I recently watched Missrepresentation, a documentary about the bias against women in the media. The underlying message is that the media continuously objectifies women by portraying them as either sex kitten or nagging bitch and this has resulted in American women having warped self-images and grossly underestimating their influence in the world. The movie also points out the fact that powerful women are constantly judged on their appearance or personal life rather than for their accomplishments–if Hilary Clinton had a bad day, the media calls her old and haggard; if she looks good on another day, there is speculation about whether she’s had work done–this has to change and we, as viewers, can start by refusing to fan the flames of lazy journalism. There are a few points in the documentary that I don’t necessarily agree with but overall I think the representation of women in the media is a good issue to raise and I support the movement as a whole. It is important to distinguish between the media’s tendency to undermine a woman’s influence versus the reality of how much power women actually command.
One of the points that I take issue with is the movie’s subtle suggestion that if you care about your looks then you’re perpetuating stereotypes. I believe that a woman should be entitled to be accomplished, intelligent, independent, and care about her appearance without being judged. It is no secret that attractive people (men and women) do better in life; its consistently been true since before the existence of media–we are genetically programmed to respond better to attractive people. That is not bias, it’s science. That doesn’t mean I believe that a person with homely looks should undergo plastic surgery to drastically alter their appearance to look like a Barbie; however, I do think that one should always present their best self to the world. That means working out so you’re healthy, eating well, caring for your skin, putting thought into the message you are sending with your outfit and accessory choices, minding your manners, and trying to get the most out of your life. Anna Wintour is a great example of a woman who is not a natural beauty but puts her best foot forward. This woman controls millions of dollars worth of advertising dollars and the Guardian has called her the “unofficial mayoress” of New York City. She is portrayed in movies, cartoons, etc. as a steely bitch because the amount of clout she has is threatening to some. Given the lame state of the media as it currently stands, if you are powerful enough to threaten plebeians, you’ve made it. Who cares about the idiots shaking in their boots drawing unflattering cartoons of you? You could destroy them with one glance.
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue. Photo from here.
I also don’t believe that a woman has to downplay her looks in order to be taken seriously in her profession but we do have to be careful not to be overly sexual in our attire so as not to objectify ourselves. Think about the impression you put forth. Women in politics, corporate America and academia tend to gravitate towards the stern, androgynous, buttoned-up look because they believe that is what has to be done to command the respect of their male peers. I think we have more leeway than that. We aren’t limited to porn star or puritan, there is ample room in between for us to reflect our own aesthetic in our manner of dress without objectifying ourselves.
Martine Assouline, co-founder and owner of Assouline publishing house. Photo from here.
Propriety depends largely on one’s field. Women in creative industries can get away with a lot more than women in government for example. The key is knowing where the line is drawn. Ivanka Trump does this exceedingly well. She wears many hats: executive, clothing and jewelry designer, and reality TV star; yet, she always looks appropriate for the situation. In meetings and on The Apprentice, she will wear a demure dress or shift, one that doesn’t show too much cleavage or leg. For editorials, she dresses according to the demographic of the readership and her message, and for red carpet events the dresses are more risqué and revealing. Does she play up the sex kitten vibe to court media attention? Absolutely. But she decides what her image is to be for any given situation and uses it in her favor. The power to control the world’s perception of you is a skill that should not be taken lightly.
Ivanka Trump, Executive VP of Development & Acquisitions at The Trump Organization, designer, reality TV star. Photo from here.
Jewelry happens to be the perfect way to add a personal touch to an otherwise demure work appropriate outfit. One can wear big jewelry without objectifying oneself and relinquishing respect. However, when it comes to power dressing in the corporate world, here are some guidelines for jewelry:
1. No huge rhinestones, crystals or diamonds during the day–a pair of diamond studs are fine, enormous blinding statement earrings are best reserved for evening. Same goes for necklaces, small sparkly accents may be appropriate but high shine is not.
Work appropriate jewelry: wood earrings; available here.
Work appropriate jewelry: Kenneth Jay Lane earrings; available here.
Work-appropriate jewelry: Swarovski stud earrings; available here.
Save these for happy hour. Faux Emerald earrings; available here.
Work appropriate jewelry: pearl statement necklace; available here.
2. Your jewelry should be seen, not heard–your bangles should not announce your arrival in a board room. I don’t want to hear clanking of any kind, especially not against the desk as you type. People will not take you seriously as a professional. Reserve stacking bangles for your personal life. Cuffs are fine as long as they don’t make noise.
Work appropriate jewelry: Gold hinge cuff; available here.
3. Save the skulls and spikes for when you’re off the clock–unless you’re in a creative industry, skulls and spikes won’t go over well in the office.
Not work appropriate, save it for cocktail hour; available here.
4. If you don’t know whether your office setting is conducive to any of the above, ask yourself, “Are jeans allowed in the workplace?” If jeans are allowed, then you’re fine and you can take more risks in your jewelry. If jeans are not allowed in your office, then make smart choices about jewelry.
To support the Missrepresentation movement, click here.
Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,