Have you ever been reprimanded at work over your choice of clothes? If you have, you’re probably a woman. Women are often unfairly targeted for their attire at the workplace and in school. A new study shows that it happens even more than you think.
A survey of over 2,000 people in Britain found that women are singled out for their appearance for more often than men. Only nine percent of men said that they were reprimanded for their work attire. But 35 percent of women said that they had been targeted at work for the way they look.
The things that managers and coworkers complained about most was “too much makeup.” This was followed up by skirt length. And we’re not talking about mini-skirts here, we’re talking about knee-length skirts made for a business setting.
“I was told on my second day in my very first job that I was dressing ‘too provocatively’ in a knee-length black skirt and flat knee-high boots,” said Nancy Roberts, a woman who worked for a top publisher. Another female office worker said that she experienced the same thing. “Loads of us used to get told off for our skirt length. I once got told off for a knee-length pencil skirt that was clearly for business dress,” said Bridie Pearson-Jones, a former retail assistant. "My manager said: 'It's nice for clubbing, not so much for work.'"
This kind of blatant office sexism is nothing new. Last year a woman named Nicola Thorp was working as a receptionist in London, when she let go from her job for refusing to wear heels. When she made a remark about her male coworkers not having to abide by that rule, she was laughed at.
She was working at the finance company PwC (pictured) when the complaint against her was made. “I said, ‘if you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job today, then fair enough,’ but they couldn’t," said Thorp.
Thorp said that she would have not been comfortable working a full day in heels (and many women would agree). “I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said, ‘I just won’t be able to do that in heels,’” she said.
Thorp has since created a petition calling for business to not force their female employees to wear heels. It has gotten over 152,000 signatures. However, parliament debated the petition but he Equalities Office said that the law is “adequate.” Thorp called the government’s decision a “cop-out.”
“I argue that the laws that already exist are not enough. There is still much more than needs to be done. A law is only as good as those who enforce it,” Thorp said. “I understand that this isn’t top of the list, and going into the election there are other things on peoples’ minds. But women’s rights and equality needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds."
Also, as seen from the last presidential campaign, people seemed to focus too much on what Clinton was wearing versus what she was saying. Again, despite Michelle Obama’s amazing style, people seemed to focus more on her clothes, than any of the amazing things she was doing as First Lady.
In sports, the new Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LGPA) dress code made headlines for its restrictive and extensive requirements. The dress code was criticized as an attempt to “slut-shame” the players. If a player violated part of the dress code, she could be met with a $1,000 fine.
Dress code “violations” always make headlines in schools. Our school system has time and time again has targeted girls for being “distractions” in the classroom. Carey Burgess, a model student at Beaufort High School, recently made headlines after she was sent home because of her outfit choice.
This was the outfit she was sent home for. A teacher in the hallway stopped her and said, “Your skirt is too short. You need to go to in-school suspension and then go home.” Burgess said that she was brought to tears and humiliated by the incident.
Burgess made an emboldened social media post about the incident that quickly went viral:
“So maybe I am in the wrong. Maybe our society isn't yet advanced enough to handle 3 inches of my thigh. This is a patriarchal society and I am a woman. I have to be kept in my place, or I may do something that is so rarely seen in Beaufort High School- learn.
You saved me, Beaufort High. As Student Body President, junior marshal, and a recipient of the Palmetto Fellows, I was heading down the path of hard drugs [good thing you're testing next year!], strip clubs, and sugar daddies. I don't where I would be without your misogynistic views. How could I go on without a certain math teacher making sexist jokes all class? How could I survive without my science professor letting me know I am an inferior woman? Yes, I am a woman. I am woman with thighs, a butt, and a brain. I am bigger than Beaufort High School. All of us are. Maybe instead of worrying about my skirt, Beaufort High should take notice of its incompetent employees, and sexist leaders.”
But, our society still feels as though it has the right to dictate what women wear. Men can’t seem to take responsibility for their own gaze, and women are made to feel humiliated for distracting them because of their clothes. George Charles, who led the British study, thinks this entire notion is absurd.
“It's OK to pull up a member of your staff on their appearance if you genuinely believe that they're breaking their contract in anyway, or even if it poses some sort of health and safety risk, but you just can't tell women to change their appearance because they're possibly going to be distracting to their male colleagues. That's outrageous.”