Sunday, 1 February 2009

What the...

There I was, thinking I had finished my blogging for the day, when I opened up the Independent and saw 'Bank tells staff: Don't forget the lipstick, girls'. You can see the internet article of it here.

The Bank of England held a meeting for its female staff telling them an assortment of things on how to dress to work. These things included always wearing heels and make-up. Apparently, women who do not wear heels and make-up and have their skirts a different colour from their shoes do not look professional and by implication cannot do their job properly. I wish this was a joke. I really do. The idea that the heads of a company are dictating to their female staff to wear items of clothing that are conspicuously parts of the current standard of female beauty is terrifying. This is not the 1950s, for goodness sake. I would like to point out that the male staff did not have a meeting like this, that an independent corporate image consultancy was called in to comment only on how female staff should dress. Sounds to me like they want women to be eye-candy for the men in the office. However, a member of the Federation of Image Consultants argues that advice given on how a woman should dress will make those women look more professional. She said that it could add to a woman's credibility, and further implies that as women struggle to command authority in male-dominated corporations they need to look the part, i.e. eye-candy for the men. This suggests that the only way a woman is going to be noticed in a corporation is by looking attractive. That a woman says this is extremely disturbing, but not entirely surprising considering what I wrote in my previous posts about some women perpetuating patriarchy as much as men.

Thankfully, there has been uproar about this. I mean, how dare they dictate to women that they have to wear make-up and high heels to go to work. High heels are damaging to the feet and they restrict movement (women cannot run for the bus in them), rendering women tottering about and appearing weak and vulnerable. Make-up is merely a way for women to look more attractive in the eyes of men to the extent that women who do not wear make-up are deemed unattractive and lazy because they have not put 'effort' into their appearance. Equal opportunities solicitors say that there is a case for sexual discrimination here, and I think the opportunity to sue them should be grabbed. Of course, there is a possibility, as I said in my previous post, that the female employees who sue them could be punished (they are challenging the mainstream and not conforming to the view that women should remain mute in the face of discrimination against them). In this case it could be in the way they are treated afterwards, perhaps forcing them to leave their jobs, and, of course, if they leave their jobs willingly, there would not be a case for unfair dismissal. This could make some employees reticent about kicking up a fuss.

The fact that this is in the paper is not enough. Institutional sexism should not be tolerated.

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