Sexism and dress codes

So a company in England has changed its dress code for women after a petition from an employee who was sent home for not wearing high heels:

The complainant called the policy requiring heels “sexist.”

But just high heels. Different dress codes for men and women still exist. If we are to eliminate sexism, shouldn’t we have identical dress codes for men and women?

Ideally (and not imposed by the government), yes, IMO. But we’re not in an ideal society – with different cultural and societal practices and expectations (many of which are probably inherently sexist, like expecting that women but not men should wear makeup), then it’s not surprising that companies and other organizations will prefer that their employees don’t venture too far from these practices and expectations for professional appearance. I think it’s entirely reasonable for employees to speak up and complain if they believe they are being harmed by these practices and expectations.

Your excuse bascially comes down to “yeah, it’s not fair, but whatever.” By that logic, we could ignore any sexism - or other isms. We’re not an ideal society? True, but we strive to be, and we should continue to do that.

How is it an excuse? This doesn’t sound anything like what I posted. Women should complain if they feel they are harmed, and it’s a good thing when harmful requirements are thrown out.

I agree – we’re not an ideal society, and we should strive to be.

My sister-in-law’s ex-husband’s step-son’s girl-friend works as a TV reporter here in the USA … she gets paid less than a man for the exact same work … AND … she has to wear a different outfit every day … women’s clothes are expensive compared to men’s …

So, yeah … sexism … it sucks

You sure didn’t sound so firm in your previous comment.

So you fully support getting rid of sexist dress codes right now?

Would you even support laws to require that?

I used nuance to describe the situation as I understood it, while also expressing my support for women to speak out when they believe they are being harmed.

I specifically said that I oppose government imposing rules like that. I would encourage any company or other place of work to get rid of sexist dress codes.

I believe this is a symptom of a much larger problem – societal and cultural sexism.

Sexism is a legitimate ism because there are sexes and they are different. So we can either ignore those differences and have no distinctions, in which case a large percentage of women are locked out of sports and other activities where men have a physical advantage, or we maintain the double standards and keep arguing about it.

Looking at dress codes specifically though, there’s no real basis for a difference.

The very concept of dress codes is awful. Make them wear uniforms or let them wear what they want. Anything in between is asking for trouble, and almost certainly sexist or discriminatory.

Private businesses should be able to require whatever dress code they want. If some chick doesn’t want to get all dolled up and put her nice shoes on for a paycheck, I’m sure there are millions of others who will.

Women’s profession dress can include a sleeveless dress. Trust me-- you do NOT want to see me in a sleeveless dress.

It’s not nearly that simple. People get offended that identically written dress codes are de facto applied disproportionately to women.

For example, a school dress code might ban images of guns, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, plus skin tight pants like yoga pants or legging, midriff revealing tops, skirts more than 4 inches above the knee, and shirts with straps narrower than 2".

Boys who are punished for dress code violations are almost certainly going to be violating the first rule, whereas girls will be punished for any of them. Even though boys technically can’t wear skin tight pants either, the practical effect of the rule is that it’s a restriction on women.

Personally I think it’s a silly objection. I’m a little bit receptive to the idea that banning girls from wearing tight or revealing clothes punishes them for other people’s sexuality, but whether that’s the case or not, it isn’t *more *sexist just because in actual fact nobody finds teenage boys attractive.

Certainly as private businesses they should have the right to implement dress codes, subject to whatever legal restrictions there may be regarding discrimination. But I have the right to say it’s a shitty and counterproductive idea, and avoid working for them or patronizing their business if they implement a particularly egregious dress code.

Of course. You have the right to boycott any private business that you think is irrational, stupid or counterproductive in any way. But they still have the right to be irrational, stupid or counterproductive.

I have no problem telling my team to be in suits for customer facing events. I don’t define what a suit is, they can figure it out. That is called professional dress, no details needed.

The Brit situation requiring heels is stupid - if a woman on my team wants to wear heels, or flats - I don’t care. Just make sure the leather is polished (if leather) and that you look professional. If you don’t know what that means, then the onus is on me or a member of the team to counsel you on how to look professional.

It gets interesting with business dress one level below a suit, but nothing that can’t be handled IMHO without devolving into sexism.

I have yet to have a man ask to wear a suit with a skirt - but I figure that day is coming.

IMO, that’s probably sexist, but not knowing what the company imposes on men we can’t say for sure.

Having women and men dress differently is not sexist - or if it is, it’s the type of sexism that is not objectionable, at any rate. As someone pointed out, having women wear dresses and men not is SOP. The dress codes differing for men and women is just a reflection of societal dress codes differing for men and women.

The issue I see here is that women wearing high heels is not any sort of conventional dress for women. Some women like wearing high heels, but many many women don’t, and there’s no societal convention that I know of which requires women to wear high heels at any point and especially in a business setting.

So the question is what this company imposes on men. If they impose parallel restrictions on men - say, they make them wear tuxedos or whatever - then I think they’re OK doing this for women. (This might be the case for high-end waiters and the like.) But if the standards for men are ordinary conventional business attire (or less) and highly restrictive guidelines like this one for women, then they’re being sexist.

I’ll start by giving the context that I am a professional woman who is required to dress smartly for business meetings, and I am both British and a feminist.

As a society, we accept that there are different dress codes for men and women, and that will naturally apply to dress codes in a professional environment. In many professional environments, men are required to wear matching two piece suits, and often a tie, whereas women are mostly required to simply wear an equivalently smart outfit, which could be anything from a sleeveless shift dress to a two piece trouser suit. No tie required. That’s certainly sexist, and yet we accept it.

So, I can’t hand on my heart say that requiring women to wear something that men are not required to wear should automatically be banned.

However, the world of fashion - and society - has moved a long way from the days where women were required to wear skirts or dresses. I would find any organisation clinging to such a notion to be backwardly sexist, and I would complain. Society no longer throws its hand up in horror at a female professional wearing trousers and I would complain about any organisation that tried to make me do so. Time has moved on. That’s my opinion, others are welcome to disagree.

Heels are a different matter, however.

Putting aside the connotations that heels are designed to enhance the sexuality of a woman, and the workplace is no place for enforcing such ideas, heels are also an impairment to movement, cause considerable discomfort for many and can ultimately cause permanent physical damage and deformity. So, hell yes, any requirement for them should be banned. And I was frankly astonished to hear this story in the news, and I find it incredible that any British company in this day and age could think they could get away with it.

Perhaps we can take heart, at least, that as a demonstration of how absurd this idea is in modern Britain, it made the national news.

I think it is important to distinguish between “dressing for customers” or “dressing for success” and letting your employees figure out for themselves what that means – perhaps with guidance from mentors or colleagues – versus having a blanket policy that says “you must always wear A, B and C, and you must never wear X, Y, and Z”.

Yes, customers are going to judge your outfit, and I have no problem with firing or disciplining someone who lost a customer or an account due to poor appearance. It’s micromanaging what people wear every day that is a problem, as well as restricting dress that has no bearing on the outcome of your work, (like schoolgirls getting expelled for “distracting the boys”).

Don’t you think if the men were required to wear tuxedos, or even anything close to that type of attire, it might have been mentioned in the story?

You seem to have trouble with this. It’s not sexism if both sexes are okay with the arrangement. You don’t get to force both sides to do something they don’t want to do under guise of fighting bigotry.

You can’t force people to do something unless you can prove harm. And you sure as hell can’t prove harm if both sides are okay with the arrangement.

What you are doing in this and the bathroom threads is akin to breaking up a relationship because both sides voluntarily choose to be in a dom/sub relationship. It doesn’t matter if both parties aren’t treated the same if both parties are okay with that.

F-P has it right: the issue here was that the heels requirement was taxing on women without an equivalent issue for men (not that they couldn’t argue both were bad if they were equal–it just wouldn’t be sexism.)

There are tons of legitimate reasons not to force people into heels. I mean, heels put women at a disadvantage for any amount of needing to physically hurry. Over time, they cause damage, and many women just can’t wear them for physical reasons. And it means women have an extra requirement to work there–having learned to walk in heels, which is not a natural thing.

Insisting they wear them without some equivalent male-only thing comes off as sexist, so the women got to use that to get a better deal.

Try to argue that not being able to wear a dress has all those downsides–that it really harms men in any way.