Femininity-bashing? No thank you.

I don’t usually read blogs about dressing for corporate jobs–luckily, most of my work experience has been in government and higher education administration, which tend to have less strict dress codes. But when I came across a link to a post titled “When Do Girly Clothes Become Unprofessional?” on Corporette, I couldn’t stop myself from clicking through, even though I knew it would piss me off.

And piss me off it did.

Some of the advice is good, like keeping the office culture in mind when picking outfits. But the concept that femininity = childishness/incompetence/lack of professionalism just makes me so angry.

I hate the idea that it’s ok to take someone less seriously because they wear bows in non-sedate colors or lacy headbands or–heaven forbid–vintage dresses.

I understand that sometimes, women have to dress a certain way to be taken seriously at certain jobs, and I don’t have a problem with individual women dressing however they need to in order to succeed. I don’t even have a problem with them passing along practical advice on dressing for those types of workplaces–hell, we all make compromises in order to get by, and there’s no shame in that.

But I do have a problem with failing to critique the standards that posit masculinity as “professional” and femininity as “unprofessional.” I have a problem with passing them along as if they’re truth rather than a set of beliefs that are unfortunately still prevalent in some workplaces.

And I have a major problem with this double standard:

That said, it’s a bad idea to wear very girly things exclusively — Elle Woods was comical because she wore pink ALL THE TIME.  If you only wear one color and it’s bright pink, yes, there does seem something childlike about that to me.  (Yet, for some reason, wearing almost any other color exclusively just seems creative to me, perhaps because of this old NY Magazine article.)

Personally, I can’t imagine going permanently monochromatic–I love so many different colors! Limiting oneself to one color just seems so, well, limited. But the idea that it’s creative if that color is blue, but childish if that color is pink? Blehh. Just blehh.

I’m just so sick of the idea that women who like to wear “girly” things are somehow less mature, less smart, less worthy of respect.

9 thoughts on “Femininity-bashing? No thank you.

  1. I’m with you 100% on the WTF when it comes to femininity being perceived as unprofessional. I even had a teacher in women’s studies tell us that if we wanted to be successful in business we had to learn to play ball and you couldn’t play ball in skirts. And in my short stint in Corporate America, I saw that she was right; there was a big difference in dress between lower admin positions and upper management.

    That’s why I love Legally Blonde. Elle was great lawyer in pink and sparkles not despite it. She demanded to be taken seriously. Maybe if more women in bows and lace demand the respect they deserve, we can change the “Corporate Culture”.

    • “Maybe if more women in bows and lace demand the respect they deserve, we can change the ‘Corporate Culture.'”

      Yes, definitely!

      And yeah, Legally Blonde is great. I haven’t watched it in years–it’s about time for a rewatch.

  2. I am profoundly grateful that I’ve never worked in a corporate environment as I despise the whole dress-for-success ethos almost as much as the prescribed clothing itself. Years ago I came across a great quote about most women’s business wear looking like a woman’s idea of a man’s idea of what he’d wear in the workplace if he was a woman – like a woman’s brooch placement should correspond to where a man would wear a medal and all that rubbish. Despite decades of feminist enlightenment I think the whole corporate thing is still very much rooted in masculine culture and defined by a masculine aesthetic – apart from the obligatory high heels of course. (Because nothing makes me feel more “powerful” than crippling pain and the ever present danger of falling flat on my face).

    I think the reason so many style gurus equate free use of colour with childishness is because kindergarten was the last time they permitted themselves to experiment with it. (Also I loved that old New York Times article!)

    • Years ago I came across a great quote about most women’s business wear looking like a woman’s idea of a man’s idea of what he’d wear in the workplace if he was a woman

      That’s so true! And heels, uggh. I’m lucky that I’ve never worked anywhere that had a problem with me wearing comfortable, non-painful shoes.

      I liked the old NYT article too! And that’s a good point that the style gurus haven’t experimented with color since kindergarten, sadly enough.

  3. THIS! I am so sick of anything that reads as femme/female/feminine being considered childish, unprofessional or silly. Conservative does not equal more professional. Whether I wear a pink dress or a pair of black pants does not change my intellect, my skill, my dedication to my work or my professionalism. In fact, I counter that my wearing whatever I feel most comfortably “me” in is both far more groomed than a male colleague in trousers and a button down shirt AND improves my performance and productivity because I feel happy and confident in it.

  4. yeah, I hate this too. I try and keep balance between being more femme-y and fitting in with the culture at work, but it’s ridiculous.

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