I was told this week by a man who has power over me that I “was asking for it” by the way I dress. Or rather, this man told two other women in a meeting that I am sexually harassed by men at work and they weren’t because I dress in a way that “eggs them on”.
This was said in a way that is non-prosecutable, but it was still said so that everyone knew what he was talking about. While I’ve experienceda great deal of sexist behavior over the year, That sentiment is not something that has ever been directed at me. I dress conservatively to the point of prissiness at both work and school.
While I do not dress provocatively, I wear dresses more often than other women in my field. I also have really long legs, so even reasonable length dresses show a whole lot of leg. I regularly get compliments from both men and women for dressing with style. And in fact, on this day, I was wearing a pair of jeans, a shirt that, while it showed an awful lot of clavicle, was not low cut and didn’t show my midriff. Over this, I had a scarf and a long buttoned sweater so that I could never be considered to be dressing scandalously.
Because this outfit was obviously not egging *anyone* on, I ignored the comment at the moment, and continued with the meeting topic. I wasn’t concerned because I dress much like the higher-up females at my workplace. We all have a tendency to wear fabulous vintage dresses and awesome boots. However, the more I think about it, the more angry I become.
He said that I was *egging men on*. Who the fuck still says that? Who thinks that’s acceptable? Should I wear a burka to be a professional woman? Or should I wear our horrific male-tailored uniform shirt lest I be asking to be treated inappropriately?
The man who made this comment is never going to sexually harass a woman. That is a fact. However, with his offhand comment, he became part of the problem, and part of the reason why I have moments of intense uncomfortableness at work. I actually check every day to make sure that my tops don’t show any cleavage, and that if my dress or pants are tight, I have something over them.
Why should I do this? I am a talented, qualified person, who is well-suited to her job and has both the experience and education to back that up. Why the fuck is my boss even considering the way I dress as long as I’m adhering to the dress code?
This made me consider my own biases. We have a woman or two who dress a bit suggestively. I’ve often looked at them and thought “oh, not appropriate for work”. Does this mean I think that if they were verbally or physically attacked, that they would deserve this? HELL NO! Yes, their clothing may be a bit iffy in the context in which they are wearing it, but it’s not “asking for” harassment. Nothing is. I may not think that they always look good, but I will defend until the day I die their right to wear that clothing.
I love when women are confident about their bodies and wear clothing that makes them look good. Unfortunately, we live in a world where either we’re supposed to have poor self-esteem, dress in baggy, shapeless clothing and go on crazy weight-loss plans, but if we dare have any confidence, we immediately get branded a slut who obviously deserves anything we get from man.
FUCK. THAT. NOISE. I am a woman, and I am going to continue to wear my mod 60s dresses with high heeled boots, and I am going to continue kicking ass at my job, in spite of such unforgivably feminine clothing. If you insist on continuing to make nasty comments about me, then you can just fuck off and join the rest of the neanderthals in extinction. Some future super-stylish hot ass female anthropologist will dig up your remains in 100 years and not shed a tear over your demise.