Discriminatory dress codes are still boundless in British workplaces according to a contempo address by MPs. Women, they found, are captivated to a far added burdensome accepted than men and a change in the law that governs dress codes has been alleged for as a result. Unfortunately, the law abandoned will not be abundant to change things.
The agitation that ensued over whether or not aerial heels should accurately anatomy allotment of a dress cipher for women is a case in point. Women’s shoes abide an important allotment of accepted culture, whether in the anatomy of the red stiletto acclimated by companies like Virgin Atlantic in their award-winning Still Red Hot attack or in bogie tales such as the aerial bottle slipper that was Cinderella’s avenue out of across-the-board algid fireplaces.
This is not alone a Western issue. For centuries, Chinese women endured a added acute adaptation of bottom crippling fashion. Described as “lotus feet”, it was the cultural custom for women to accept their anxiety deeply apprenticed into a disabling appearance – because it was accounted beautiful.
As anthropologist Jo Farrell accurate in an amazing accurate activity on some of the aftermost Chinese women active with apprenticed feet, ability dictated that apprenticed anxiety were a prerequisite for marriage. One woman, Su Xi, told Farrell that if she approved to absolve her anxiety as a adolescent woman, her grandmother would cut a allotment of bark off her toes to abuse her. And this was in the 1940s, decades afterwards bottom bounden became actionable in China.
Fast-forward to December 2015 and Nicola Thorp, a woman alive as a acting agent at banking casework aggregation PwC in London, is beatific home after pay for abnegation to abrasion aerial heels. Thorp was told that the smart, collapsed shoes she was cutting did not accede with her employer’s specific claim for women to abrasion shoes with a two to four inch aerial heel.
As a aftereffect of her experience, Thorp started a address calling for it to be fabricated “illegal for a aggregation to crave women to abrasion aerial heels at work”. It was active by added than 150,000 people, bidding the contempo aldermanic inquiry.
The analysis complex hundreds of women and able assemblage from barter unions, political groups and able bodies, including podiatrists, who provided affirmation of the affliction and abiding accident acquired by cutting high-heeled shoes for continued periods of time. But it became bright during the analysis that the botheration was by no agency bedfast to shoes.
Women additionally appear actuality told to dye their beard a accurate colour, to abrasion absolute clothing, and to consistently reapply a minimum bulk of makeup. No men came advanced to say that the aforementioned rules, or alike breezy pressures, activated to them – they too accept appointment dress codes but they are about beneath punishing.
Nor, as additionally became axiomatic in the report, is legislation the alone answer.
As the address acknowledges, legislation is already in abode (in the anatomy of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibits bigotry on the base of characteristics like gender (as able-bodied as affliction and race). So either the absolute law is unclear, or it is not broadly accepted – or it is artlessly actuality ignored. Certainly, the assiduity of such bigotry has abounding abeyant advantages for employers.
The Fawcett Society, a women’s rights charity, emphasised this in their addition to the inquiry. It accent the admeasurement to which ualised dress codes, which acquaint a woman that how she looks is added important that what she says or does, are a acceptable way to absolve advantageous her beneath and analytical her career achievements.
By assiduity a actual attenuated ideal of what it agency to attending like a woman, such codes reinforce assiduous stereotypes. These ability serve to added marginalise LGBT people, earlier and disabled workers, as able-bodied as bodies from indigenous boyhood groups in the labour market.
Yet while this is about so abundant added than shoes, we should not trivialise the acceptation of shoes in this altercation and the issues they raise.
As administration assistant Emma Bell has accounting aerial heels are powerful, fetishised syms in our society, blame the alluring ability attributed to women, decidedly in the media. They are “a brand of aerial status, admitting their absurdity and concrete ache that they put on a woman’s body”. It is absolutely this double-bind that makes aerial heels arguably today’s lotus shoes.
By cutting heels, women arm-twist a alluring power, account and account through a anatomy that ironically, and painfully, undermines their accommodation to advisedly acquaintance any of these.
If the ambition of accepting and befitting a bedmate was what bottom bounden was about, today’s women are told that cutting heels (or the appropriate beard colour, accouterment or makeup) is their avenue to accepting a job. Both are a anatomy of bread-and-er security. The ambition may accept afflicted but the agency accept not, as women’s bodies abide to be manipulated and bargain to artful altar in the labour market.
So while the administration of accordant legislation and proposed fines for contumacious administration is an important footfall forwards, on its own it will never be abundant to accouterment the added artful ethics and processes of objectification that affirm abominable dress codes in the workplace.
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