c is for cat

Rules for Anchorites

Letters from Proxima Thule

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One of the peculiar things about living in the Pacific Northwest is how often I'll be the schlub in jeans and a t-shirt being waited on by someone in a suit (the financial planner, the accountant, or even the salesperson at Nordstrom). It's not at all uncommon out here.

Since I work in academia, the dress code (there isn't one, really) is pretty relaxed. Earlier this year I was playing around a lot with clothing and appearance, in part due to my involvement with a certain festival that some of your friends out here are also involved with.

The same people treated me noticeably differently if I was wearing a blazer and heels, as opposed to just a long-sleeved shirt and flat boots. If I came to work in a skirt as opposed to pants. If I had my hair up or down. It was amazing. And I mean, these aren't stupid people, you know? But they don't even realize when they're doing it, even when they claim that appearance doesn't matter. (Professional programs, of which my university has three, know better; the business, education, and nursing students are required to dress their parts, at least when working in consulting, classroom, or clinical environments.)

Folk who claim appearance doesn't matter is usually covering the fact that it matters deeply to them.

I never, ever, ever wore a suit outside of job interviews when I worked in 1950s ish offices that prescribed my fashion choices for me. Loathing khaki and unable to crawl around server rooms in a skirt, old navy black businesswear was a daily uniform for four years.

I am currently a professional programmer in academia. I have long hair, some of which is blue. When I need to present my work, or argue a point, or generally require in-person respect, I *choose to* wear a suit and very tall heeled boots. On occasion, it's jeans, the boots, the blazer, and a geeky t-shirt showing. Either way, I have noticed what you are talking about. It *works*, on a very, very subtle level.

And since no one is directly making me do it based on my employment contract, I don't mind at all.

Hm, it's interesting. As a woman in a technical mostly-male career, I find I get more respect in a geek get-up than a business get-up. (I'm a patent lawyer, which means I talk geek to engineers and law to corporate types).

I also wonder how weight plays into this. I'm quite heavy and tall. I'm rather hard to ignore, and I suspect my billing rate makes the corporate types acknowledge my legal chops. But for male engineers, believing that I'm technically competent appears to be harder.

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