The disappointing history of how "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" came to include sons

The disappointing history of how "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" came to include sons
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day seems like it should be a harmless, inoffensive, even cute holiday free of any problematics. 

Not so.

As it turns out, the holiday had been conceived as a feminist holiday meant only for parents and their daughters — that is, until a men's rights activist got so angry he took legal action to demand it include sons. 

According to Time, "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" was created in 1993 by Ms. Foundation president emerita Marie Wilson with hopes of giving young girls professional aspirations.

"[The idea came from] Carol Gilligan's research looking at how adolescent girls started to lose their sense of who they were — thinking, talking and saying what they felt," Wilson told Time. "You weren't supposed to question boys. You weren't supposed to know anything, so to speak."

Among Wilson's favorite stories of the inaugural Take Our Daughters to Work Day, was an anecdote of a girl looking around a newsroom and asking, "Why are there only white men here making the news?"

Wilson's feminist vision became dampened in 2002, when men's rights activist Joe Manthey filed a lawsuit against California's Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for allegedly supporting a "sexist event" with government spending.

The New Yorker reported that Manthey's case was dismissed since he wasn't a state employee and couldn't have suffered damages as a result of his allegations. But on top of this legal ordeal, the "daughters" program was having a hard time finding government funds without including boys. 

And so, in 2003, the holiday became "Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day," gaining White House support the following year.

Wilson said the holiday had always been meant to include boys in some measure, but she thought that sons might benefit more from learning about the domestic sphere, rather than the professional one — which they've historically had access to.

"We hoped to do a Take Our Sons Home Day, and we wanted boys to learn about the house, what it's like to be at home, and create a whole curriculum around the issue of two-career families," Wilson told Time

Still, she said it's worth focusing on girls since women still have a long way to go toward equality in the professional arena.

"Originally, we started it to remind adult women of what dreams they had," Wilson added. "And there are still plenty of adult women who are not living out their dreams."

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Marie Solis

Marie is a Slay staff writer with focuses in culture and class. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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