There are some days when you leave your home thinking you’re going to have a normal day of meetings and sitting in your office, working at your computer. On those days, you might think it a good idea to deviate from your usual fashion of practical business casual wear. On those days, you might think it a good idea to finally wear that flowy skirt or new dress. After all, even though you work as an engineer and frequently disregard your girlish impulses in order to fit in, you are a girl and it is socially acceptable to wear skirts and dresses once in a while. If you are like me, you will be thinking, ‘What could it hurt to wear a dress on such a drab work day?’
Let this be a warning from
personal experience: Disregarding your better (more practical) judgment to
satisfy your girlish needs is not a good idea.
Inevitably, the day you choose to wear a dress is the day you will be faced
with some emergency which requires you to take apart and reassemble a
malfunctioning piece of equipment, visit a client site which requires that you
wear a pair of gross/moldy coveralls over your clothes, or even climb through
air conditioning ducts superspy-style to end a dangerous hostage situation.
In all of these cases, your
girlish impulse to wear a dress is a hindrance. If your job is anything like
mine, you have a 100% chance of flashing your coworkers while reassembling that
mischievously malfunctioning piece of equipment. And if you attempt to do your
job while consciously trying to avoid flashing your coworkers, you’re going to
do it awkwardly and inefficiently. This is one of my greatest examples of a
lose-lose situation. Either you are subject to embarrassment in front of your
coworkers or your reputation takes a blow because of your inefficiency, all
because you decided to wear a dress.
After having experienced
this first-hand, I have defined a new rule for choosing my work attire: Do not
wear dresses. Do not try to try to make a fashion statement. Do not try to
overthrow the suppression that your workplace practicality has imposed. This is
one of those moments where it is a good idea to suck it up and bear it.
I now intend to put a sign
on my closet which reads something like this:
And if you’re having a hard
time choosing what to wear, my friend Vanessa has kindly already provided some
advice on what footwear is appropriate in the workplace.
Now, avoiding wearing girly
clothing just because of some hypothetical, superlative situations may sound suppressive
or even discriminatory against women. I, however, don’t consider my advice
anti-women or anti-feminism. In fact, I consider this choice in attire to be
helpful to gaining women respect and rights.
The reality is that I’m an
engineer AND a feminist, which means I tend to go about obtaining respect for
women in a practical manner. In my mind, women shouldn’t demand respect just
because they are women. They need to earn respect by doing respectable things. Flashing
my coworkers in a 100% avoidable situation doesn’t gain me respect; it actually
discredits me. My coworkers will think of me as that girl that tries to do a
man’s job instead of as just a coworker doing an engineer’s job.
Alternatively, if I dress
appropriately for the job, as a typical engineer would (in practical,
reasonable attire because we engineers are practical people), then I will
hopefully be thought of as an engineer first. My reputation won’t be degraded, I
won’t be embarrassed, and I’ll still be on par with all my other coworkers. Being
thought of as an engineer who happens to also be a woman shifts the paradigm toward
people understanding that everyone is capable of being an engineer regardless
After all, women deserve
respect in the workplace, and I simply can’t get that if I’m flashing everyone.
Plus, by going about this reasonably, I’m able to combat the notion that women are
unfathomable, illogical, and flighty creatures.
I, at least, will be
removing skirts and dresses from my work attire from now on.