Today I read an article about a woman who decided to ditch the heels, dresses and manicures at work; picking loose, non-gender specific clothing instead. She’d even dyed her hair from blonde to brown, and thrown away her contacts in favour for glasses.
All well and good. Dress code considering, I believe we should all be allowed to wear what makes us feel most comfortable and confident at work.
Except this woman had changed her appearance in order to be taken “more seriously” at work – and so that men wouldn’t “hit on” her.
It was very likely designed for exactly this purpose, but the entire interview just, quite simply, made me angry.
To think that girls who enjoy experimenting with hair colour, trying out new make-up, wearing nice clothes, shouldn’t be viewed as seriously as those who fit the “nerd” stereotype of glasses, brown hair and flat shoes.
To think we should try and dress as plainly as possible so men won’t fancy us.
Look, if men want to fancy us, they will. You’re very unlikely to avoid attention altogether whatever you wear, be it sandals and plain brown trousers or towering red heels and a pencil skirt.
The first irritating example that jumps to mind is popular kids’ show Scooby Doo. Think of Velma, she wears a big turtleneck sweater, flat brown shoes, and sports large glasses and a brown bob. She’s intelligent though, isn’t she? She’s the “smart one” of the group. And Daphne, she’s tall and graceful with lovely red hair, pink lips and purple heels. She’s in the gang but is she just there as Fred’s girlfriend? As she’s definitely not portrayed as the clever clogs.
But why can’t we have both? Why can’t I have nice blonde hair, wear make-up, don my favourite pair of heels but ALSO be a smart and well-put-together journalist?
“I want to be seen as a business leader and not as a sexual object” says Eileen Carey, this woman (CEO even) who’s changed her entire appearance to avoid being flirted with at work, and to make her investors feel “more comfortable”.
To be honest Eileen, if someone is going to view you as a “sexual object” that’s their problem. Shut it down. Don’t hide yourself away because you’re afraid of what people think. How does a person even reach a CEO position with that type of concern?
And if a male investor has an issue with a blonde businesswoman, then he really needs to take a long, hard look at his life.
When I hopefully one day have a daughter, I never want her to hide her individuality. If she wants to be a CEO, I’d absolutely hate her to think she needs to keep her hair and clothes plain so “men won’t hit on her”.
My mother’s favourite line to me is “what other people think of you is none of your business”. I’ve probably mentioned this a few times already in my blog, but it’s an important statement to me. It’s one I make sure I remember, if nothing else.
Maybe Eileen Carey should adopt that motto now and then.
If you want to read the full story – titled “100 women – I dye my hair brown to be taken more seriously at work” – have a look here.
What are your thoughts?