lipstick and high heels
Last week, a woman in the UK got onto the social networks and the news for having been sent home from a temp job, without pay, for refusing to wear high heels as part of the uniform. How things have changed, I thought, when the temp agency, instead of a lengthy, drawn out legal battle, changed their policy after just a few hours of web attention, and now *allow* women to choose not to wear high heels. Oh, how very generous of them.
When I read this, I was surprised that it is still not illegal to oblige a woman to wear high heels at work. I was surprised that it has taken this long for someone to rebel against it. Asking someone who never normally wears high heels to wear them during a work day is like asking someone to keep their their thumbs in a thumb screw and then be nice to customers. I have long since forgotten the pain of childbirth, but I still have the memory of the pain of a pair of high heeled boots that I wore for a night out in 1996.
The world of work requires that everyone looks reasonably turned out for a day in front of other humans, but if you are a woman, well, you have to go the extra mile, and be attractive, sexy and preferably beautiful and blonde. All of this is entirely understandable, really, considering that we really haven’t evolved much in the last 10,000 years, and sex and first impressions are what still sell.
While much of the world wants us to be more feminine, there is a whole swathe of people who want us to be more like the stereotypical man in order for us to be taken into account and to climb the ranks. They want we girls to modify *our* language and behaviour. We are being bombarded by messages from neo-feminists with viral videos and newspaper columns that tell us “don’t say SORRY”, “don’t say ‘I was JUST’”, “be FORTHRIGHT!”, “don’t say ‘I THINK’, just say ‘IT IS!’”, “how come women are BOSSY while men are GOOD MANAGERS?”, etc., etc., etc. At first glance, all these seem like reasonable critiques. Yes, if we want to be heard in a meeting tomorrow morning we may have to come out of our comfort zone and be more forthright, change our language, be more bolshy, be more man-like in our communications (of course, if we plan to do this, we have to have extra prettified ourselves before leaving the house, in a particularly girly way, or we will just be called bitches).
But hang on a goddam minute. The whole point of the world needing to get more women into the board room is because we are precisely that: women, because we behave like women, with different experiences and different approaches to problems and solutions. Not because we are proto-men in high heels.
What all of these mixed messages are telling us girls is what everyone else wants from us, which is missing the point, again, as usual.
Hang what everyone else wants. What do WE want? Personally, I want to do business, be heard, be paid for what I do and be taken seriously, because I am a human being with things to say and experiences to base them upon. Why on earth does it have to be ME trying to be pretty, make my bum stick out further and my legs look better by murdering my poor feet with high heels, all at the same time as wearing a psychological moustache and pretending to be a man?
I’m going to draw a moustache on my face for my next meeting. That’ll confuse them.