Always interesting blog The Hathor Legacy (about female characters in fiction and media) sent me on an interesting surfing journey today via their “Links of Great Interest.” I ended up at the fabulous new (to me) Geek Feminism Blog, reading a series of posts on Clothes and Geek Feminism.
The question is, professionally and personally, how do we as geeky women have to dress to fit in? And, as a follow-on, do we have to follow some unwritten dress code? The string of articles I’m referencing suggest that women might need to dress in a deliberately unfeminine and minimally businesslike manner to gain acceptance as a geek in the workplace.
I self-identify as a woman and a geek, and as so many other things as well. I’m creative, a bit of a nonconformist, a SF/fantasy fan, a traveler and an active person. My IT workplace has no dress code, other than business casual – very casual – and we spiff it up when we’re facing customers.
I have never found that I have to dress down, dress androgynously, for acceptance. I do think that an extreme pre-occupation with shoes, clothes and makeup would be counterproductive. Some worry about dressing like a manager vs. dressing like a hands on technical or knowledge worker – I’m not certain whether that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Still, I can wear feminine styles, colors, prints, skirts and heels as long as I’m able to do my job effectively.
Dressing in flattering clothing is especially important to me because I’m a larger woman. I’m, err, Amazonian. Statuesque. I’ll never be small, although I can and do strive for healthy and fit. Presenting myself to the world with good grooming and in carefully chosen, attractive, appropriate attire is part of maintaining my self-esteem, of accepting myself and caring for myself on a daily basis.
I did make a conscious decision many years ago to dress in a more feminine style in the workplace. It’s who I am. While I enjoy the camaraderie of my male professional friends very much, I do not want to dress like nor be one of the guys. There’s a difference and it’s a very entertaining part of life.
This is not to be confused with excessively provocative or sexual attire in the workplace. One of my friends mentioned this a couple of months ago in a comment thread, and honestly, it had never occurred to me. I dress for my own pleasure and comfort, not to attract or repel others’ attention. Still, very low-cut, tight or sheer clothing is out of line and tremendously distracting in any professional setting, geeky or not. It’s quite possible to dress like a woman without dressing like a whore.
What about you – do you dress down to be accepted as a geek? Do you feel that there is a dress code for management “suits” and another for geeks? Or do you do your own thing, comfortable in your presentation, and the heck with what anyone thinks?
And men, weigh in here too. Do you notice what women wear as it pertains to professional credibility? Would you listen to a woman in a pink fuzzy sweater as readily as one wearing a black shirt with a flash drive on a lanyard?