Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
I was pissed off by this piece about reviewing her work wardrobe, by Danielle of Images of Learning.
Don’t get me wrong. It is a good reflection. She has noticed something about her working life and thought about it. She has come to grounded conclusions. She has developed a philosophical position.
Danielle now dresses with intent.
Good for her.
I like that Danielle is asserting her right to dress the way she chooses for work. I like that her work-style is a product of reflection. I like that she tells us about the work-related experience that got her thinking.
But this part worries me:
“I put my best self forward every day for the families, children and colleagues I work with. Part of doing that is making sure I look professional. We are educated women and men who care deeply for children and families. As a field we have a specialized knowledge that needs to be shared with our community. We must advocate for the practices that we believe in. We must articulate why we do what we do.
Now imagine sharing that specialized knowledge and articulating those practices to a parent, a colleague, a community member, a politician, the media or a board member dressed in layered tank tops, an exposed bra, rolled up jogging pants and undone sneakers.”
What is this ‘looking professional’? What does professional mean? What does it look like? Are we supposed to buy into a prejudice that people who wear their pants rolled up must have rolled their brains up in them too?
It bothers me that her ‘looking professional’ moves in the direction of strictures about appropriate dress that afflict women in work like sales or reception. Her version of professional seems to mean neat and clean and looking like you paid decent money for it and feminine. And this look is supposed to get us listened to.
I find some pretty major flaws with her argument.
One is that looking all neat and girly doesn’t have a great track record in getting women listened to. It has rather tended to silence us, if the truth be known.
Another is that it accepts the idea that we should be judged on appearance. I want to be judged by what I do and what I know. I want my knowledge and authority to come through in how I speak and write. I don’t want to be judged on what I wear. And I certainly don’t want to be told what I can wear.
Another is the way it seems to align with a view of educators as feminine and middle class.
I am opposed to educators being put in uniform. I worry about the stamp of ownership this betrays. I reckon we should have a right to dress as we choose. Danielle should have that right for herself. But she can back right off with the value judgements about other people who have a different sense of style, or just don’t think it matters.
Danielle says: “When I go to work it is my goal that my wardrobe says I take pride in what I do, I care about myself and your family and I am a professional.”
I say, if I choose to go to work in my pirate clothes (which are not particularly clean, and did not cost me anything because I obtained them at the point of a sword) this tells you precisely nothing about whether I care for myself or take pride in my work. And you don’t get to use it to judge me.
© Grainne O’Malley, Anarchy and the EYLF Pirates