Whenever I have a conversation with someone, friends or not, I will never comment about their appearance or the way they dress, even if it is just for a joke. Precisely, I will never say to them something like:
“Hey! Look at that girl/guy! You should dress like that sometimes.”
“Why don’t you dress like that guy/girl?”
What does dressing like a girl or boy mean after all? Why is it not just about the way a person expresses themselves in ways that they feel confident?
Everybody is unique. They are beautiful in their own ways. Not a single soul is alike.
Everyone has their own preferences. What they chose to do with their life is their business. How they want to dress themselves is their choice. Their preferences have nothing to do with other people.
Sometimes a word that seems harmless to someone could leave a mark on someone else. However, not many people realize that the way they talk or even joke can hurt somebody else.
When I first joined my current company a year ago, I was the one who sometimes received those kinds of statements or questions. At the moment, in my mind, I was like:
Being a web developer (and the only female developer on my team), according to the company policy, I could dress in whatever I felt comfortable in as long as it was appropriate. Hence, I always choose shirts or T-shirts and a pair of jeans because I feel comfortable with these clothes. I had never been aware of the way I dressed until I received these “joking, teasing” questions from some of my teammates.
I realized that the frequency of these jokes dropped until I actually put on a dress and make-up to look like a so-called “feminist girl” in one of my colleagues’ wedding. Yes, I did wear dresses, but on some special occasions only.
These incidents got me thinking. Would I receive these statements or questions if I was a male? I mean they are all nice and polite gentlemen. They wear T-shirts/shirts with jeans all the time and I have never felt any urge to tell them to put on something else. What makes these guys leave that a comment like that?
Let’s me make it clear that it is not the fact that they told me to wear dresses sometimes to go to work that caught me off guard. My female colleague from HR sometimes tell me that, but I told her I did not like wearing dresses at the office, and then it moved on. The conversation was casual and friendly. It is the fact that the way they say it is full of stereotypes and it made me feel very annoyed. I know they did not mean to be insulting to me, but I realized that it is their subconsciousness that made them to think in that way and say it out loud.
Why did I write this?
I hesitated to write about this experience of mine in the first place since it was very rare for me to write about myself. However, I decided to do it because I want anyone who finishes this article to take a step back and think. Have you ever let your unconscious stereotypes drive you into a situation like this? If yes, being aware of it is the first step to being the change yourself.
Men or women, does it really matter if others do not dress as so-called men or women? As long as they are happy they way they are, why should we bother to tell them otherwise?
Until you open your mind to embrace the difference around you, you will always see things you want to see and filter out whatever does not fit your taste.