Two of my male friends said our chemistry professor is unprofessional for “dressing like that” and “it’s distracting”, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
reddit: the front page of the internet 2020-01-14
This happened about a month and a half ago, and it’s still on my mind. We were studying and joking around together when this came out.
The professor in question is a very well-dressed woman, always wearing makeup and heels, sometimes wearing skinny pants and the like. Her clothes are never revealing—I know this because I have paid attention to her clothing every lecture since this encounter. I tried to defend her, saying that I see nothing inappropriate with how she dresses and that I think she is very professional, which was countered by “she has a responsibility to not be distracting to her students.” I replied “you have a responsibility as a student to not be distracted, your horniness is not her problem.”
Eventually one friend said that we shouldn’t talk about this and we should get back to studying, and I didn’t push it. I didn’t want to make a scene, and I knew that I was on the cusp of a big angry argument. I regret that. Because this is how it made me feel:
A woman can literally be intelligent enough to gain a tenured research position in the country’s top university, but if she looks good, it doesn’t fucking matter. Because the thing is, I would probably dress similarly to her, in her place. I pride myself on feeling good with how I look and choosing a cute wardrobe. And my friends would see that as a reason to delegitimize my accomplishments. It doesn’t matter what I or other women to show they are capable. You don’t even need to show skin. Being smart is not enough. Because if you wear skinny jeans, you’re not just a professor. You’re a slutty professor.
Please reassure me that my entire STEM career won’t be like this.
EDIT: so, the answer to my question is officially yes, it will be like this. I think a PM I received sums it up pretty well: “you’ll fail your STEM degree and get your Mrs degree instead”. To them and some other commenters on here, I’d like to say this, which I replied in another comment:
A female researcher must be twice as smart, but if she dresses well, she’s distracting and unprofessional—and not taken as seriously— and if she dresses ugly, then that is commented on as well. You can’t get it right. What happens when your coworkers and boss think this way, that because you wear makeup and like to feel good with your appearance you are somehow unprofessional? How does that affect future opportunities and workplace dynamics? Not harmoniously. These comments are part of the victim-blaming culture, which expects a woman to change herself, even when she is totally appropriate, because some horny men can’t keep it in their pants. There is way too much compassion for men that say and do things that are intolerable. A healthy society reinforces consequences for intolerable actions. A society where judging a formidably intelligent woman by her dress is tolerable, has a problem. So if we want to progress, we politely explain why that is not okay. And I explain with a smile because I’m compassionate. Because they’re my friends. And god knows I’ve had to explain these things hundreds of times. But you know what? I shouldn’t have to. Once is enough, and I do that out of compassion. But inside, I know that somewhere in my future is a man complaining about me at my workplace because they don’t like how I did my hair, or my heels. And I really hope that man isn’t my boss.