The Micro-Aggression Edition

The Micro-Aggression Edition

When I was very young and watched television shows, I noticed that starlets were converted into scientists and librarians by wearing their hair in a bun and wearing glasses often heavy black rimmed glasses. I couldn’t help but notice that while their appearance changed their intelligence and manner did not. And I thought those days were behind us, but I was wrong.

There is evidence that people and by people in this sense, I largely mean men, buy into this, that is, the idea that glasses and hair color in indicate intelligence and capability in women. Let me quote from a BBC article called – 100 Women: ‘I dye my hair brown to be taken more seriously at work’ :

A Silicon Valley CEO reveals her secret to getting ahead in business – dyeing her blonde hair brown, and ditching her heels and contact lenses.

I missed some details when I was young, you also can’t be blonde or wear contacts.

So, let me get this straight – to get ahead in tech (it’s in the article) you have to dress like a 1960’s starlet playing a banker in, “The Beverly Hillbillies?”

Oh, but don’t worry. It’s not stupidity or dullness to blame for this – it’s all about “pattern recognition.” Here, let me quote –

Carey was told that the investors she was pitching to would feel more comfortable dealing with a brunette, rather than a blonde woman.

“I was told for this raise [of funds], that it would be to my benefit to dye my hair brown because there was a stronger pattern recognition of brunette women CEOs,” she explains.

On the positive side, this implies that women can almost endlessly play men by what they wear and on the negative side that men are breathtakingly stupid.

I met a friend of mine for dinner a few years ago. She was stylish woman who dressed well and I was expecting dinner date garb. She showed up wearing a tiny haltertop that she was barely squeezed into. I said her name followed by “What the hell?” She laughed and told me she had been selling real estate and she had rushed to our date without having a chance to change. Apparently a shapely woman in form fitting clothes can get middle aged men to both buy and pay more for real estate. She told me stories of how well it worked and how the men reacted to her.

Now, let me be clear. I enjoy women dressing well and I taught my female students that dress and manner were critical to their success, but do people, particularly women, have to be so pathetically stereotyped? Women are as much individuals as men. Maybe, just maybe, we could listen to them as people and try to figure them out as people rather than classifying them in the most simple and often demeaning of ways.

I’m sure my friend could have sold real estate and made good money in her regular garb but the fact that wearing revealing tight clothing bumped up the price and the number of sales is not a positive comment on how we treat or think about women in our society.

As long as the appearance of women is the primary consideration in matters of business, we are going to suffer this kind of nonsense. And the cost is terrible, I’m sure many women simply won’t put up with it and many more are given short shrift in the business world because of ridiculous judgments on hair color and clothes. Depriving business of judgment, intelligence and insight in this manner is a tragedy.

James Pilant

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