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Sexism Redux

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dr.bob
1243499.  Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:25 am Reply with quote

Let's see if we can have a sexism thread that doesn't end up getting locked.

I was going to comment on something suze posted on the last thread, but I missed my chance, so I figure I'll try here. Back in the other thread, suze was talking about hiring male teachers and wrote the sentence:

suze wrote:
A man will not be teaching in my classrooms without a tie, so wear one to the interview.


Which made me wonder about sexism in workplace dress codes, and about the specific dress code in suze's workplace. Given that even MPs speaking in the House of Commons are no longer required to wear a tie, the insistence on it is starting to seem ever more antiquated.

I imagine suze's workplace requires staff to appear generally smart, to set a good example for the students. However it's perfectly possible for a man to look smart without wearing a tie, just as it's possible to wear a tie without looking smart, so an insistence on a specific item of clothing strikes me as odd (though my view is probably shaped by my good fortune to have never been required to wear a tie for any job I've had).

I'm interested to know if there's a specific item of attire that women at suze's workplace are required to wear. I'm half expecting a smart-arsed reply like "bras!" although, knowing suze, probably not :-D

 
suze
1243504.  Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:30 am Reply with quote

Ha! In fact, I do tend to consider a bra as an essential item of workplace attire for a woman, much as I'm fairly keen to do without one the rest of the time.

Nowhere does it say in so many words that a woman teacher at my school must wear a bra, any more than it says anywhere in so many words that a man teacher must wear a tie. Even so, most women would struggle to meet the standards of smartness and professionalism that I require without one.

And in fact, that's rather why I expect men to wear ties. I make a point of wearing a skirt - rather than trousers - to work, simply because it reminds me that I am at work and that the rules aren't the same as if I'm sitting around at home. School is not a holiday camp, and t-shirts and jeans - which I know that some schools locally permit their teachers to wear - do not give the impression that we seek to convey.

Could I tolerate a suit and proper shirt but no tie, as modeled by (for instance) Alexander Armstrong on Pointless? Actually, I probably could - but if we were to allow that, would it be the start of a slippery slope to jeans and t-shirts?

My school's dress code for pupils has been completely rewritten over the last few months, and a discussion on these very forums is a small part of why that happened. As of September, some rules which were de facto not enforced have gone.

Outside school teams, girls may wear shorts for all their PE activities if they want to (no longer do we demand leotard for this, divided skirt for that, and so on), and the one girl in school who chooses to wear clip earrings may legitimately do so. (Except that she left this summer having finished her A levels, so she won't.)

Girls and not teachers will decide whether or not to wear their blazers in class, and no longer will anyone be pulled up for wearing socks with a skirt.

I don't know that I particularly want a similarly prescriptive set of rules for what teachers should wear, but we pride ourselves on being a fairly old-fashioned school and we have fairly old-fashioned ideas about what is appropriate attire for the classroom.

 
PDR
1243505.  Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:32 am Reply with quote

I believe I ctegorised the solution alternatives in two groups:

1. To say "this organisation doesn't have enough senior women, so we must lean heavily to awarding senior jobs to women even where they are not the best candidate for the post".

2. To say "we used to have unacceptable inequality in our selection processes, so as of NOW all assessments will be scrupulously neutral on matters of gender/race/religion etc etc so that the matter is corrected from now onwards*".

I think we agreed that there were no "right/wrong" answers, and I suspect that the above options possibly represent the extremes of a continuum rather than discrete options (I say "suspect" because I can't actually see it that way at the moment but need to do some more thinking about it). If we were to label these options "positive discrimination" and "enforced neutrality" (respectively) just for convenience I think my view could be best described thus:

I feel that enforced neutrality looks to change a culture, where positive discrimination merely looks to change the victim. That would be the "soundbite" version, of course.

PDR

 
PDR
1243506.  Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:39 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:

Nowhere does it say in so many words that a woman teacher at my school must wear a bra, any more than it says anywhere in so many words that a man teacher must wear a tie. Even so, most women would struggle to meet the standards of smartness and professionalism that I require without one.


Without wishing to stray into the indelicate:

What are the rules/expectations for the pupils? I recognise that your pupils are of varying boobological development (as one of them might have described it!) as they progress through the school, and the rate and degree of development is not a consistant function of age and so if wearing of a bra would at some point be deemed an expectation how would you define that point at which the lack might become something which must be mentioned?

PDR

 
suze
1243508.  Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:05 pm Reply with quote

That's "quiet word" territory rather than rules territory.

The dress code does not stipulate that bras must be worn. As you note, some of the girls don't need one - although some of these wear one anyway. On a non-uniform day we have to live with some of the older girls choosing to share most of what they have with the rest of the world, but otherwise the registration tutor would have a quiet word if it were felt that a girl was letting herself down by her bralessness. (A male registration tutor probably wouldn't feel able to do that, but there are well-established channels for telling a girl something that is best coming from a woman.)

I've never had that particular quiet word because the situation hasn't arisen on my watch. On the other hand, I have had the "Next time, perhaps wear a longer skirt" quiet word, and the girl has taken the hint.

Some teachers at some schools might find girls resistant to a quiet word, and I don't really know where those teachers are supposed to go next. All I can say is that our girls have sufficient respect for the school and/or me that I don't need to make a big deal of it and I only need to say it once. Long may it remain this way!

 
cornixt
1243512.  Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:48 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
and no longer will anyone be pulled up for wearing socks with a skirt.

What are they expected to wear under their shoes? Just tights? At my school, even the girls who wore tights would also wear socks. Are bare legs allowed?

Now I'm wondering if "socks with a skirt" is actually a single item of clothing, the type of socks with the flappy bits that hangs off the top like a skirt, although I've only seen very young girls wear those kinds of things.

 
suze
1243531.  Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:15 pm Reply with quote

No, I did actually mean what you suggested in your first paragraph. It was the sort of trivial rule-making that some in schools (and elsewhere) seem to enjoy, but the old version of the dress code did state that "No socks are allowed unless worn under trousers".

As a broad generalization the older girls wear tights (the old version of the dress code actually refers to "hose") if they are wearing a skirt and the younger girls don't, but there are exceptions in both directions. Tights are not compulsory, and it's perhaps no great surprise that those among the older girls who choose not to wear them tend to be the ones with presentable legs.

I don't see very many girls wearing schoolgirl cliché long white socks rather than tights; Britney Spears probably has something to do with that look now being considered very uncool. But some girls do prefer to wear short socks between their feet and their tights or shoes, and as of September they'll actually be allowed to.

Because we are a girls' school, we can actually be more relaxed with our dress code than a mixed school can. Most of the mixed schools hereabouts require girls to wear ties, because boys have to wear them and it would be sexist if girls didn't also have to.

There are a handful of boys in some sixth form classes, in subjects which our partner boys' school doesn't offer at A level. Those boys are not required to wear ties - but in practice they usually do since ties are compulsory at their own school.

Similarly, we allow the girls to wear earrings, since we don't have to worry about not wanting boys wearing them. (Which again means that those few boys can wear them if they want. I'm unsure whether any do.)

 
bobwilson
1243551.  Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:56 pm Reply with quote

What, exactly, indicates "smart" when a man ties a noose around his neck? Or am I misunderstanding "smart"?

 
Alfred E Neuman
1243565.  Thu Jul 27, 2017 1:43 am Reply with quote

Many years ago we had a dress code at work which stated that we had to wear ties. Most of us wore short sleeves shirts with ties, which is not particularly smart, but is more comfortable in summer.

One of the guys decided to make his objection obvious by wearing lumberjack style shirts with a tie (chosen specifically to clash with as many of the colours in the shirt as possible). It looked hideous, but didn't violate the dress code.

 
PDR
1243568.  Thu Jul 27, 2017 1:53 am Reply with quote

In my previous company there was a dress code that specified men must wear a collar and tie, and hair must be above the collar. One of the IT guys started by wearing his hair in a poy-tail, then a bun and ultimately a beehive, and then in the summer started experimenting with a T-shirt and a detached collar/tie, then just the collar and tie (no shirt at all). The final incarnation was a T-shirt, a detached collar worn as an anklet (so he could wear his hair down) with the tie worn as a sash or belt.

He then left for a job at BA - we never knew how voluntary that departure was.

PDR

 
barbados
1243569.  Thu Jul 27, 2017 2:21 am Reply with quote

The dress codes can easily be managed using the quiet word technique rather than the hard and fast rules method.

Current employer asks merely for a shirt with a collar to be worn Monday to Thursday, no denim jeans, and no trainers, and must be smart.
That is translated to a summer that allows for polo shirts and chinos if desired. There is no requirement for a tie at all, and we dress down on Fridays anyway.

 
Alfred E Neuman
1243574.  Thu Jul 27, 2017 3:48 am Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
The dress codes can easily be managed using the quiet word technique rather than the hard and fast rules method.


I'm pretty sure that both my and PDR's ex-colleagues mentioned above would have ignored the quiet word technique.

 
PDR
1243579.  Thu Jul 27, 2017 4:30 am Reply with quote

Indeed. In fact I'm fairly sure the extreme responses were actually a reaction to someone trying the "quiet word" technique.

PDR

 
dr.bob
1243583.  Thu Jul 27, 2017 5:26 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
I don't know that I particularly want a similarly prescriptive set of rules for what teachers should wear


Interesting. So, just for clarification, are you saying that there are no written rules concerning staff attire, and that it's generally left up to the personal opinion of department heads? I guess there's a lot to say for that approach as AEN's and PDR's examples have shown that an awkward sod will find ways 'round any rules anyway.

It's a long time ago now, but I'm trying to remember if there were any rules for staff at my old school. It was a fairly old-fashioned, single-sex, grammar school, and generally staff were smart and mostly wore ties IIRC. I seem to recall some, possibly younger, members did give classes wearing jeans, though.

suze wrote:
but we pride ourselves on being a fairly old-fashioned school and we have fairly old-fashioned ideas about what is appropriate attire for the classroom.


Awesome!

 
suze
1243589.  Thu Jul 27, 2017 6:29 am Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
Interesting. So, just for clarification, are you saying that there are no written rules concerning staff attire, and that it's generally left up to the personal opinion of department heads?


Pretty much that, yes. The conventions for how teachers "ought" to dress are longstanding and fairly well understood, and anyone who goes out of her way to challenge them usually discovers in reasonably short order that teaching - certainly at my school - is not for her.

PE teachers wear sports attire. Most of ours come to school in a suit and change when they arrive, although the one who runs to work is rarely seen in anything other than shorts. Our Drama specialist wears a suit in a classroom setting, but in the studio she's been wearing plain black t-shirts for longer than anyone can remember and that's never going to change. Art teachers are allowed - expected, even - to have a slightly eccentric dress sense.

But otherwise, teachers at my school wear suits. Quiet words would probably be had if there were very much departure from that.

dr.bob wrote:
I seem to recall some, possibly younger, members did give classes wearing jeans, though.


Some Heads allow that sort of thing, but ours really doesn't and I'm entirely in agreement with her. I'm not proposing actually to do the detailed research and number crunching that would be needed, but I strongly suspect that you'd find a significant negative correlation between schools which allow jeans in class and schools with outstanding exam results.

That's partly to do with intangible things like "ethos", but there may be two more easily stated reasons which contribute to that being so. For one, a school which allows slovenly attire is liable to be slovenly in all sorts of other ways. The dreaded management courses often resort to an old saw about an untidy desk leading to an untidy mind, and I actually believe that something similar applies to attire at work.

For two, the best schools find it easiest to hire the best teachers. If I'm hiring a teacher, I can afford to reject anyone who - for whatever reason - doesn't impress me. There are a dozen people who want the job, so I can move on to the next one.

A less successful school is forced, to a certain extent, to take what it can get. If a fellow who knows his subject but wants to wear jeans in class is what it can get, it may have to live with his dress preference.

 

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