12 July, 2009

Too Much Shit In Newspaper Hampers Readership Prospects

Only joking, sadly; The Mail manages to garner readers even with non-articles like "Too much cleavage in workplace hampers promotion prospects". Just as well we're here to rip them to shreds too, eh?

In contrast to Ayelet Waldman's unfortunate foray into Mailanism, it seems fairest to distinguish this drivel from its ostensible source ("an author... Elizabeth Squires" who is quoted but sparingly) as from research it is hard to tell precisely how stupidly sexist she is in her own right, as compared to through the Daily Mail looking-glass. Reviews for her boob books are split down the middle from the evangelical to the eviscerating, and I am loathe to make as prejudiced use of her material as the anonymous Daily Mail Reporter responsible for cobbling together this waste of words.

Dislaimer dispatched, it must however be said that for an article barely 300 words long, it packs an impressively idiotic punch - aided and abetted most of all by Ms. Squires' own research. While it is the commonest of sense to know that one should dress (and speak, and write, and behave) professionally in a professional context, this article stretches that most basic truism far beyond the bounds of objectivity.

Like many a Mail article, "Too much cleavage..." begins with a veneer of reasonableness. Many women probably have "stopped power-dressing in preference for wearing tighter and more skimpy outfits at work", and it's probably not a good idea. As a woman naturally endowed with large breasts, I know that there are some styles of top that I should steer clear of for work, in the same way that a male colleage would be expected to dispense with his Hawaaian shirts/shorts/vests/stupid T-shirts. I may not like it, but I can understand it, as part of a sartorial paradigm to which both genders must submit between the hours of nine and five. A sartorial paradigm, no less, which can be hard to negotiate at times; "I don't think women are stupid, I just don't think anyone knows the rules", says Squires. So far, so fair (if also somewhat frustrating). But not for long - this is, after all, the Daily Male.

For, after labouring this obvious point for a few pedestrian paragraphs, the Emperor's new clothes dissolve to reveal the usual bile beneath. Why, for instance, does it matter that Ms (or, interestingly, "Miss" - Christ on a bike, is this woman unmarried?! What's she doing being quoted in a national rag, ye gods?) Squires is "a mother of three"? Oh yes, it doesn't. They just don't know how else to categorise us breeding stock.

But most of all (and on Squires' head let this squarely fall) why is the research on female professional attire cited based entirely on "men examin[ing] photographs in a generic workplace in various outifts"? And why do these photographs feature "different bra sizes" rather than "different cleavages"?

The first variable assumes an almost exclusively masculine workplace, when in fact other women's opinions of these same pictures would have been just (and in some sectors, arguably more) relevant. We may still be battling the glass ceiling, but it's sure as hell getting crowded in the female wage basement, so to survey only men is sloppy to say the least. Unless of course you believe men both do and should have the first and last say in any professional sphere... goodness, I almost forgot I was reading the Male

The second variable is altogether more sinister, though. Dress is elective, and we must all pay for our choices in one way or another; however, to promote "medium-sized breasts" as a professional accoutrement is outrageous. What are we meant to do, list breast reductions or augmentations on our CVs along with which software packages we can use? "Fully fluent in French, German and your company's narrow definition of what constitutes mammaplastic professional perfection"? (Not to mention dressing "discreetly" - because if you have to be heard, you had better not be seen as well).

But perhaps this article's biggest failing is one of omission; the question should not just be how to dress for work, but also why "increasing numbers [are] showing more cleavage at work by wearing plunging necklines and tight tops". It couldn't possibly be that in institutionally sexist environments, some women have decided that if they're going to be judged on their looks anyway, they may as well exploit the system, could it? And it couldn't be that this professionally unprofessional approach will only disappear when male sexism does, could it? Of course not; this is not just sexism, this is Daily Mail sexism - hotpot most definitely included.

1 comment:

  1. God that made me laugh out loud.

    Obviously the insinuation that, somehow, having large breasts is unprofessional or deliberately provocative in any way is absurd, ludicrous, but surely in terms of appropriate attire there are very, very simple rules that can be established?

    a. If a workplace requires a uniform, there is no flexibility other than, perhaps, women being allowed to wear skirts if they so wish. Apart from the odd instances of bars that demand women wear skimpy dresses (one of 'our' own has been on the rough end of this), this is fairly watertight and fair.

    b. Organisations that require smart business dress, which has almost as little flexibility. Common sense prevails here. If a man has to wear suit and tie, then woman has to wear suit and tie or clothing that reveals as little e.g. smart business wear, blazer, buttoned-up blouse and conservative pencil skirt.

    c. Organisations that ask for business casual: in these situations, men are allowed to wear shirts, unbuttoned to at the top, with no tie, and casual slacks. The same therefore must apply to women. If one wants, one can unbutton top two or three of blouse, and wear a shorter skirt.

    d. Casual workplaces, in which case anything goes and, really, just deal with it. If one is offended or titilated by a bit of cleavage or leg, then the same applies to a bearded longhair or man in shorts/very tight jeans.

    All round it's rather silly - the similarly perverse notion that a man with massive nuts should be asked to wear baggies or not apply forthwith makes me chuckle - and points to a general feeling within the Fail: women, stay at home.


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