Not long after arriving for an 8 hour shift at work yesterday, my manager told me to go home and change clothes because I was wearing a dress that fell slightly above my knees. I was wearing black leggings underneath, and I wasn’t showing any skin from the neck down besides my hands (both details she apparently considered to be irrelevant). I was deeply disappointed to be reminded that my workplace still implements a reductive dress code that values a woman’s appearance over her work ethic or professionalism. Perhaps I was doubly disappointed because I work at a public library, which is a place that has such great potential to promote egalitarian values. In this instance, however, library personnel decided that the energy I put forth toward my work was not important, and that my time would be better spent taking close to hour off from work to drive home, change clothes, and then drive back to work. When my manager told me to go home and change clothes I was shocked, angry, and disappointed. I mulled over what I should do for a while, unable to focus on my work because of the troubling thought that the policing of women’s appearances was happening all around me, enforced by other women no less. I finally decided that the only thing I could do was to try to stand up for myself, so I ventured to my manager’s office to try to explain the harm of the library’s dress code policy. I was pretty upset and didn’t explain myself very eloquently, but I did manage to convince my manager to let me finish my shift without going home. What a strange world where you have to convince your employer to let you work, or where doing so successfully would be considered a victory. I don’t feel victorious, but I feel lucky. Countless women everyday are no doubt prevented from doing their jobs because someone, somewhere might be offended by their choice in clothing. I wonder how many of us there are. I was able to discuss my concerns with my manager, but I know other women in similar fields might not be so fortunate, and might even be fired for doing so. Workplace dress codes seem like such a small thing, but they comprise no small number of daily inequalities that women around the world face, apparently regardless of the field they work in. I’m posting this in solidarity with all of the women who have and who will be discriminated against for their clothing. If we can, let’s #leanout and speak up about workplace inequality.
Rail staff were on strike last week so the few trains that were running were overcrowded and it was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Early morning commute – around 7:30am – and I had managed to get a seat on a train going in vaguely the right direction; other passengers were standing all the way down through the carriages. We pulled into a station and more people got on, but there were still some stranded on the platform: they could see that there was still standing space down the middle of the carriages and were calling for people to move down so that they could get on the train. One of the standing people, a man, was engrossed in his phone with earphones in. I tapped him on the elbow, motioned out of the window to the people still on the platform and asked him to move up into a gap so that everyone else could move up and people could get on. He replied “really, you’re going to start something? It doesn’t even affect you. Why are you bothered”. I told him that I’d been in the same position as those people on the platform and that he was being selfish and that at least two more people could get on the train if only he’d move up. He told me to “shut up you little cunt”. No one in the entire carriage said anything. No one even made eye contact with me. I duly ‘shut up’. The train pulled away from the station leaving loads of people behind. And I promptly started berating myself for being weak and pathetic. I can’t stop thinking about it and how I should have called him on his misogynistic language and bullying, and stood up for myself, and how I seemed to become a spineless mouse.