Dec 4, 2008

The politics of clothing oneself at the office

Why can the men in my office come into work with an opened neck shirt when the women are required to wear jewellery and make-up? Talk about a double standard. Of course there is no specific obligation to dress a certain way. The organisation I work for is very accepting but I feel the eyes of judgement on me when I reject the "woman as decorative" mindset and wear whatever I damn well please.

At staff meetings, I want to scream at the glances I get. Yes I am a woman. Yes I am not wearing make-up. Yes I am not wearing jewellery. No you cannot fucking judge me, especially not in your open toed hippie sandals and an open necked shirt with stains. My body is not public property.

The decorative role of women is demeaning. I reject the standards set by society but I still feel the humiliation of non-compliance. In a casual office setting, all should be set to the same standard. If men can come in dressed without ties, then women should be able to come in without earrings.

I understand that office professional is in vogue all over the world. I understand the politics of interviewing for the job. I wear earrings at most of my jobs but here I wear a motorbike helmet and often lose earrings putting it on and taking it off. It is a practical consideration in addition to a feminist equality rant.

Now I'm not dissing the "look good, feel good" point of view. At home I dress up cos it makes me feel good but I'm in development Hell now. Here one is always sweating; one's tailor can never get the clothes exactly right; security warns you not to wear jewellery because of thieves (one does anyway); one feels so far from home that fashion is the least consideration.

My work clothes are perfectly acceptable, but I lack accessories. I also lack the money to sparkle myself up, which I can live with. I prefer to spend my extra cash on books and entertainment, especially considering my job.

Nobody sees me in my office where I am hidden behind huge piles of paper. Why should I wear heels when nobody can see my sneakers? Why wear make up when it will, firstly, sweat off and, secondly, get mixed up with the twenty years of dust I blow of each piece of paper? A little practicality please!

The only dress code is in the judging eyes of my co workers. I will continue to ignore it but I do wonder... Will my dress sense work against me? Will my boss remember my sneakers when he's writing my reference? Will I be always remember as the woman who didn't wear the matching earrings, necklace and bracelet? Maybe I will and if I am, j'emmerde le monde!

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