On making productive comments…

Today I had an interesting exchange on Twitter.  As I perused my Twitter feed I came across this article from The Hill

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The article, which you can click on the picture to read, details Rep. Gabbard’s comments regarding a Pentagon briefing that she felt revealed too much information.  Unlike most Democrats, Rep. Gabbard is in favor of arming Kurds fighting the Islamic State and she’s okay with calling this a war against Islamic extremism.  These are not positions with which I agree, just to be clear, but that’s beside the point in this particular instance.  What followed this tweet was this reply…

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So, here’s the thing, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been to war.  She requested to ship out to Iraq and she served in a medical until.  She is one of the very few female combat veterans currently in office.  I don’t know if she’s seen anyone die, given that she was in a medical response unit I would guess that she has.  So here is what followed…

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The best way to say that “VIOLENCE sucks & by any NAME you label it people are suffering GENOCIDE” is not to immediately assume that because Rep. Gabbard is a woman she has no meaningful combat experience.  While I disagree with Rep. Gabbard, I cannot fault her experience.  There are a fair number of congresspersons with absolutely zero experience in the military who have no problem calling for the arming of Kurds and putting American boots on the ground.  They do not often get called out for their lack of combat experience and certainly not in such a blatantly patronizing way.

If what you want to say is the violence sucks and people in this region are living in full-fledged wartime conditions without any hope of peace then say that.  Say those words.  Do not say “GO TO WAR HONEY. Then talk shit” because you sound like a sexist jerk rather than a human being who probably went through a horrific experience that you never want to visited upon another soul.

Tell us that the horrors of war have never solved anyone’s problems.  Tell us that violence begets violence.  Tell us that you will never be the same person you were before you went to war.  Say all those things.  Those are words that we can respect.  Those are things that I agree with.  Don’t call a sitting United State Congresswoman “honey”.  Don’t reference her age of 31 which, by the way is more than a decade older than you have to be to join the military in the first place, as though at 31 she couldn’t possibly have seen the reality of war when your problem isn’t her age but her gender. These are distractions.  These things are not the point and they shut down the conversation instead of starting it.

Let’s not rely on bullshit ad hominem attacks, let’s make productive comments.

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“It’s the childcare, stupid” and office housework…

A couple days ago Matt O’Brien at Wonkblog dropped an article on us about the decreasing female workforce in the United States.  It’s a short piece (check it out here) but it delivers a mouthful.  He asks why it is that the female portion of the US workforce is dropping when basically everyone else we consider an ally or an equal is continuing to increase.  The answer is what many American women have been yelling ceaselessly for years: “It’s the childcare, stupid.”

Source: Council of Economic AdvisersSee, there it is.  Italy is on the mild decline.  But seriously, what is our problem?  Our problem is the United States of America’s need to shove its fingers in its ears and yell “lalalalalalalala” anytime someone wants to talk about social safety nets.  Affordable childcare should be a serious part of our social safety net.  These things are a genuine benefit to our economic stability.  Another benefit would be any guaranteed maternity benefits at all, but that’s a story for another day that I’m sure I’ll get to because pregnant women face discrimination all the frakking time.  We’re really getting women coming and going.

And this leads me to an article by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg from earlier this month in the New York Times in which she talks about women and office housework.   What’s office housework?  If you’re asking that question you’re either a man or you’re a woman who’s never thought about it because it’s too fucking depressing.  The cookie-baking, the party-planning, the behind-the-scenes assistance.  These are the things that we expect of women because women are caring nurturers and we want to do all this shit, right?  Wrong.  Okay, not necessarily wrong.  Sure, some women (even me sometimes) do want to do these things.  I love mentoring people.  I don’t mind planning things occasionally.  I even like to bake a cookie sometimes.

Here’s a fun example.  I’m a Democratic Party County Chair.  My male predecessor did not plan our annual fall banquet.  His wife and a committee (largely, if not exclusively women) planned it.  I got elected this summer.  Guess who was heavily involved in planning?  Me.  It wasn’t just me, of course.  I would probably have jumped off a nearby building had it not been for one of our committee members who is a teacher, political activist, parent, and overall badass super shero.  After the banquet I got a lot of congrats because it was so great.  Here’s the thing though – if I were my predecessor, I would have gotten those same congratulations even though I wasn’t actually the planner.  He’s a pretty nice guy and he probably would have pointed out that his wife did most of the work but that’s not really the point.  The larger point is that women also do these things in paid work situations when they are under no obligation to do so and they get no discernible benefit from it, other than not being perceived as not-a-jerk.

What’s the answer?  Well, affordable childcare and not expecting women to do all the extra work around the office.  How do you start though?  Next time Sheila (because now I’m taking a page from the Australians and using Sheila as my generic lady-name) can’t plan the office holiday party and you’re about to think, “(internal eyeroll) Sheila is such a jerk.” – instead try thinking “you know, Sheila is probably really busy.  Maybe next time” and then go ask a dude.

How to Avoid Avoiding Looking Inappropriate at Work

I spend a lot of my day being somewhere between annoyed and outraged at the space women are forced to occupy in society.  So when I was doing some Google research, trying to decide what to name my new blog I was unable to turn away from a WikiHow article titled: How to Avoid Looking Inappropriate for the Office (for Women).  I was playing with the idea of being appropriate or inappropriate and the ways that people use the words appropriate/inappropriate to police things that they find unpleasant or distasteful.

In any case, here sits this article that I simply must read because it might as well have been gift-wrapped for me to open and utterly despise and marvel at in every way.

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Oh the frumpy police.  Look professional, ladies.  For heaven’s sake though, don’t look frumpy.  You don’t want the boys to be distracted by how “boxy” you look.  The adjective boxy gets used three times in this piece.  They are very clear to point out that under no circumstances do you want to look boxy.

I’m getting ahead of myself though, because the important point of this first method of looking professional (which involves no less than sixteen different rules) is that you want to show some skin – but not too much.  See that young woman over there?  See that scandalous neckline she’s tugging at?  Even if her chest was three sizes larger she could yank that shirt as hard as she wanted and not show even a hint of decolletage (that’s fancy for cleavage).  I mean look, they’re not saying you should feel “obligated to disguise your natural figure”, they’re just saying keep it clean.  Men are looking at you and they have important things to do that don’t involve lurid sexual fantasies about your tits.

The thing that WikiHow really wants to impress upon you is that you don’t need to hide your feminine figure.  Seriously.  It’s okay.  We all know you’re a woman.  Wear a skirt.  It’s fun and feminine and it can even be professional if you cover just How to Avoid Looking Inappropriate for the Office (for Women) - Google Chrome 2152015 40855 PM.bmpenough of your legs but not too much.  Do not wear a maxi-skirt because – and it can’t be said often enough – it could make you look boxy.  Clearly you don’t want to wear a mini-skirt.  No one needs to see your vageen at work, but give the boys a little leg.

I wonder something.  What if you just are boxy?  The people at WikiHow must feel really bad for you.  Presumably we all look just like this chopped up young woman in the pictures so we won’t have any problems at all as long as we follow the very simple sixteen rules that WikiHow has laid out for us.  After all, if you’ve gotten far enough in life that you’ve made it to a professional office workplace situation, how could you possibly have managed at any point to learn how to pick out a wardrobe that’s appropriate for the workplace?

Let’s move on.  I can’t be here all day; I have things to do.

Wait stop.  Shoes.

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As a loud and proud feminist who is also 5’2″ (okay, the 2″ may be a slight exaggeration), I wear my five inch stiletto heels with pride and also because it helps me look tall people in the eye rather than up their nose or into their chest. One and a half inch heels does not cut it for me, and it doesn’t have to for you either.  Are you going to wear seven inch clear platform stilettos with a live fish in the platform?  Probably you aren’t.  If you work in an office, you know that’s not going to fly.  Although who am I to say, maybe you work at a really cool office.  You’re an intelligent human being, figure it out.  Here’s the other thing though, when WikiHow is telling me to “Stick with classic pumps”, they’re showing me a picture of ballet flats, which may also not be considered appropriate in your office.  Oh, and I’ve never seen a pair of “classic pumps” with less than a two inch heel.

We should hit up method 2 before I lose my mind.  So, I have a couple questions about the two methods that I don’t feel are adequately addressed.  In the first place, the two methods approach to categorization makes it seem as though it’s an either/or situation.  Try this method or try that method.  Method 1 looks primarily at your clothing and your body.  Method 2, on the other hand, focuses on makeup and accessories.  What I suppose I’m asking is, are they suggesting that if you can’tHow to Avoid Looking Inappropriate for the Office (for Women) - Google Chrome 2152015 44203 PM.bmphelp but wearing plunging necklines and short skirts then at least you can tone down the rest of your ensemble?  Is that the suggestion?

It’s probably not. They would probably prefer that you follow all the rules, which in the end is 26 separate suggestions for how you should dress.  It was really difficult for me to winnow down from the ten remaining rules for dressing like a classy lady at the office, the two that really make me want to break a glass ceiling.  Nevertheless, I will pick only two and you can check out the rest and take some time to tell your friends what utter bullshit standards people want us to live by.  What I’ve decided is that I’m going to pick one that makes me mad and one that I’m going to ridicule mercilessly.

Hang on though, before I pick just one, the pictures in the second half were very confusing.  I wasn’t always sure whether I How to Avoid Looking Inappropriate for the Office (for Women) - Google Chrome 2152015 45025 PM.bmpwas being shown what I should do or shouldn’t.  I mean, in this picture the woman is scowling at a pair of perfectly good hoop earrings so I assume these are a no-go.  Is it a scowl?  Is she inwardly chastising herself for even owning these earrings?  Is she chastising the earrings for being so large and hoop-like?  Is she thinking, “gee, I wish I could wear these to the office today but the stuffy tight-asses I work with would get so bent out of shape if they could see my earrings.  Jeeze, Jan…” (I’m imaging her name is Jan) “…why did you even buy these?”

Personally, I love a big hoop. Well, if I’m honest, I love what I think looks good on me and I also love what you think looks good on you.  I think if you feel good about how you look then you’re probably doing okay.  We all have bad body image days and if a pair of big hoops is going to lift your spirits: wear them.  Anyone that’s going to get the vapors about your hoop earrings is dealing with other problems.  While it’s telling you how inappropriate your hoop earrings are, this piece also wants you to know that you should remove all your “non-traditional” jewelry, which they define as “eyebrow rings, nose rings, and other similarly non-traditional piercings”.  They illustrate this by showing a woman’s hand holding a necklace with a black plastic-rimmed glasses frame pendant.  But WikiHow, however will I adorn my neck if not with my black plastic-rimmed glasses pendant necklace?!

Never fear, WikiHow has the answer!

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Consider a “fashion scarf”!  Okay, can I please start by saying that nothing about that piece of old gauze she’s putting around her neck can be described as either “fashion” or a “scarf”.  But sure, fine.  I’ll consider a scarf.  I have no problem with a glossy silk scarf…as long as it’s smooth.  Wait, why does it have to be smooth?  What’s wrong with a textured scarf?  I have so many questions.

Before I utterly lose myself down the rabbit-hole of questions I have about this how-to nightmare, I had a question as I began writing.  Is there a “How to Avoid Looking Inappropriate at the Office (for Men)”?  Short answer: there isn’t.  I did see a piece called “How to Dress Professionally” which did address both men and women.  Apparently men just don’t need to be told how to dress.