Posted in Gender

Hi, So What Do You Do?

I know I’ve been fairly critical of feminism and women’s attitudes towards men in most of my posts in the last few months. Sorry lads, but you don’t get off lightly either. Unlike feminists and MRAs, I’m not averse to criticising my own gender in the name of unity and protecting fragile collective egos. Nor am I one to engage in groupthink.

We can be just as bad at the reductionist attitude towards our fellow men as women are to each other, and as women are towards us. We can be just as bad at judging the entirety of a person based on just one key aspect of their person. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the question we always ask each other, always the first thing we ask each other and subsequently, what most of our conversation will be with that person.

Picture the scene. You’re at a party and introduced to a friend of a friend – could be an old school friend, a uni mate, a colleague – doesn’t matter. You nod politely, shake hands (or say “alright mate?” and raise an eyebrow) and then one of you speaks. The first question that comes out of that person’s mouth is nearly always “what do you do?” It’s never “how do you know each other?” “Where are you from?” “How long have you known each other?” “Oh look, we’re wearing the same shirt, I guess great minds think alike!” It’s not even “You’re not a (insert football team of choice) fan like him are you?” (though most conversations between two men here in England will inevitably turn to football at some point!)

No, It’s always a question about what you do for a living. It’s also more polite than “what car do you drive and how much do you earn?” but is akin to the same thing.

For many I’m sure it’s just innocuous, an innocent icebreaker and nothing more. Sometimes we want to know if they have an interesting job rather than simply one that is well paid. We men are not usually a chatty bunch and what we do is often the easiest way to get talking. Either way, we define each other by our jobs. Sometimes it’s followed up with “does that pay well?” as if nothing else matters. This is not always the case because there are certain answers that get envious looks, even when they know or suspect it doesn’t pay well. Usually, telling them you are self-employed gets that reaction.

And probably that you work in porn 😉 (no, I don’t btw)

Why do we do it? Are we not more than our jobs? Are we not more than our achievements? Are we not more than success objects?

From one perspective, it’s benevolent sexism just like asking a woman where she got her dress as though nothing else matters – who she is, what else she does etc. If that man says he works in McDonalds, you are likely to have a lower opinion of him.

I have never been so happy since I chose to walk away from a dead-end job in which I could never feel fulfilled, and the funny thing is for one client I am getting to use my qualifications in a way I never could foresee. Doing so has helped me grow as a person and see many things much more clearly.

As men, we need to start realising that personal fulfilment is more important than money. Let’s stop doing it to each other and maybe society (and women) will stop doing it to us. Food for thought guys – you are more than your paycheque.



I go by the name of Frank Speaking. My blog "In the Mind of Men" (former name Chin Up, Chest High) started out as a chronicle of my mental health recovery. Now it is a forum where I discuss issues related to male mental health.

5 thoughts on “Hi, So What Do You Do?

  1. Sadly, it’s not any different here in the States. “What do you do?” is a typical icebreaker here for both men and women. The way the question is phrased and even the way we typically phrase our answers (“Well I am a…”) suggests that we are defined by our occupations. I used to think this was a uniquely American issue, as if America is the only materialistic society in the world, but clearly this is simply the world we love in today.

    1. If it ever was a uniquely American issue, it’s not any more. I’ve become very conscious of it since finishing my degree and mixing with more middle class people.

      Though I do enjoy the envy I receive at being self-employed. It does surprise me when I say to people “getting by but getting there”, just how much more are also increasingly impressed by anybody who starts their own business. So, it’s not entirely about materialism, we’re starting to recognise the importance of feeling rewarded too – rather than simply work for work’s sake.

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