Editorial: Pantsuits are the real power move

This editorial is intended to spark conversation about problems that exist in our society. It is not my intention to attack the Career and Professional Development Office.

Dear Societal Norms and Patriarchy,

Though this editorial was inspired by the “University of Wisconsin-Platteville #HiringPioneers: Guide to Resumes, [Cover letters] and Interviews,” I would like to address it to you. Because you are the underlying reason for this sexist handbook telling students what they should be wearing to interviews. 

Societal Norms, let’s start with you. The biggest issue I have with your influence on “#HiringPioneers” is that you forced the writers to think that they needed to break the “Dress for Success” section by gender. Why, though? We are in a world where gender does not define people, and there should not be boxes that people are expected to fit into. 

It is not necessary to break down this section by “Guidelines for Women” and “Guidelines for Men,” and I am going to guess that others will agree with me; gender should not play a role in these guidelines. “#HiringPioneers,” you do a nice job in the first paragraph of page 41 by saying that students should “[f]eel comfortable, [confident] and secure” because this is one of the most important parts of interviewing. If you are uncomfortable in what you are wearing, the interview will not go well.

I agreed with most of your points under the “General Guidelines” section, but the gender-separated guidelines really ruined it for me. 

General dress guidelines for everyone should be accepted, no matter what gender. I think a possible solution to this unneeded separation would be to give general guidelines for wearing dark, conservative colors. I think that keeping a clean, organised look is pretty universal across “gender lines.”

I also have a problem with this idea of needing a “new look,” and the way you push the idea in “#HiringPioneers” that the clothes people wear need to be “in new or like-new condition.” Do I think people should wear clean, well-fitted and neat clothes? Sure. I think that hair should be “well groomed.” What I do not think is that we need to be telling people that their clothes should be in new condition. This brings in a whole other conversation about classism and the issues there, but to keep it short, I think it is neither fair nor appropriate for you to tell other people that they are expected to have new clothes. The idea should be that their clothes are neat and clean, not necessarily new. 

Societal Norms, I really think you need to take a moment to think about your influence and impact on modern society. I don’t think you are a healthy choice for us, and I think it is time to start reshaping some of your expectations. 

Patriarchy, dear Patriarchy. I am not pleased that you still run parts of our society and continue to push women into a subordinate role. We are in 2019, you shouldn’t be here telling us that “professional pantsuits are acceptable, but when in doubt, wear a skirt suit” (as qtd in “#HiringPioneers”). As far as I am concerned, pantsuits are the true power move. If you are more comfortable in a skirt suit, I say go for it! But again, it does not matter what anyone else has to say. The most important thing is that you feel confident and comfortable in what you are wearing to the interview.

Along with being comfortable during your interview, I was wondering what you meant by a woman needing to “[w]ear appropriate undergarments.” By this, I assume you mean that we should be wearing bras and underwear that are black, white or tan, and I am going to continue to assume that you mean they should have full coverage. 

Well, in my experience, interviewers don’t see what type of undergarments I am wearing. It is important to wear undergarments that make you feel confident and comfortable, just like what you wear on the outside. No one will know if you are wearing a bikini or a thong, t-shirt or push-up. I would much rather have no one see my underwear line than wear “appropriate” undergarments that show through my clothing.

I can maybe let that slide, though. Maybe. My other issue comes in, dear Patriarchy, when you have a handbook that tells me to “not wear anything considered sexy.” Excuse me? I am not quite sure what this means, and I have a feeling that you did not tell the men that (if you flip the page in the #HiringPioneers, you will find this to be true). 

As a curvy woman, I feel like anything I wear for business professional, unless it is a potato sac, will probably be “considered sexy.” Dress pants hug my hips and blazers show my hourglass figure. I won’t apologise for that. No one should have to. 

The final complaint, Patriarchy, I have about page 41 is that you end it with a quoted box saying, “After the door closes on your interview, will the recruiters be discussing your credentials or your terrible fashion sense?” I am sorry, but this is completely unnecessary, and I think it is kind of inappropriate to have it here. Yes, dress and first impressions are important for interviewing, but if the only thing interviewers are paying attention to is what someone is wearing, there are inherent issues in that, itself. 

For now, though, let’s move to page 42, “Guidelines for Men.” Most of what you have here is okay. The one MAJOR issue I have is that you specifically lay out a way for men to show power and ability during an interview, something you neglect to tell the women. You say, “Select a long-sleeved, ironed, solid shirt (no stripes or patterns). Long sleeves give the impression of authority and professionalism.” 

Ah! I have so many problems with this statement because it is only directed to the men. Women are expected to “not wear anything considered sexy,” and men should be the ones concerned with giving the “impression of authority and professionalism”? There should be general guidelines that state when choosing what to wear, pick something that will give the impression of professionalism, confidence and authority. But it should be the guideline for everyone, not just men. 

Among other problems with “#HiringPioneers,” I will leave you with this, Societal Norms and Patriarchy: Please stop implementing yourself into our society. We do not support you nor do we care about what you have to say. 

With frustration and annoyance,

Abbey Pignatari