In her recent piece for the Huffington Post, Lauren A. Rothman offers her 12 "grooming musts" for working women. I hoped at first that her article was a joke, some sort of satire of women's magazines, but I quickly realised that she was serious. What a huge step back for feminism, and for women.
Why should women waste their precious time putting on mascara and foundation and shaving their legs? Who has that kind of excess time? Personally, my goal is to get to work as quickly as possible in the morning and to start applying myself to the tasks at hand. Note: I mean applying myself to my work, not applying make-up to myself.
More importantly, who cares whether I've powdered my nose or covered up the circles under my eyes? Why is that anyone else's business? How does it affect my ability to do my job, and to do it well? I certainly don't care if a colleague is wearing "electric blue eyeshadow" or a push-up bra. As long as someone does his or her job and is relatively collegial, that's all I care about. And I'd hope that that's all my students and colleagues care about in regard to me as well. If they want to complain that I'm not wearing lipstick, fine, but that's not something I'm going to take much notice of.
And, of course, no one tells men that they'd better even out their skin tone and get "a neutral face" before they can turn on their computers. No suggests that a man had better shave his legs before he dares to wear shorts to the office. Why do we hold women to such greater standards of grooming? Where are the grooming rules for men?
Sure, you could argue that in our culture, we prefer clean-shaven men, but I've noticed more and more unshaven male students and colleagues in recent years. And we have the "Movember" phenomenon right now, so lots of men these days are sporting moustaches (sometimes uneven, straggly, sloppy ones). I think the clean-shaven rule for men is slipping away. And I'd like to see it slip away for women too, as I've written in the Huffington Post before.
The only one of Rothman's tips that I agreed with was going easy on the perfume. You never know what smells might offend someone or set off an allergic reaction. I'd add that you should try to keep relatively clean and not give off sweaty or other unpleasant aromas. The key is to not distract or sicken people. This only requires a minimum of grooming.
Keeping as healthy and clean as possible is a good basic tip: so, yes, work yourself up into a lather. Anything beyond that is up to the individual.
Personally, I go to my place of employment each day to work, not to be on a catwalk or to be filmed. And I certainly don't go to work to be critiqued on my looks. Few women do.
So working women, it's time to unite. If you genuinely enjoy shaving your armpits and brushing blusher onto your cheekbones, fine. But if you feel pressured by society to comply with a certain level of grooming, why not throw out your razors and your pots of foundation and your nail polish? Or at least why not minimise how much you wear?
Life is short. Focus on your friends, your family, your job, and your hobbies. Why waste your time and energy on trying to meet ridiculous standards of beauty? That's just dirty work.