For the last four years, I have been formulating a theory in my mind that a growing amount of men in my generation have something that I like to call Office Space syndrome. The best way to define it would be a sense of disdain for office life, 9-5 jobs and breadwinning as a signifier of manhood. For awhile I thought this was actually due to the movie Office Space, but now I think it’s more complicated than that.
My theory is that just as women seem to have successfully penetrated the 9-5 workplace, more and more men are losing interest in it, either because it’s no longer a triumphant badge of manhood, or because they’re out in search of some other triumphant badge of manhood, or because manhood is less important than ever and millennial men are revealing that the true nature of man is to pursue his art, 401ks be damned.
The most optimistic way to look at it is that with both sexes around to win the bread, people our age are proving that office life is no longer a signifier of success. More of us are making a living freelancing than ever before. Or DJ-ing. Or being T.V. recappers. Or some other weird job that confuses your dad. Beyond that, gender roles are no longer motivating our careers the way they used to. Now that women don’t have to be homemakers anymore, men are having their own little revolution and pursuing careers other than just those which will provide for the single-income family of yore.
This all seems awesome. We’re excited now. But wait. Despite the exciting breakdown of gender that all of this implies, Office Space syndrome is still a type of male privilege. When I watched that movie (during the recession when I absolutely did not expect to graduate and get a full-time job) it initially read to me as “white men are bored with the workplace structure that white men get to have.” It’s hard to feel bad for them for having an easy, comfortable job that doesn’t happen to be as intellectually stimulating as they like.
To women, working full time is still an exciting, historically novel privilege. As little girls, we were not told that this was our destiny, even in this day and age. We were handed Barbies and told to dream about our wedding day. As teenagers, while guys were applauding Peter Gibbons for saying fuck you to the man, we were making Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” our anthem. (Aside: Peter Gibbons quitting to do construction work at the end of the movie is more of a “return to manhood” than today’s millennial male may crave. For our generation, the movie would get updated with him going all in on his popular video game blog.)
As a lady, it’s a bummer to bust your ass your whole life to get a 9-5 job and a salary and then watch men be so over those things. But as I said before, men (and ladies) abandoning 9-5 life are forging a new, interesting frontier into what a career can be. Running a video game blog is a bad-ass career, so props to Peter Gibbons in my imagined updated version of Office Space. But when men ask you why you don’t just throw your whole 9-5 job aside and follow your passion or dream or destiny or whatever, they’re not realizing that we worked hard to get those jobs, principally, so we would no longer have to rely on them.
So men, just remember that for every Peter Gibbons that is completely bored with his job, there is a woman in the cubicle next to him that is still excited to even be there.
This post originally appeared on The Tangential.