Stop, Collaborate and Listen
Flavia Dzodan once famously said on the fantastic blog Tiger Beatdown, "My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit." In this context, she was talking about ensuring we include women of colour, trans women, poor women, women with a disability, non-neurotypical* women, all marginalised groups of women in feminism. But I propose we not only do this, but make the goal even broader still. We need to take the ultimate challenge and decide to include not only all these groups, but one more challenging still - people who disagree with us.
|Photo by Pinti 1 on Flickr|
|Twitter is an infophile's best friend|
I got a comment on my first “So, You Have To Wear Makeup” post, saying that reader had never worn makeup to an interview and had never had a problem. Being the nerdy little infophile I am, I decided to collect some anecdata, because this was totally contrary to my experience.
I got back some answers that were absolutely what I was expecting to hear, the ones that matched my own experience in the job market. People saying that when they were younger, and going for less financially rewarding jobs like fast food and call centre positions, that they hadn’t worn makeup, but now they were going for and getting more senior positions, makeup had become a necessity in job interviews. But there were also a lot of responses that blew my assumptions clear out of the water. Dozens of women came back to me with tales of successful careers built while entirely rejecting makeup, and it has made me seriously reconsider whether I actually need to wear it to work after all. I heard from a lot of women who don’t ever wear makeup, and so had never considered that it might be necessary for a job interview, and it hadn’t held them back one bit. There were also responses from people that challenged my idea that “all women” think wearing makeup to job interviews is inherently unfair - some women put forward the opinion that it was ridiculous not to wear makeup to an interview, that I was just part of a workplace dress code, and no more oppressive than requiring you to wear closed shoes. One person put forward the idea that appearance was the biggest advantage women have in an interview situation, and you're an idiot not to use all the tools at your disposal to look as good as you can. Moreover, someone else suggested that considering the many studies proving that men are better at talking themselves up, and get better results when they do, it's only fair for women to use their natural advantage. Some women said they just enjoy making themselves up, that it made them feel confident, beautiful, and capable, so why wouldn't they for an interview?
While I gathered a lot of information, I don’t really have a great many concrete conclusions to draw from it – this was such a casual study that trying to draw any definitive facts out of it would be ridiculous. However, I did discover that if you are against wearing makeup enough that you don’t feel like you could do it for an interview, it seems like the public service is the place for you. I’m pretty curious as to how this culture has come about, as opposed to the private sector where once your business hits a certain size, it does seem to be largely assumed the women will wear makeup. Nursing also seems to be relatively makeup free, although my anedata suggests this is changing and the younger generation of nurses are much more likely to “put on a bit of face”. Personally, I think I would need a little lipstick or a nice hair bow or SOMETHING to make me feel better after twelve hours of cleaning up other people’s puke, but that’s just my guess as to why it’s becoming more prevalent. On the other hand, advertising and PR seem to be industries where makeup is a requirement, and probably a fair bit of it. One source told me she’d been to twelve interviews makeup free in a row, and on the next one she wore makeup to see if it made a difference. This time she got the job. She’s an enormously experienced, confident, intelligent candidate, so while correlation is not causation, it seems like a pretty strong indicator that wearing makeup in these industries is not a choice for women.
|Not an accurate depiction of the nursing profession|
I actually don't entirely agree with either end of the spectrum of responses I got. As with so many things my opinion is somewhere in the middle. I will continue to wear makeup to job interviews, because I think it gives me an advantage that outweighs my other disadvantages. But I'm delighted to learn that women who fucking hate makeup and refuse to wear it have the option to do so and be successful. I’m also pleased that there are other women out there who don’t like wearing makeup, but are happy to do it for the sake of getting a job, that I’m not some massive traitor for doing so. I’m pleased to learn there are other confident, self assured women who enjoy wearing makeup as a bit of fun, just as I do.
But I didn’t ask the question in order to try and form some sort of declarable conclusion - it's the discussion that fires me up. The fascinating influx of information I wouldn't have gotten otherwise, the viewpoints I had never considered. I didn’t exclude or dismiss the women who disagreed with me - I thanked them for their contribution, and added their anecdata to my research. I looked at ALL the answers I had gotten before trying to reach any sort of conclusion. If anything, I wish my question had been able to get out to a more varied sample of women. I feel like the more points of view I can get on something, the closer I can get to something like truth.
However, I think we need to accept there is no such thing as one truth for all women. Caitlin Moran has been copping a lot of flak lately for some decidedly non-intersectionalist views she put forward in her book, "How To Be A Woman", and I think she deserves to be questioned about them. Her dismissal of pole dancers claim to feminism particularly got up my nose. But I also think she had an excellent point when she rebutted these arguments by pointing out that she never wanted to be a spokesperson for ALL women. As trans and whorephobic as she is, she's right about this. No one woman can speak for all women - there is simply too much variety in experience and situation for this to ever work. I have only ever worked in the private sector, so I’m not going to presume to tell women who have only worked in the public sector what they can and can’t do at work. Instead of only listening to ourselves and those who agree with us, how about we stop for a minute and have a listen to other women's truths, whether we agree with them or not? I want to encourage a conversation within feminism - with this blog, I want to draw together the people who think lipstick is oppressive, and the people who never wear pants, and get them talking. It’s only a little topic in the grand scheme of things, I know, but it’s what I can do.
|Not a feminist, not particularly surprising.|
Other people with much more experience than me have discussed this disgusting situation elsewhere, so I will make my analysis short. This "war" started because Suzanne Moore wrote a column in which she made what I feel are some excellent points about the state of feminism currently, but also included an off-the-cuff dig at trans women. They understandably asked if she could not use that word next time. Instead of taking a minute to listen to them, she launched into a series of justifications for her language, and then her BFF dogpiled on and said these women should be grateful that they weren't called worse.(Serious trigger warnings on this link, BTW. It's some hateful, vicious stuff.) All it would have taken is for Moore to stop, listen, think, and then say "Hey, sorry about that. I didn't realise my word choice was so hurtful. I won't use it in future." That's it. Instead of complaining that no-one saw the point she was trying to make past her use of a word they found really upsetting, she needed to deal with the fact that she made a mistake. But she wouldn't. And now it's a shit fight, becoming more vicious every day, all because she simply refused to listen to experiences other than her own.
|Image from xojane|
|Don't be this guy|
*neurotypical refers to anyone with a "normal" brain, ie no discernible emotional, mental, or learning disorder - non-neurotypical is everyone else.