International Women’s Day 2016

Yesterday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day. My search for something relevant to write about led me to a headline that caught my interest:

Ditch the sexualized dress codes, Ontario employers told

Compared to many of the issues and abuses such as poverty, female genital mutilation, and child marriage, that women in other parts of the world face,  being required to wear sexy, cleavage-baring outfits or heels to work is definitely a first world problem, but one that I’m happy to see being addressed.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has told that province’s employers to stop demanding that their workers dress provocatively as a condition of employment. Requiring female staff, most often restaurant and night club servers, to adhere to a sexualized dress code that frequently includes tight skirts, low-cut tops and high heels is discriminatory and, according to US research, leaves them vulnerable to a higher than normal rate of sexual harassment.

Those in the industry claim that dressing in a sexualized manner garners greater tips. That may be true, but isn’t that a rather sad statement about our culture? Should a restaurant server have to sell her body to make a living? Personally, I would rather eat at an establishment that builds its reputation on quality food and excellent service and I tip accordingly.

Hooters is, of course, the first to come to mind. It built an empire on its young, attractive and scantily clad waitresses. With their tank tops, short shorts, tights and socks, at least they get to wear comfortable shoes!

hootersgirls-1024x682

photo:  http://www.hooters.ca

Some employers insist that servers, who are on their feet all day, must wear heels. According to the Earls communication manager, that company recommends wearing heels “to reduce safety hazards.” A heel or wedge is preferred because apparently ballet flats don’t offer enough protection against stepping on glass. That’s a feeble excuse if I ever heard one! She also claims that heels provide more support, but the American Osteopathic Association would disagree. According to their website, “statistics show that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with up to a third suffering permanent problems as a result of prolonged wear. Over time, wearing high heels can shorten the muscles in your calves and in your back, leading to pain and muscle spasms.” I have nothing against women choosing to wear heels, but to require it of someone who is on her feet day in day out puts her long term health in jeopardy.

It was the comments on the articles about this issue that disturbed me most, however. Over and over again, I read responses like this one:

” If women go to Moxie’s or Hooters to work they know they will have to flaunt their equipment. Unbelievable how women would complain knowing full-well going into the job what it’s all about.”

and

“This is a free country, Women have the choice to  accept or decline employment at businesses that require revealing uniforms.”

Tell that to the many young women who are working in these places to put themselves through school or feed their children. How many options do many of them have, especially in today’s economy?

Obviously objectifying and exploiting women is still alive and well in our culture.

 

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