionary events.

        But if these people aren’t going to get with the times with regards to ensuring their employees get equitable networking opportunities, that’s a good chunk of the problem.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I’m curious what the very topmost leadership of this school is like, and if they’re former happy campers or not. A new leader coming into this school who just happened to have inherited this kind of culture should be actively interviewing for people who support equality, and scrutinizing the behavior of the camping organisers. If the school governors and leadership are formed from people who have ever been on this trip, that’s a problem.

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      True, and while there are no supervisors there, retired employees of an all male school may have a lot of influence with the leadership at the school.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        IANAL but I would bet money the religious nature of the institution and the lack of tangible benefits to attendees makes this pretty inactionable.

        Sucky, but inactionable.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This isn’t sponsored by the employer. Is one to bring action against the school for not prohibiting its male employees from socializing on their own time?

          1. Phony Genius*

            I hope one of our resident lawyers can chime in, but my guess is that it can be actionable if they were allowed to use the employer’s resources to make the arrangements.

            Can anybody confirm if this is correct?

            1. ina*

              There’s nothing to indicate that’s the case though. And I cannot imagine it’s worth the money or time to get their cell and computer records to figure out if it’s true to the extent that the employer is liable.

        2. saskia*

          Agreed. I went to religious schools from pre-school through high school (and attended single-sex high school for 2 years) and have known boys at all-boys schools. The tales from them were completely insane.

          Fighting sexism is very important and can have tangible, immediate benefits in the right situation. But commenters acting as though OP can ‘solve’ this seem somewhat naïve, considering the nature of this institution. My sympathies, OP. As soon as I read you were a woman working for an all-male school with a majority of male teachers, I winced lol. I mean, maybe I’m wrong! But to my eyes, the OP has the options of:
          – Status quo — men get extra networking and social opportunities, OP and other women don’t
          – Organize women-only event — women and men both get extra (separate) networking and social opportunities
          – Attempt to fight against the boys’ trip — the goal (stop unequal treatment) isn’t necessarily served by the means. It may or may not stop the trips from happening. But it sounds like it would probably result in alienation from male coworkers and probably a chunk of the female coworkers.

          But who knows. OP, do you feel the culture is changing at all? You did mention the trips are less rowdy. What if you proposed a staff-only (no higher-ups) multi-day retreat or trip something similar that everyone could go to?

          1. Smithy*

            Noting what the OP said about not even wanting to join the camping trip if she was invited, a big part of thinking about bringing equity to desired networking activities isn’t in finding one thing that everyone likes. But rather opening the tent to more things.

            That might mean a women only event, it might mean a science teachers only event, it might mean another “everyone” event but for the fall semester. And what is also frustrating about that, is putting in the labor to try – and perhaps fail – to come up with another networking event that hopefully people will like. I’m sure not every man who goes on that camping trip actually enjoys camping. But as a professional networking experience, it is so valuable and fun, that it’s ok that one time a year.

            I do think from an equity standpoint or a place to advocate, there may be more room to ask for support or a committee to simply work on developing more networking opportunities throughout the year to balance the men only camping trip. To be more inclusive of all staff as well as to acknowledge how much work it is to think of “a thing” that actually fits this employee community.

        3. Caroline*

          Agree. The thing is – and this is a slight segue but… surely the very nature of the place where you work, namely, an all-male school, religious in nature… with mostly male staff was a pointer as to the overall flavour of the place.

          I think it’s crazy that these guys are literally excluding 35% of the work force from even being invited on account of boobees, more or less, but it doesn’t surprise me. They’re friends, they’re not doing it during work time, the school is not paying for it, the bosses are not included. How could it be stopped?

      2. BlondeSpiders*

        A “religiously affiliated school” is likely to operate under very different (and unfair) rules. See how Alison didn’t mention anything about a lawyer? Religious institutions are able to get away with a LOT.

        1. Caroline*

          Do you genuinely believe that a camping trip attended outside of the school year, by people who pay for themselves, do not include the bosses nor eat into work time at all is something any company could prevent?

          I cannot think of anything worse to do as a holiday, nor would I ever, under any circumstances bar extreme financial distress work for any religious organisation, (see: often deeply sexist if not misogynistic and an absolute breeding ground for shady practice generally) but the fact is, people are allowed to choose to only be friends with men / women/ insert religious group and to make plans that exclusively are for them.

          It’s not getting away with anything. Literally anyone is allowed to do this.

    1. Ferret*

      That will do nothing to solve the problem and actually runs the risk of entrenching it and making the issues which Alison highlighted worse

      1. saskia*

        It’s already fully entrenched. The OP has worked at this school for a decade, and retired teachers go to this trip. That means there’s outside pressure for the trip to continue, and OP may not be able to influence guys she’s never even met who’ve been going on this trip for 40 years.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Why do people keep making this suggestion? It is not helpful. It reinforces in the minds of these men that this is acceptable, because then women have their little activity too! But it does nothing to address the legitimate concerns brought up by OP and Alison.

      Gender separated activities in workplaces, even if employee led and not sanctioned by the organization, need to be shut down. Even “letting the women come” would not address it, because they have chosen an activity that does not appeal to many women or people who might have legitimate other difficulties, like disabilities, to make camping more difficult. Read Alison’s posts on the businesses that have golf trips where women are invited. The fact that it is an activity with a history of sexism and that often does not appeal to women, it is a problem. There are plenty of activities that appeal to people of different genders and backgrounds that can be used instead, and those are appropriate for workplace relationships .

      1. saskia*

        OP works for a gender-segregated school that has a 40-year tradition of dudes camping together and is in service to a religion that has a multi-thousand-year tradition of oppressing women. Having a women-only event is not going to reinforce patriarchy any more than the three things I just named.

        I’ve said downthread and upthread that a better solution would be organizing appealing events for all staff, and that newer staff who are less entrenched in the culture can be useful fulcrums for change. Also, I will say I was only the second person to make this suggestion when I posted ;)

        1. Moonstone*

          I think this is the thing most posters are glossing over – this is a sex-segregated, religiously-affiliated all-boys school with a majority male workforce. The normal rules do not apply here unfortunately. I wish they did but this is a much bigger battle than any one person could take on.

          The sexism is literally baked into the institution.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            This is true, but a “women’s event” would just reinforce the idea. It would not address the OP’s concerns or those Alison mentioned. There is no easy solution, and a non-gendered activity that is open to all and appealing to members of both sexes is certainly a step in the right direction. But saskia’s original comment favored a “women’s event,” and that type of suggestion really misses the mark.

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Your suggestion was to organize a “women’s event.” At least that was the comment I was responding to. I do agree that organizing an appealing event for all staff is a better approach. However, I do not think it reasonable to say that planning a women’s event would not reinforce the patriarchy. It might not reinforce it more that the other components you mentioned, but it would reinforce the idea that gender segregated activity is acceptable in this workplace.

  3. Beth*

    It sucks that even your male coworkers who you describe as nice and sincere are apparently unwilling to hear “it sucks that our workplace’s major networking event completely bans all women” and are twisting your words into “I’m complaining that I personally am not getting invited to this event, even though I’d decline the invite if it was offered.” Those are completely different things, and it doesn’t take a genius to see the difference. Letting you think that it’s weird of you to have a problem with this is honestly really rude and dismissive of them. Alison has a good point that changing this might take more capital than you have, but you’re absolutely in the right to be upset here.

    1. Meirai*

      I am quite curious what would happen if the LW went back to some of those male coworkers – who she describes as generally nice people – and asked them what they would say if the woman they were talking to was interested in attending this camping trip.

      Possibly followed up by bluntly asking “would you actually tell that woman that she couldn’t attend just because she was a woman?” in the very likely event that they didn’t get the point.

      It wouldn’t help anything, because I’d bet the men involved would dismiss it as a pointless hypothetical, but it’s nice to imagine these people getting called out like that.

    2. A. Nonymous*

      I would also argue that “nice” is worth sour owl spit when this is the result.

      OP, that’s not “nice.”

      1. Sarah*

        A genuinely good, nice dude who knew he didn’t have the capital to change this event on his own would have several options. He could decline the invite and choose not to participate. He could acknowledge to his female coworkers that this sucks and isn’t fair. He could start conversationally floating the topic of “Yeah, I mean none of the current women have said they really want to come, but some women like camping, someone might ask someday, and I don’t think it would be a big deal to include anyone who says they want to come” to lay the groundwork for future inclusivity. He could work on arranging significant co-ed networking events to mitigate the impact of this one being exclusionary. He could talk to other genuinely good, nice dudes he works with and see if they have enough social capital together to start shifting things.

        People who act like someone is making up problems out of nothing when in fact they’re experiencing discrimination are not nice people.

        1. OP*

          I agree. The “nice” men who don’t see the problem are part of the problem. Of my male coworkers, only one who attends this trip sees it as a problem that women aren’t invited. When I asked him “what would you think/say/do if they opened it up to women?” He responded “They should, and it would be awesome.” I’d love it if he voiced this opinion out loud to the attendees, though.

          1. zuzu*

            Maybe that’s your solution. Band together and start acting like it’s a done deal that the women on staff are invited. When the planning starts happening on work time, in work spaces, act like you’re part of it. I mean, they’re talking about a trip in front of you; that must mean you’re part of it, right? If they ask you if you’d “really” want to go, accept the invitation! Because that’s what it was, right? They’re asking you to invite you, not to pat you on the head and tell you that girls aren’t interested in such silly things, right?

            Make it uncomfortable for them to talk about it in front of you and the other women at the school. Make them reflect on some basic manners: you don’t plan a party or gloat about a party in front of people you’ve excluded from said party.

            The end result will either be that they start questioning why they’re doing things this way and consider opening it up, or they stop talking about it so much in front of you and rubbing your face in it.

            1. Emily*

              +1. “Women should be invited to this for equity reasons” is not going to work here. “I, your coworker, thinks this sounds fantastic and I totally want to join you on your awesome trip” might. It’s friendly, it’s flattering, but it’s also pretty uncomfortable for them if they keep talking about it in front of you without inviting you!

              But then, you really do have to go if they invite you…

            2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              Unfortunately, there’s always the third possible outcome. At least some of the men will lash out and punish the women for “making them feel bad” or “threatening to ruin their fun.”

              This isn’t to say that the OP should dismiss this suggestion out of hand! Just that there may be backlash.

    3. Scylla*

      And I think it’s worth noting that even if OP liked camping just fine and would love to go on a camping trip with her coworkers, the idea of being the only woman (or one of the only women) in an extremely tight-knit group of men who have a history of very rowdy, gossipy and inappropriate behavior on these trips, sounds terrible. And even if OP was able to get past *that*, I don’t think all the other men would. She’d be ostracized and othered the whole time, whether the men were doing it consciously or not. Them begrudgingly allowing a handful of women to attend would solve nothing

      1. Lilac*

        Yep. The men are all shrugging their shoulders and saying, “well, the women don’t want to attend anyway, so I guess it’s out of our hands”…while ignoring the reasons *why* their female colleagues are probably wanting to give it a miss.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Personally, I wouldn’t want to be out in the woods alone with a group of men, some of whom are probably awful.

      3. just some guy*

        Yup. Even as a guy, I’d expect to feel uncomfortable and perhaps unsafe at an event like this, because spaces that define themselves on their maleness have a way of getting toxic.

    4. Mill Miker*

      The most generous read I can put on their behaviour is that they’re not willing to burn the social capital it would take to push for a change if none of the women are even going to attend.

      I’d bet the “nice” coworkers are telling themselves they’d push if OP actually wanted to go, although I’m going 50/50 on whether they actually would, or if they’d find another reason not to (or just make a token effort).

      1. Beth*

        They’d absolutely find a reason not to. They can’t even be bothered to verbally acknowledge that this sucks–they’d rather hint that OP is making up problems where there are none and let her feel crazy about it.

    5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed. I’d guess that these men are being defensive. They don’t get – and don’t want to get – that this is a problem.

  4. Peanut Hamper*


    Well, there’s your problem right there.

    Unfortunately, religious organizations are allowed to discriminate because, well, religion.

    This ain’t gonna change, no matter what you do.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        On the drinking side, prohibition of alcohol is a peculiarity of some but not all forms of American Protestantism. As a rule of thumb, it is found mostly in Protestant churches that ultimately derive from Britain. And not all of them: particularly notably, the Episcopalians. Historically, prohibitionism arose in the 19th century, when alcoholism was a severe problem. The impulse to do something about this was sound, but rather than treating this as a social problem, any use of alcohol came to be treated as a sin, which is not a helpful approach. That being said, were I a betting man I would put my money on this being a Catholic school. It might tut at over-drinking, but alcohol per se is simply a non-issue.

        On the gossip side, all (at least to a good first approximation) Christian churches disapprove of it in principle, but this is not really enforceable. In practice, a church that is really into church discipline might use this as a control mechanism, this working about how you would expect.

        1. allathian*

          Finland, a traditionally Lutheran country with a sizable Orthodox minority, enforced Prohibition between 1919 and 1932. Its most vocal supporters were women’s rights activists and some religious groups, some of which ban their members from drinking alcohol. That said, the Lutheran church was more concerned with the social problems caused by alcoholism, and never had any trouble getting access to wine for communion.

          As in the US, Prohibition caused more problems than it solved, namely that smuggling across the Gulf of Finland became very lucrative (it basically introduced the phenomenon of organized crime to this country) and other crimes went unsolved because such a large amount of police resources were committed to preventing it. Prohibition was also very discriminatory in the sense that wealthy people had access to alcohol and were rarely punished for breaking Prohibition laws, while members of the working class got sent to jail for failure to pay the heavy fines if nothing else. It also taught people to drink spirits rather than beer because it was so much more profitable to smuggle drink with a high alcohol content.

          That said, it’s only in this century that the Finnish Lutheran church has accepted non-alcoholic wine as an alternative at communion, grape juice or any other liquid that hasn’t been fermented remains out of the question.

      2. metadata minion*

        In theory? Almost none. In practice? Almost all of them in one form or another once you set up a hierarchy. Power if anything gets *more* corrupt-y if there’s a religion backing it.

      3. Dek*

        Yeah, I’ll admit I thought this was a common Catholic Men’s retreat until I got to that part. Which isn’t to say that religion (lbr, Christian, right?) isn’t a factor here, but I don’t think it’s worth shunting all the blame there because religion isn’t what makes folks jerks.

      4. Ginger Cat Lady*

        It’s the “men only and exclude women from power” that is religion related. And it’s VERY common in religions.
        Let’s not pretend that she was talking about drinking/gossip. That’s a red herring.

    1. Miss Fisher*

      Exactly, it is like when Mike Pence was VP and female staff were not given the same opportunities as men because of his religion not allowing him to be left alone with females. Most religions, although different in many ways, tend to treat women as less than.

    2. Jane Bingley*

      Religious organizations are allowed to discriminate *based on religion, where it is a bona fide job requirement*. That means a religious secondary school can refuse to hire a teacher that doesn’t belong to or practice its faith. It’s not blanket permission for discrimination on the basis of sex, race, or other factors that are unrelated to its religion.

      1. HA2*

        Yeah, in the US right now, it seems like a religious secondary school, unfortunately, DOES have basically a blank check to discriminate however they want as long as they claim it’s related to their religion. It just means they have to frame their discrimination as “In our religion it’s not acceptable for women to do X” rather than “we’re discriminating against women just because”.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I wish they had to frame their discrimination in religious terms. Unfortunately, SCOTUS has pretty much said a religious organization isn’t bound by the same laws others are. It’s not just “we only hire Catholic teachers” or “we fire our teachers who are in same-sex relationships”. SCOTUS has said it’s fine for to fire a teacher from a religious school for needing time off for cancer treatment or getting old, neither of which seem based in religious objections (unless I’ve seriously misunderstood Catholicism).

          1. Fiona Orange*

            “unless I’ve seriously misunderstood Catholicism”

            You haven’t. The principal who fired the teacher for getting cancer is the one who seriously misunderstood the religion.

        2. just some guy*

          Not snarking you, but I’m getting whiplash between the “there’s nothing the school could do about this event, employers have no say over their employees’ private life” responses and the “as a religious school they can do just about anything that can be explained as religion-related” responses.

          I don’t know about this specific school, but I feel like a lot of schools that would lean on “what happens at an off-the-clock event is none of our business” would suddenly change their tune if two of the guys at that camp shared a bed, and then talked about it in the office later as they do about the camping trip.

      2. metadata minion*

        I’m fine with a Catholic church saying their priest has to be Catholic. I’m not fine with a Catholic high school saying their not-necessarily-Catholic science teacher can’t mention her girlfriend. In practice religious institutions are often given a *huge* amount of leeway in what constitutes a “bona fide job requirement”.

  5. SereneScientist*

    Y’all, organizing a women-only event does not to actually solve what the LW rightly sees as an exclusionary practice here. “Separate but equal” has never been as such, historically.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        We await your foolproof solution, then.

        This is likely to remain the norm, anyway, no matter what the LW does or doesn’t do–her only real out here is to change jobs (or become headmaster, but I suspect the odds are long on that), so why not at least pack-bond with the other women?

        1. HonorBox*

          I don’t have a foolproof solution, unfortunately. The challenge is that this event is so entrenched in the culture of the school, my hunch is that if the guys found out that women at work were doing the same they would think it was a great idea. Not that having that time with the female coworkers is a bad idea, but it just solidifies that nothing is wrong because “hey the ladies are doing it too.” But doing that also increases the divide between the male and female coworkers.

            1. Ferret*

              Why do you assume that a good solution that LW can implement themselves with their current level of power and support (ie very little) exists?

              1. ABC*

                I think it’s very clear that there’s nothing the LW can do about this, frankly. I’m just not a fan of telling other people that all of their points and suggestions are wrong or problematic while offering nothing in return.

                1. Celeste*

                  Something isn’t always better than nothing though. The comment, as I understand it, is that it would be better not to act than to do something that would ultimately make things worse.

            2. HonorBox*

              See my comment. I don’t have a foolproof solution. Any and all suggestions bring other issues. And because it isn’t a work endorsed function, there may be very little that could be done to stop it.

              I was simply pointing out in my comments that countering an all-male event with an all-female event just solidifies the men’s point of view that this is normal and OK.

            3. Your local password resetter*

              Honestly? Either find a better job, or try to learn healthy coping mechanisms for the massive problems in this one.

              It’s ridiculously hard to fix an entrenched culture like this, and basically impossible unless you have a ton of power or widespread support. And usually you need both.

            4. Jessica*

              The whole “marginalized people are not allowed to talk about problems in proposed solutions to bigotry (often, proposed by members of the privileged group) unless they have The Magical Solution That Fixes Structural Oppression So We Can Stop Having To Talk About It” reaction is itself a way that structural oppression perpetuates itself.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Thank you. Most of the suggestions involve taking on a significant amount of unpaid labor in addition to political risk. The choices aren’t “organize a multi-day retreat that doesn’t actually address the missed networking oppportunity” or “stop whining”.

                OP, the situation sucks, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it. Unfortunately, I don’t think you have the legal/political leverage to do much about it.

              2. evens*

                Where is the biotry? I missed it. Or are you suggesting that female-only events are grounded in bigotry as well?

            5. HA2*

              Try to figure out what’s best for them in this situation, not how to solve the problem.

              Having a womens group for women in a male-dominated industry/school may well be a good idea. It’s not a solution to this problem and probably would be a good idea regardless of whether this camping trip existed or not.

            6. metadata minion*

              In this situation? Probably get a new job. If *most* of the female employees wanted and were willing to dedicate themselves to changing the culture (not just a dedicated group of them; I think you’d need as close to 100% buy in as you could get), there would be a chance of that happening, but plenty of people very reasonably don’t want to end up without a job. Or they want to be a #$%ing math teacher, not an activist. In some cases the best reaction to a bad situation is to leave it.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Pointing out the flaws in one person’s suggestion does not require providing another suggestion.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, to lay out just a few points (there are probably more out there, these are just the ones I can think of immediately):

      – It’s an all-boys school with an emphasis on “brotherhood” but no emphasis on “sisterhood” per the letter-writer. Creating/deepening a “sisterhood” with a women-only event does not support the goals/mission of the school the way the men-only camping trip does.

      – There are fewer women on staff than men on staff (and probably many fewer retired female employees than retired male employees) so any bonds that are created/deepened at a women-only event will not matter as much to the school/work culture as the bonds that are created/deepened at the men-only trip.

      – In general, society looks down upon feminine-coded activities, so the men are very unlikely to be jealous of the women having a women-only spa weekend, or wine night, or what-have-you. I expect a women-only event could make this problem worse, because the men will think/say “we have our camping trip, the women have their spa weekend, why are they still complaining? You don’t see any of us asking to join their spa weekend!”

      1. Lilac*

        Agreed. Also, I’m guessing that the school administrators are mostly men as well. If that’s true, and if admin are invited on the trip (as opposed to just teachers), then the men’s camping trip gives male employees opportunities to bond with the “higher-ups.” An equivalent event for women likely wouldn’t, at least not to the same degree.

        1. Lilac*

          Oh, whoops – I reread the letter again, and I had missed that bosses aren’t invited on the trip. I still agree with all the other points, though.

  6. HonorBox*

    Ugh. We males can sure be morons. There are all kinds of challenges in bringing this up, LW, but those challenges shouldn’t dissuade you from saying something. In addition to everything Alison pointed out, I’d also suggest that if this is an all-male school, this sort of exclusionary behavior toward women co-workers can and will likely trickle down to students. If the young men attending the school see that this is “appropriate” and “encouraged” by administration not shutting it down, we’re going to just see sexist behaviors continue.

  7. Melissa*

    If it were me, I would put it in the category of “gross and really bothers me, but there’s nothing I can do about it so I’m going to let it go.” For all the reasons you mentioned— if you started a fuss and the trip got cancelled, all the men would hate you (and they’d also hate all the other women who weren’t even involved). It is what it is.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      From my perspective, I assume that there is already a casual hatred (showing itself as dismissiveness here) of all the women. So, in my life, I assume, shot for a sheep as much as a lamb, and I speak up. Of course, I also have lots of options. I still have all my carpenter tools and have, once or twice, told someone that with the implication being “firing me won’t make me stop”.

  8. Two Pop Tarts*

    At first I thought this might be a religious institution, but drinking and swearing makes it a different story.

    If this is camping with tents, suggest it be changed to a rural retreat with cabins, which would make it more amenable to everyone. Not all men enjoy sleeping on the ground, building fires, and drinking.

    Besides, the point of all male schools is to build character. Drinking, talking poorly about women, and being rowdy hardly sets the right example for young men.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      . . . and yet none of that is inherent to religion or its avowed principles, as ample historical and not-so-historical evidence attests. We just had a member of government who built her platform basically on the backs of the Christian right, ousted from a theater for groping her date.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      People associated with religious institutions drink and swear.

      Having religion does not equal better behaved.

          1. SomeWords*

            Swearing is often okay. Cursing, not so much. The difference being the religious content of cursing.

            Nobody can speak to what “all” Christians value.

          2. doreen*

            That depends on what you mean by “swearing” ( do you mean actual swearing like an oath or blasphemy or non-blasphemous profanity or …) but also, there’s really not much you can say that all Christian denominations object to or allow.

          3. Jessica*

            That would be news to the very plain-talking, sassy liberal church that rents space in the same building as my synagogue.

          4. metadata minion*

            If you’re going to say “all religions object to swearing” and you mean “all Christians”, please just say that. Going by Christians I know, that’s not actually true, but it’s really annoying to have “religion” get again mean “Christianity”.

          5. Fiona Orange*

            I was raised Catholic, and it’s my understanding that dropping F-bombs left and right is not a sin, but it is considered rude.

      1. Two Pop Tarts*

        It’s one thing for an individual to do these things on their own.

        It’s another for a religious institution to plan an activity involving those things. Particularly one whose purpose is to influence young men (a school).

        While drinking is not prohibited by the Bible (imho) excessive drinking is. And gossiping is actually equated with murder.

        1. A. Nonymous*

          I went to a Jesuit college – let me tell you, those guys can chug some beer. There are absolutely religious institutions that encourage this kind of behavior.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Not only is alcohol not prohibited, the Bible is positively enthusiastic about it. Psalm 104 is a list of blessings of God, including verse 14:

          And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.

          And, of course, Jesus’s very first miracle is changing water into wine–and good wine at that! It is fascinating watching those so inclined to work their way around the various texts on the subject, all the while proclaiming that they read the Bible “literally.”

          That being said, there are indeed condemnations of drunkeness: just not of alcohol in general.

          1. Bear in the Sky*

            Not only did Jesus change water into wine, and drink wine, he can’t have objected to swearing. If he did, what was he doing hanging out with fishermen?

              1. Jessica*

                Related, maybe, but not synonymous, and given 1) the denigration of women’s speech with gossip and 2) the weaponization of the ideas of gossip and false witness against women in many Christian communities who come forward about abusive men in those communities, precision is important.

                While the term for “false witness” in both iterations of the list is slightly different (eid shaker in Exodus 20:13, eid shav in Deuteronomy 5:17), the term “eid” (witness) is the same in both, and almost always appears in a legal context (see, for example, Gen 31:44, Num 35:30, Deut 19:16). Moreover, the entire context, especially in the second iteration in Deuteronomy, is concerned not with gossip or rumor, but with literal testimony in a legal context.

                It’s easy to forget, I guess, if you’re Christian, that while this may be a “religious” text for you, for Jews, this is the first formal iteration of our society’s *legal code* and this section is specifically a list of serious criminal offenses (don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t give false testimony [in court]).

                Gossip and rumor are certainly not nice, but they’re not an offense contained in the outline of our legal code.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            They probably are thinking of Romans 1:29. Paul is discoursing on wicked people. The Revised Standard Version translates the verse as

            “They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips,”

            Other translations use other words. King James uses “whisperers.”

            This does not expressly equate murder and gossip, but there is a Pauline principle that sin is sin: that all sin is equal in the eyes of God. How this principle works as a guide for daily living is left as an exercise for the student.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Thank you, that’s interesting to learn! I’ve noticed that Paul seems to have a very… interesting interpretation of Jesus’ words and actions.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Paul gets a bad rap, often by his most devoted modern followers. The bit about all sin being equal in the eyes of God is to say that we are all sinners. Sure, you don’t murder, but you gossip or are envious, etc.. From God’s distance, all sin looks pretty much alike in the same way every star in Andromeda galaxy is pretty much the same distance from us. This in turn can be the setup for guilt tripping, but it should not be. Paul is also very big on our sin being forgiven, not because of anything we do or can do, but as a free gift of grace from God. Our response should be gratitude and striving to do better even as we know our attempts will be imperfect.

                This is coming from a distinctively Lutheran theological perspective. We don’t divide the world into saints and sinners. Luther taught that we all are both. We all are works in progress. A lot of popular understanding of Christianity in America is more influenced by the Calvinist perspective, with goes in a different direction. Theology, contrary to widespread opinion, matters.

                As for Jesus’s words, look at his answer when asked “What must I do to be saved?” His reply is, to paraphrase, “Something you can’t do.” That would be pretty rough, if salvation were a matter of our doing or not doing something. Many Christian pathologies derive from people asking that question, not realizing it has been definitively answered. Growing up Lutheran, I was bewildered the first time an Evangelical asked me when was I saved. The question doesn’t make sense in the Lutheran context, or the answer is “about two thousand years ago.”

          2. Gumby*

            I immediately thought of where anger was equated with murder (Matthew 5:21 – 26) but can’t think of where gossip was. Maybe you could get there using the “guilty of breaking one of the commandments = guilty of breaking the whole law” thing in James. Not that I’d recommend taking verses out of context and mashing them together like that.

            Which is not to say that gossip isn’t condemned, I just can’t think of a place where it’s specifically compared to murder.

          3. Two Pop Tarts*

            ” “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (1 Peter 4:15). Notice that a “busybody” is placed in the same company as “murderers, thieves, and evildoers.” The dictionary defines a busybody as “a meddler; a person who seeks confidential information about others; a snoop; a nosy person.””

            Here is an example where it is lumped in with murder. There are other places too (Romans 1 comes to mind).

    3. I resemble that remark*

      As an Orthodox Christian, the Catholics and us would like to say a thing or two about the assumption that drinking =/= not religious

      1. Two Pop Tarts*

        I don’t believe drinking is prohibited.

        But excessive drinking clearly is frowned upon. There are many warnings about avoiding excessive drink. Which is why I don’t think a religious institution promoting a weekend of drinking is a good idea.

        1. Dinwar*

          Grew up Roman Catholic. Excessive drinking was frowned upon–officially because it violated the sanctity of the human body, and because it distracted you from worship, and addiction placed something ahead of God; unofficially because it left less for the priest to drink.

          To be fair, the priests I’ve known have taken such ribbing with good humor, often giving as good as they got. And everyone knew to consult them when it came to wine.

        2. TechWorker*

          I mean sure, but a) that’s not the most objectionable part and b) how does your opinion on religious groups not organising drinking events help the OP? It’s not a work event, she has zero standing to criticise how much her colleagues drink outside of work..

        3. Bookmark*

          Maybe as a general principle, but there are certainly religious traditions that involve drinking to excess on specific occasions (Purim is the most obvious example)

        4. Orsoneko*

          Which is why I don’t think a religious institution promoting a weekend of drinking is a good idea.

          They’re not. From the letter: “The institution I work for does not pay for or outright endorse this annual trip.”

          But also, who cares? The question wasn’t “I don’t think this event is religiously appropriate, what do?”

        5. Jessica*

          Stop saying “religious” when you mean “Christian.”

          Different cultures have different norms around drinking, celebration, etc.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Me invited to a Passover Seder for the first time: “Wait, we’re supposed to drink how much of the wine?”

            1. Jessica*

              If you ever get invited to a Tu B’Shvat seder, say yes, but be aware that there is very complicated wine math involved that uses a lot of fractions.

        6. Ellis Bell*

          I work in a community of Irish heritage Catholic schools… you can have an OJ if you want, but drinking to excess has never been discouraged around here! We actually have a bar on the school grounds and in one outgoing speech, a veteran of thirty years described us as “the most boozy school in ten miles which is no mean feat”.

      2. RagingADHD*

        The Lutherans are just going to quietly sit this one out in the biergarten. You’re welcome to join us for a cold one.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          My church in the summer has a monthly beer and brats in our garden. It is quite popular with the neighborhood and nearby office workes.

        2. allathian*

          It took getting to the 21st century before the Finnish Lutheran church accepted non-alcoholic wine as substitute for the real thing at communion. Until then, sober alcoholics and others who preferred to avoid alcohol had to make do with just the bread and skip the wine. Grape juice is still not accepted as a substitute because it hasn’t been fermented. Untold generations of young Finns have had their first taste of alcohol at their Confirmation (usually at 14 or 15).

    4. Oryx*

      I mean, the OP says it’s a religious institution in the first line. But I’ve also known people who worked for religious institutions who definitely both drank and swore. These are not mutually exclusive things.

      1. Angry socialist*

        I have worked for a Jesuit school. They served amazing wine at the faculty mixer, which took place at the priests’ residence.

        If I worked at a place that was 35% women on staff I would nope out anyway. I’m too old and tired for shenanigans.

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        As a Southern Baptist turned Roman Catholic, that was one of the larger cultural shocks that I experienced.

    5. Jessica*

      It’s literally a religious institution. The OP says so, right there in the letter, and given that she works there, I’d think she knows.

      (BTW, not all religions prohibit drinking and swearing. My culture literally has a holiday in which we’re religiously commanded to get drunk and celebrate.)

  9. Serenity*

    I wonder if you have male allies who you could point these issues out to who would at least in principle agree there’s an issue. Might they agree to help work on a long, slow shift? Push to make it shorter? Then make it only current employees? In 10 years could it look different enough that it naturally fades out? There’s no quick fix to this, but there might be a slow one.

    1. cleo*

      Yeah, I was thinking about how to bring about slow change too. It’s already changed in the past 10 years, it could change more, especially with the right nudges.

      Besides making it shorter and eliminating retires, opening it to women and changing the venue so it’s not camping are other good things to work towards.

      Maybe the retires keep doing their traditional camping thing but separate it from what current employees do.

      1. saskia*

        These are great ideas. Newer employees, too, might be good places to look for more ‘modern’ attitudes. They might not be as entrenched in the school’s culture (or maybe they just don’t like camping either) and would be open to pushing for small changes that can snowball.

        1. SomeWords*

          Great idea. Create a new, all inclusive event that over time eclipses the camping trip. Eventually the blatant misogyny will become too awkward to defend and an embarrassment to participate in. One hopes, anyway.

    2. OP*

      I’d like to think it’s in the midst of a super slow shift, in that the toxic nature of the event has apparently been dialed down in the last decade or so. But, ya know, I’d also love for change to move a little quicker than “In the first decade we decide gossiping about our colleagues is perhaps not ideal.”

      I’m being flippant but I agree with you–the only way this is going to change seems like it’ll have to be slow. Or, the school should go co-ed with students. I can see that changing things too.

      1. Jiminy Cricket*

        OP, I wonder if it would help you to see this event as a symptom, not the disease. This particular symptom is apparently intractable, but can you treat the disease (sexism in your institution) in other ways? (If you have the energy to. It’s not on us to always fix their crap.)

  10. MBK*

    Another reason this is problematic: In addition to Alison’s observation that “Relationships … influence who gets turned to for input, who gets extra help, whose voices are listened to and elevated, who get mentored and supported, who’s given grace and the benefit of the doubt (and who isn’t), who’s more comfortable with who, and who gets thought of for a job years from now when you’ve all moved on to other employers,” an event like this, where rowdy/drunk/inappropriate behavior seems to have been the historical norm even if it’s “become much more tame,” establishes an unspoken sense of Mutually Assured Destruction. Have your bro’s back at work, or those gross things you said about Carol in the English Department while you were wasted at last year’s retreat might suddenly find its way back to her.

    This is how a lot of fraternity connections work, too. The partying/hazing/misbehavior is often written off as a rite of passage, or just a bunch of immature guys blowing off steam. But four years of it leaves the group with *plenty* of shared secrets and dirt on each other as individuals to ensure a lifetime of a certain kind of loyalty.

    1. Lily Potter*

      As I was reading that line (Relationships … influence who gets turned to for input, who gets extra help, etc) – my mind went to “This is what people miss out on when they work from home and never get face time with their co-workers.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      And even if no one is a boss NOW, that doesn’t mean it won’t change in the future. Even if the bosses then stop going, who are they going to consider for promotions? Not the woman for sure.

      The whole brotherhood thing is exactly why its toxic. Its creating an in crowd that is harmful to others.

  11. Oof*

    It’s a religiously-affiliated single-sex secondary school. Could it be bothering you that this trip is emulating the values of the school?

      1. Scylla*

        I agree- it’s certainly possible for a religiously affiliated school to *not* be sexist, and to fight against sexism in the religion at large. And I’m guessing that’s what a lot of the female employees there are trying to do- it can’t be an easy environment to work in.

        But it’s definitely more of an uphill battle, especially in a single-sex school where women’s voices will automatically be few and far between.

        I read this more as, it’s bothering OP because it’s proof that the the sexism ingrained in the school is a lot deeper and harder to shake than she had hoped. It’s in the school’s bones and there isn’t a solution for the problem in sight

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Oof says “values of the school” (emphasis mine), not the religion it is affiliated with. If anybody is painting something here, it is not Oof.

    1. Atheist*

      Exactly. Sorry OP but while the practice of not including women is wrong you work for a religious affiliated single sex school. What do you expect?

      1. Beth*

        I went to a womens college (not religiously affiliated, but at least nominally single sex–in practice, sex and gender are more complex than that, but still). The institution has a strong tradition and a lot of rhetoric built up around the concept of sisterhood. We have a strong alum culture, with a lot of people staying connected to the community through their entire lives.

        Plenty of the instructors, admin, facilities workers, and other employees on campus were men. I would have been absolutely shocked and upset then–and would be shocked and upset now–if the school’s rhetorical focus on sisterhood had led to employee networking events, formal or informal, that excluded male employees. That would never be an acceptable option, even if it was done in a way that technically didn’t break any laws. It’s morally wrong.

        I get what you’re saying here–that male-centered religious institutions are known to be sexist against women, that OP shouldn’t be surprised about this–but it’s still wrong. It’s still a problem. And it’s not a problem that’s inherent to nominally single-sex institutions the way you’re suggesting–it’s a problem with this specific institution, whatever it is. OP isn’t wrong to be upset by it.

        1. Nightengale*

          I went to a (possibly the same) historically woman’s college as well

          There are some interesting studies out there at the high school level about the benefits of girl’s schools/classes for girls which does not seem to be a strong an association for boys.

          (And yes insert gender is complicated and not a binary and these were looking at group effects rather than specific individuals.)

      2. Your local password resetter*

        That’s not very helpful, and kinda sounds like you’re blaming OP for expecting to be treated normally.

        1. Oof*

          No, I’m thinking the reason she is unsure if she should be bothered is because she works for a single sex school – the mission of her work is exclusionary. I can understand feeling odd about the situation.

        2. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Many answers to letters on this site boil down to “your workplace sucks and is unlikely to change.” Being told that can be very helpful because it helps you frame the issues and what avenues are available to you.

      3. Ex-prof*

        I taught at a single-sex religious school (an all women’s college). Never, ever, would we have organized an event that excluded male instructors.

        1. Ex-prof*

          And now I think about why this was: We were all teaching the same students. We were all working under the same mission statement, for the same purpose. It wouldn’t have occurred to anyone, I think, that female instructors were in some way more important or belonged more just because they shared a gender with the students.

    2. OP*

      Yes. Absolutely. I’ve done a lot of soul searching in the last 3 years. I have learned that this school is not where I’ll retire from.

      1. Oof*

        I’m positive that you will take the skills you’ve gained and move them to an organization where they’ll have a great impact! I think having experienced working for a school of this type prepares you for how you would do things differently elsewhere. Best of luck OP! I know you will succeed.

      2. Ali*

        I worked for a very sexist institution for 5 years (also religiously affiliated.) I describe what I felt there as “moral dysphoria.” There was all kinds of prejudiced behavior that all my nice co-workers around me didn’t seem to notice or have a problem with. It sure is nice to be out of there!

    1. LittleTeacher*

      I get that that’s arguably cissexist language, and at the same time, I doubt very much that they’d include a trans man or gnc woman in this camping trip, if the school is a private religious one as the letter states.

        1. LittleTeacher*

          I disagree, because I think she’s pointing out that they’re excluded from the trip because of their sex. I’m sure gender identity also plays a role, but like, I think the motive of these people to exclude female people from their camping trip is related to those female people’s sex.

            1. random trans dude*

              It can both be cissexist language and be completely understandably used here because that’s how the people running this school think.

        2. sam_i_am*

          The trip is presumably both all-men and all-male. It does exclude everyone who doesn’t have a penis. I’m trans masc and I highly doubt I would be invited on the trip.

          1. LittleTeacher*

            Yeah, like—perhaps sex should never be relevant, but in a case of discrimination like this I think it is completely relevant.

          2. Happy meal with extra happy*

            Seriously. Do the people who are calling out this language really think they’d allow out trans men on these trips?

            1. Caramel & Cheddar*

              I think people are commenting on Alison’s usage of “because you are without a penis”, not the motivations of the group organizing this trip. It’s probably very likely that this group wouldn’t be interested in inviting trans folks on this trip, but that wasn’t at all the point that Not Today, Satan was making when they highlighted this line from the response.

              “Because you are without a penis” strongly implies a very rigid understanding of gender as it relates to sex, and it’s a disappointment to read that on a site that has generally been better than a lot of others on some of the more complex gender expression issues folks have to live with.

              1. Happy meal with extra happy*

                Except that I think it’s clear from this letter and from prior responses from Alison that she said that line explicitly because of the motivations of those organizing the trip. She’s pointing out the rigid, outdated view of the organizers.

                1. Inksmith*

                  So you think if a trans woman with a penis worked for the school, she’d be welcome? Because I don’t.

                2. edda ed*

                  @Inksmith, if you read through the continuous thread, I think it’s pretty apparent that Happy meal and you are in agreement

              2. saskia*

                To the religion/school, sex and gender are probably seen as the same thing. I doubt they would hire anyone that was visibly GNC or wasn’t correctly performing gender in the school’s eyes. I doubt any trans employees they do have are out. Therefore, men would likely all be assumed to possess penises. And any exclusion would be based on gender, which they assume is the same as sex… I doubt Allison is saying she herself subscribes to this limited view.

                1. Caramel & Cheddar*

                  I don’t think Alison does subscribe to this limited view either, I think it was just a bit of a careless line.

              3. Ellis Bell*

                The language used is describing the ridiculous motives of the camping organisers. Their thought process is as reductive and ridiculous as lazily thinking “with or without a penis”. Alison is ridiculing them with this supposition of their mental language.

            2. Parakeet*

              To flip this around, though, I seriously doubt they’d allow out trans women who are still trying to access, or choose not to pursue, bottom surgery, either.

            3. MissElizaTudor*

              No, of course not. No one is saying anything about the coworkers. People are just pointing out that it isn’t a great line.

              It’s just that it could be contextualized better to make it clear that it’s a description of the likely mindset of the coworkers, not how Alison thinks of the world. Regular readers know that, but still.

          3. SGK*

            I’d be interested to learn if that’s actually the case, since a lot of trans masc folks (of which I’m one as well) do find ourselves invited into these spaces whether we want to be or not. I personally suspect it’s not an intentionally inclusive thing and more that many people can’t wrap their heads around the existence of trans people, so they automatically stick us into whichever of their mental boxes comes closest, but the impact can look similar from the outside.

          4. Gerry Kaey*

            On the flip, I doubt they’d let a trans woman on the trip just because she did have a penis. So it’s not really *just* about the penis, it would likely exclude anyone they don’t see as a man, regardless of what’s in their pants.

        3. Beth*

          In general, equating “penis = man” is cissexist. In this particular case…I would bet money that lacking a dick would be enough to get a trans man uninvited from this trip. I’m also betting trans women are not welcome regardless of genital configuration, and the jury is out on how they feel about openly gay men. Sexist religious dudes don’t have a great track record on LGBTQ+ topics.

    2. The Orb*

      Yeah, this is a stinker. Cissexism is assumed across the board in this situation (trans people of all identities would be alienated alongside the cis women involved) and suggesting this phrasing was spelt out “as the organisation would say it” is an overly generous reading.

  12. Name (Required)*

    It sucks that this occurs but I’d riot too if my workplace tried to tell me who I could go camping with on my personal time given that it is not a sanctioned work event.

    1. doreen*

      I agree- I understand why the OP feels the way she does, but I don’t see what an employment attorney or a government agency could possibly do about it, given that the institution doesn’t organize it or pay for it and the bosses don’t attend. The only thing the employer could do is threaten to fire or take disciplinary action of some sort against the participants – which would cause a riot and even if it wouldn’t, I’m not sure I’m in favor of my employer telling me how and with whom I can spend my free time. Especially since the OP doesn’t think she would attend even if she was invited – a camping trip where only men are invited doesn’t look any different from the outside than one where everyone is invited and only men attend. If the employer is going to shut down the camping trip, they kind of also have to shut down the hypothetical four day vacation where everyone is invited but for whatever reasons none of the men choose to attend.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I’d definitely consider any such blokes-only bonding event would put me at a networking disadvantage and my nose would be out of joint.
        BUT …. it is not organised, sponsored or financially supported in any way by the employer. And it includes retirees, over whom the employer has no control whatsoever.

        So, it’s shitty of them, but something I’d have to put up with.
        I don’t know about the US, but it would not be possible – or even advisable – in any country I’ve worked in (Europe) for the employer to prevent or discourage it.
        I’d also be pissed if any employer tried to interfere in my off-duty time too, including in a women-only or BIPOC event.

        Therefore, I’d get together with others to organise additional events a few times a year to which everyone is invited – maybe financially supported by the employer as a part of DEI.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I’d love to hear from a lawyer about this specific situation, but a workplace absolutely does have the standing to penalize employees for outside-of-work behavior. This can be good! No one wants to have to work with Bob-just-got-spotted-at-a-neo-Nazi-rally. It can also be bad.

      I would argue that shutting down employee-only networking events that exclude women (or that women just don’t want to go to) is a good use of the power, and it may actually be required by law even if the event isn’t officially sanctioned/sponsored. The law cares a lot more about the effects (women getting passed over for promotions, unequal pay) than how exactly it got that way.

      (Note that SCOTUS has ruled that religious institutions often don’t have to follow employment law, though.)

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I disagree.
        When an employer interferes in what workers – and retirees – do in the their free time, it should only be for the most extreme cases, such as attending Nazi rallies. This boys club clearly gives networking advantages to male employees but imo is far below the level that justifies the employer hammer.

        (However, I appreciate US employment practices are very different to ours in Europe and it seems accepted that employers have more power over employees’ lives. So YMMV)

    3. Emily*

      I agree. People get to make choices about who to voluntarily associate with outside of work, and employers typically only get involved in a narrow range of those choices, like how reporting relationships can’t also be romantic or familial ones. But if coworkers have preferences for hanging out with certain other coworkers, even if those preferences are demographic, that’s not typically in the domain of something an employer would get involved with.

      1. Beth*

        Typically, you’re right. But when the “preferences for hanging out with certain other coworkers” have created a tradition of “literally all of the men are allowed and literally all of the women are excluded due explicitly their gender”…if the organization wasn’t religiously affiliated, OP probably could suggest to HR that this has a discriminatory effect even if it’s not an official work event. I don’t know whether there’d be any legal basis there for a case, but many HRs would rather avoid even the impression of discriminating against a protected group.

  13. Me...Just Me*

    Lots of religions place value on segregating sexes and while I find it very distasteful and could never work for such a place, it kind of comes with the territory in those types of institutions.

    1. LittleTeacher*

      Yeah, like—you work for a school that excludes all female people as a matter of course. Is it really surprising that women who work there are also being excluded from something?

      I don’t mean this as judgemental but as a fellow educator I don’t understand how LW can in good conscience put all the work and care and dedication into her teaching while knowing only half of the population is permitted to benefit from it, when she herself knows the pain of exclusion.

      1. Two Pop Tarts*

        There is an all female college near me (Agnes Scott College).

        I would hate to see it forced to accept men over “fairness”, because only half the population can benefit from the teachers.

        There’s a place for segregated schools event today.

        Troubled young men are particularly responsive to military schools. Georgia ran an all male military schools for teens for decades. Then it was forced to admit women, its effectiveness waned, and it closed.

        Bill Graham, who became a US senator from Texas, was sent to Georgia Military Academy by a court as a teen. He credits it with straightening out his life.

        Different people need different solutions. We don’t all fit in the same peg hole.

        1. Two Pop Tarts*

          By “segregated” I mean segregate by sex, not race.

          There is no place for segregation by race today.

        2. Kippu*

          Minorities/oppressed classes creating spaces for themselves is not the same thing as a majority excluding others.

        3. just some guy*

          I can’t find a “Bill Graham” or any similar name in the list of US Senators from Texas. Are you perhaps thinking Phil Gramm?

      2. Ferret*

        There are plenty of single gender schools that don’t have those issues though, including secular ones. Where I live (in the UK) secondary girls schools especially are quite popular because the general opinion is that the girls get more opportunities and better results when they don’t have to worry about… well, everything that comes with boys.

        I also know about plenty religiously affiliated (including single gender) schools that don’t follow this example so I don’t think your inability to understand is based on a real view of how this works in the majority of cases

        LW’s school sounds pretty poor but I don’t actually think it would be better if it had female students as well.

        1. Two Pop Tarts*

          Single gender schools have all but been eliminated in the USA, usually by court order.

          The public schools in the New Orleans area were once single sex. They were forced by a court order to change.

          AFAIK, there are only 3 non-religious men’s schools left in the USA. There are only about 40 women’s colleges (down from 200 in the past).

          1. MissElizaTudor*

            That’s just not true. There are literally hundreds of single gender schools in the US. There aren’t many higher ed ones, but there are a lot of K-12 ones, including some public schools.

          2. MountainAir*

            You’re talking about single gender colleges when you cite those numbers (and it’s really closer to ~30 at this point). Single gender K-12 schools are very common. There are many, many of those left.

            And in general, private, single gender* colleges did and do not go co-ed “by court order.” Most of the time they just decided to because it made sense for them given demand, enrollment numbers, etc. Public schools must be open to both sexes, so maybe that’s what you’re referring to.

            *Noting here that a number of women’s colleges accept trans men and nonbinary students. Almost all at this point are inclusive of trans women.

        2. TK*

          I’m not sure if the US really has any “secular” single-sex secondary schools. Colleges, yes. But the vast majority of single-sex secondary schools are religious, usually Catholic. About 30 percent of Catholic secondary schools in the US are single-sex. I would guess, though, that a much larger proportion than that of Catholic secondary schools students attend a single-sex school, because many of the coed schools are quite small and in rural areas (where it obviously wouldn’t make sense to not have a coed school). The metropolitan area nearest me has a very large Catholic population and dozens and dozens of large Catholic high schools. I think only one or two are coed.

          1. stacers*

            I do think there are a relatively small number of single-gender charter schools scattered around the U.S. I found in a quick search, a citation (in May 2023) that there are 366 public single-gender schools or classrooms (which I’d say isn’t really the same thing).
            My mid-size Midwestern city has six Catholic high schools: two all-boy, two all-girl, two co-ed. In all three sets, there’s a large one and a much smaller one, but I’d say the co-ed high school is likely the largest of the six.
            Not sure what that all means, other than that it can vary widely, I suspect.

          2. MountainAir*

            I don’t know what the exact stats are, but IIRC you’re dead on that most single-sex schools (in particular) are religious/largely Catholic. However, it’s worth noting that there are quite a few single-sex nonreligious schools particularly in areas where there is a large private school ecosystem like you describe. The better known ones are schools like Spence and Chapin in NYC, Miss Porter’s and Greenwich in Connecticut, etc. They’re not the majority, but there are quite a few of them out there!

      3. OP*

        Of all the comments on my letter today, this one struck me the most. I wanted to address it. Hardly anything I do at this institution is “in good conscience” anymore, in the sense that it weighs heavily on me that I don’t share the values of the institution any longer. I think I did when I began, but I discovered along the way that I no longer believe in single-sex education for high school students–at least not male students. The toxic sexist and misogynist behaviors where I work stem from the absence of women in MOST spaces.

        My plan/trajectory involves me leaving this place, sooner than later. I would not allow my own sons to attend the school where I teach, and I think that is perhaps the most damning thing I can say. It signaled to me that it’s time to go elsewhere.

        All this to say, you’re spot on. And I think about it a lot. This trip is one of many ways sexism and “old boys club” plays out and manifests where I work.

        1. Goldenrod*

          I came here to say “I think the problem is much bigger than just this one event.” You work somewhere that seems, in general, to value and elevate men over women.

          Good for you for leaving, OP! If you wouldn’t send your sons there, you surely shouldn’t work there! Good luck moving on….!

        2. MountainAir*

          OP, I just wanted to offer you some support and solidarity as you navigate this. I struggle with the question of single gender education in K-12 because I had a fantastic experience at an all-girls (religious even!) school personally. It seems like the data supports the fact that girls can really benefit from these environments.

          But with boys….gosh it’s such a minefield. I feel like even the “good” boys’ schools wind up fostering really damaging behaviors and mindsets about women — and it sounds like the culture at your particular school is regressive and toxic. I hear you, and I would have probably gone through the process you did if I had been in your shoes as someone who saw the good side of single-gender education in my personal life.

          Best wishes as you make your plan for the years ahead. Your note re: your sons is so spot on. I don’t know that anything will really force institutions like this to truly take stock and reassess, but perhaps if you have a sympathetic ear somewhere in the administration you can give a truthful exit interview when the time comes.

        3. Mf*

          This is such a thoughtful response, OP. There’s probably little to nothing you can do about the camping trip or the culture of sexism at this school, but when you leave, you may have the opportunity to speak up. At the very least, it might be worth speaking to some of your male colleagues who you’re in good terms with and telling them exactly why you’re so troubled by the school’s culture. Perhaps they will have an epiphany as you did.

  14. I edit everything*

    Get all the women together, rent some nearby cabins or rooms in a resort, and pack your paintball guns and nighttime fatigues. Early morning (3 a.m.) raid on their camp. Steal their food and booze, and retire to a lovely mimosa breakfast.

    1. Dinwar*

      This would almost certainly result in the women being shot. With real guns.

      It’s fun to fantasize about, and if you set it up with the men beforehand it could be fun–we had a running airsoft battle in college like that–but doing something like this without MAJOR prework up front is basically a complicated and round-about way to commit suicide.

    2. AthenaC*

      I actually think this is a great idea. Make sure your faces our covered so they don’t know who it is. Schedule for the early morning after the first night for maximum impact.

      Make this the womens’ annual tradition. It has to be top secret, of course, to cement the values of “sisterhood,” but I think this would be awesome.

      1. Doc McCracken*

        You could also add some old school high jinx and pranks to really make the boys club not so excited about the trip next year. Shaving cream in shoes anyone? Damp socks and no beer would definitely make the whole thing a dud.

        1. AthenaC*

          I think that’s the perfect mix –

          1) top secret theft and sabotage
          2) at the same time, plan an inclusive all-staff event for that same time frame

          The first year all the guys will go to the camping trip, but I’m betting by the second or third year of this, the guys camping trip will be abandoned and everyone will do the more inclusive all-staff event. There may be grumbling along the way but if they can’t prove or have no evidence that it’s the women, they won’t be able to know for sure.

    3. Beth*

      Well, not the best idea, as already stated. But even though the LW doesn’t want to go camping, what about the other women at the school? I personally love camping. It would be one way to shift the event away from Just The Boys to something that rests on recreational inclination instead of physical plumbing.

  15. Bookwrym*

    I would recommend trying to organize an event everyone, some time when it is not in obvious conflict with the camping trip it seems in this situation the long game is the only way to win

  16. Lily Potter*

    Yes, the camping trip feels gross.
    BUT – given that it’s not paid for or sanctioned by the school and management doesn’t attend, I don’t know how anyone has license to put an end to it.
    This trip is co-workers choosing the spend off-hours time with other co-workers.
    Hard to regulate that.

    1. ina*

      Yes, there is so much unhelpful speculation in these comments – people need to just assume it’s a regular “guy’s trip” and leave it at that because what they do on these trips is not important. You will never know because the core issue is you will not be invited.

      LW works at an religious institution that’s segregated by sex. Why is this trip a surprising phenomenon in that context? This is a culture issue that you need to put in the ground work to end; that is, person-by-person (and you’d recruit others to help you, of course). However, bringing the school into this isn’t productive. It’s not related to them except for that how these men seem to know each other – there is no laws against making friends at work and organizing camping trips with them.

      I suppose you can look into how they’re contacting alumni or if it’s an alumni teacher who’s organizing this. They might be working with the school’s recordings to get the current male teacher roster. I just want LW to brace for this not being a good experience if they do get it integrated, because the mindsets that enabled this trip to be a “boy’s trip” all these years is still there. They will just do something else in the name of brotherhood.

  17. Jessica Clubber Lang*

    Ugh, this reminds me of the dog letter from last week – yes it would be great and a kindness if you could all attend (or whoever wants to), but unfortunately you can’t make them do it.

    1. Fiesta*

      Agreed. This is not as different from the non-work social event at the female professor’s house as as the treatment would lead one to believe.

    2. Nicole Maria*

      I think this is a little different because this is more a work-related event the attendees are all coworkers, the one last week was very much a private event that a few coworkers attended.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        They’re not all coworkers, though. This event has a bunch of retired people, likely including some who the current batch of teachers may never have worked with. If the dog letter was considered to be a private non-work gathering, this one definitely is as well.

        1. Nicole Maria*

          How many people who have never worked at this place attend the trip? In Friday’s dog letter, the party was about 2/3rds friends and family who had no relation to the letter writer’s job.

        2. Oryx*

          Even if the current batch of teachers may never have worked with the retired attendees, they all still have an employment history with the same institution. That they’ve all work(ed) there is why they are invited on the trip to begin with.

        3. Beth*

          “Employees and alums” is still a very different, and more institutionally affiliated, crowd than “all my friends and family and all my spouse’s friends and family and also whatever current and former coworkers might have heard about the event”.

    3. MissElizaTudor*

      It’s pretty different, though. The biggest difference is that was a personal event that some coworkers go to, and this is an event that is just for people who are associated with the workplace – employees and former employees.

      There’s also nothing inherent to camping that means only men can go, but there is something inherent about the other event that means people who don’t want to trigger their dog allergies can’t go (dogs live at the event venue and the event is intended to have dogs).

      1. Jessica Clubber Lang*

        No, the dog letter was one from last week where someone was having a party and had dogs, but one of her work colleagues didn’t like dogs and so wanted to attend the party but couldn’t. It didn’t have anything to do with sexism

          1. Jessica Clubber Lang*

            I think I was the original commenter :). I didn’t mean they were exactly alike, just the similarity of events where it would be great if it could work out that all could come, but nobody was required to make that happen

  18. Spearmint*

    On the one hand, I understand why this makes LW uncomfortable. On the other hand, I’m wary of saying the workplace should be judging an meddling what people do in their personal social lives. As the LW says, this is not endorsed by the workplace and management is not attending, so to me I see this as unrelated to work. And in a non-work context, nobody has a problem with a “men’s weekend” or whatever, that kind of thing is very common. People can be friends with who they want, they don’t have to include everyone they work with in their out of office social activities.

    I’m curious to see why people think this is different than that letter last week about the woman hosting open parties at her house and a coworker who felt excluded because she wouldn’t crate her dog. I get that because gender is involved it feels more hot button, but I think taking a step back I’m not sure it’s really that different.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I suspect that a major part of the issue is that per LW above, ALL the men are going, vs in last week’s letter only some of the staff were attending. But also yes, the gender divide (something that we know results in inequality at work) is a very different reason to exclude someone rather than them being scared of dogs (which only really restricts you from dog-related jobs).

    2. Admin Lackey*

      1. This event is a private event that is 100% coworkers, whereas the other event is a private event that is like 20% coworkers.

      2. The discrimination here is based on sex/gender, which is a Real problem in the world and which will have professional consequences for the women working at this school.

      3. This event plays into a the sexist practice of The Old Boys Club, which is centuries old, whereas the other event doesn’t.

      Sure, people are technically being excluded in both of them, but the similarities end there. Excluding one guy from your home because he tried to kick your dog is just not the same as having an all-male, all-coworker camping trip

      1. Recalled*

        Wait, the guest on the other letter kicked the OP’s dog?! I didn’t remember reading that. I’ll have to go back and look.

          1. Heidi*

            No actual contact was made with the dog, who is fine. The OP excluded that detail from the original letter since they thought it might be overly prejudicial against the houseguest. But there seemed to be a lot of uncertainty over what behaviors the OP was characterizing as “rude,” which was how this bit of information came out.

    3. Dinwar*

      Target audience.

      The person last week had built the party around friends, and invited coworkers to attend. The event today is clearly targeting coworkers (since 100% of the participants are coworkers). This puts it on a different legal framework.

      Second, there’s a HUGE difference between “By the way, people bring dogs and I have dogs, if that’s a problem you may not want to attend” and “This is an all-boys thing, women aren’t allowed.” The first is merely setting the ground rules; the second is openly discriminatory against a protected class. You aren’t obliged to make everyone welcome, especially when guests have conflicting desires; you ARE obliged to not openly discriminate against people, however. Even if it’s legal for an institution to do so, it’s ethically problematic and socially inept.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      There’s a huge difference between ‘we cannot accommodate person A’s specific requirements’ (I.e. for the dogs to be locked up just because he is uncomfortable round them) and ‘we’re just going to preemptively ban an entire group of people based on our suppositions about them’.

      Look at it like workplace accommodations: If person A states that they have a phobia of men with beards and therefore they require a workplace with everyone clean shaven we’d say that was unreasonable. But asking to move a couple of desks around so they’re not sat next to a bearded man would be ok.

      Singular accommodations versus plural.

  19. Warrior Princess Xena*

    I spent a while thinking on this, because this was bothering me for reasons I couldn’t clearly define, and I think what it comes down to is that these people are combining “close friendship group activity” – 4 days of camping together and building deep relationships – with “coworker networking activity”, and thus excluding their colleagues by necessity.

    I’d say the best solution would probably be twofold. 1: the school should seriously consider putting on their own networking/bonding event, for everyone, and make it something equally fun (vs some sort of conference and lecture day). This event may not be under the school’s control, but if they can encourage strong coworker bonds to build on professional ground then they should. 2: at minimum anyone who is promoted to any form of management OR has any form of hiring authority should be prohibited from going (I know that those structures look different in a school, but nonetheless). That includes any individuals not hired by the school but who might have authority (anyone on the board, for instance).

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      And to be clear, I know this doesn’t solve all the other problems Allison called out that result from unequal networking – more opportunities, more help, etc. This is what I would view as the bare minimum. Personally if I had the authority there I’d ban this trip from being discussed at work at all, and I’d be telling the organizers that they cannot recruit new attendees from new hires – this needs to be transitioned to being a purely social thing and eventually die out. But the above suggestions are things that are actionable in the short term and can hopefully be implemented with a lot less capital.

    2. OP*

      I didn’t even think about if our board members go. Also, administrators used to go in the past. I think that stopped as recently as 5-8 years ago.

      It used to be that I didn’t have any male allies who would tell me anything about this trip. It was veiled in secrecy, even referred to by abbreviations (think C.T. for Camping Trip) around women so we wouldn’t figure it out. (Eyeroll).

      Now I have a couple friends who go, and report back to me. No administrators in recent years. But I’d be totally in favor of banning them from coming just to get it on the record.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        The fact that they’re keeping quiet about it definitely makes it feel like they know they’re doing something wrong! People behaving ethically don’t keep secrets about it.

        All my sympathies. This is a really frustrating situation to be in.

      2. ina*

        This is absolutely a way to approach this! Even if they attended in the past, it’s a “tradition” they might hold close to their heart and they’re now made it a conflict of interest. Will they favor someone who they can relate to having been on this ‘sacred’ bonding trip? Does this now affect promotion and advancement?

  20. billions & billions of stars*

    I’m wondering if any of the retirees who attend might possibly have influence with current administrators to make recommendations on who ought to be promoted, etc. Because, y’know, brotherhood.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yup. I can totally see the mindset being: “We have to make sure we keep things the way they were when we were in charge.”

  21. thelettermegan*

    I’m a big fan of annual events of any kind, but I’ve definitely noticed that no annual event is immune to the march of time.

    Sometimes you can hurry along its ultimate end by offering something that’s more agreeable to the large group.

    It sounds like this is a bit of an end-of-year reward for a lot of teachers – Is there a way the school could offer a sponsored end-of-year event that might be more appealing and ultimately replace the camping trip? Maybe getting everyone on a student-free daytrip – something where there’s lots of fun activities and teachers can play with all the toys themselves.

    I think if that gets planned and sponsored, and there’s enough hype for it, the camping trip might fizzle out on its own.

    1. AthenaC*

      This is probably the best solution, especially if it’s scheduled right over the boys’ camping trip and made mandatory. If it’s not mandatory, the men will just skip it for their camping trip.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        This would be a bad idea, at least for the first year, because then it’s obviously deliberate and there will be a lot of bad feeling. Even if it’s mandatory they’ll just move the camping trip and then there will still be an exclusionary trip + a lot of people who are now ready to fight hard about their exclusionary trip and be angry at all the women who are taking their perk away.

        This might come later, certainly, but it’s a bad idea for the first few years.

        1. Not my real name*

          But it’s super secret! How would the administration know about it (wink, wink) and they just happened to schedule super fun inclusive event over it.

    2. Devious Planner*

      Yes, I definitely agree that this is the way! Look, I don’t think there’s a way to eliminate this immediately, and any effort to force this will end badly. But if you want to stay at this school long-term, it’s worth thinking about how you could chip away at it gradually. Traditions do fade and change over time, whether people want them to or not.

      Suggestions for doing this, if you have the time and energy:
      1. Create your own event, open to ALL. Not as a deliberate “f-you”, but something genuinely fun and low-key. Maybe not the same weekend, but on a neighboring weekend. Don’t force people to choose right away, but make them close enough so that they are both rewards for finishing the school year. This could also be a school-sponsored event.
      2. Recruit new employees to your event. Again, keep it low-key and small at first! But if you’ve planned a genuinely fun event, and you are a welcoming and friendly face throughout the school year, people will gravitate to an event where the people they know are.
      3. The year will come where the school calendar will align in such a way as to force the two events on the same weekend. If you’ve built up a critical mass by then, make your move! Put them on the same weekend. See what happens!

      Key here might be staying AWAY from gender politics. To be clear, I think you’re right to be bothered by the exclusion. But the facts on the ground clearly indicate that railing against the exclusion will backfire, and there’s ways of pushing back on this that are more subtle.

      And I also would never judge you if you just wanted to live with the system as is. It’s a lot of work to do my plan, and it’s not like teachers don’t have other things to do during the school year.

    3. Helewise*

      I agree that this is the approach that is most likely to succeed over time AND without massively alienating your colleagues. It’s hard to get multiple weekends away, so that will chip away a little bit, and over time I’d bet that the camping trip will either fade or increasingly move to something less closely tied to this workplace. It may take 25 years, because change can be slow, but it’ll get there.

      Or you could just blow everything up (figuratively). Faster, but more fallout.

  22. MansplainerHater*

    What about organizing an everyone-invited event? Something inclusionary for all that could be the highlight of the year for YOU!

    1. Don't Forget to Mute The Zoom*

      Same thought!

      “I think it’ll be a bonding experience between me and Ron. Men enjoy it when a women is better than them at something they love.”

  23. Programmer Dude*

    I wonder if some kind of Glassdoor post about this workplace might have some kind of impact. Just being as clear and neutral as possible about the event, it’s impact on the culture, and the mentality of the workforce could at the very least save some other women from feeling the same kind of ick.

  24. Delta Delta*

    Probably an unpopular and unprofessional answer: Post anonymously on Reddit and let the internet do its thing.

    1. Lobsterman*

      This is the first answer that I like.

      I think people are not taking seriously enough how fundamentally sinister this event is, given what we know of how schools like this protect groomers.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Okay, I don’t like this event either, but ‘sinister’ is a stretch, and ‘protect groomers’ is an absolute pole vault.

    2. HR Friend*

      “Letting the internet do its thing” = doxxing. That’s not just unprofessional, it’s irresponsible and dangerous. You’re suggesting OP leverage toxic internet vigilantism because a bunch of teachers are going camping. You need to seriously examine your instincts, if this is actually an option you’d consider in OP’s place.

      1. MissElizaTudor*

        It’s not doxxing to name and shame employers that are acting badly. When someone posts that they got fired from Company X for being trans, we don’t say they doxxed Company X.

        You might find it objectionable for other reasons, or even some of the same reasons that doxxing is objectionable, but it isn’t doxxing.

        1. HR Friend*

          It’s not her employer. It’s her coworkers. Her employer doesn’t sponsor or endorse the event. By OP’s admission, she doesn’t feel at a professional disadvantage because she’s excluded from this trip. So she’d be doxxing the individuals who go camping.

          I’m annoyed that I sound like I’m defending the outing. On the contrary, I think it’s in poor taste, rude, and probably sexist.

          Follow the “naming and shaming” to conclusion. The campers – individuals and their friends/families who have done nothing wrong – could be harassed, bullied, or even feel in physical danger because OP sics the rabid internet on them for implying they’re sexist good ol’ boys. Internet mobs are dangerous af, and it’s outrageous to think weaponizing them for such a benign problem is a *good idea*.

    3. this is not a good idea*

      LW, a woman, complaining about not being allowed on a guy’s trip? Trying to convey the nuances of the deeply social, nuanced underpinnings of this? On Reddit? It would not go her way unless she picked the right subreddit and hopefully it doesn’t get enough attention for anyone to “do its thing.” Because I can already see the comment about her being “that girlfriend who doesn’t let her boyfriend hang with the boys” and “LOL? r u just mad they aren’t including u? get over yourself” and “You don’t even want to go, you sound fun at parties.”

      In the same way I see a lot of speculation against the men in these comments, what I assume is more woman-friendly but also professional (considering the nature of this site), you will see some truly vile speculation re: LW. It’s not worth the mental health damage of being harassed on that site. People will take the comment “the sky is blue” and misconstrue it until someone is SWATed there.

  25. Irish Teacher*

    As a female teacher in a religiously affiliated school that was all-boys until…three weeks ago, it is the fact that this is an all-boys’ school that really bothers me. In Ireland at least, traditionally, boys’ schools had mostly male staff and girls’ schools mostly female and while I know Ireland has a rather unique educational landscape, the proportion of male to female teachers indicates it might be similar in this school.

    And to me, that puts an additional spin on it that makes it more problematic. Even when I was a student teacher 20 years ago, a female principal of an all-boys’ school was something that would be noticed, in a “wow, she must be brilliant to get thst”. Not sure whether male principals of girls’ schools got a similar reaction (think it might have been more a “that’s the patriarchy for you. Now, it’s no longer the nuns, the men take over”).

    So I think it is even more important to avoid anything that makes women working in a boys’ school feel left out.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      My sense is that a male priest supervising the nuns is traditional.

      I’m sure this has never been abused in any way in the history of Catholic schools. /s

  26. Delphine*

    I would really encourage you—if you’d be open to it—to organize a similar event for women. If that’s not your thing, an event for all colleagues to attend if they wish. But I would personally try to organize for the women. Building sororal relationships is important in environments like this, where men dominate the conversation.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This solves nothing. As has been pointed out upthread, separate but equal is not equal. This is not about being left out, this is about the dynamics of power and who has it and who doesn’t.

  27. Glazed Donut*

    Honestly, I think the best options are
    1) Consider working for a school that more closely aligns with your values – even if this trip isn’t necessarily organized by the school, it’s clearly in line with the school’s values or else it wouldn’t keep happening (see also: single-sex, all male school).
    2) Work on spearheading an event for everyone (not just women).

    1. ABC*

      Agreed. I’m curious to know how the LW feels about the workplace and the organization outside of the camping trip issue. Maybe this truly is the fly in the ointment, but it seems just as likely to me that it’s a small part of a larger issue (understandably—I wouldn’t like working in an environment like that either).

  28. Juicebox Hero*

    I’m picturing all the menfolk camping in treehouses with “no girls allowed!” signs tacked over the doors. And late at night they’ll sneak a peek at an old Victoria’s Secret catalog and eat spicy Cheetos and drink Mountain Dew and sing naughty songs that have the word “butt” in them.

    Alison often says “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change,” and this time it’s “your organization sucks and isn’t goint to change.” (I don’t mean the quality of the education or the credentials of the staff and instructors suck. I mean it’s an organization with the misogyny and boys’ club mentality baked in from the get-go.)

    OP, you’re absolutely justified in being bothered by this. However, this tradition is so well entrenched that nothing you can do is going to stop it or get the male staffers to see it through your eyes. You don’t mention if the other women are as bothered by this as you are. Even if they all are, and would be willing to participate in a women-only counter event, you’re so outnumbered that the reaction is more likely to be “Awwww, the girls are jealous of our awesome camping trip” rather than “Gosh, maybe we should be more inclusive.”

    I guess the big question is: can you see yourself continuing your career at this school, knowing that this sucky thing will continue to suck?

  29. Artemesia*

    When I was a young teacher, I learned that my district had a bowling league. Many of my peers (all male — my subject was dominated by men at this time in the 60s) participated. I thought ‘bowling, ick. How stupid’. Over the years I learned better. The relationships fostered across the district in this league created strong bonds that often lead to people being singled out to be encouraged to prepare for advancement — principals often got their start as teachers in the district who were singled out for development. And those relationships began often with the friendships and camaradarie born in those weekly get togethers. These were not gender exclusive; anyone could join. But I was not savvy enough in those days to understand the importance of this sort of thing.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I’m not sure how this is intended to help LW. Your get-togethers were open to any and all; LW says that women are not invited to these camping trips.

      And again, there are better ways to foster work relationships than by external camping trips and bowling leagues. Like fostering relationships while you’re actually at work, and not via some external event that not everybody may be able to go to anyway.

      1. KatyKat*

        I think their comment is meant to confirm for the LW that these events have genuine advantages. Considering that the LW explicitly asks:

        “Please help me do a gut check here. Is this something worth being upset about?”

        Seems like a reasonable anecdote to share.

  30. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    I think most employers can’t really shut something like this down — but private, especially religious schools often exert a lot more influence and even have clauses in their contracts that do affect what you do on your free time (eg, when I worked for a religious school, I was warned about participating in civic protests). I think the school could exert pressure on the organizers to stop or reframe (and maybe they have, accounting for the rumored shift in atmosphere of the event?); but it probably doesn’t want to because of deeply ingrained views of gender and gender roles.

  31. Jenna Webster*

    The fact of the matter is that this is a male problem and only the men can solve it. They can do so by declining to go on the trip and explaining to the others why it doesn’t feel right to them. They can start planning social bonding events that can include everyone – from axe throwing to escape rooms to whatever else they can think of. Men have very little vested interest in solving this, which is the overall problem, as they are the only ones who can do so. You would think that at least some of them would have the moral center to make an attempt.

    1. ina*

      The only way this event will be integrated rather than dissolved or just become better hidden will be if the school sponsors it for all staff & monitors it.

      I am not sure why no one sees the issue that the school and LW themselves cannot dictate who these people are hanging out with after school hours, even if it happens to be their coworkers of one sex. I get antsy about agreeing someone at work complaining, “Well, coworker1, coworker2, coworker3, and coworker4 hang out after work and don’t invite me, make them invite me!” It’s like if someone hosted an informal class reunion and only invited the people they liked in high school. Is it a crap move? Yes. But it’s their private party & not sponsored by the school, so there’s that as well.

      I don’t know – the situation is a icky culture issue and as you said, it’s only gonna be solved from within…and I don’t think there is enough overall social awareness to realize this idea of ‘brotherhood’ is outdated. But it’s a religious, all-boys school so…yeah, IDK.

  32. LucyGoosy*

    When you say “religiously-affiliated single-sex secondary school in the U.S. (all male)”–is this a Jesuit institution? I work at a Catholic postsecondary institution in the US, and I can say that while some of the traditions are deeply ingrained, these schools can change over time if they see that a) similar or more prestigious schools are doing something else, b) they feel there would be community backlash for what they’re doing, or c) they start to receive external social pressure. You can also use the social teachings of the school to help flip the script, i.e. “We’re raising young men to be leaders and forces for good in society–have we thought about the model that we as faculty and staff set for these young men to embody the Jesuit values of social justice, respect for the whole person? At [prestigious competitor school], they’ve attracted some top talent by [not doing the sexist thing, or whatever]…” It’s slow going but if you convert one person at a time you can eventually get things changed.

  33. Peanut Hamper*

    I love that all these people are commenting here to recommend that LW plan a similar event. Do you really think this is about being excluded? It’s not. This is about excluding based on sex, which means it is ultimately about power. A separate event is not going to address that issue.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is it. The problem and power to resolve it lies entirely with the men who created the issue – unless they want to change it won’t.

    2. saskia*

      I’m pretty sure they understand it’s about power. That is obvious. The power is so entrenched that one first step -could- be organizing a women’s event that could result in solidarity and bonding, which will be essential if they ever do push back harder on sexist practices. Addressing power is not easy, and it often requires a lot of small steps to have a big impact. It’s all about what OP sees as realistic in her situation as the one without power.

  34. Hanusia*

    OP, what do your fellow women coworkers think about this issue? I can’t imagine you’re the only one who has noticed or been bothered by it. Maybe gauge the temperature of interest in pushing back on the men-only thing or organizing additional/alternative networking activities, and then you could bring this up to the administration as a group?

  35. Angstrom*

    I think the best way to start movement to change is the “Is this modeling behavior that we want our students to emulate?” argument. That way it’s not about the individual and if she wants to attend — it’s about the goals of the institution. If the guys are serious about developing good citizens, some of them will listen.
    It may not be a school trip, but there’s no way the students don’t know about it.

    1. ina*

      The answer to that question is probably ‘yes.’ Brotherhood and fraternity are probably values at an all-boys school with a religious bent. Those concepts wouldn’t be alien or against the grain, imo.

      I suppose one slant is where are your sisters while you develop your brotherhood?

  36. Dawn*

    “Because you are without a penis” oooooh, there’s a fun (not very fun at all) question, would your coworkers be so open to having a transmasc person attend the trip? What about a nonbinary person? Would it make a difference to them how that person presented?

    This trip seems exclusionary because this trip is exclusionary.

    1. allathian*

      I doubt they’d be any more welcoming to trans men, assuming they even acknowledge their right to exist. Some religious institutions are extremely committed to the gender binary.

  37. Spicy Tuna*

    When I was in elementary school in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s, the principal ran a summer camp for boys only. Many of the boys in our public elementary school went. Even as a kid, that seemed very wrong to me. Around 1990, he turned it into vacation rentals for families; I guess he got the memo.

    This letter reminded me of that!

  38. Qwerty*

    OP, try talking to your more reasonable male coworkers about the root of why this bothers you and bring them in on coming up with a solution. The problem isn’t this specific trouble and focusing on it limits the options – it sounds like the issue is you feel that you don’t have opportunities to bond with your coworkers. Similarly – do you (and the other women) feel accepted by your male peers?

    What about organizing an co-ed event where everyone can participate? Or having one day of the camping trip be a cookout where everyone can come – which not only includes women, but also means men would have the option of just going for part of the trip.

    Basically, rather than attack the trip head on or start an alternate women-only event, create some inclusive spaces. I suspect you’ll have some allies among your male friends considering they overhauled the camping trip to less of a stereotype. If these inclusive events are successful, the mens camping trip will probably go from 40+ all-current-and-former-dudes to ~20 people-who-love-camping. And then if a woman actually wants to go on that trip, it’ll be less of a barrier for her to join.

    I have been in male dominated spaces most of my life, so I get it. What I’ve found is the guy-only stuff only bugs when I don’t feel included in general. If I’m already on good teams and feel like part of the team, my reaction to a guys-only outdoorsy trip is “that sounds awful, go have fun”. If I’m already feeling excluded, well, I’m tempted to crash the trip even though I’d be miserable just to prove a point.

  39. H*

    How many of the camping attendees, especially the retired ones, are alumni of the school? Do they see their work as adults as an extension of their high school glory days? Some things can’t be fixed, because the foundation itself is rotten.

  40. ina*

    I am not sure. I get why it bothers you, but at the same time, it’s out of work hours and it just so happens these coworkers are better friends or want to deepen their bond with each other over other coworkers. Yeah, it’s on the gender/sex line, but that’s their prerogative and I suspect they would argue “well, I don’t want to be on an overnight trip with a woman who isn’t my wife” or “I just want to bond with the guys/brotherhood” – or both. Yes, it’s an informal networking event….but it’s out of work and networking has always been about relationships people want to form. The people who can actually integrate this event are these “very nice men” you work with. However, the context of this being an religious, all-boys school with 65% men-identifying staff is key to me. If you integrate this event, you will not have the same attendance level and I sincerely wonder how many women-identifying staff would even want to attend.

    I don’t know if you have any right to tell them to call it off and if you complain, I am not sure on what grounds the school has to tell their employees they have to hang out with everyone or they can’t hang out with their coworkers at all. Even if they were still maliciously gossiping about the women, that’s a problem for the administration, who are not in attendance, and it would only be a problem if it manifested at work.

    What do you *actually* want done about this, LW? Do you want to put an end to it? Sorry, my brain just isn’t following and I am not sure if it’s neurodivergence in action. I absolutely see why this bugs you, but ultimately I don’t see any grounds for action other than to voice your concerns to the most sympathetic ally you can find among the men and to the other women teachers in the school. You can organize your own event, as others suggest, but it doesn’t begin to solve the core issue.

  41. Lobsterman*

    I have to think that part of the agenda for these things is for older faculty and alumni to keep their stories straight about The Thing That Happened in ‘87*. I would not want to do anything which might be perceived as messing with that.

    *also 1994, 2006, and from 2015-2018, continuously.

  42. Person from the Resume*

    It’s an all boys religious high school. They DO think there’s a difference between the sexes or the single sex school would not exist. And honestly they probably value their male employees more for also as role models for the young men they’re teaching.

    IDK in the city I live now there are 2 all boy and 2 all girl Catholic high schools, and when chatting with someone they were surprised that I attended a coed Catholic high school. They do exist in a lot of places, but the single sex high schools that do remain likely have a long history of molding young men or young women and believe there’s value to single sex education.

  43. Esme*

    This. Hazing also creates loyalty by a weird psychological mechanism where your brain spares you dissonance by convincing you that if you suffered for something, it must be worth it.

  44. Yes And*

    Are there any men on staff who are invited but choose not to go? Either because of other personal commitments, or to avoid participating in discrimination, or just because camping sucks? If so, how are they treated the rest of the year – do they suffer the ill effects of being excluded from networking that Alison so aptly described? If they do, that’s an additional data point that this trip is unacceptably exclusionary, and an additional source of allies should OP decide to take action.

    And if there are no such men in this school – how on earth are they screening for that in the hiring process? It seems to me that that’s a whole other boatload of discrimination – on the basis of disability or family status, off the top of my head.

  45. TPS reporter*

    does anyone else get Deliverance vibes? some of these men might not even love or like camping but go along because the bonding is more valuable. what about a male presentation makes camping more desirable?? nothing. just so silly to not invite the women, of course you can still decline if you’re not into it. many of my female friends are much more into camping than I’ve ever known any man to be.

    I think OP should keep pressing for an inclusive invite through colleagues, not involving administration. the more you bring it up to reasonable colleagues the harder it’s going to be to keep justifying it every year.

  46. Tech writer by day*

    I think the best avenue is to push back on the men who want to see themselves as progressive. Ask them, would you go on this trip if it excluded all Black men? Or, say, all blue-eyed people? Why is excluding women okay? Can you be an ally if you fail to step up when something is wrong, just to claim benefits others are denied?

    Make them own the fact that they are not the person they want to believe they are.

  47. S draw*

    How about approaching the administration by explaining how this can be problematic and asking if it is possible to devise one or two events that are mostly social in nature and that afford the chance for developing the professional and social relationships that are being missed out on.

  48. Amesip*

    I’m sure this has already been said and it is tacitly admitting defeat, but why do you work there? Is the money really good? Are the benefits out of this world? Are there no other jobs available? If you have other equivalent options, I recommend quitting this sausage fest and going somewhere that views you as a full human being with the same human social needs as your male colleagues.

  49. Jiminy Cricket*

    People in this thread — and in general — need to stop saying “religious” when they mean “Christian.” (And a particular type of Christian.)

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      This is irrelevant. The issue is not the religion – the issue is that a whole bunch of coworkers have gotten together and formed an insular club. It happens all the time, across industries, across belief systems. Religion is the excuse they are using, not the driving cause.

      1. Jessica*

        I don’t know how to explain to you that using language that erases or further marginalizes minority groups is harmful, and that speaking about Christianity as if its norms are universal for all cultures with any religious practices both preserves its power (by painting it as a universal reality) and lumps marginalized groups that it oppresses in with it.

        Nothing’s forcing people talking about Christianity to use the term “religion” instead of “Christianity.”

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I’m sorry – in no way was I intending to use or encourage erasing or marginalizing language. I agree with you entirely that trying to represent Christianity as being a universal norm is inaccurate and harmful.

          I was purely thinking that while this is a particularly egregious example, there’s any number of other letters that have come in about similar behavior where the cliques are based on college graduates, social status, preferred sports, etc, with the same result and the same challenge – workplaces legally cannot control what their employees do in their free time beyond a certain point, including making them invite people to officially not-work-related events. I don’t know that the school being religious would matter from a legal perspective if it’s a private, non-work-sponsored event.

      2. Dinwar*

        There are only two reasons to use “religious” when one means “Christian”. Either one is trying to smear all religions withe same brush, picking the worst aspects of them, the way the New Atheists tended to back when they were a thing. Or one is attempting to negate the existence of other religions by building a language that simply doesn’t allow them to exist.

        A non-Catholic reading this blog’s comments today would be constantly bombarded with accusations that are either false, irrelevant, or nonsensical. A religion that practices Cakes and Ale, for example, would have no problem with drinking. One that embraces the sacred feminine, or that masculine and feminine can’t be understood without each other, would find accusations that “religious institutions” are anti-women to be absurd.

        And the problem is, it’s necessarily going to have a chilling effect on contributions from those people. Who’s going to join in a conversation when you have to spend the first half defending yourself against accusations that have nothing to do with anything you believe? The next time the topic of “religious holidays” comes up, how many people will simply assume that this blog means Christian holidays–because “religious institutions” obviously means Christian ones?

        It’s a minor irk to me–I get what people are saying, and I always strive to respond to the meaning of a statement, not the literal words it uses (as a strict Descriptivist I sort of have to)–but a lot of people view things differently and you can expect, when you use language that tells people “You don’t matter”, that those people will occasionally politely request that you not do so.

  50. a clockwork lemon*

    OP- you work for a single-sex religious institution. It sucks that this is the landscape, but until and unless your school becomes fully co-ed, nothing is going to change. You’re looking at 100+ years (probably more like 500+, based on some educated guesses about private religious education in the US) of deeply entrenched religious dogma before even getting into the particular institutional culture of your school.

    As other people have said, your best bet is to either job hunt or start a separate event. People can have all sorts of debates about fairness and equality and patriarchy but at the end of the day, you’re starting from a baseline where women are deliberately and explicitly excluded on purpose and this type of exclusion is as core institutional value.

  51. TurkeyChili*

    I think this is pretty straightforwardly a work issue, not just a social one. Surely at least some of the administrators have gone on this trip themselves (and probably with current staff!) There’s probably not much OP can do to change this (and she may even risk retaliation if she raises the issue), but she clearly has standing to take this to the administration.

  52. Throwaway Account*

    There was an update recently with a person who started a campaign to change the perception of a bully who yelled and ranted after the bosses gave up addressing his behavior. The OP started saying things like, “Frank is so emotional, I cannot understand him when he gets like that.” And other things that were true and also painted Frank’s behavior as the problem it was. Soon everyone started saying the same things and Frank cut back or left or whatever.

    Maybe this OP can do something similar? When the trip is mentioned, start saying, “yeah, I know how hard it is for those of you who go on the trip to interact in real life.” Or, ” I don’t know how you all manage to function all year, you find it so hard to interact and connect and work at the same time.” Or things like that. Paint the trip as something men need because of their deficits (but things that are true but not mean). I don’t think I got the tone or words right, but I hope my meaning is clear.

    It might not change much but it would give you practice in saying something and it might make you feel better to see it in this light.

  53. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    I don’t think there’s room for legal pressure on this one. But there can be peer pressure. I’d just drop a well-placed comment making the implication that naturally the people who go on the trip are not the ones I trust very much or the ones I see as responsible every now and again.

    This has to be done with a very light touch and as a comment made “in passing” so anyone who wants to know more has to ask for it.

    (And, yeah, it also needs to be true: I really do consider going on an annual gender-segregated work camping trip a red flag.)

  54. BirdJinks*

    “But it feels as though women are simply valued less”

    your entire organization/employer values women less.

  55. Badger*

    Can anyone help me square this advice with the previous advice about the Barbie movie? Is it just about gender (i.e. the historical pervasiveness of discrimination against women vs the historical advantages that men have had) or is it something more?

    I have a friend with whom I discuss AAM, and I can just imagine them objecting to the (seeming) contradiction. These two events seem radically different to me, but I can’t quite figure out how to explain it in a way that doesn’t just sound like I’m saying “female-only events good, male-only events bad.”

    Barbie (women & LGBT event):
    “If you’re arranging a private social event that (1) isn’t in any way work-sponsored and (2) you’re not inviting some people you manage while leaving others out and (3) you’re not part of the organization’s senior leadership, you should be fine. All three of those caveats are really important though.”

    Camping (male-only event):
    “It’s injecting sex and gender into a sphere it doesn’t belong in. Sex and gender can matter very much in some situations; they are not supposed to matter in work relationships and at work social events.”
    “There’s a reason networking with coworkers is valuable, and they’re cutting you out of it in a big way … They are literally creating a boy’s club where all the men who work together will get to know and trust each other more, and they are deliberately excluding women from that.”

    1. Yes And*

      Not to discount the historical pervasiveness of discrimination against women (which is very real), but ALSO, there is a big difference between a movie outing and a multi-day camping trip; between a one-time event and an annual tradition; and between current employees only and including emeriti and until recently leadership.

      1. Sleve*

        This. The Barbie movie was a brief one-off event, where the whole primary purpose involves not talking to each other. If the letter writer’s male colleagues had got together once to see Oppenheimer and that was it, no trend, she presumably wouldn’t be writing in. It’s the decade-plus trend that causes the harm. Organising yearly women’s-only movie and bonding weekends also be a problem, and nobody here seems to be saying otherwise.

    2. Dev_Advo*

      I don’t quite understand it either. When OP brought it up to her colleagues they asked if she would want to go and when she said “No” they were like “what is the issue?”. If OP said yes and they were like sorry is “boys only” it would be problematic.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      I don’t know if I can articulate it the best, but you can google for better language. There’s value in historical minorities or groups historically discriminated against having a group or place to be without members of majority groups, but an all male camping trip is just an old boys club leaving out the women.

      It’s why we need Black history month, Pride month, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, and there’s no white history month. It’s why you have groups to support and advocate for minorities in a company or industry, but male special interest groups are a problem.

    4. nnn*

      It’s what AAM wrote in the comments on the Barbie movie post: “Organizing spaces for marginalized folks is a part of social justice work and people have a right to do it.” Organizing spaces for a privileged group to keep out the marginalized folks is an another thing entirely.

    5. MissElizaTudor*

      We live under patriarchy and reinforcing that (this letter) is bad. Creating spaces that are in opposition to patriarchy or that are safer for people harmed most by patriarchy (the Barbie letter) is good.

    6. Jessica*

      I don’t believe this question is in good faith, but:

      Power relations matter.

      When the entire world functions as a white men’s networking group, having an explicitly white-men only networking group is not the same as having an explicitly women-only or POC-only networking group designed to counterbalance all the non-explicit exclusion those groups face.

      If we’re trying to see what’s happening over a 5′ tall fence, and you’re 6′ tall, and I’m 5′ tall, and someone gives me a 1′ stool to stand on so I too can see over the fence, you’re not being oppressed because no one gave you a stool.

  56. Dev_Advo*

    Is it really exclusionary? This may be a very unpopular opinion, but it sounds like this was a just a camping trip that has grown over the years. If OP asked to go would they say “No”? If so that would be a problem. Additionally, if this was paid for by the school or attended by senior leadership and excluded women then this would be an issue.

    To me this is equivalent to if the men formed a softball league with other schools and OP didn’t like softball so she wants the softball team disbanded or instead play soccer.

    If you want to join this experience then ask to join it if not then let it go and let others have fun.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Yes because as the LW says “Women are not invited and would be prohibited from attending.”

    2. Dawn*

      Yes, it’s obviously exclusionary. This really isn’t a matter of opinion, popular or otherwise; it’s factually, objectively exclusionary.

    3. Lily Potter*

      It really is exclusionary. Unfortunately, people are allowed to be exclusionary in their personal lives, and hang out with who they want when they’re off the clock.

    4. Jessica*

      Exhibit #19305861389506109 of people from a privileged group insisting that if something isn’t *intended* to be exclusionary, it can’t possibly be exclusionary.

      “We’ve traditionally held our annual planning meeting at this country club that excludes Jews. I don’t know why our Jewish VP is upset that she can’t attend. We’re not intentionally TRYING to exclude her!”

      1. Lily Potter*

        The exclusionary factor on this one is hardly hidden.
        It’s intended to be for one group only.
        And in these particular circumstances (no formal organizational recognition or financial support, no management attendance) there’s nothing that excluded individuals can do about it. People get to hang out with who they want when they’re off the clock.

        1. Jessica*

          Yes, people GET to hang out with whoever they want when they’re off the clock.

          That doesn’t mean that it’s ethical for them to do so, when their hangout functions as professional networking and bonding.

          Like, pretending that just because something isn’t technically an on-the-clock, in-the-office work event, it doesn’t have implications for promotions, opportunities, perceptions of competence, etc. in the workplace is so wildly disingenuous that I sort of suspect you’re trolling.

  57. Duckyyy*

    I’ll provide an alternate viewpoint as I think I may be one of the few men in the comments.

    I think we can all agree that ‘safe-spaces’ are a welcome addition to society. The idea that a group of like individuals can get together to share experience and provide advice each other around a shared identity definitely provides benefits for that group. And possibly for society at large.

    Lots of people out there aren’t comfortable sharing things with ‘out-groups’, I don’t think a women’s only group would be all that comfortable sharing things with men around and men are no different. The same could be said for any number of LGBQT2S+ groups out there.

    This group of men seems to have a lot of shared identities that probably extend beyond work, they may go to the same church (being a religious school) and have known some of the retirees for decades, who knows, they may have held a mentorship like role for some of the attendees.

    What these men are doing is just a group bonding trip, I’ve been going on things like theses for years, mind you they haven’t been an all work gathering, although there would be groups of guys who work together. Work is hardly ever talked about in my experience, usually the empty platitudes of how’s things going, let them vent for a bit, then they reciprocate and we move on to things that are more important in life. I’ve seen these types events evolve over the 20+ years I have been going, a lot less blowing off steam and a lot more conversations circling around life. Mostly guys talking about their kids and now grandkids (woof, I’m getting old), life in the community, etc. Almost like a bunch of elders passing along knowledge to younger versions of themselves.

    Looking at the younger generations that attend, they behave/act in a different matter than I/we did at that age. And that’s a good thing, a lot more open and vulnerable about their experiences. I can’t help but think it’s because of these types of bonding experiences where they can learn what masculinity means this day in age has helped us move away from the old stereotypes of being a rough-gruff man who takes care of everything and bottles up all emotions, yada yada.

    From personal experience, I know I have benefited from theses types of get togethers, I’m a better husband and friend because of them (juries still out on employee). I have some friends that have gone through rough divorces and being with a group of guys you can talk with definitely helped them get through difficult times. I don’t think they would have been so open had someone from an “out-group” been there, I can’t say for certain. Your male colleagues seem to enjoy them as well and get some benefit out of it. To some, it’s the week they look forward to all year, the less alcohol is a positive development as well.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that this experience appears to be a positive one for this group, I’m not sure taking it away by trying to get it shut down is net positive outcome for all stakeholders. Obviously the group would suffer, which does include some of your friends, you’ll have to accept that they will resent you for a looonnnnnggg time if you shut it down. Shutting it down will only provide a marginal benefit for yourself, you weren’t going go anyway, there is a small chance that these men will network less and your professional standing increase relative to theirs, or theirs’s decline’s relative to yours, depending on how you look at it, assuming this is a networking event.

    I would suggest building some other event or creating something new instead of destroying something already in place. Assuming this event has positive outcomes for those involved, just leave it alone, if its some nazi-right-wing recruitment camp, then yeah, burn it to the ground, but that’s doubtful given it’s a bunch of educators.

    Just my 2 cents.

    1. Jessica*

      “I don’t like the idea of men having to give up one iota of their power.”

      There. Summarized that long screed for you.

      1. Duckyyy*

        Thanks for the insightful comment.

        Not sure where I mentioned anything about power, but the power dynamic in this case as is in most cases is the line drawn between the admin and the employees. Not between men and women.

    2. Lily Potter*

      No doubt in my mind that commenters are going to skewer you Ducky. And I’m sorry for that. You’re allowed your opinion.

      For the record, it’s an opinion I agree with. Men don’t form friendships as easily as women, and male-bonding trips are an organized way to sustain friendship bonds.

      I’ve said it a number of times on this thread – people are allowed to socialize with who they want after working hours. And if that means an all-mens weekend, so be it.

      1. nnn*

        And what of the harm done to women by organizing those events within a professional sphere? These men could seek their male bonding outside a business networking context.

        1. Lily Potter*

          Any smaller group/clique that hangs out together, by definition, excludes someone.

          If this were a men-only group hanging out together during business hours and intentionally excluding women, we’re talking about a whole different thing. But these are a group of men that are hanging out together after hours, on their own time. The workplace doesn’t get to dictate what happens after 5:00.

          1. nnn*

            Sure they do. There are numerous things that a workplace would be entitled, morally and legally, to intervene in like sexual harassment of coworkers, race-based hostility, and other discriminatory behavior that reverberates at work.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        The Boy Clubbers suck. However, imo as a matter of principle, employers should stay out of what their workers do in their free time except in the most egregious cases, such as attending far-right rallies. Employers already control 7+ hours, Mon-Fri, for 40 years of our lives.

        When workers organise an exclusive annual social event like this, the employer should react by organising & funding some annual optional quality fun bonding events. This should considerably reduce the networking power of the Boys Only Club and hopefully help it to wither away.

    3. RagingADHD*

      The thing is, the only good / not-work-based reason I can think of for this group to be exclusively comprised of coworkers (rather than family members, outside friends, etc) would be if none of them have any other close relationships.

      That’s hardly healthy. You don’t see a problem with reinforcing the notion that men’s social support and masculinity should be / have to revolve entirely around their career? Or that their work relationships should be their primary source of emotional support?

      I mean, that’s a mess of ill defined boundaries in every direction.

      1. Duckyyy*

        Surely people can have close relationships within and outside of work? We spend a majority of lives there, we will meet some lifelong friends in the process, or in my case my wife.

        I never said anything to the effect of where they find their primary source of emotional support nor about revolving ones life around their career. I merely stated that it’s okay for men to get together and bond as it yields positive benefits for that group.

        1. Silver Robin*

          but historical patterns matter, Duckyyy.

          Listen, I agree that it is really important for men to have genuine friendships where they can bond and rely on each other to get through difficult emotions and celebrate each other when stuff goes well. Men figuring out their feelings is a huge deal!! If this were “all the guys I know from college/synagogue/hobby group/etc do a trip together each year”, I would not actually be mad about it. Go have your dude spaces and talk to each other, that is great stuff! (Question stands on whether that is what this group is doing…are they really not gossiping about the women? Rowdy drinking does not make me think “genuine heartfelt connections where we support each other’s mental health journeys, but everyone does things their own way.)

          But here we have a group where ALL THE MEN from the SAME WORKPLACE hang out together. The men being more closely bonded and helping each other out more *at work* (which is key here! your examples were not ones where everyone is from the same workplace) is producing a sexist impact, because women are not given the same consideration. And only because they are women. Women are not allowed in this group, made up of exclusively men from exclusively the same workplace, so they cannot ever benefit from it.

          The term (old) boys club did not come out of nowhere. And it specifically speaks to how informal networks like this create disparate impacts. Women are unable to breach that divide and all the small bits of consideration due to those stronger bonds add up. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

          You say OP has the rest of the year to hang out with her coworkers, and sure, she does. And. It is disingenuous not to notice how the context of this specific situation creates a heck of a lot of sexist ick.

          1. Duckyyy*

            I think the term old boys club refers to a group of men in power who insulate themselves and keep out-groups from joining. OP is friends with some of the men that go, so it’s not as though this persistent structural divide in her workplace. Are a bunch of teachers who get together in the woods an old boys club? I’m leaning towards no. A group of all male admin in the woods, with the female admin excluded? Absou-F’in-lutely.

            They aren’t the ones in power, the admin is the power group in this context and they do not attend. Nor does OP think that this has any affect on networking opportunities. So it’s kind of a moot point in this context. If it were another context where admin was there and there was clear line between attending this event and workplace advancement, then yeah, I’d agree with you, but as she has stated, this is not the case.

            Also, I’ve seen in a few comments, including yours that a group of men would be fine getting together if they were part of a college/synagogue/hobby group and I’d like to ask how is that any different? Would there not be an out-group within those groups that would be excluded as well? If this were a website for people of a college/synagogue/hobby group and they asked the same question with the setting being college/synagogue/hobby group would you give different advice and say it was okay? I don’t see those situations as particularly different either then the involvement of one’s livelihood.

            I think this is an agree to disagree situation. Had the men conferred some exclusive advantage from attending that the women and other men (she only said 40, she didn’t say all) who didn’t attend I’d be on everyone else’s side. But the advantage is speculation at best, they might help each other more is all that anyone can assume given the info provided, or maybe they aware of the biases in society and take consideration to counteract those imbalances on the other days of the year?


    4. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      I doubt the number of men in the comments is as small as you think.

      Yes, the men going on the trip are bonding. The fact that they are bonding in a way that excludes and others women is gross. It’s not against the law, but still gross. If they were just a group of friends, it would be different. But as things are, the trip has a negative effect on their coworkers. Bonding this way, in this particular context, reinforces a lot of the inequities people experience under patriarchy.

      Men bonding is great. Men who are coworkers bonding at the expense of other coworkers is less great. I (a man) would not be confident that those who choose to go on such a trip will exercise good judgement in the workplace.

      1. Dawn*

        I suspect it’s probably more accurate to suggest that the number of men in the comments who share the poster’s views is vanishingly small, which they equate with “there must not be very many men here!”

      2. Duckyyy*

        I don’t think that the idea that they are bonding at the expense of their co-workers has sufficiently been made nor that it has some negative affect on OP’s career. In a legal-like sense, what is the harm that has occured?

        She’s been excluded and no body like being excluded, along any line. I’d be miffed as well. But now she has a free weekend and doesn’t have to do something she wouldn’t enjoy nor wanted to do anyway.

        But like you said, you would not be confident for those men to make good judgements in the workplace, and what makes you think that those administrators would think any different from you? So in that context, how would this help to advance their careers over OP’s?

    5. Sleve*

      Yes, these sorts of things are really good and healthy for men to do. But, with respect, that doesn’t mean that one’s colleagues are the right people to do it with. If this group disbands, those involved haven’t been banned from forming the exact same connections with their soccer team, D&D group, pottery class, the guys at the dog park etc.

      When you bond with people, you like them more. That’s the point. So now the letter writer’s colleagues like each other more than her. Even if she’s actually really cool and into a lot of the same hobbies as some of them, they won’t have the same chance to find out. And when you like people more, you help them more. So the letter writer doesn’t get helped in the same way as the men. Then she has to work harder at the same job and in hundreds of little ways her work is seen as ‘not as good’; because she doesn’t get to have the the little random ‘Oh, do you want a hand with that?’ interactions that her male colleagues have. That’s how men have developed a reputation for being more competent at everything than women. By thousands upon thousands of minute helping interactions, so small and subtle that they’re not noticed by helper or helpee. They add up, like sand on a beach.

      I agree with you, these male bonding events are extremely important, to the point of being vital for many men. But that doesn’t mean that we need to sacrifice working women in order to provide them.

      1. Duckyyy*

        I find that to be such a selfish take, this “it doesn’t help me thus it shouldn’t exist”. It helps someone. Are they less important?

        And, this is one week and one event, they haven’t excluded OP from life, there are roughly 50 other weekends of the year and the 50 other work weeks of the year where she can interact with them.

  58. Office Drone*

    I used to work for a religious nonprofit. For many years, the men bonded over basketball at lunch. They’d go out, get sweaty, walk around the office in their damp tees and shorts until management insisted on immediate showers (showers provided on-site), and brag and back-slap over their prowess. It got to the point that they’d joke that a man couldn’t get hired there if he didn’t play basketball.

    Meanwhile, women on staff weren’t formally excluded. One or two tried playing. But it became obvious that women weren’t welcome. The men didn’t like that they assumed they couldn’t play as hard if women joined in (even if the women were strong athletes). Women eventually quit trying to join. Some of them tried to organize teas or game hours after work. Never noticing that they had to stay late for their “ladies events” while men played basketball at lunchtime. None of the Ladies Stuff ever gained the popularity of lunchtime basketball and petered out.

    I kept quiet, didn’t play basketball, and rarely participated in the Ladies Stuff. But it rankled because I knew it was a male-dominated company where the men bonded over basketball. The women’s events didn’t matter in the same way because it was very clear that the women didn’t matter.

  59. DameB*

    OP — not sure this is possible given all things but maybe start organizing speakers and workshops and other things around gender equality, feminism, etc. If it’s a religious school, find a woman in that religion who speaks about women’s roles (in a reasonable and non icky way). See if you can get a budget for inclusivity workshops, etc. I mean, this isn’t going to end the tradition. AT ALL. But it can start laying the ground work for a change in culture. It sucks that you gotta be the one to do the work but… someone’s gotta do it.

  60. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    Sometimes the women on my team (some current co-workers, some former) will get together for dinner and talk about kids and careers and whatever else. (Non-work-sponsored.) I know it’s not a multi-night camping trip, but is this exclusionary? Sometimes it’s just nice to be with other women and talk about women things, and work has been a source of friendships. I would imagine the men feel the same way. If I heard that the men on my team arranged a ball game or something, I don’t think I would feel left out. I know from talking to my husband how difficult it can be for men to make connections with one another, and they probably appreciate a safe space to talk to other men. (As long as it’s not derogatory, which it sounds like this event is no longer.)

  61. I'm only surprised that you're surprised*

    Will never understand how women who willingly work within the disgusting ideology inherent to the vast majority of religious education then have surprised Pikachu face when the environment is misogynistic. Duh. That’s what you are supporting with your blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a feature, not a bug.

    1. Florence Reece*

      Goodness. Sorry that I need money to live? I try to dismantle that system but, darn it, oppressive military forces just keep shutting me down!

      In the meantime, thank the stars that women can continue being mistreated because they should know better than to expect anything else! Quiet, women, you knew this was coming! /s

    2. Sleve*

      For some women who were born into this environment, married into it, have all of their friends and family within it, and live in states or countries surrounded by it, there is no choice. It’s that or not work at all. Let’s support them to make their environment better through society-wide pressure on their oppressors instead of blaming the victims, shall we?

    3. metadata minion*

      I see nothing in the letter to indicate the writer is surprised. She’s frustrated, and the only way entrenched power imbalances are going to change is if people push back on them, even when they’re not surprised the injustice is there. (Not to say the LW should feel responsible to do so in this specific situation! I just get really frustrated with the “why are you surprised people are assholes?” reaction. I’m not surprised; I’m angry and frustrated and sick of it.)

    4. Jessica*

      “Gosh, why would anyone continue to engage with their own culture when it isn’t perfect?”

      I have news for you about the WASP-derived American monoculture that shapes every public institution we have, including public schools.

  62. Boof*

    Well, they overtly exclude women so this event is, by definition, sexist. And of course that feels crappy. Your feelings around this are very valid/justified.
    The hard question is what, if anything, to do about it? If you were actually a camping enthusiast I’d say try to start agitating to go (especially since it sounds like some of your colleagues might be supportive of that) and rallying a group of women.
    Since you do not, in fact, want to go camping, I’m not as sure. The best I can come up with (aside from leaving) is organizing your own event that sounds better and inviting everyone, including all the women, and see who starts to migrate over to your event. IDK if that’s something female coded like a spa day, or way more neutral, or a multiday trip/activity like what they’re doing or just a short event like a picnic. But basically something you would enjoy doing with other coworkers, especially folks who don’t regularly attend this event, would wnat to do. That’s the best I can come up with besides loudly saying to anyone who mentions a men-only event “Wow, that sounds really sexist, why can’t women attend?”

    1. Boof*

      have this other event at the same time as the camping trip, by the way. Like a clear line in the sand. “hey, if you don’t want to be sexist come here” haha

  63. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    When social events are not organised or sponsored by the employer, not during working hours or on work premises, it’s very difficult for employers to forbid their employees to attend.

    e..g. N0thing could be done if most employees and especially senior staff attend the same church every Sunday. Probably far more bonding on those 52 days per year plus all the additional church activities than on the one annual event described by the OP.
    Those who belong to a different religion or none would seriously miss out on networking/bonding.

    I suggest the OP job hunts at normal, inclusive organisations, because her current employer is a poor fit for the OP or anyone not male and the right flavour of God Squad.

  64. Tedious Cat*

    Your coworkers suck and aren’t going to change. Use the energy you’d spend on this to find a new, less sexist job, because I can’t imagine this is a good place to work.

  65. So Tired*

    I think the non-males should go axe-throwing and have a great time. And when the men ask to join in at a future event, they should be told that they probably wouldn’t enjoy it.

  66. Boof*

    Wonder if all the folks thinking this is no biggie would feel the same if this was a “whites only” social camping event, or “heterosexuals only” event. Cuz that’s about as bigoted as a mens only camping event as far as i can tell.

    1. seriously, please stop this style of comparison*

      It’s nice if you can operate in this world where this comparison is straightforward and makes sense, but these sort of comparisons are highly problematic and assume we walk around with a singular identity. It also ignores the actual situation & context.

      You could have said, “This is discriminatory on the basis of sex” and moved right along.

      1. Boof*

        I honestly don’t understand why this bigoted behavior is acceptable and others aren’t. They’re not going to a nude beach, they’re going camping! Why are women not allowed, and please do tell me why that’s different than banning another type of person? Why is anyone in this day and age ok with saying that out loud?
        I’m actually a bit annoyed at folks who compared it to the letter with the LW who didn’t want to shut up her dog. This is REALLY DIFFERENT then someone who didn’t want to make space for someone who doesn’t like dogs in their own home at an extremely not work centered event; this is excluding a whole group of people, based on a characteristic that would be protected, from a very large and repeating group social event even if it’s an unofficial one.
        So yes it’s a bit of hyperbole I guess, I know the comparison isn’t perfect, but neither is comparing it to a dogs-friendly event. And I am genuinely wanting to hear why it’s more acceptable than excluding people based on another common physical characteristic.

  67. Sleve*

    Any chance you might have a supportive member of senior staff who would be willing to point out how shamefully un-Christlike this behaviour is?

    There are plenty of New Testament examples of Jesus actively including women in his gatherings at a time when this wasn’t common, to the point where many of parables about Jesus feature women at the very centre, ensuring that the reader won’t just assume that the gathering was all male. Furthermore, Alison’s second paragraph has plenty of examples of how this holding this camp is not just being ‘unfair’, but actively harming women. Hurting people is flagrantly un-Christlike behaviour.

    And, look, maybe they were sinning unintentionally. It happens. But once they’ve been shown the stone tablet, it’s time to put away the golden calf of boys camp and repent of the harm they’re causing. The letter writer won’t have the social capital to teach the male staff this, this is Christian mentorship stuff that will only be listened to from an authority. Christianity is very hierarchical. But if there’s a well regarded ally on senior staff (or a sympathetic Pastor if they’re all from the same church) who would be willing to convey the message, there’s a decent chance that it might sink in.

    There’s a LOT problems around stuff to do with shame in Christian culture, but there are some things that it’s right to be ashamed of, and continuing to cause serious harm to people when you could just, like, not…. that’s pretty shameful.

    1. Sleve*

      I’d be curious to hear from anyone with a specifically Christian background (past or present) on other ways to point out the issues with the camp from within a Christian framework? I suspect those ideas will be the ones that OP will be most likely to be able to do something with.

      Also, may I politely suggest that anyone with issues about Christian culture please join in with some of the other threads above discussing the topic instead of this one? I’m aware that religion is highly aggravating for some, but we can keep it in this thread and hopefully help OP at the same time without making her feel attacked.

  68. Wendy*

    Instead of thinking about what man wants regarding this issue, think about how would God want us *general us* to handle this situation.

    God gave all of us free will

    However, there are consequences to our using free will

    The above applies to everyone

  69. Luna (the other one)*

    Do any of you think it’s ever appropriate for coworkers to organize single-gender social activities? Because I work at an elementary school where most of the employees are women, and the small number of men do a semi-regular “guys’ night,” and none of the women have ever expressed any displeasure about it. Maybe it feels ok because even though we are intentionally inclusive, and equity is very important in our community, we all understand there are still some challenges with being a male in a female-dominated profession, so we sympathize with their desire to bond and support each other? Or maybe it’s because we also have lots of other social activities, both school sponsored and not, where everyone is included. Men even come to the baby showers. And, there are other informal gatherings that are only for certain groups, like the Spanish department will all have lunch together during our training days so they can relax and speak their native tongue without worrying about translating for the rest of us. So maybe it doesn’t feel like unfair discrimination if it’s a group that is in the minority? Or is there another factor that makes these groups feel like they’re ok?

    1. Boof*

      I think it’s very reasonable to have focused events, just not EXCLUSIVE events. Can women come to the “Guys night” if they want to, acknowledging that the focus is on “guys” because they tend to be the minority in that group? OK! If they “guys” regularly get together and, IDK, go to strip clubs or something, that is way too much info about what they are up to being shared at work

  70. Anonymous for This*

    I’m a lifelong feminist and I wouldn’t care about this at all.

    This is something that a group of people do on their own. It is not sponsored by the employer and the bosses do not attend.

    To me it is nothing like those golf outings where the guys get to go out and spend hours with the bosses while the women have to stay in the office and pick up the slack while also losing oit on the opportunity to get to know the people in charge.

    I don’t want employers to be that involved with what employees do on their own time and in their personal lives. It sounds too much like mom telling the siblings that they all have to play together.

  71. Cabin Fever*

    I dunno…this feels distincly like, if the sexes were reversed, letter writer would be shouted down for daring question the “ladies weekend.” But maybe I’m wrong.

    1. Boof*

      I may be in the minority here, but I find “ladies only” mildly gross too. It depends a lot on the degree though; “ladies interest/coded” ok (meaning, anyone can attend, but the focus is going to be on things feminine). Similarly, I actually wouldn’t mind a “mens focus group” (and yes I can visualize the comments now “you mean everything else?” etc but no, maybe we should start assuming everything else is gender neutral and therefor it is reasonable to have some sub interest group for any gender). That being said, these should be pretty open things that anyone can watch attend, not some secret gripe fest and not a “safe space” because, I think work is really not the right forum for a private “safe space” to vent; it’s supposed to be work focused. And if folks want to have their own mini things in private they can theoretically do whatever they want, but if it becomes a big enough thing that coworkers know about it, and it’s got bigoted underpinnings, well that IS a work problem.
      FWIW I am female and have long preferred things that used to a lot more male oriented (martial arts, comics, etc), I was used to a lot of casual sexism but I’m just kind of done with it at this point. If I knew half my coworkers went on a private mens only camping trip once a year it would honestly skeeve me out a bit.

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