women, women rights, sexism, discrimination, work, work clothing, the freedom corespondent
Picture source: Timesdelhi.com

The Freedom Correspondent: Should women be told what to wear?

I had just slid into my desk at the back of a lecture room in university, when the tutor asked me to stand up.

Not knowing what was happening at the time, I cautiously ticked off all potential offenses in my mind. I wasn’t late, I was ready for the lecture and no I didn’t go out last night (unlike most of my course mates who could hardly concentrate.)

Finally the teacher spoke out-  “Is that real fur? Do you support animal cruelty?” she asked pointing out my silver mink jacket.

Everyone — and I mean, everyone — turned around to look at me.

It was my first year at a well-known journalism school, and I was already standing out from the crowd. Sadly, at the time it wasn’t for my academic achievements, but rather because I looked different to the other girls in the class.

We hardly had any foreigners and being so obviously Russian drew a lot of attention…

I remember the humiliation, how I could actually feel it ride up over my scalp and wash over my beet-red face, over my lovely new mink coat (it wasn’t the only one I had in my collection) and down to my high heels (yes, no-one was wearing them too).

I blinked away tears, and walked out of the class. I felt ridiculed as if a part of my identity was stepped on.

Looking back at it now, there was the article I read just a few weeks ago. I must have felt the same way as a female Washington D.C reporter who wasn’t allowed into a particular room outside the U.S House of Representatives chamber because her sleeveless formal work dress was considered inappropriate.

In an attempt to get her outfit up to a standard, the woman had to rip out pages from her notebook and stuff them into her dress shoulder openings to recreate the paper sleeves.

Just imagine the scene. And after all that she was not even allowed to remain in the room…

Also, the Washington DC reporter wasn’t the first woman to run into trouble with the dress code regulations on Capitol Hill.

Almost at the same time Haley Byrd, a reporter for the Independent Journal Review got in trouble for the very same reason.

According to CBS Broadcasting Corporation, Byrd got kicked out of the speaker’s lobby for her inappropriate sleeveless dress, even though she’d just been passing through.

My unpleasant incident happened back in 2012. But I struggle to believe that almost six years down the line we are still having a conversation about what is appropriate and what’s not for women to wear.

Shouldn’t it be one’s freedom of choice to decide that? What a woman wears must be her choice (or at least that’s how I see it).

Why do so many other people feel like they should have something to say about it?

Us, women, can’t win really (No, I don’t consider myself a feminist). We wear too little and we’re seen as provocative. Wear too much and we’re classed as unfashionable or frumpy. Too short. Too long. Too tight. Too baggy. Too flashy. Too casual. The list goes on and on…

No wonder women spend so much time standing in the doorway of our closets trying to decide, “What should I wear?”

Can someone explain to me how can a female employee be sent home for not wearing high heels? I think that’s the example we should feel particularly ashamed of? And it only happened a year ago.

A young temp receptionist was sent home after she refused to wear four inch heels on her nine-hour shift at a finance company.

When she refused and complained male colleagues were not asked to do the same, she was sent home without pay. I don’t think it’s fair.

Same way as with men, women should be allowed to follow their own instincts about how to dress in different environments.

At the end of the day if bosses trust female employees to do the job, they can trust them to dress appropriately too.

It shouldn’t be all about the employer. It’s important to recognise women’s needs too.

While I understand there are some items of clothing that employers might want you to wear, I suggest we put those dress codes to the test.

First, is the dress code particularly uncomfortable or harmful? Second, is it discriminatory or oppressive?

Women should have a say in it all too. We no longer need anyone telling us what to wear.

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