Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unsurprisingly, 'more feminine' = more acceptable in law firm.

I keep telling myself not to, but time and again I find myself drawn back to the dull, dismal drivel in Femail that I, as a carrier of two X chromosomes, am supposed to be naturally interested in. It's almost as is I WANT to get irritated.

Women working at top law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have been told that, in order to to achieve the 'correct' professional look, they must 'embrace their femininity'. This means two things: skirts (well, okay...) and high heels (sigh). Never mind that these shoes are, at best, uncomfortable and at worst extremely bad for your feet, ankles and back. No, no, apparently forcing one's feet into an extremely unnatural position makes you stand BETTER. If you are a woman, that is.

Freshfields says it has been offering the image course to staff for some time.

'It's basically a session on how to project a professional image within the workplace,' said a spokesman.

'It's advice rather than a list of do's and don'ts.

Around 90 employees attended the makeover session in recent months as part of an induction programme for trainees.

One image consultant who used to be a lawyer explained why women might have been given advice to wear heels.

Lucinda Slater, founder of Best Foot Forward, said: 'It helps them stand better and gives them height.'

Oh, advice, is it? I'm willing to bet that having an official sounding personal tell them to wear them will make more women fell pressured to choose shoes they find uncomfortable when they'd rather wear flats, but maybe I'm just a cynic. I mean, heavens, I KNOW how uncomfortable heels can be because I choose to wear them occasionally on nights out too. I do rather like being tall, and they look quite good. But from TWO NIGHTS of wearing them, here are my list of complaints:

Rough skin
Sore toes
Pain along my right big toe and up its related metatarsal bone
Broken toenails (they were cut short, but having my full body weight pushing down on the very ends of my feet causes the toes to swell and any extra crushing can then crack the nail)

The sore metatarsal was a sign to go back to my just-as-nice and far-more-comfortable Docs until all damage has been rectified.
It's one thing to occasionally wear such shoes, we all know they hurt but lots of us also rather like them, but we decide when to stop and go flat-footed again. When an employer either actively encourages or even flatly tells the women it employs to wear these shoes every day that they come into work, I call bullshit. That's DAMAGING, and the more successive days that heels are worn, the more damage they inflict and they more likely it is for such damage to become permanent. Furthermore, they look no more professional than a good pair of well-crafted flat smart shoes, and we should be able to take a female lawyer, a very smart, well educated woman, seriously without making her teeter about on stilts and dress all pretty and 'feminine' for us, especially if this isn't a choice she'd otherwise make. Some women like skirts and heels, others prefers trousers and flats. Let's stop treating one as somehow 'better' (which is what they mean by 'more professional') than the other.

1 comment:

  1. Personally, I love skirts and I have been known to wear heels on occasion--especially if that occasion includes a lot of sitting. But forcing people to dress that way? Oh no. Not having it. You can look perfectly professional in a nice pair of pants and flats or low heels. Ridiculous.