Sunday, June 5, 2011

On Being Butch In The Business World

This morning as I was catching up on some blog reading, I came across a post over on Butch Wonders that got me thinking about being Butch in the business world.  There’s a part in the post where she talks about her supervisor telling her that she will never attain a position of power if she “keeps dressing like a dude”. 

In other words, Butches will never attain positions of power within business unless they conform to the current idea of gender stereotypes. 

Why?!  I mean, really!  I understand that the business world is still part of the ‘old boys’ network and that women are still struggling to reach equality with men.  I understand that’s where we are but what I don’t understand is why that is where we are.  Still.  It’s 2011, not 1950!  How much longer is it going to take for us, as humans, to evolve past this antiquated way of thinking?

Just because I dress in men's clothes, I cannot ever attain a position of power. Does that sentence even make sense to you? If it does, please explain it to me.  It doesn’t matter how smart I am or how well I do my job or how passionate I am about my job, what matters most to you are the clothes I choose to wear to work?  Why is it my job to make you feel comfortable? 

Talk about the ultimate in co-dependency! 

It’s your job to figure out how to be comfortable with me and it’s my job to figure out how to be comfortable with myself.  It works both ways, too, because it's also my job to figure out how to be comfortable with you.  My stuff is my stuff and your stuff is your stuff.

The gender binary is out dated.  Download the latest version and move on.  You just might end up with a business dynamo at the helm of your business ship who will take you to the depths of success you never even thought was possible regardless of what sort of clothes they, or you, come to work in.

Of course, the ‘you’s in the statements above were not aimed at ‘you’, the reader.  Unless you do still think this way, then yes, I am talkin’ to you. 


  1. I think this is one of the many reasons people leave the corporate world... it only fits a very narrow type of person, or someone willing to conform. I hope your blogging buddy continues to dress in a way that works for her.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out. I love your post (great pic, too!). It's not just the old boys' network, either--it's more insidious than that. It's the pervasiveness of the gender binary. Little girls in pink, little boys in blue. Just as you're saying, I think--the idea that the accepted gender binary is somehow "normal," and that we are "deviations."

  3. Picture = Jaw-drop level of "Damn!" Sorry. Just had to give credit where credit is due. Moving on now.

    This post brings to mind an incident that happened when I was in college. I lost an internship because I wore my nose ring. I got a stern talking-to from the dean of my college, who then scrambled to get me another school to internship with after she realized that I wasn't, I don't know, whatever horrible thing they thought I was because I had a nose ring.

    This is different, of course, but kind of the same because it speaks to how sensitive and touchy things can get when it comes to appearance and dress in the work place. It seems to be the last frontier.

    I'm femme, so I have it easier in this respect, but I can relate to this along the lines of the more subtle ways I might chose to queer myself (tattoos, hair color, etc.) that are frowned upon.

    Not that I'm comparing piercings and tattoos to butch dress, I just realized that could possibly be offensive?, but I just wanted to say yeah, I hear you on the idea that people might discriminate against you based upon your appearance, how you chose to express your identit(ies). I agree with MakingSpace about it being one reason people might leave the corporate world or, as it turns out, public education in the Southern United States.

  4. You are clearly a threat to the Patriarchy!

    AND, heir clothes look better on you...

  5. oops! "their" not heir clothes...


  6. Amber, thank you and no offense taken at all. Those are other ways to be that seem to make others uncomfortable. Again, why is it my job to make them comfortable?

    e, right?! Clearly a threat. Also, thank you.

  7. my partner was offered a job, but only if she 'softened up and started wearing makeup'. It really messed with her self esteem. And yet, the whole idea of shoulder pads in the 80's was that they widened the shoulders, to be more masculine like rather than small and feminine. There's just no way to win....

  8. Seriously. So ridiculously crazy.

  9. I noticed that butch women in the corporate world (at least the parts of it in which I've worked) had an easier time of it than lesbians who weren't butch, but who were also not the Texas version of feminine. Women in the workplace are supposed to look like the stereotypical woman and we are supposed to conduct ourselves in a way that makes the men we work with - even those subordinate to us - feel like Men. Obviously, I had issues in this area. :) I just thought it was interesting that butch women who dressed like men seemed to be more accepted in positions of power. I guess the men just considered them men and moved on.

  10. I am starting to believe that it will be much more difficult to criticize a butch if she dresses UP in the workplace, meaning dresses conservatively masculine (high quality suit, shined shoes, conservative tie). This aesthetic is the basis for the company I am currently researching. What do you think?

  11. It makes sense to me. The better you look the less crap people tend to give you.

  12. "Why is it my job to make you feel comfortable?

    Talk about the ultimate in co-dependency!"

    YES. I couldn't agree more.