"Wow! You look nice. Do you always dress up this way?"
"Yes, she does."
The conversation took place in the lobby of the gym where I take an aqua aerobics class three times a week. The participants in the class are used to seeing me in a swimsuit with my hair pulled back in a pony tail, not in my usual work outfit of heels, nylons, skirt, and tailored shirt. I was really surprised that the second person had actually noticed how I dress.
"Do you have to dress this way for work?"
I never know how to answer that question. In fact, my company has a "business casual" policy, but the president of the company I worked for previously was much more traditional. So even though we technically had a "business casual" policy, the men all wore ties and most women wore suited skirts, dresses, or pantsuits. So when I came to work at my current company, I had six suits, several suits, a couple of blazers, lots of tailored shirts--and three pairs of pants.
So guess what I wear?
Besides, dressing professionally puts me in a professional frame of mind. Blame it on my upbringing: I wore a uniform to school for 12 years. Getting dressed in the morning was simple and once I put on my uniform, my brain knew what was coming. In a sense, it was--and is--kind of like dressing for a part in a play. It's much easier to act like an executive when I'm dressed like one. And I find that I am treated like one as well--my words are taken seriously.
So when I heard that the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 to outfit Gov. Palin and her family, I gasped. And then I thought, "They want her to look Presidential." And they want her family to look like they belong as well.
Shortly after I began working, John T. Molloy wrote Dress for Success and then, later, a special edition for women. I found many of his tips useful, especially since neither of my parents were executives and I looked very young. One of his tips was "Dress for the next level"--dress for where you wanted to be, not where you were, indicating that you were ready to move up the corporate ladder. My success with that has been mixed: I'm not a VP, but I've been involved in some high level projects.
Gov. Palin has a more difficult job: she has to look like she belongs in D.C. but not lose her "common touch." Her wardrobe has to reflect taste, quality, fit well, and not be ostentatious. No "obvious" labels. She has to exude self-confidence and her clothes have to show that. The Political Mavens are harsh: remember the hatchet job they did on the outfits Mrs. Roberts chose for herself and her children when Justice Roberts was sworn in? And the comments about Sen. Clinton and her choice in pantsuits? Or Barbara Bush and her pearls? Or the gown Rosalyn Carter wore to Mr. Carter's inauguration?
I hate to think how my readywear suits from Macy's and no-brand shoes would fare under close scrutiny.
And if those red peep-toe pumps are a size 8 and come up for auction, I might just have to bid on them. :)
UPDATE: On the way to BART this morning, the radio newscaster referred to a recent study that found that, in order to be successful, female politicians need to be attractive and confident while male politicians only need to be confident. (Sorry--I didn't catch the name of the institution that did this study.) The female newscaster and the male DJ both seemed surprised--after all, this is 2008!
I found my first job through a headhunter, who flat out told me that I would be easy to place because I was clean, neat, and reasonably attractive. My surprise must have shown on my face because she went on to clarify what she meant: I wasn't grossly obese, I didn't have any distracting moles or birthmarks or scars. The fact that I was intelligent was almost a handicap--employers would worry that I was too qualified for an entry-level job, would become bored quickly, and would leave. (This was during the Carter economy and the unemployment rate was in double digits.)
When I found myself unemployed a couple of years ago and back in the job market, Hubs suggested I dye my hair "to look younger." Gray hair makes a man look "distinguished" but makes a woman look "old." Mrs. Pelosi is a grandmother, as is Senator Feinstein--yet neither of them have a gray hair on their head. With five children, I'm sure Gov. Palin also has a few gray hairs of her own, too, artfully hidden among her highlights.
This physical double standard is a fact of life and I suspect it has roots in our biology. If so, it's going to take active effort on the part of both men and women to overcome it.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
"Wow! You look nice. Do you always dress up this way?"
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Fans of Cal Football don't ask for much: defeat USC, defeat UCLA, beat Sanford. And get us to the Rose Bowl. Under Jeff Tedford, the Bears have caught wind of the Roses, and every year have shot themselves in the foot.
Last night's game against Arizona was a case in point. Up by ten at the half, the Bears had a disastrous third quarter. Arizona scored four--yes, four!--touchdowns. And Cal couldn't come back. Even replacing Nate Longshore, who only threw one interception and actually had a pretty decent game, with Kevin Riley didn't help. I couldn't stand it and by the middle of the fourth quarter I couldn't watch the game.
Especially since I'm fasting from alcohol.
I hope God noticed. ;)
On Friday night, the kid's high school lost to their cross-town rivals as well. Hubs and I were working the snack shack, slinging hot chocolate, cup o' noodles, and nachos for 2.5 hours. So I didn't have to watch that game. But we were busy all night, so I don't think the game was too exciting.
The Bay Area pro teams? I don't think I can stand any more frustration. I have meeting minutes to write, a pig race binder to clean up before passing along, and stationery gift sets to make.
Maybe I ought to include football in my fast. :)
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, "Ask something of me and I will give it to you."
"O Lord, my god, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father, David; But I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
"Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?"
The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
"Because you have asked for this--not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of you enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right--I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now and after you there will come no one to equal you."
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I was a senior in high school when the "Second Wave" of feminism moved to the popular consciousness. I was intrigued--the Second Wave promised that all life choices a woman made would be respected: mother, homemaker, career-woman, doctor, nurse. In liberating women, the theory went, men would be freed as well: free to express their emotions, no longer bound to "male" jobs, encouraged to bond with their children. Their ideas were exciting, although in many cases what the feminists were doing was giving a new name (Consciousness-raising sessions) to an old activity (women's neighborhood social groups). I changed my career path from nursing, which I had wanted to do since I was five, to medicine--mostly because a teacher of mine pointed out, rightly, that I was much better at giving orders than following them and that if a doctor was making a mistake, I would correct him or her in front of his or her patient or colleague.
In the beginning, Feminism was all about choice. I'm not sure when abortion became the sine qua non of Feminism, but it was sometime after I was graduated from college.
I did not go to medical school, in large part because of Organic Chemistry and the fact that Boomers like myself were applying to medical schools, law schools, and other professional schools in record numbers, even without considering women applicants. In four short years, the percentage of women in professional schools, especially in the health field and in law, was about equal to that of men.
Feminists wanted more. They began to attack "The Glass Ceiling," talked about "The Mommy Track," and began to deride women who chose a more traditional lifestyle path. Men became The Enemy, and control over our bodies, which originally began as a health issue, became the right to unrestricted abortion at all times, at any age.
The Wisdom of the Crone was ignored.
I like men--they're some of my favorite people. Always have been. I married one; gave birth to two. Most of them were good guys, struggling to make a living, to do the right thing, pursuing happiness. When my arms were full of baby and baggage, when I was pushing a stroller and herding a toddler, I appreciated having doors held open for me. When I was pregnant, I was grateful for a seat on BART. A lot of the "old school" social rules began to make sense. And abortion became The Issue.
I have two daughters. As painful as it might be for me to hear they are pregnant out-of-wedlock, I still would want to know, especially if they were minors. And 12-year-olds are minors.
So Feminism and I have drifted apart. I decided I am nobody's Victim in general, although I may be in particular. I am grateful for those women who pioneered the way in business and I knew several of them in my industry. I'm also grateful for the men, especially those of my father's generation, who saw more potential in me than I saw in myself and who mentored me.
What has this to do with Sarah Palin?
I recognize her as a kindred spirit (or as Anne of Green Gables might say, "a member of the race of Joseph"). She is "one of the guys" while wearing a skirt and heels. She's the kind of person you want on your task force at work or your committee on the PTA: give her a goal and she'll get the job done. No excuses. No endless "discussion." No subcommittees and study groups. Just "here's the problem, let's try this to solve it."
A woman equally comfortable in a skirted suit and makeup or jeans and a flannel shirt. Yeah, I relate. Big time. :)
Her husband seems to be loving and supportive, equally at ease working in the oil field and holding a baby. Okay--he's had plenty of practice with that last one before appearing in front of a national audience. He might not have been so comfortable when first holding Track. The Palins seem to be the Feminist Ideal Couple: true equals.
So while I expected some outcry about her--that she was a "stunt" by the Republicans, that she was a Conservative--I didn't expect the outright venom. I thought that the furor would die down after a few weeks, and it has, but the attacks are still intense.
The night of the Vice-Presidential Debates, I overheard the following conversation on the way home:
"Are you going to watch the Debates?"
"Yes! I can't wait to see her fall on her ass!"
The last sentence was from a woman, who uttered it with absolute glee in her voice. I was stunned. I wanted Gov. Palin to do well, I wanted her to do better than Sen. Biden, but I didn't want him to "fall on his ass." What is wrong with these people? It's not enough for their candidate to win; the other candidate must be humiliated?
And lies, vicious lies, must be spread about her and her family? I thought we were moving towards a "more enlightened" civilization.
Apparently, some choices are more Womanly than others. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton must be spinning in their graves. And I am happy to join Gov. Palin in the ranks of those humans with XX chromosomes who are not "really a woman." (Though Hubs may beg to differ.)
Postscript: I read part of Maureen Dowd's column on Gov. Palin's acceptance speech. Ms. Dowd noted Gov. Palin's red peep-toe pumps and commented on her pedicure. Where the heck was Ms. Dowd sitting that she could tell the color of the polish?