This follow-up question from reader Ida dovetails very nicely with a book I just finished reading: Men explain things to me
In my last several internships and part-time jobs, I’ve received some unwanted attention from male colleagues.
This has been a problem in America, but especially so in the Arabic-speaking world, where that kind of attention toward employees is considered more normal.
(Add to that the general assumption that all blonde Western women are easy, and that comments on the street are constant.)
I’ve noticed that the looser my clothing (while still drawing compliments from female colleagues, so I assume not completely un-stylish) and the more covered I am, the less attention I get. I worry if the effect would be negated if I wore makeup and heels.
I am very ambitious, and hope to be successful in my work. I also don’t want any negative or positive attention regarding how I look to overshadow what I do.
I read this, loved the question, but was at the same time, angry and upset that it is such a relevant one.
I myself have been almost sexually assaulted in the past and if my blog (and in real life) I am anything to go by, I am the opposite profile of a victim.
Yet it has happened so I can only assume it has happened to the majority of women.
Even today, I still get that kind of attention (even with people knowing I’m a mother of a young toddler and happily partnered) and my only response is to ignore it completely and let it fester into an uncomfortable, awkward silence.
That usually ends it but not always.
It is sad that we women have to go to such lengths to avoid being perceived as ‘easy’, a ‘slut’ or to draw unwanted attention to ourselves.
This is also why I am being an active mother in raising Baby Bun (my little sweet boy) to understanding that he has a responsibility as a future young man to be vocal about the rights of women and to be brave enough to stand up for his core values and beliefs.
The best examples in Solnit’s book mentioned above, was when a woman was raped on campus and the police officer had advice to young women to “avoid dressing like a slut” and “stop walking around the campus at night, alone”.
When it was suggested in alternate posters that maybe the answer was to BAN ALL MEN from the campus at night, the male response was shocked that they would all be held accountable (even though they’re not all bad guys) and have their own personal freedoms limited because of this one incident.
What do you call asking women to limit their personal freedom in choosing how they want to dress and to limit THEIR personal freedom in avoiding campuses late at night?
In another example, she said a professor asked women what they did to avoid being assaulted and they threw out a slew of things like:
- Avoid walking alone at night and go with a friend, preferably male
- Avoid alleyways and dark areas
- Cross the street if you see groups of guys
- Hold keys in your hand gripped between your knuckles when walking to the door
- Make eye contact with people to avoid looking like a victim
- Ignore guys who catcall and make lewd comments
..and the above are just my examples of what I do as a single young woman.
We all (men and women) need to work on making sure that we, our children (boys and girls) grow up with this awareness and sensitivity to equality that has otherwise been completely non-existent in the past generations (even in my mother’s!)
We have made great strides, but then of course, there are still full blown idiots like this one lurking about:
Try wearing no makeup and heels for 6 months or a year, and then try wearing a little makeup and heels for the other year, and keep an observant eye on how you are perceived and if it is better or worse.
Honestly, if you do not want to wear any makeup or heels, do not wear it.
Here are some alternatives to my previous suggestions below:
None at all.
Minimally speaking? If you must, wear only undereye concealer if you have bags under the eyes and maybe some mascara or have groomed eyebrows if you feel like it.
For the rest?
Forget about it. Wear clear lip balm and have clean fresh breath, and smile. 🙂
Wear pointed flats.
They look chic and could pass for heels without being actual heels. They also look more modern, more grown-up and less little girl (the way ballerina or round toe shoes tend to indicate).
SHOPPING FOR POINTED FLATS
If you’re great, your work will shine through and what you wear and what you look like will have nothing to do with it.
The only thing I can say is that if you are or aren’t a certain look, it CAN affect your perception and image at the office, but you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Women are screwed six ways to Sunday in the office environment.
We are too fat, too skinny, too hot, not hot enough, too motherly, not motherly enough…. it is a loser’s game when you try and compete against some false idols, so don’t play the game.
Men don’t have to compete in this game because they opt out and refuse to.
No one comments about how fat or skinny a guy is as a judgement on his ability to lead or be a professional.
Don’t compete if you don’t want to.
I wear heels and makeup because I want to and enjoy it. I love style & dressing up because that is who I am.
Does it change who I am if I do or don’t do this any longer?
There are days when I don’t, and I roll into the office exhausted and a hot mess (very few days but it has happened since Baby Bun), and I couldn’t care less.
Have I been fired? No.
Have I earned less for not looking perfect? No.
Because I am damn good at what I do.
So…. If you don’t want to, then don’t do it and kill them with your personality, brainpower & professionalism.
A great smile and brilliant, work ethic, razor-sharp brain is always preferable to someone with a shiny image and no substance or pride in their (excellent) work.