Ah, the scourge of semi-mandatory work fun. Often manifested in the form of after-hours drinks with co-workers, the act of collegial boozing received an unexpected rebuke earlier this month when British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn declared the practice to be discriminatory against female employees.
Reflecting some of the clumsiness that has made him extremely unpopular, Corbyn suggested that after-work socializing “benefits men who don't feel the need to be at home looking after their children and it discriminates against women who will want to, obviously, look after the children that they have got.” His remarks, which were delivered at an event promoting gender equality, prompted a fury—but not because the sentiment itself was sexist, but because some listeners thought Corbyn might be proposing a ban on early evening drinks. “Clearly this was not what Jeremy was suggesting…” went the beginning of a response by a Corbyn spokesperson.
"i'm off for a Corbyn" is defo becoming slang for after work drink #Corbyn— Stuart (@LondonBru) September 3, 2016
The delivery might have been fumbled, but the issue struck a nerve. “True, it was not the most pressing labor issue of our age, but, the thing was, Corbyn was right,” wrote Lauren Collins in The New Yorker this week. “One didn’t want to have to go for a pint with the messenger in order to admit that after-work drinks, second only to working breakfasts, are one of the great nuisances of office life.”
While alcohol can ease the fraught boundaries of work and play, the ritual is a thorny one, particularly for women, who may face everything from double standards, stigmas, and unwanted advances when drinking in the company of work peers. “In one world, drinking women are frowned upon,” Alexandra Chang noted in The Atlantic back in 2013. “In another, women feel just as pressured to drink as men.”