Why The Sexism Of Workplace Dress Codes Is A Non-Issue

During the kerfluffle of #YesAllWomen, many were quick to point out that workplace dress codes are sexist.  We have nothing to worry about.

So dress codes often specify that women can’t wear the following: low-cut tops, bare midriffs, and short skirts.  So?  The reason workplaces place these restrictions on women is simply due to the simple fact that these trends do not appear in the more limited choices of men’s fashion.  I guarantee, if a man were to violate these sections, he would be fired too.

Why are these restrictions in place?  Because it’s just unprofessional attire, period.  We have no need to address whether or not these outfits are distracting.  Most workplaces ban shorts, why not short skirts too?  Workplace attire has always leaned in a conservative direction.  Get used to it, find a career/company with more lax standards, or start your own company.

I am reminded of the earliest episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Critics of the original Star Trek series complained of the sexism in the women’s uniforms.  So in the first few episodes of Next Generation, the kept the two uniform styles (pants and minidress).  Only they applied them in a gender neutral manner!  That’s right, not only were both men and women seen in the pants uniform, but there were both men and women wearing minidress uniforms!  The minidress uniform was unceremoniously dropped from later episodes, but the point was made.

If anything, the women’s dress code is more freeing.  They have more options.  Men are stuck in pants, dress shirt, tie, and maybe jacket.  Women can wear the same, with or without tie.  This is an option men generally don’t have.  Plus there are a number of acceptable dresses available too!  Men can’t wear shorts, but women can wear knee length skirts and dresses to get around that restriction.

Whether we like it or not, dress codes are often arbitrary.  I can’t think of one workplace where a woman would be in trouble for adhering to the men’s section of the dress code.  If you want gender equality in the dress code at work, you don’t have to change it.  Just buy a lot of ties and get used to hating those ties as much as the men do.


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