Sometimes I sit back and let my blood boil over the fact that a woman’s existence—the way she dresses, talks, acts, tweets, etc.—is always going to be up for debate by some guy named Chad who brags that “his mom and his wife are his heroes.” One second we’re not feminine enough, but the next we’re too “girly.” We’re obnoxious or we’re frigid bitches. We’re either sluts or we’re prudes. I could go on and on but this can’t be 800 words of judgements that are hurled at women, if you want that kind of content you can read Barstool. What’s even more frustrating is that that we face even more scrutiny when we’re entangled in the misogynistic and patriarchal corporate machine.
I started interviewing for jobs recently, and I have been noticing that I perform significantly better when the person across from me is a woman. Even if I am interviewing for the same position and answering similar questions, when there’s a man on the other end of the table I immediately feel insecure and incapable. Instead of focusing on speaking to my capabilities my attention shifts and I become worried about not coming off as too loud, ditzy or flippant—which in reality are just misnomers people assign to women who are expressing themselves in ways that don’t fit into the patriarchal box of what it means to be smart and successful. Say it with me, femininity isn’t intrinsically unprofessional! Just as masculinity isn’t intrinsically professional!
I’ve spent a lot of time (which is code for money and therapy) becoming comfortable with my own femininity, but I am starting to come to terms with the fact that the patriarchy has affected me in ways that can’t just be fixed by telling myself I look hot while I stare at my arm fat in the mirror every morning.
I express emotion, I trust my intuition, I write with gel pens and brag about my nail art, and over my dead body will you ever catch me within 10 feet of a conference room bro-down. Obviously #notallwoman express themselves (emotionally and physically) in the same way. But I don’t want to suppress my over-the-top expression and “flare” (thank you, Dr. Neil, my online therapist and potential soulmate); I think it makes me easy to talk to and I enjoy the relationships I build with people because I don’t shy away from much of anything. I also like the way I look when I color coordinate my outfit with my fuzzy feather pens, sue me. But the microaggressions that I’ve experienced in the workplace, along with downright inappropriate comments, have given me the false idea that who I am as a woman can’t coexist in a male-dominated professional environment. When women express themselves in a feminine manner, they often face judgement and patronizing assumptions about their competence. And that, ladies, is just a way to keep us out of the game!
Right now feels like the perfect storm to demand our femininity is taken seriously in the workplace. First of all, office culture is becoming increasingly more casual—in demeanor and dress code. Kegs and bean bags are a small price to pay for shorting your employees of a living wage, I suppose. We’re also working in the #metoo era, in which women are encouraged (we hope) to speak up and hold men accountable for inappropriate behavior. Because of the rise of informal office culture, a culture in which women are making their voices heard, the notion that expressing your womanhood in the office is “unprofessional” is a baseless argument.
I think that women can use these cultural shifts to their advantage in order to reframe the toxic, patriarchal ways that competence and skill are viewed at work. If we can embrace our femininity in the workplace—in our behavior, our personal style, and the ways we communicate—our male counterparts will have no choice but to discover that we can exude femininity and still do our jobs! It’s a novel concept, I know.
And it’s my penultimate desire that after men grasp their minds around the fact that women can be expressive, empathetic, extremely hot and intelligent, that the microaggressions which aim to discount the way that professionalism and womanhood coincide will stop. Because if I have to sit through another interview in which a man patronizingly compliments my flawless cherry manicure I will absolutely lose my shit.