Patriarchy and sexist dress-codes- Oppressing women

Introduction to Patriarchy

Patriarchy has been an unsolicited system of social standards and pressuring authority over women in all aspects of society. Where men are the center of activities and progression in society while women support them to lead. Many theories suggest it emerged around 12000 years ago when humans indulge in agriculture and homesteading. Males were physically stronger and could acquire resources to grow and develop. The initial property was shared and passed down to the male line of heirs thus eroding women’s autonomy.  

For centuries patriarchy is depicting itself through religious culture and other social laws to suppress the other gender. Some religious texts strictly mentioned what both the genders wear specifying more details towards women to denote their modesty. It involves veils, full-body coverage specific hairstyles, and many more. These religious texts have been followed by many communities and have structured restrictions on clothing. This determination of women’s clothing by religion and culture has been rooted in our society. Patriarchy hasn’t ended amidst the ancient religious text or cultures, it has thrived in the 21st century and has been colonized in a society so deeply that it’s difficult to completely erode from the mindset of individuals and communities.

How patriarchy imposed dress code for women in the workplace-

Gender roles and patriarchy have dribbled our communities. They escorted our state of mind and action in ways we struggle to understand. We continue to go by these rules and perpetuate the phenomena of daily life, practicing unconsciously that structured our introspective being.

Gender-based dress codes dictate the acceptance of an individual’s outfit in a particular environment depending on their gender. Gender-based dress codes are the reason both genders wear different items of the clothing hence, authorization over our clothing preferences. These patriarchal dress-codes have forced gender identity through clothing onto society, some rules have set our perpetuation in the surroundings according to what we wear.

Patriarchy has suppressed women and other gender setting rules for them. What they can and cannot do. It’s only been a few decades since women have been allowed to vote in a democratic country. Females were bound to do house chores and were not allowed to work. Now we are open and since the mid-20th-century women have stood their marks. Are working professionally, but this patriarchal mindset has not been eroded. Women have fought for their rights, their individuality and their gender identity. Still, patriarchy still has imbued its opinion and standards into our society. One of the imbued patriarchal standards is the workplace dress code. Specifically mentioning how women should dress, and have a differentiated gender identity. They have shared all the chances to standardize what they think is better.

What are these dress codes?

Dress codes are essential in a professional and unified work environment. It depicts a professional outlook of a business and the individual but the problem rises when it crosses the line and dives into sexism.

There has been a profound impact of workplace dress code in educational institutes in offices, where it essentially determines to segregate gender through specified clothing, especially women. Women are expected to fit into stereotypical norms. Suggesting them to be more feminine through the closing and restricting professional careers. 

Women were previously restricted to teach or nurse, forcing the patriarchal ideals or fictitious women; ‘a warm nurturing woman who takes care of others.’ This limited them to educational and health care institutes, initially women victims-shamed by established premium sexist ideals such as modesty. Furthermore, media has stood its ground depicting women as sex appeal forcing women models to wear sexy outfits, to further ground the idea of gender binaries and to extend that any challenge to them is seen as a challenge in our social phenomena. 

Patriarchal dress code has extreme impacts on genders. This suggests men’s attire should be to demonstrate the social power achievements and responsibilities whereas women’s clothing should be designed to draw attention, to appease for moral and physical development.

Dress codes for women at various workplaces openly suggest that the clothing be flattering and women speak in a shrill voice. These dress codes force women to have good hair and spend extra money on manicure nails. Their motto is to project women as healthy and fit individuals. A few decades ago pants were for women but not allowed, women could only wear skirts and dresses but there was a big ‘no’ for the short skirts according to this standardization “sexuality scrambles the mind.”

The length of the skirt was still acceptable at least both the genders were not allowed to wear short clothes but imposing women to wear heels and wearing makeup is not acceptable. The question arises why particularly women are forced to wear heels that make up for presenting themselves in the workplace. Surely there is no debatable answer to this, it is the result of the idealized dress sense of women through the patriarchal mindset.

We might argue that since the last decade the standardization has been slowly brushing away but recently Ukrainian ministry has announced that it required women from the Ukrainian armed forces to march in high heels during the parade to mark the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union on August 24, 2021. “They debate that  North Korea has similar rules.” This preposterous requirement doesn’t only stand among offices and professional workplace. Cannes, the film festival, has been accused of turning women away from wearing shoes in flats. These are the bold upfront statements but since the civil right act 1964 mandates employees and protection against gender discrimination, remarks have been rectified into subtle expectations.

Dress codes don’t formally state that workplaces have strict standards for women. Women who do not wear makeup are looked down upon as they are seen to not put effort into getting ready for work. Whereas men are discouraged to wear makeup, stating that this attire is not suitable for the workplace. There are certain elements for the jewelry women should wear, but there are limits to that. The jewelry shouldn’t be too flashy or too big but the initial thing is that wearing minimal jewelry is mandatory for women to wear as for men it is discouraged. Although sexist remarks are not upfront but are very subtle in the work environment. 

Effects on women about sexist dress code

Sexist dress codes are extremely harmful to women’s wellbeing. Women in the workplace are under constant pressure to appease others through their dress sense and surprisingly it is against many women’s wishes. They wish to be comfortable and to go easy on their pocket.

Imposing such dress codes and forcing women to fit into Ideal femininity is a direct infringement on human rights, refraining individuals from being themselves lead to mental health problems. The general acceptance of dress codes in the workplace as a norm makes it the most subtle method to oppress women. The subtle dress code and subtle expressions by the employer make it difficult for women to call them out and reform them.

Cabin crew member British airways filed the complaint earlier this year after the new guideline went too far in the sexist remarks. Stating the kinds of bras the cabin crew members could wear underneath their  blouses. Business Insider Japan’s investigation report revealed that many companies made female employees refrain from wearing eyeglasses. Their reason; women wearing glasses could display a cold impression of the individual. This is a great example of how people and the media stereotype the portrayal of women as nurturing joyous and warm individuals. A person can be joyous with glasses or cold without one. The stereotypical statement has always been in the center of the patriarchal standardization of women’s dress code. Forcing women to wear high heels, makeup and skirts is a sign of a sexist dress code. When someone tells a woman what to wear and what not to, it perpetuates an image of a woman’s body as public property, initiating that the woman’s value is derived from her appearance and nothing else.

Moreover, these dress codes affect women spending rates. Women have to spend more than men on their appearance. The manicure, hair, clothing, and makeup cost a lot. Despite all these unnecessary expenditures forced on women, companies do not pay equally.

A woman makes 82 cents for every dollar a man makes and the main reason behind that is, women have other factors than their job. Child care and home chores are expected to be done by women. When an individual has undivided attention, businesses assume that the workforce participation is less than the other gender. Although this stereotypical notion is shrinking with the gender pay gap, it still weighs on women’s pockets. Despite paying women less and then expecting them to spend more on unnecessary items should not be acceptable. Forcing women or any other gender to adopt either femininity or masculinity is this association from a direct violation of the fundamental rights of an individual. Making rules and imposing a limitation on women or any gender is an active barrier to self-actualization, thus refraining them to lead to a better and healthy life.

Conclusion:- Laws and body positivity

The civil rights act of 1964 mandates that employees are protected against discrimination because of race, color, and gender. This law protects women from sexist dress codes and other discriminating behavior in the work environment. When this law was introduced in 1964 the old-fashioned and powerful companies didn’t stop trying to create and enforce different dress code policies for their employees but that was a few decades ago. Many organizations and businesses have strived to create dress codes that are the more gender-neutral condition that applies to men and women equally. For example, if a company or the employer states the term “formal”, “business casual” with a long list of descriptions of clothing that could fit the formal attire.

Whether businesses enforce these neutralized rules to eliminate sexism or just to avoid potential lawsuits, we are still positively moving forward. The real issue with sexist dress codes is that they inevitably create a homogenized look for every woman, this creates an image of an ideal woman portrait by the ideas and desire of patriarchal society. This problem has raised movements like body positivity; shedding the light on the ways that women can celebrate their bodies of all shapes and sizes. It provides a way for women to gain empowerment and focus their attention on the development of themselves and others around them.

As employees and a part of business organizations, one should understand that dress codes introduce a neutralized decency into the work environment. There should be rules for appropriate clothing as per the occasion. One cannot wear sleepwear to the office and not expect to be called out. We need to understand the importance of dress codes but we also need to understand and call out when these dress codes are crossing the line and creating sexist remarks against a particular gender.

People with a patriarchal mindset need to learn that women’s clothing isn’t meant for appeasing others. Women should not be imposed to dress in flattery outfits. People and organizations need to completely change the way they treat a woman for their clothing preferences.

Women wearing more feminine clothes will not bring value to society. Their work practices and initiation into development will bring economic and social value to our society.

Questioning the objectives of the sexiest dress course is a crucial step when it comes to fighting back against social norms. However, it is difficult for women to call out subtle remarks. Unlike British Airways, other organizations will not openly state what kind of bras should their women employees wear underneath their blouses, hence It is difficult to file a report against the casual remark.

This again sheds some light on people slipping their ways from the law created to protect individuals. If a well-grown adult has its determination for his or her belief cannot be changed.

What we can change is the portrayal of stereotypical norms of women by the media. Media plays a massive impact on our digitized lives and if media stops sexualizing a woman’s body and portrays her as a normal human being who is responsible, hardworking and intelligent many mindsets could be changed. Although another decade yet, still a positive step ahead.


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