Today, for an interview, I dressed like a man. I didn’t set out to do so. And I didn’t have any choice.
I first realized it when I was picking out my clothes. This was a major interview, so I had to look utterly professional. And traditional. The place is risk-averse, don’t want to set off any warning bells. I even went shopping so I could look the part. Until I found that perfect jacket my thoughts were focused on what I would wear if I did not find it. I did, and I relaxed. Last night, when I set my clothes out, I paused for a brief moment. Then I let it go.
This morning, when I did a last mirror check, all decked out in my new duds, I thought it again. I’m dressed like a man.
Black pants, black blazer, white shirt. A tie is the only classically masculine element missing. The ensemble was feminized–jewelry, hair in a lobster claw clip, sandals with a great buckle. But that doesn’t change the fact that, at its heart, it’s just an imitation of what men wear.
Of what men have worn for centuries. Especially white European men. These are the men who took over the world, claiming distant lands as colonies. These men only took other white European men seriously. The people they squelched had little choice but to follow the rules of their oppressors in an attempt to gain some ground. Western ways continue to dominate the globe economically and culturally, which is why Western business suits are staples in places like Japan.
When women entered the workforce they were not taken seriously either. Steno girls, secretaries. So they, too, mimicked their oppressors. This mimicry swung to extremes in the 1980s, when women wore giant shoulder pads, the better to resemble the broad shoulders of men. Women have more flexibility in their business attire. They can wear a skirt suit or a pant suit, they can wear a dress with a blazer, they can wear a wider range of colors. But in the end, it’s all the same. We’re just reworking someone else’s material. The core hasn’t changed.
So, I dressed like a man. I dressed like a European imperialist. I wore what was practical–pants. Perhaps that’s all it is. The clothes are practical (after centuries of men sweating like pigs in the tropics because they insisted on wearing wool).
I don’t like any of this. I think I like how I feel when I’m dressed professionally. I have to sort out what it is that makes me feel good.