I think the Universe is trying to nudge me to talk about something.
Earlier today I saw some snark on Twitter about women supposedly trying to “recapture their teen years” with pink accessories (ie mobile phones and laptops). A little later in the day, a comment was made by an acquaintance about another friend dressing “inappropriately for her age”.
Sigh… are we still buying into this? That there is some kind of “rule” on how women should dress, or what their tastes should be?
Look, I understand venue/environment appropriateness. A bikini isn’t suitable for a corporate environment. Thongs (flip flops for those of you who think thongs are the undies that go between your butt cheeks) aren’t suitable for a building site. There are plenty of examples of where clothes aren’t appropriate for a venue/environment. I get that. For safety reasons, because there is a level of formality, for hygiene, or cultural sensitivity. I understand that completely.
What I’m talking about are the fashion police. Those who say that someone is “too old to dress like that”. The ones who suggest women over 30 shouldn’t lighten their hair to blonde. Or women over 50 shouldn’t have long hair. The folks that suggest that the colour pink should only be worn by girls, not women.
I want to say “Surely by 2011 we should be beyond policing what women wear.”, but I know, there are folks still trying to police what we do with our reproductive organs.
I am not sure how it harms anyone if a woman wears her hair in pigtails. Does it cause a hurricanes in the Southern Atlantic if a woman has a pink mobile phone case? Are children kept out of school if a woman over 50 grows her hair past her collar? Does international banking crash if a woman dyes her hair lime green? When a woman wears black and orange striped socks to work, does it cause mass employee redundancies?
I have to admit, I am very lucky. I can shave my head, have visible tattoos and wear bright colours to work in my corporate environment. My workplace is very supportive of diversity and accepts me as I am, and I also respect things that would not be considered appropriate (I wear sleeves over my latest tattoo because it is of a naked woman.) But I know other workplaces don’t approve of dressing outside of some kind of arbitrary measure of appropriate. There is some sense of a “professional image”.
The thing I want to know is how someone’s appearance makes them any less professional? The colour or length of ones hair doesn’t render one incapable of making professional decisions. Having a pink iPhone cover doesn’t render one inable to think like an adult. Wearing colour instead of black does not impact negatively on someone’s productivity. In fact, I would challenge that it’s quite the opposite. When someone feels good about themselves, they are far more productive than when they do not.
As for age appropriateness, who gets to decide what is appropriate for someone’s age? Who was the person who deemed that women over 50 should have short hair? Who made someone the boss of what colour accessories women should have when they become adults? Who was the special person who deemed it unacceptable for grown-ups to wear lots of colour, or have a backpack shaped like a monkey, or any other fun/kitsch accessory?
Of course, then comes the body snark too. Someone’s arms are too fat, their legs too short, their belly too round, their butt too flat and yadda yadda yadda to wear that.
There are times I just want to say “Who died and made you the judge?” when I hear people criticising women (well, anyone really) for their fashion choices.
What I really think it boils down to is more controlling of women in general. More “women are supposed to” attitudes. Keeping women concerned about meeting rules about their appearance means that they don’t have time to worry about the big picture, like the attempts to control women’s bodies, their incomes, their health, their sexuality, their education and so on. So long as there are all these arbitrary rules about how a woman is supposed to look and behave, then there are lots of excuses to discriminate against a woman. She’s too loud, too outlandish, too childish, too rough, too dramatic, too innapropriate – those things are all there as excuses to sanction the dismissal of and discrimination against women who don’t toe the line, conform, behave.
Some years ago, a colleague gave me a drink coaster for my desk. It says:
“Well behaved women rarely make history.”
And the artwork on it is three brightly coloured cartoon women (one with pink hair, one with blonde, one with purple), dancing under the stars.
I still have it, sitting on my desk at work, right where I can see it. It’s a daily reminder to me that by being different, by being me, it’s an act of defiance against a cultural standard of “well behaved”, just to dress and style myself in the way that makes me happy, rather than how women are told they should appear.