Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Femininity in the Workplace

Alte welcomes the notion that yes, women can be feminine in the workplace:
If anything (and I have this from a reliable source — namely myself), it will be a sincere relief to the male engineers around her to finally interact with an intelligent and competent woman who is easily recognizable as female. So many of the few females who venture into that domain are veritably indistinguishable from their male colleagues. This is the problem in engineering, and not that the men are in any danger of going into diabetic shock at the sight of a cute smile and even cuter shoes.
Not only should highly intelligent women not attempt to behave in a masculine manner, I would posit that they should not even attempt to behave in a sex-neutral manner. The very idea that intelligent working women should cloak their beauty, vivacious charm, and pleasant personalities with boxy pants-suits and dour expressions is an aspect of feminism that I roundly denounce.
Notionally, I join Alte in being open to women who are easily and openly identifiable as women--both in mannerisms and in dress--in the  workplace.  Moreover, I suppose unfeminine behavior and appearance is less a problem in the pink ghettoes and more an issue in the stereotypically masculine professions and occupations, where women feel pressure to masculinize themselves to fit in, or worse, overcompensate by being gruff, hyper-aggressive,  bitchy and all over unpleasant to work with or be around. Added to this is selection effect: more masculine occupations tend to attract women with more masculine can easily see how male-heavy occupations tend to be chock-a-block full of unfeminine-appearing and -behaving women.  

That is not to say that I do not have reservations with suddenly green-lighting feminine dress in the workplace, however. In these days of loosed female sexuality, I suspect that a great many women do not know the line between appropriate and inappropriate attire at the workplace--viz all the wardrobe "fails" in  God's house on Sundays--and that classy "feminine" dress may easily slip into provocative "feral female" dress. Confounding matters further is that what is considered classy or provocative varies from woman to woman, from situation to situation, and from man to man, thus setting up a situation where it is difficult for women to know what the standards are or craft standards that apply in all places and times. Thus I can appreciate how difficult it is and will be to hit a moving target. Then again, the similar situation already applies to male behavior in the workplace wrt sexual harassment law--where the standard is how the recipient "feels" about certain behaviors, these feelings being unique to different women in different situations and different locales--and this varying, changing, situationally dependent standard is applied without mercy to unwitting or insufficiently attractive men.  Thus, in the spirit of what is good for the gander is good for the goose, a similar lowest-common-denominator "hostile work environment" standard for provocative dress seems appropriate.
In the end, I would welcome women behaving more feminine in the workplace. But I can easily see that, without some adjustments that restrict feminine autonomy and require accountability to the standards of their coworkers, it can easily go off the rails.


Christina said...

So cute shoes, perky smile, and long, wavy, sensual hair framing her sparkling eyes is feminine?

Chances are she's the one sleeping with the engineers she wows and keeping the one who makes it to project engineer.

Call me bitter - but appearance has very little to do with feminity. It has to do with how you carry yourself and treat others. I had a difficult time affording cute shoes while paying $600+/month trying to rid myself of a student loan as quickly as possible. I had a hard time affording that cute pencil skirt from the mall and the "onesie" blouses that stay tucked in all the time. Oh and not to mention the dry cleaner. And sorry, my hair doesn't wave. It's long, straight, and flyaway. So expect pulled back, braids, or harsh looking buns.

I adopted the culture of my fellow engineers - jeans and blouse. It wasn't something to get promoted in, but given I didn't want to stay long enough to get promoted, it wasn't such an issue to be dressing like a level 1 or 2 engineer.

ray said...

you welcome women behaving with more femininity in the workplace?

is that before or after they force us from our jobs?

does that mean you support women wearing dresses while they force us and our sons from our jobs?

have you actually seen what most "workplaces" look like now? do you live in a neocon bubble?

the "workplaces" -- especially the public sector and NGOs -- are absolutely ruled by women (whether "acting with 20 percent More Femininity or not")

men have been jettisoned from education and employment for forty years, nobody (except wonderful You) is allowed to be a dad anymore, becuase women gobble up the jobs... and all the other resources

now that Ms President is re-elected, the trashing of males from education and employment is gets another four year mandate

yet you, in your paternitas, "welcome more femininity in the workplace"?

EW has a great job.... so hey, all's well for everyone! LOL

no female should have a job while a man goes unemployed, period . . . the rest is sheer solipsistic madness, that can only bring disaster (yes, including for Family Wapiti also, O Satisfied One)

with brave men like you taking such dangerous positions as being OK with more femininity in the workplaces, america's terminal problems of mass male unemploymennt, impoverishment, and degradation are well on the way to recovery!

you should get a job in the reconstituted Cabinet, you could help Jarrett with her feminine-workplace chops!

Elusive Wapiti said...

" It has to do with how you carry yourself and treat others. "

Very much so. But as mentioned in my post, femininity is multi-faceted. Appearance is part of the equation, mannerisms and deportment also contribute as well.

All this suggests that the militant angry face 2d and 3d-wave feminism is giving way to a softer, more smiley faced 5th-wave variety, one a bit less concerned with achieving and maintaining sexual supremacy than with enjoying the benefits their culturally dominant position yields women.

Added to this is the pendulum effect of more conservative women re-asserting themselves in the public sphere...the result is that being feminine is becoming more and more in vogue, while the vague androgyny that characterizes modern feminine behavior starts to fall away.

wanderling said...

Pants are more appropriate attire for work on construction sites, not skirts or dresses. closed leather shoes are safer than high heels, now where is that video of the female cop in high heels that went viral? Sounds like u could have used it for this post, not that it would support yr point....

Christina said...

Wanderling - I believe he was aiming at the pants-suit wearing feminists that infiltrate the white-collar world. Not the blue collars.

Though skirts can be impractical when climbing in and out of a tank mock up in a DoD engineering firm, white collar engineers don't typically find themselves in such positions. Unless you're me :)