la_marquise: (Goth marquise)
[personal profile] la_marquise
So, I have a question for my female friends and female-presenting non-binary friends.
For those of us who present as 'feminine' in the more traditional sense (can be having longer hair, wearing skirts or other 'girly' clothing, being soft-spoken and so forth): do you find people are more ready to question your knowledge than they do that of women who are seen as less 'girly' in presentation? It was noticeable in my last academic jobs that my female colleagues with short hair who dressed in suits tended to be taken more seriously than the rest of us, and were less likely to be asked to undertake extra admin jobs and to do emotional caretaking.
I'd be interested in hearing the experiences of others about this.

Skirt of the day: Blue-tiered the 2nd (as distinct from the beloved, much worn, fragile blue tiered the first.)

Date: 2016-05-11 03:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think there's a stereotypical view of what power looks like within each profession and organisation, and people signal how much power they have and how much they want by how closely they fit themselves to it. That's why once upon a time women wanted and took the right to wear trouser suits and short hair.

The good news: there is now a sartorial language for female power (at least for women involved with the British Establishment).

The bad news: it involves a particular style of stereotypically female clothing for the most part. The sharp suit can be a trouser suit, but is better as a skirt or dress. The elegant shoes are better with high heels. The hair need not be very long, but must be carefully styled and coloured. Both jewellery and makeup should be worn and should be on trend.

Dressing to that is a way of saying you are serious about your work. Dressing against it - whether by wearing comfortable trousers and short hair or floaty skirts and long unstyled hair - tells the opposite story. And if you are not a contender for power (promotion, next step, top job), you are overlooked and more open to exploitation.

That's my take on it anyway.

Date: 2016-05-11 03:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Indeed. But this is itself rooted in the cultural stereotypes, because it continues to code power as male or male-appearing (shorter hair, formal suits etc). SO while it benefits individual women, overall it isn't doing much to challenged the underlying problem, which is how we gender power, control, authority and status. And it normalises undermining and dismissing those of us who don't conform, so it underpins the wider stereotype, too. Women should not have to perform maleness to be treated as equals.

Date: 2016-05-11 04:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If you really want to spit blood, read this:

Horribly reminiscent of instructions given to female solicitors at Freshfields, back in the 80s: wear make-up - or else. A naked face was considered 'poor grooming'. It seems power-dressing still requires those tired old 'feminine' stereotypes. (Personally, if I need to kick some serious ass, I go for the red work dress - very effective so far, and suits aren't my thing!)

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Date: 2016-05-11 08:13 pm (UTC)
ext_13461: Foxes Frolicing (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Also, this stuff is very expensive, which broadcasts "successful." Bad luck for those even as undergrads, who can't present that way. Here even as undergrads in university women are supposed to dress professionally according what their major is. I first noticed this in the 1980's and could not figure out how these girls / young women could afford the way they dressed. But then I couldn't figure out how the undergrads and grad students could afford to eat in the places they ate -- places that we as students never ever entered unless some 'adult' was paying for it.

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Date: 2016-05-11 03:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have found that people are more ready to question my science and horror credentials when I'm in a dress, while simultaneously treating me more like a professional in my field, because at least I'm performing femininity.

Date: 2016-05-11 03:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, yes! Though in my case it comes with a side dish of not taking my books too seriously because, well, girly women can't possibly have serious things to say in print, either.

Date: 2016-05-11 03:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Absolutely. Add age into the mix, and one becomes invisible/

Date: 2016-05-11 03:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You'd be amazed (or perhaps not) at how many people seem to think that when I had _that- surgery at 21, it involved having my mouth widened and half my brain removed!

Date: 2016-05-11 03:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Candidates for the Richard Head Memorial Award are everywhere. There is no suit so sharp, no bob so sculpted that they will put off all attempts to offload girly chores on you but they do help.

Incidentally, John Molloy who wrote Dress for Success is still alive and has a blog
From: [identity profile]
The rules for women in offices in companies where they are introducing a casual dress code are basically the same. The one difference is when they are forced to dress casually at work they usually have to spend considerably more because obviously expensive designer accessories become essential to a woman executive’s image.

While at one time the introduction of a casual dress code often killed women’s careers today that is not the case. You will notice that the president while making specific recommendations for the men he let the women define business casual for themselves. This indicates that he has thought long and hard about the subject. The female equivalent of the male suit is a jacket it says the wearer is competent and has authority. As a result if it is combined with appropriate garments it gives some women a visual advantage over men in a casual environment.

You may ask yourself why women aren’t considered casually dressed when wearing jackets. The answer is color. If a woman’s jacket is in a powerful feminine color, eg. red, maroon brown, tan, green or even yellow her dress is looked upon as casual by a majority of businessmen and women, This gives women while dressed casually the advantage of wearing a power garment..

Date: 2016-05-11 03:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have noticed that women who dress in business suits and are more forceful (even to the point of rudeness) do get taken more seriously.

Date: 2016-05-11 03:54 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I am the least feminine-presenting of the women in my team but I don't think I get fewer questions than my women colleagues. I think we're all taken fairly seriously for our expertise.

I do notice that e.g. the monthly team lunch was taken over by another woman when I went on maternity leave, and the initiation of cards and other social stuff is usually by women. Those of my colleagues who actually visited me in hospital when I was sick were all women (though I did get nice messages from male and female colleagues alike).

We are a fairly long-lived team of IT support and development staff within a university IT department, most of us have been there >5 years, and we have a near-50% gender balance, so I think we are a bit of a unicorn, even within our wider department.

Date: 2016-05-11 04:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's good that you are all taken seriously: I think being gender balanced goes a long way to helping this happen. I've never yet been in a gender-balanced workplace.

Date: 2016-05-11 04:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Not that I have noticed, although I don't think I present as particularly feminine on that spectrum - but I would say all the women in the workplace dress fairly similarly and there isn't anyone who dresses particularly smartly or wears obvious makeup, so it is hard to tell if they would be treated differently. What I don't know is whether this experience differs when you go up the ladder and the gender balance starts to shift away from being balanced, and whether, eg, turning up in shorts would be frowned upon for a senior woman in a way it wouldn't be for a senior man. I have noticed that female students/early career researchers who visit tend to dress a bit more smartly than the men, but I don't know if that's because the men all default to shirt with buttons/trousers that are not jeans, and there isn't an equivalent default smart-casual outfit for women so I notice it more.

Date: 2016-05-11 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think the more gender-balanced a workplace is (assuming everyone has similar sorts of jobs, not 6 male bosses and 6 female secretaries), the better it is, in general. And at senior level my experience is that men get away with far more.

Date: 2016-05-11 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In the business world (such as it is in Silicon Valley, where we tend to dress down more than on the other coast), women with short hair who wear suits (or at least jackets, even the more feminine ones) are considered to be more professional. They are treated with more respect. Note that I have short hair and wear jackets to the office, and I have never been asked to get coffee or do any admin jobs. At my most recent job my boss asked me to take notes at the first team meeting I went to, and I politely turned him down (I suck at taking notes), even though I think he was asking me because I was the senior member of the team.

Date: 2016-05-11 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm glad you're treated with respect mist if the time. But the hair thing is not ideal and the assumption you'll take the notes.... Just no.

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Date: 2016-05-11 05:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
At my job, we have two female senior managers who head different departments. One is more femme as you describe, and one (me) dresses more schlumfy-comfy, never wears makeup, and would never be described as "soft spoken."

I think they take the other manager more seriously on some topics. OTOH, she has been here longer than I have. OTOOH, I am certain my less-professional presentation doesn't work well with some of my boss's biases, but I work with that. I make up for it with straightforward, confident speech. There's a line I have to walk--if I raise my voice, it won't go so well--but I am not "soft spoken" and I throw data hard and fast and people listen to me.

(It helps that I am the expert on my department, and my boss is not interested in micromanaging. If I say "this is the [thing]," he knows this is the thing.)

The other manager and I work well as a team. She won't tackle some issues head-on, whereas I will just say what everyone is thinking. This gets the idea in the open, and then she often follows up with the softer approach and gets the solutions through.

As for emotional caretaking...I expect she does some of that. I wouldn't be in a position to see it. But I know I'm the go-to for when people in my company (not just my department!) are freaking out. I'm the one who explains how to approach problems with certain coworkers, how to phrase certain requests, so they will be heard and listened to. (Or pitfalls avoided.) I have tissues and chocolate in my office at all times.

But this might not be the case in a different office. I didn't take this role at my previous employer. As I say to my mother, "It says bad things about a place when I'm the socially ept one."

Date: 2016-05-11 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Adding: I work in publishing, so the proportion of women in the building is quite high. But ALL the editors are men and the head of the whole place (my boss) is a man.

Our editors all frequently exhibit behaviors that can be interpreted as (1) learned helplessness, (2) an expectation that others will do things for them, (3) passive-aggressiveness, (4) cluelessness about how things work. I often say about the editors, "Well, they don't understand that they need to do work. They're handicapped by a lifetime of being well-off white dudes."

The biggest example was when we called a meeting for people to discuss how to deal civilly with slobbiness in the shared kitchen, and only women showed up. Big surprise. (I avoid the problem by simply never using the kitchen. More trouble than it's worth.)

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Date: 2016-05-11 05:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Don't know what I think about this question. Here in Kuressaare, my work partner and are I both are always in trousers and variations of tee-shirts and blouses, depending on the activity, but then much of our work is with farmers. We do however frequently 'bully' one of the male members of a work group into taking notes. As Karen is usually the leader of project teams and I am THE TEACHER, we don't think much about not being taken seriously.

That said, Estonia lags frightfully behind other Nordic countries in the numbers of women in visible positions of authority. The run-up to choosing the next Estonian President will be interesting as one of the strongest candidates, Marina Kaljurand is currently Minister for Foreign Affairs. BUT, she is opposed by Siim Kallas who was earlier Prime Minister and a VP of the European Commission. The resolution of this is going to be very challenging.

Date: 2016-05-11 06:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is one of those areas which is very different depending on culture, I think, both on how gender relations work and how they are expressed.

Date: 2016-05-11 06:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Just having boobs was enough for some to give less credit and more hassle when I was still activly working but engineering (component level fault finding and repair) may have changed in 20 years (not betting on it since dinosaurs can have long tails).

Date: 2016-05-11 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No, but I'm currently in a feminine-coded job (therapist - caretaking). Also, the division isn't between masculine/feminine, but between casual vs formal feminine (jeans/blouse vs suit or dress or skirt) and earth mother vs trendy/cheery (earth tones/conservative cuts vs brights/fashionable).

The only women who dress in a masculine manner are the cops, and they're in uniform so it's hard to separate masculine coding from uniform/gun. They're also in a completely different job from the therapists.

Date: 2016-05-12 09:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Some jobs definitely have unwritten codes -- we joke about art teachers, here, but it is a thing, and it's about cultural expectations. And uniforms of course have very specific functions.

Date: 2016-05-11 08:10 pm (UTC)
ext_13461: Foxes Frolicing (Default)
From: [identity profile]
In my experience, presenting as 'girly' made no difference with men -- they often don't take anyone 'female' seriously, though always willing to grab thoughts, ideas and even terminology and research and present it as their own brilliant insights and work. But -- other women really do find it difficult to impossible to take feminine presenting females seriously -- and in many many cases deliberately won't do so. Anyone presenting as conventionally attractive is by definition, and in fact must be -- dumb. And, of course, can only sleep her way into any position that matters.

Date: 2016-05-11 08:26 pm (UTC)
ext_13461: Foxes Frolicing (Default)
From: [identity profile]
For what the ideal is these days in the U.S. for how high-powered $ucce$$ful women should look and dress in industries such as media, finance, banking and law -- and politics -- do a google image search for the just completed VERY $uce$$ful $even $ea$on televi$ion $erie$, The Good Wife. What Diane Lockhart, Alicia Florrick and the other women in the series wear in a single episode costs more than the average hourly paid worker makes in a couple months -- actually, probably more, considering a single pair of Alicia's signature ultra high (thank goodness that trend seems to have lowered, sometime around the 6th season -- which I noticed here too, on the streets -- and fewer young women hobbling about with foot boots after breaking bones from wearing such ricidulous foot gear) Christian Louboutin pumps, at the lowest price, runs $795, before tax.

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Date: 2016-05-12 03:41 am (UTC)
ext_959848: FeatherFlow (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Interesting reading through the comments here.

If I lump together all my work history, from late 80s to present, I'd say the degree to which my professional knowledge and ability was directly related to the *tailoring* of my clothing.

Long and/or full skirt and loose blouse = I must be the assistant
Fitted skirt, shirt, and jacket = I just might be the one in charge.

Note that when I say "fitted," I don't mean "tight" or fitted in a way that accentuated hips and breasts. It was instead the difference between clean lines and soft lines.

Until recently, I had very long hair. If it was pulled back, I was taken far more seriously than if it was left down. As if how I wore my hair indicated the organization of my thoughts.

Now... in professional martial arts settings, clothing isn't nearly as important as one's physical manner. Things like soft speaking, stepping back, or taking up a small amount of space were taken as deference to another's authority and/or rank. Straddling the ground, arms akimbo, and speaking firmly mattered more than what I wore.

Date: 2016-05-12 09:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, yes: this maps to my experience, too.
I am encouraged by all the women who speak well of the martial arts environment on this.

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Date: 2016-05-12 09:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My presentation is all over the map, I think I'd go with "nonconformist" (I came to work in a 16th century kirtle once; because it's too heavy to carry in a bag and I needed it later)... but I am the only IT support for a small group of scientists and they all know who I am and what I'm meant to be doing; no-one has ever asked me to do admin tasks (they're usually even sorry when they ask me to fix the printer, and that's actually part of my job), or provide emotional support (huh, I'd be rubbish at that!).

Corporate culture baffles me, the idea that I might be *better at programming computers* if I dressed in a different way (no, I'd be irritated and possibly in pain and sleep deprived and thus worse at thinking clearly) or styled my hair in a certain way (it's long, I put it 'up' most days, to keep it out of my way... it's also blue/green) is just nonsensical to me. Lucky me having a job that sidesteps all of that.

Date: 2016-05-12 09:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm glad you have an environment like this.

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Date: 2016-05-12 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hair color. Red and shorter got more positive attention than graying ash-blonde that's longer. Wearing a suit jacket with pants or a straight skirt also gets more respectful attention than flowy skirts or a more traditional older female style of attire.

Date: 2016-05-12 08:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This rings bells for sure. Seems to be less a masc v fem presentation than a bias towards sharp v soft versions of femininity. (Interesting age angle too, in assumption that older women are less sharp/focused?)

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Date: 2016-05-13 01:53 pm (UTC)
ext_15862: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Hm. I think these days I can wear pretty much what I like (hippy/casual) and get taken seriously, but that may reflect the circles I move in - mostly folkie.

I know when I was running conventions in the early days, I used to get a faster response from hotel staff if I was in my USAF uniform fancy dress. But in more recent years (perhaps because I expected them to do as I asked, and I projected that) I got a good response pretty much whatever I was wearing.

Date: 2016-05-16 07:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think our gender differentiation is a lot less than in the UK. Possibly because sex matters a lot (there are legal effects) but once you are legally determined to be of one sex or the other, the outward show matters much less, especially for women.

The senior women in my organisation wear trouser suits, skirt suits, fancy Japanese designer clothes, tight dresses, loose dresses, real jewellery, costume jewellery, no jewellery, lots of make-up, a bit of make-up, and no make-up. Hair is short, long and frequently dyed, occasionally in bright colours.

Men have a much narrower scope. The boss recently issued a general ukase against the Korean boy-band look (ultra tight trousers, shrunken jackets, visible socks), which I admit does not suit anyone but extremely young and skinny men and even then not much.

Basically hierarchical status matters much more than clothes, within a fairly conservative dress code. Deference in manner or voice usually reflects relative rank rather than sex.

In my salad days I always found Jeeves an excellent model to follow.
Edited Date: 2016-05-16 07:30 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-05-16 08:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There is definitely a strong cultural dimension to this in the UK, tied in to the continued refusal to take women entirely seriously.

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Date: 2016-05-18 09:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I certainly saw more respect when dressed in a suit (for me, typically a skirted suit since I dislike pants) than a dress or skirt and top, but also when dressed in a more traditional/conservative/boring dress than one in bright colors or with lace or flowers or other traditionally feminine motifs. I didn't want to even think about the uproar if I were to choose to dye my hair to something other than a different natural human hair color.

Similarly, I find that pitching my voice low gets more respect than pitching it higher in my vocal range. I've seen that effect with men too--lower is higher status, just as taller is higher status.

Date: 2016-05-26 11:41 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Chop your hair off and put a fucking suit on if that's all it takes to give you access to honorary male privile

Chop your hair off and put a fucking suit on, then, if that's all it supposedly takes to give you access to honorary male privilege. Stop spending all your precious time and money on primping and preening and cosmetics and clothes, sending all of your money to exploitative industries that want you insecure. Reject the socially mandated 'girly' role if it supposedly means you are taken so much less seriously than those short haired women.

But no, you won't do that. On some level you know that really, you will be even more invisible that way. You will be a figure of contempt to men and gender-conforming women if you are not beautiful or sexy. Even if you haven't experienced the homophobia and contempt that comes with being butch personally which allows you to post privileged whines like this, you know really that you have it easier than the women who don't appeal to the male gaze.

I suggest you practice what you preach if you're so bothered about women fighting each other instead of focusing on the men at the top. You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about here. If you post poorly informed, anecdata-based whines like this about how much easier butch women whose experiences you don't share have it, yeah, maybe we will get annoyed with you. Maybe your little upper middle class, academic elite bubble does not actually represent the whole world, hmmmmm?

Date: 2016-05-26 04:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, look, troll.
Goodbye and enjoy your spite in peace.

I owe you no explanations. But for the record, sorry, no. Not upper middle class. Not even close to it. Upper working/bottom middle, at best.
Edited Date: 2016-05-26 04:08 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-05-27 09:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Dunno - but I'm interested in the descriptions of how perhaps I "should" appear and wondering if it is why my last bosses didn't like me - I didn't always dress like that at work - I did when I felt like it but not all the time - it wouldn't really have suited the environment - but perhaps they felt I went too far to casual or something?

Date: 2016-05-27 09:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Dressing for work is such a minefield, particularly if you're a woman or female-presenting. There are so many unwritten rules and assumptions, and so many prejudices. I was always not quite right in how I dressed --- too bohemian. But another female colleague was 'intimidating' because she wore suits; and another was 'frumpy' -- because she wore plain and practical things, and a third was 'too fashionable'. We can't win!

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