The following is a guest blog post from a woman who’s close to my heart and happens to be an extremely talented writer and feminist. Renee graduated from George Mason University in 2011 and her experience as a professional, young woman in the work place provides her with a unique perspective. The piece highlights the covert sexism experienced daily in real life situations and questions the significance of debates surrounding new dress code rules. We can change the grade school dress code, but is that really the source of the problem?
The dress code issue has been flooding the media with stories about students protesting it, schools defending it, and PTAs polarized by it. I am all together baffled by it. As a successful woman and a feminist, my question is this:
Who the hell cares if you can’t wear yoga pants to school?
Before the verbal slayings begin, hear me out. I went to grade school for 12 long years. I worked hard and graduated Summa Cum Laude, then went off and graduated college. Guess what? I was a female the ENTIRE time, but never once had to defend what I wore to school. Not because my school was progressive or run by women, but because I followed the dress code. Never did I think that banning short shorts was somehow oppressing my femininity or sexualizing me in any way. In fact I thought, “Great, let’s see how those long-legged ditzy girls get attention now. Maybe they’ll actually have to pay attention in class.” (Which, shame on me — that is not supportive of women!)
My point is that after your schooling is done, you will have to follow a dress code. Maybe it is one that will require a suit every day. Maybe you can wear jeans, and hey, maybe you can wear yoga pants. Or short shorts! Or a bikini! No matter the code, you’ll have to follow it, and men will have a dress code as well. So just follow the rules, because in four years you’ll be out of high school and you can find a job where you can wear yoga pants all the livelong day.
Because once you’re in the real world, you’ll know what it’s really like to feel sexualized, demeaned, and belittled, and this time you can’t blame it on what you’re wearing.
It’s 2014, and look how far we’ve come as women! I can happily say that my organization has a lot of successful women behind it, and women actually outnumber men. My last job had extremely powerful women in top positions, as well.
As a woman, out of college and even during college, I often find myself in certain situations merely because I have a uterus. Since I have breasts, I am perceived to be less intelligent, less capable. It’s true that women have progressed exponentially over the years in obvious ways, but what about the covert ways? Like when you go to the car dealership with your boyfriend/brother/husband/male stranger you just met, and the salesman talks to him before you, or asks him what specs he’s looking for. Or when you fix a gas fireplace and when someone asks who got it working, you’re met with the resounding, “YOU fixed it?!” Or when your male counterpart in your retail job was assumed to be your manager by a customer, even though you outranked him. Or my favorite, when your male CEO says that choosing to have a child is like choosing to cut your own arm off, so he doesn’t understand why maternity leave should be covered.
All of these situations have happened to me long after high school and even after college, and it wasn’t because my bra straps were showing. It was only because I was a woman.
Are we sexualized as women? Of course, but men get sexualized, too, so stop with that argument. We’ll always have breasts, and hetero men will always be attracted to them, the same way I’m attracted to a set of nice abs and some nice arms. I can’t change biology. What we can change — what we SHOULD change — is how we’re represented in politics, how our intelligence is perceived and treated, and how we treat each other as women. These things need to change so that we feel equal in our careers, so that our daughters know that they can become President with the same ease as their male classmates.
My own mother, whom I know as the feminist of all feminists, once told me that when she hears the male voice of her pilot on a flight, she feels safer than if it were a female voice. THAT — that covert form of sexism — is what we should be protesting.
Maybe I have completely missed the mark. Perhaps we should be allowed to wear spandex shorts to school. Go for it! But me? I’d rather see you put on a pair of slacks and be president of the debate team. Win the science fair. Publish a book. Run for President of the United States. Be active in your community. Learn as much as possible, all the time. Do these things, and change will come.