Women’s changing professional attire

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-colorful-evolution-of-newswomens-attire/2012/11/26/361e914e-2eb4-11e2-beb2-4b4cf5087636_story.html

This article focuses on how women in broadcasting have seen a change in the acceptable wardrobe standards.  A few years ago, short hair and two piece suits were mandatory.  The article describes how women “bundled up their breasts to blend into a professional culture”.  Recently, the wardrobe limits have expanded, and now women can wear a wider variety of clothes.  The article mentions that some networks encourage wearing lower necklines and high heels to boost ratings.

Does this modification of wardrobe expectations reflect an increasing freedom for women in the workplace, or does it reflect males’ desire to have eye candy during the work day?  On one hand, women are freer to express themselves through bright colors and unique pieces.  On the other hand, the increasing pressure to wear more sexualized clothes could easily start a trend of demeaning women in the workplace and dismissing them as pretty things to look at.

Personally, I believe that this greater ‘freedom’ of wardrobe is detrimental to women’s progress in the workplace, especially in newsrooms where personal appearance and consumer ratings are important to the show’s success.  Most of these organizations are run by males, so male pressure will ultimately decide what a woman will wear (it would seem silly to be fired from a job for not dressing the way your superiors wished).  It is easy to imagine that in this male-dominated workplace, there may be pressure to dress “sexier” because it might attract more viewers and it might work to trivialize women so males can advance faster.  If this happens, new wardrobe standards would signal increasing control of men, not increasing freedom of women.

I’m clearly assuming that men want to see sexualized women in the workplace, which may be an unfair assumption.  What do other people think?

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2 Responses to Women’s changing professional attire

  1. AMU says:

    I don’t think that men necessarily tell women what to wear all the time. However, there are strong social clues as to how women should go about dressing in the workplace. According to the article each station handles the dress code differently with some women anchors having total control, some women anchors having an assortment already pre-purchased for them, and others being told exactly what to wear. In the latter two cases, this is means of greater control for the people who are in charge then there was before, which may or may not be men.

    In the past, women were trying to conform to men’s dress when it came to work in order to be taken seriously. Now, it is another version of the same game. Before women anchors had to play by the rules that were set before the game started in order to reach their end goal. At present in this game, women anchors have to take the pieces that are given to them because the rules are not important in this new game its who controls the board. In relation to John Berger’s theories in “The Ways of Seeing,” these women anchors care so much about their appearance and how they look to their audiences because it is a measure of their self worth and how they supposedly deserve to be treated in the workplace.

    We need to also consider the fact that there are men anchors that are asked to dress a certain way for their television debut. They are often times considered attractive men that are dressed in suits to appeal to their audience, so in a way this is an equal situation.

    I think what is important here is that the anchors need to be comfortable in what they are wearing. All anchors should be allowed to give their input on what they are comfortable with wearing.

  2. allied2015 says:

    I think this is a very interesting viewpoint concerning the opinion that the men want to see sexualized women in the workplace due to the changing professional attire of women. Over the weekend I attended a sorority conference where we were told to dress in “business casual” clothing. When I looked around the room, some of these women were wearing short skirts and dresses that I could have easily spotted in a party at a nightclub. It really astounded that some girls conceptualized business attire as short dresses and extremely high heels. I know this is not completely analogous to business attire in the workplace because men are usually the ones telling women what to wear, not sorority advisors who are obviously women; however, this demonstrates what women think of as appropriate regarding business clothing. If women will wear short dresses and high heels to a sorority conference where girls are continuously judging each other, what will they wear in the workplace where men are judging and sexualizing them?

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