There’s a piece by Amica Lane at the f word about women’s image at work: The professional masquerade:
Women are expected to look a certain way; made up, groomed and well-dressed ‘sexy’ professionals, whereas men are not. Clean-shaven and a simple suit is enough to appear professional and smart.
Although it is a strict requirement to dress a certain way, high-powered businesswomen would certainly face criticism if they voiced these concerns to a male colleague.
“Well, I’m sorry I’m late for the presentation, I had to do my hair.” Not to mention look after the kids, keep the husband entertained, work an 80-hour week in a high-powered job and look like a supermodel at all times.
Thankfully, there isn’t this pressure in editorial in my workplace, but it’s there for most of the company. Outside in the CBD there are two looks: guys in suits, and immaculate women doing ‘sexy professional’. I’m sure part of this is because – for once – women’s work clothes can be cheaper than suits for men. But not if any of it needs dry cleaning.
Anyway, I do have a particular office attire gripe: young women who confuse workplace with nightclub. I know it can be confusing, what with flashing lights, cocktails, desks and photocopiers being found in both places. I’m not saying women don’t have the right to wear what they want, but I think there are some outfits that are inappropriate in some situations. After all, you wouldn’t wear a bikini to your grandfather’s funeral. Or maybe you would. Hmm, I’m getting into dangerous territory here. I think what I’m trying to say is you can look professional without looking ‘sexy professional’. If you want to look ‘sexy professional’ then that’s your choice and your right, but it shouldn’t be the default look.
One place I worked was run by two guys with coke habits. The head of advertising was a grumpy old misogynistic arsehat. You know the type – white hair, big belly, no arse. Yet thought he was God’s gift. When said arsehat would walk into the kitchen and see cups lying around, he’d say “no wonder all the fucking sluts around here never get laid, they can’t keep the kitchen tidy”. He obviously didn’t think very much about his “unlaid sluts” insult. He insisted on a dress code that said women were not allowed to wear shorts because it was distracting (and this was when those long “dress shorts” were in, not the short shorts we see now), but that miniskirts were to be encouraged. Maybe it’s because of this place that I have such an aversion to flesh-flashing in the office. It is the only place I know of where arse grabbing and bra strap flicking still goes on. If you’ve had this happen to you too, please de-lurk and have a rant.
It’s like when you watch Mad Men and realise that the only thing that’s really changed is you can’t smoke at your desk anymore. Where the hell am I going with this?
Back to Lane:
Whilst the archaic practice of making a triviality (such as makeup and wardrobe) a serious job requirement, larger issues such as the wage gap and promotions will continue to suffer as a result.