“Women: Intelligent and Stylish”
TikTok user @lolaokola has probably created one of my favourite short videos to date. In the video, she says “Something that really pisses me off is how women are penalized in the workplace for being beautiful and fashionable. Like YES, I’m extremely good at my job, and YES I serve looks. We exist!”
As someone who dresses modestly and has been dressing up for church ever since I was a baby, I couldn’t count the amount of times teachers or classmates would say “This isn’t a fashion show” or “Who do you think you are, the queen?” I learned from a very young age that any outfit with a skirt was considered “too fancy” and that wasn’t cool for girls in school. One that I got frequently was “You can’t do gym in that?!” when I would wear my athletic skirt and matching top. I remember promptly telling a gym teacher that I was going to “beat every boy in floor hockey and look good while doing it” after he told me to change into something “more appropriate”. It’s taken me a very long time to understand this issue for what it is and where it comes from. But I finally have an answer: some are simply afraid of the power women possess.
In the Media
You always see it in the media; the whole “You can’t be smart AND pretty” trope. There’s a girl that has good style and everyone loves her but she’s portrayed as someone unintelligent. The movie Legally Blonde, is a prime example of this. For years there’s been this rule created by society that women can only be good at one thing. In earlier years, the media portrayed women at home taking care of the children or talking and experimenting with different styles with the other moms. The men had no time for that because they were working. After we moved over the idea that only men could work and women were finally introduced to the workplace, the women took their definition of dressing up with them and I think this is where the fear started to become evident.
An intelligent and stylish woman was given the role of secretary or assistant. They thought she wasn’t capable of working in a better position and/or because they feared she would overpower them. For men, dressing up was considered waking up in the morning and putting on the same suit every day. However, for women, it meant a variety of different outfits and accessories. The men feared feeling invalidated and started penalizing the women and in return, the women started to fear their own potential.
In the End
For so long, many women in professional settings were penalized without knowing why. After hearing, reading and watching so many different narratives of women being chastised for what they wear in the workplace, I wondered why. When I first saw that TikTok video I sat and thought about it for a while. Later in the day I randomly remembered this quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” – Marianne Williamson
I think of the various things women are feared for and I realized it’s because it shows how powerful we really are. I told someone once that if a person fears you, it could mean that you have power over them. If no one fears the Queen of the kingdom, then they’re simply not the Queen anymore.