A New Year's Resolution Wishby Angela Smith, HEAL Co-Founder/National Coordinator
Many years ago when I was just starting out I had a job at a shoe store. When I showed up for my first day at work, my manager (male) advised that he preferred the women who worked there to wear short skirts and low-cut shirts. I rolled my eyes and wore what I thought was appropriate. I worked there for a few months. Every now and then he would ask me again to wear his suggested outfits. I refused. He also followed me around on days I wore a dress or skirt and asked me to climb the ladder to straighten high shelves while he watched from below. I ended up quitting that job and getting a job at a car dealership as a receptionist where my immediate supervisor was a woman and the dress code was business casual.
I find it frustrating when I see women kowtow to the expectation that they dress like "street walkers" to please their employers. I find it even more frustrating when women claim dressing in a sexually provocative manner, while demanding no one take notice or respond "normally" (as if sexually intrigued), is a matter of "women's liberation". I find it more a matter of women's stupidity.
I would no more walk into a lion's den dressed in a suit of raw meat than walk into any office or workplace (save a strip club, gentlemen's club, or bordello) dressed in the finest from Frederick's of Hollywood or the like. This is not because I am "conservative" and believe women shouldn't be able to wear whatever they want whenever they want. But, I do believe women should understand that wearing sexually provocative clothing inspires sexual attention and to avoid unwelcome attention of that nature they should take precautions unless they are seeking that type of attention.
My mother and I were discussing this recently and she and I both agreed that women who dress in a sexually provocative manner in the workplace make their co-workers (women and men) uncomfortable. I personally feel like they are setting me up or adding to the pressure of wearing sexually provocative clothing because they are trying to normalize that in the workplace. In addition, my mother has seen women use their sexuality to avoid work duties while flirting their way into getting their male counterparts to do the work for them. This behavior on the part of women who do this creates a hostile work environment for both male and female co-workers. In addition, wives (girlfriends, etc.) do not appreciate when they walk into the workplace of their spouse (etc.) and find the other employees shoving breasts and thighs in the face of their loved ones. When I was a receptionist, one male co-worker's wife called on the hour to check up on what things were going on. Women should respect the insecurities of other women and work to create an environment free from suspicion and sexual misconduct. Dressing appropriately is one way to address this issue.
If you want to wear a cocktail dress, get a job as a server at a cocktail bar or wear it to parties or on dates. Do not wear it to work. I don't want to see newscasters that pull back their shoulders and shake their goods at their male co-hosts while screaming they are "feminists" who don't like sexual attention in the workplace. I find it absurd on its face and can't help but wonder why they dress the way they do if they are not looking for sexual attention. I personally feel beautiful no matter what I'm wearing. And, I think that is the true meaning of being a feminist. If you need to get breast implants and show off your body while screaming about sexual harassment, then, you seem more confused than anything else. I don't see you as a feminist at all, but, someone who is atrociously unreasonable and setting up co-workers and others by enticing them to comment so you can build a case against them when they notice what you are "selling/advertising".
I suggest women who are told to dress sexually provocatively by employers take a stand and refuse to participate. If it keeps up, report them or file suit. I can tell you wearing short skirts and low cut tops would not have aided me in performing my duties at the shoe store or at any other job I have held to date. And, I don't believe it helps with feminism or creating a safe work environment for women to dress in what I consider an unprofessional and sexually provocative manner.
So, ladies, before you get completely ticked off at this article, consider this... What if your male counterparts showed up to work in "speedos", leather pants (with package bulging), 70's-style dress shirts unbuttoned to their waste or no shirt at all, and imagine it is a co-worker you are attracted to even slightly, would that make work difficult or uncomfortable for you? Whether you found them attractive or not, I think you would find that manner of dress on male co-workers inappropriate and at times very offensive. So, I would ask that you not be hypocritical and you dress as you would expect or even see your male counterparts dress. Meaning, if they dress in suits or fully-clothed without showing off their "unmentionables" or drawing attention to their bodies or specific body parts, maybe you could show the same courtesy and respect and help create a work environment where women and men focus on the job at hand and not how sexy you look or think you may look.
If you dress thinking "sex sells", then you are selling sex whether overtly or covertly. And, you may want to re-think that if you want to be respected in the workplace by both men and women with whom you work. If you dress appropriately, then you will have a better chance at winning any sexual harassment suits you may have based on unwelcome conduct because you won't have co-workers (male and female) thinking that you kind of brought it on yourself to some extent. It is unreasonable to ignore social norms or professional expectations and demand the world act exactly as you expect, particularly when your expectations are wholly unreasonable and somewhat delusional.
If your boss demands you wear sexually provocative clothing, refuse. If you think wearing sexually provocative clothing is totally appropriate in every possible setting, then you have a mental problem, in my opinion. My dress code is mostly about comfort and appropriateness for the occasion. I hope women will start thinking when they dress and men in positions of power will receive refusals when they demand women dress for sex in the workplace. It is my understanding everyone loves a little mystery, so, dressing fully-clothed can still be beautiful, fashionable, comfortable, and appropriate for everyone involved. Please consider dressing appropriately as a form of self-defense against unwanted and unwelcome sexual attention and make it your resolution to avoid creating a hostile work environment by refusing to participate in the continued objectification and sexualization of women in the workplace.