I was attending an academic conference the other day, held by the feminist committee of the Faculty of Law of UdeM, during which an experienced lawyer gave advice, woman to woman, to students who were planning on pursuing a career in law. In short, here are her words.
If you want to be taken seriously as an attorney, given that you’re a woman, you should avoid wearing high heels. Undoubtedly, you will be facing the judge on your feet for hours, & if your discomfort causes you to constantly shift your balance, it might be perceived as a sign of insecurity. You should also avoid wearing bracelets or any kind of jewellery, considering the sound of it might be bothersome as you hastily rise up shouting objection your honor! Wearing your hair down? Nope! You wouldn’t want it in the way as you’re looking for a specific document, talk about acting a fool! & Most of all, try to speak in a lower voice so that you don’t look like a stereotypical high-pitched voiced hysterical woman.
Basically, what she’s saying is that a woman should hide her femininity in order to earn the respect of her male counterparts. The first few tips she gave can be disguised as professionalism, but that last one made me see the true colors of her speech.
Now I understand that in practice, the easiest way for a woman to be successful in today’s professional world is to embody everything that is valued in a man – obviously, being a woman could never be enough (of course that was sarcasm). In other words, I get that this woman only had good intentions & is trying to build a career for herself as well as help other women create their own space in the legal world, but the thing is, they are not creating their own space as women, they are climbing the ladder as men.
This is a larger issue we’re faced with here, a social issue.
The problem is not only to be a woman; it is to identify with things deemed as feminine by society. Unfortunately, when you happen to be categorized as female, you inherently possess femininity in people’s eyes no matter how you present yourself, automatically making you inferior to men. Correspondingly, men who possess feminine traits are perceived as inferior to masculine men. A woman in a suit? Yes, very professional, you go girl. A man in a dress? Why would you reduce yourself like that? *endless bigot laughter*
Allow me to make a parallel with pop culture, as one does.
Regardless of the quality of their music, the public perceives Beyoncé & Adele in very different ways. This can easily be explained by the importance of society’s standards of perception. The fact that Beyoncé shows her legs on stage & is unashamed of her sexuality is something the public will acknowledge first & foremost, & only thereafter will they absorb the essence of her music, strictly through a specific lens they built. Whereas in Adele’s case, people are able to judge her music solely, given that she detaches her image from all elements viewed as provocative.
We could argue that Adele is a better artist than Beyoncé, but that’s a whole other story. The main focus here is: for a woman to show her body does not discredit her craft.
Beyoncé even addressed this misconception with the following statement: “I don’t at all have any shame about being sexual & I’m not embarrassed about it & I don’t feel like I have to protect that side of me because I do believe that sexuality is a power that we all have.”
& As the great Gaga once said “You can be smart AND in your underwear.” i.e. “if I was a guy & I was sitting here with a cigarette in my hand, grabbing my crotch & talking about how I make music because I love fast cars & fucking girls, you’d call me a rockstar. But when I do it in my music & in my videos – because I’m a female, because I make pop music – you’re judgmental & you say that it is distracting. I’m just a rockstar.”
Bottom line is, instead of taking away all those distractions so you can see my talents & abilities, I’m going to be so good at what I do that you won’t be able to ignore my work, even as I twirl in my custom Giuseppe Zanotti. That is where the real power resides.
Achieving success by getting rid of what makes you fit in a certain stereotype doesn’t stop its perpetuation. Whereas reaching your goal while perfectly fitting in a stereotype helps unveil the field.
Some would say that most feminine attire were attributed to women in a time of oppression & can therefore be interpreted as a symbol of coercion, just like the hijab is interpreted by some. However, in my eyes to say the least, it is more about putting the power back in the hands of the mistreated in order to allow a process of reappropriation.
Only time will allow women – and some men – to prove that you can wear heels & lipstick & still have the brains to kill it, whatever it is you’re doing, because femininity is not a sign of weakness.
Now I don’t intend on pursuing a career in law after my degree, but God knows if I did I’d walk through that courthouse in my 6-inch heels screaming BALENCIAGA until they burned me alive.
Nothing can stop you from being a killer attorney AND a fashionable cunt. Except maybe for the fact that, as an attorney in Quebec & as of 2016, you can no longer choose your attire in court. Oops!