Here’s the thing: Living within a capitalist framework is a fact of life. If you choose to deal with that framework as a woman, it means strictly policing your wardrobe to fit within the bounds of “professionalism” and “appropriate attire.”
Presumably, not everyone who chooses to attend a women’s college in New York City is interested in mainstream, corporate feminism (just a hunch), and the administrators are likely aware of that. Which is why it’s so bizarre that Barnard College -- who, for the record, offers an “Activist-in-Residence” fellowship -- imposed a dress code on its RAs via a “Training Expectations” contract that they had to sign their first week back.
The contract read, in part:
“While we want you to be comfortable, this is a work environment. In the words of from [sic] our friends in Admissions, ‘No belly, no butts, no bras,’ meaning that none of these should be showing in the clothing you choose to wear. We ask that you come dressed as you did for Group Process. Those dressed inappropriately will be asked by their HD to go home and change.”
Aside from the fact that Barnard is making some clear statements here about women’s bodies being inherently inappropriate for the workplace, and that they must adhere to a certain, arbitrary level of “propriety” to achieve success, they’re also ignoring the dress code issue that’s plagued every pubescent girl who’s made been to suffer the atrocities of middle school: The same clothes don’t fit all bodies the same way.
According to Feministing, who interviewed some of the RAs affected by the policy anonymously:
“Another [student] asserted that two RAs could likely be wearing the same thing, but because of physical differences, cutting along racial lines, only one would get in trouble. ‘I’d just like to highlight the racial aspects of it,’ they said, ‘certain bodies are policed and deemed as not welcome.’”
This seems like a fertile breeding ground for the age old story of “sample-size white girl wears crop top, gets away with it; plus-size woman of color wears crop top, is told she’s an unprofessional slag.” If this is a story you’re unfamiliar with, then check out Carolina Herrera’s recent rules for who can and cannot wear crop tops on the street.
And any women’s college who’s lifting dress code policies from the Carolina Herrera School of Body-Shaming doesn’t deserve to have an Activist Fellow-in-Residence.
Reprinted with permission from Styleite.