Recently, the prestigious Loyola Law School issued a memo to students including a statement about how female students should dress when clerking.
As is often the case with professional dress codes, women’s clothing choices were addressed, with no suggestions about what is appropriate for men.
This gets at the double bind faced by women in something as simple as choosing what to wear to work. On the one hand, women are encouraged to look beautiful in their work appearance, as traditionally defined in our culture. On the other hand, often women are judged for looking too “sexy.”
Ultimately women’s job performance should not be evaluated on their appearance. It is an example of how “appearance counts” as a theme of femininity affects women in their professional lives in a significant way.
As Drexler argues here in a CNN editorial about the memo what should matter most is, “how women perform their jobs, and not which shoes they happened to choose that morning.”
Here is a fascinating discussion of women who have submitted Mount Everest over the years and the challenges they faced based upon social expectations for them as women in Eastern and Western cultures. After one professional climber told National Geographic that she, like many working mothers, felt guilty at leaving her children behind, reader response was ferocious. Readers responded to the article stating she had “pre-shot her children” and accusing her of having “cheap, self-serving arrogance.” A Nepalese woman who holds the record for summiting Everest 6 times is working as a maid because in her culture, educating women is not seen as a priority and she can not read or write.
Some of the issues faced by Western women climbers is grounded in our historical view of women and sport. From the article:
In the 19th century, when mountaineering was developing as a sport, the playing field was highly restricted. Victorian society largely believed that women could not endure robust physical activity. One prevalent theory blamed the uterus and the ovaries. These organs were thought to dictate everything about a woman, from puberty to menopause, including her athletic capabilities….
Naturally, mountaineering was out of the question. As physician Karl Gerson warned in 1898 in the German Journal of Physical Education, “Violent movements of the body can cause a shift in the position and a loosening of the uterus as well as a prolapse and bleeding, with resulting sterility, thus defeating a woman’s true purpose in life, i.e., the bringing forth of strong children.” A woman needed to stay home and go easy on the uterus. Future generations depended on it.
Kenya, the Philippines, Columbia, Saudia Arabia… not necessarily countries you might associate with “progressive” views of gender. Yet all these country’s governments provide paid paternity leave.
This article demonstrates how fathers and families benefit from paid paternity leave and how the US is one of the few countries around the world that doesn’t offer it typically.
In 2013, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo was the subject of much controversy after ordering all telecommuting workers to start working out of a Yahoo office.
Many decried how this affected working parents, especially working mothers. Here’s an interesting opinion piece about Mayer’s decision and Mayer’s misguided criticism of feminism.
There has been a great deal of talk about how men are losing their jobs in the recent recession, but little about how mothers who work outside the home are affected by it. This article describes how the cultural assumptions many employers hold about women in the workplace affects mothers looking for jobs especially. Recent research showed that married women with children who had lost their jobs had a 31% lower chance of finding a new job than a father with children.
Looking for proof of the effects of the gendered norms we’ve discussed about masculinity? How about evidence showing that even when it means more money, freedom, and time with family, many men feel guilt and depression when they earn less than female partners?
A common characteristic many men experience with masculine socialization is the idea that their value comes from their professional successes and ability to provide financially. This article is a great example that men’s choices are restricted in significant ways by norms that focus worthiness in such a narrow way. These norms have effects on the men’s physical and emotional health, along with their relationships.
Interesting blog from a stay-at-home Mom in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. She speaks powerfully of the joys of mothering, its importance in her life, and her conflicted feelings about leaving her career behind for a while. While I can’t say that I agree that, as she states, “socializaton and forced gender roles have nothing” (emphasis mine) to do with the joy she experiencing in her children, this doesn’t take away from the depth or the authenticity of the feelings. Just because we’re socialized in a particular way doesn’t make our joys and sorrows associated with that socialization less authentic.
I think this also points to the need to value choices to parent, work, or a combination of these equally, regardless of the sex of the parent. All three roles are vitally important personally and at a societal level.