Not too long ago, FishbowlDC published a blog post called Females on Campaign Trail Go for Sexpot Look. The argument was that female reporters covering politics in DC and elsewhere are using über sexay pictures of themselves on Twitter. Well, actually, no. That’s not *quite* the issue. According to the post, which is complete with three allegedly disconcerting photos of female journalists, there’s the *chance* that women could start going for a “sexpot” look, and darn it all, that just might not be good for their brands.
Shortly before publishing this post, FishbowlDC published a short article with two photos of Hillary Clinton, who was wearing a “monochrome pantsuit.” You might recall that during the 2008 election Hillary’s pantsuits may have received more attention than the pending economic crisis and the war in Iraq COMBINED. What do these pantsuits mean? Is she trying to be too masculine? Is she trying to bespeak a sense of feminine power? Does she hate skirts?
Of course, politics is not the only place where the conversation about what women should wear is ongoing. Daria Giron invited me to participate in a 7-part series on the “executive image” last year because this issue is so much of an…issue. A friend of mine on Facebook recently lamented the lack of professionalism a lot of women seem to exhibit in their professional dressings. Some people complain that skirts are too short and shoes are too high. Others complain that women are looking too frumpy and old-fashioned. Are pantsuits really that bad? Should women wear pin-stripe skirts to sort of bridge the two genders? And then how do you accessorize?
The really unfair thing about all of this, of course, is that for the most part, nobody gives a rat’s patootie about what men wear. Take Mark Zuckerberg as your case in point. The man wears hoodies nearly every day. Would a woman be able to get away with that?
Think about that for a moment.
Why does it matter?
Or maybe the better question is, Does it matter? If a woman has really good ideas, does that change because her skirt is an inch too high or an inch too short? If a woman is a passion-driven leader, does it matter that her lipstick might not be a similar shade to her nail polish? Does it matter if she doesn’t wear lipstick?
Perhaps, as women continue to excel in the business world and in other leadership positions, these roadblocks are put up as a way to question that success. If you can’t question a woman’s experience or intelligence, you can almost always find something wrong with how she looks. It’s all rather objective, right? If a woman tends to wear headbands, you can suggest that she isn’t professional enough. If a woman wears pants instead of skirts you can accuse her of trying to be too manly or not “feminine” enough. If a woman wears a lot of pink and purple, you can say she is trying to be too girly and too feminine. The list goes on and on. All of these types of criticism can achieve one simple goal – they can shed doubt on how the woman will perform in her new role.
Sadly, these kinds of roadblocks are often thrown out by women, not men. Now there’s a tidbit, huh?
What can we do to fight this pattern of behavior?
I’m sure there will always be an expectation that professional women should look professional. I think we could expect that of men and women, Zuckerberg be darned. But how can we stray away from this major emphasis on how a woman chooses to dress? Is it something we need to instill in young ladies as they grow up? Is it something we need to talk to men about? Is it just a matter of trying continuously to emphasize what really matters?
What are your thoughts on this issue?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14359321@N04/5085545292/ via Creative Commons