She takes one last glance at her reflection in the glass door. She pulls it open and slowly enters the office building. As she walks across the floor, her heels clicking on the wood panels, she tucks a stray lock of hair behind her ear. She stands, feet shoulder-width apart, the hem of her navy blue skirt brushing her knees. “Excuse me,” she says to the receptionist behind the desk, “I’m here about the position.” As she says this, she hurriedly makes certain that the clasp of her necklace is in the right place, and that her matching navy blue blazer is buttoned appropriately.
“Please wait right over there,” he says, eyeing her attire. She turns around to sit down, and her curly brown hair bounces with each step she takes towards the other waiting applicants. Nowimagine she were a he. Imagine that he was the one who pulled the glass door open and told the receptionist he was there for the position. What would be different? Would the altered perception be due to the simple fact that he is a man? Or is it more than that? In Deborah Tannen’s article “Wears Jump Suit.
Sensible Shoes. Uses Husbands Last Name,” she suggests that women are the “marked” gender, and that this has a profound effect on the way that women are viewed. By “marked” Tannen is means that the myriad of options a woman has when it comes to her personal presentation signify to other people the kind of woman she is. A man does not have such a variety of options, so he is able to remain “unmarked.” Although I believe that these options can be positive since they give a woman the chance to express her individuality, they can become a nuisance in the business realm. The assumptions that are made about a woman based upon her appearance can be bothersome, particularly when applying for a business position. My personal knowledge of the business world is fairly limited due to my young age, but I have had the painful experience of an interview. Last summer I was interviewed to be an office aide for an insurance agency.
I opted for a conservative beige dress with a matching jacket, instead of my usual ripped jeans and a T-shirt. And instead of wearing my hair in a ponytail, I curled my hair under and put a clip on either side of my head. “Impressions are everything,” I remembered being told. (I doubt my brother ever had that drilled into him.) Sure, a man would be terribly looked down upon as well if he showed up to an interview wearing ripped jeans and a T-shirt; there are certain standards that everyone, both men and women, must uphold when applying for a job. The difference, though, is that women have a much wider range of selection when it comes to their appearances.
Most men would show up to a formal interview in a pair of ironed slacks, a button-up shirt, and possibly a tie. This does not leave much room for interpretation. When a man looks in the mirror before running out the door for an interview, I imagine he does not scrutinize every last detail of his attire. He simply makes sure that he is presentable. A woman, on the other hand, inspects every article of clothing, from her shoes, to her blouse, to her earrings, to confirm that her appearance “says the right thing.” The application process can be nerve-racking for anyone. But having the knowledge that an arbitrary item—such as shoes or jewelry—can be a character marker is an unneeded added pressure. A major part of the problem of being marked is that it is not supposed to be discussed.
If a woman complains about her business position, and cites her femininity as one of the causes, she runs the risk of being labeled a feminist. Tannen points out that being classified a feminist has strong implications, which can be either negative or positive (Tannen, paragraph 29). I would say that labels are unfair, but that might sound like a comparative statement against men. Some may argue that men experience unfair pressures in the business world as well. If a man were to cite his maleness as the root of his pressures, he may be dubbed “chauvinistic.” This is just as unfair as labeling a woman, if he can adequately support his claims.
People should be free to express their opinions on this without being labeled. The world is not perfect, at least not in a conventional sense, but this should not stop a person from attaining his or her pursuits or from expressing his or her opinions. Applying for a job is no exception to this.