Thursday, 24 May 2018

All tarted up

After ten months of deliberation, the British government has produced some utterly feeble guidance on what employers can and cannot require women to wear in the workplace. Guidance so feeble most firms will probably ignore it.

They'll continue to require their female employees to wear make-up, low-cut blouses, short skirts and high heels, and women will be too nervous to refuse because they're hazy about the law and they doubt they'll get any support.

Why am I so concerned, you might ask, about how women have to dress in the workplace? I'm a man, it doesn't affect me, I can wear loose, comfortable clothing and that's fine. I won't be sent home for forgetting my stilettos.

No matter how ugly I am, I won't have to wear make-up. No matter how short I am, I won't have to wear heels. I won't be expected to flash my freshly-shaved legs. I won't be asked to expose plenty of chest hair.

But I've worked in and visited numerous workplaces where women are obliged to wear impractical and uncomfortable clothing for all sorts of dubious reasons - because "it's more professional" or "it creates the right image" or "it shows you're taking the job seriously". Why should women have to be tarted up to the nines to be trustworthy when men only need a suit and tie?

It's grossly unfair and discriminatory, and that's why I object to the government's pathetic advice which fails to say loud and clear that expecting women to wear something totally different to men is almost certainly illegal in every case.

I look forward to the day when women and men can wear similar clothing at work and nobody will think anything of it. When women aren't eye candy for the male employees. When how they do the job is all that matters.

26 comments:

Bijoux said...

I may be wrong, but I've never heard of this being an issue here, though I'm sure there are some small private employers somewhere with ridiculous dress codes. For the most part, dress codes have become rather lax with everyday being 'casual days' now. The new term seems to be 'dress for the day' meaning that if you have an important meeting or presentation to clients, you wear a suit or tie or dress slacks/skirt. If you are just going to be sitting around the office, you wear jeans, etc.

nick said...

Bijoux: It sounds like US employers are much more flexible than those in the UK. The Chief Executive of my previous workplace invariably wore make-up, a tight-fitting dress and heels. When she came in on her days off, she dressed quite differently, in a shirt and jeans.

Ms Scarlet said...

Ack. Nick. Ack.
But, all I will say is that I was never a nervous woman in the workplace. I never trembled with fear when wearing trousers and loafers to work in the eighties. Admittedly, I've always loved make-up... probably an eighties thing.
Sx

nick said...

Ms Scarlet: Well, presumably your employer was happy for you to wear trousers and loafers....

Ms Scarlet said...

No, not really. I had warnings.... but that was probably more to do with styling issues. I also got told off for my signature looking more important than the Chairman's!!! It was a laugh!
Sx

helen devries said...

I remember the days when job adverts for receptionists would offer a 'grooming allowance' as an incentive. These days employers are too tight fisted to bother with incentives but still want women to conform to a Barbie doll stereotype, seemingly on the grounds that 'the clients expect it'.
My backside.
The client will get tarts when he - always he - is taken to the strip club...the Barbie dolls are there for the delectation of management.

nick said...

Ms Scarlet: Your signature looked more important than the Chairman's? Outrageous! And why was that - was it larger? In red ink? With lots of wild flourishes?

Helen: Thank you! I was starting to think I had mysteriously wandered into all the strictest workplaces in the UK! The Barbie doll stereotype is still alive in many offices.

Wisewebwoman said...

I do believe the MeToo movement will change things. Slowly though. Like suffrage. Many women internalize patriarchy and do the hairdye/makeup/stiletto thing much to the damage of their skin and brain and feet and backs. I feel so sad for them. Employers may still demand it because of these women.

I managed many offices in my time and always encouraged rule breaking.

But what I've notice more and more on even good TV serials is that female detectives run around with their breasts hanging out in low cut clothing and high heels not forgetting the false eyelashes. I find it both hilarious and offensive and untrue.

XO
WWW

nick said...

www: Well, I hope things are gradually changing, but old habits die hard. I hadn't noticed that about TV serials, but I'll be looking very closely now! I see lots of women in heels in Belfast city centre - are they all following strict dress codes or are they just tarting themselves up for a laugh? I don't know.

Liz Hinds said...

WWW, Scandinavian television seems to be much more real as regards how people look. The Bridge, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc.

I was stunned when my friend who works for pandora told me about the rules they have to obey. Heels, make-up etc. As long as someone is clean it doesn't matter, does it? I wouldn't want to be sold cheese by someone with dirty fingernails but I wouldn't care who sold me jewellery. (if I ever bought any that is.)

tammy j said...

everywhere i ever worked had a dress code. everyone lived for Casual Fridays!
i'm thinking it will change.
i can't see the new generations putting up with much in the way of stupid rules. thanks to the likes of Steve Jobs.

Danielle L Zecher said...

Like Bijoux said, I think it's less of an issue over here. Oddly enough, I think retail stores seem to have the strictest dress codes here, at least that has been my experience. I've never worked anywhere that required high heels. That just seems like a bad idea for so many reasons.

nick said...

Liz: True, the Scandinavians seem to be more relaxed about work clothes than we are. And the Pandora dress code does look pretty stringent. One list I found online: "black skirt, black top, black or clear tights, smart black shoes, black blazer optional, well manicured nails, no facial piercings and only Pandora jewellery to be worn."

nick said...

Tammy: Even casual Fridays are pretty rare in the UK. I'd like to think youngsters are putting up more resistance, but I don't see much sign of it.

Danielle: Retail stores here have a fairly rigid dress code as well - make-up, skirts, heels, no tattoos, no piercings etc. High heels are so bad for you, they should be banned altogether.

Joanne Noragon said...

I agree, nick. Trousers, jackets and open neck shirts for all. Unless women want to make Ruth Bader Ginsberg statements with their collars. Sort of like guys and ascots.

nick said...

Joanne: Trousers, jackets and open neck shirts for all sounds perfect. Never having been to Ascot, I'd never heard of ascots - looser than cravats and tied under the collar, I'm told.

Polly said...

Oh go on Nick, wear the heels, flash those legs :-)
I think it depends on the workplace. If an employee is going to be in the public eye then appearance matters. A receptionist is usually the first person a visitor sees, and an impression is formed instantly.
Having worked for a corporate company I dressed smartly every day because I wanted to but also because I was representing the company(never low cut tops though).
I go into shops and see young girls wearing make up, lovely groomed hair and nice clothes, I smile and think how good they look. If a person is smart it says I care about my appearance, I care about me. If I pitched up to work wearing weekend bohemian gear, flip flops, no makeup and messy hair, that look would say I couldn’t be bothered to make an effort, I don’t really care. I wouldn’t want someone with that attitude working for me. If dress code is an issue and is part of the interview process then women have a choice to work for that company or not.
PS I unashamedly admit to having enjoyed being eye candy and admired. I’m invisible now :-(

CheerfulMonk said...

I've never worn high heels and wore minimal makeup, but I was doing problem solving/computer programming so didn't have to doll up like the secretaries/receptionists. A great reason to major in physics, I would say!

nick said...

Polly: It would be fun to wear female clothing for a day, but I don't think I could cope with all the bemused and hostile reactions! I agree a certain level of smartness is appropriate in any non-manual job, but I think you can still be smart in a shirt, jacket and trousers. There's no need for elaborate make-up, three-inch heels and all the rest. You may remember this government review came about because Nicola Thorp refused to wear high heels for a Price Waterhouse Cooper job because the job involved a lot of walking about. She insisted on wearing smart flats and she was sent home.

I'm sure a lot of young women enjoy being eye candy. What I really object to is the way men drool over them like sex-starved schoolboys. It's embarrassing.

nick said...

Jean: A very good reason to major in physics! If only other occupations were as relaxed about employees' clothing....

Polly said...

Hi Nick, yes that was unreasonable to expect her to wear high heels for lots of walking, my heels were only 1.5 to 2 inch max, the killer heels were reserved for going out. It's sad that in 2018 we still have cretins who can't just admire a good looking woman without the witless behaviour.

nick said...

Polly: Indeed, cretins displaying witless behaviour. The trouble is, they egg each other on to abandon any sense of social decency.

Rummuser said...

It is not an issue here except in some high end restaurants and hotels. If anything, women wear more comfortable clothes than men who are expected to wear western attire whereas Indian would be far more comfortable.

nick said...

Ramana: Interesting that women tend to wear more comfortable clothing than the men. Suits can get pretty intolerable in hot weather.

Secret Agent Woman said...

There was a time in the US when women in many fields (flight attendants, banking, office work) were required to wear skirts and heels, but I believe that virtually none of that remains. I've not heard of anywhere where dress pants and flats aren't completely acceptable. I can't imagine having to ear heels in any job that kept me on my feet. I won't even do it for a job where I sit most of the time. They are bad for you - cause back pain and feet deformities. And no one tells me to wear make up. That's absurd. I have no problem with people being expected to dress professionally, but the rules should be the same for men and women.

nick said...

Agent: The US seems to be way ahead of the UK when it comes to work clothing. Make-up, skirts and heels are still pretty common here. I'm sure it's very much the eye candy factor - old-style men who still want a bit of "hot totty" around the office. Yes, high heels are really unhealthy in all sorts of ways.