Planned Parenthood is excited to be launching our new Tumblr that’s all about sexual and reproductive health – bodies, birth control, relationship issues, “is it normal for this to do this?” type things. In the coming weeks and months we’ll be sharing what we know, answering questions, and just… tumblring.
We hope you like it! And we hope it helps.
Welcome to the neighborhood!
Today in reader submitted stories, from a 20-something woman working in Congress:
I’m in my first real job after college… surrounded by capable and powerful women. [But] I’m still judged largely on my appearance by both men and women. I’m constantly worrying that my shirt is too tight or my skirt is too short, and that no one will ever take me seriously if they see an inch of leg. I end up dressing like a librarian. I find that female colleagues are often the harshest critics.
Sometimes, I smile too much, and people mistake my bubbliness for a lack of intelligence. My male coworkers like to make jokes about me being stupid, which is ironic considering they also ask me to edit their work. I have stood up for myself before, but it often comes off as a little abrasive or — goodness, no — bitchy.
Coming from [college], the real world is a slap in the face.
Submit your own “Tales from the Frontlines” here.
A lot of readers of our piece (especially male) have become mildly obsessed with the quote we include wherein one of us was told to “use their sexuality” to get ahead. The question of sex, and sexuality, in the workplace is a tricky one. As one Newsweek commenter put it, “Women have internalized that the only way we can get ahead is to give head.” We don’t agree, but let’s try to unpack the S word a little.
The reality is that a woman’s appearance, her attractiveness, or, sure, her sexuality, can be a powerful tool. And there’s no question that men are affected by it. They just are. (As our favorite Newsweek commenter put it, “no matter how much I respect my female co-workers, I eventually think about putting my hands on their chest.”) Removing sex entirely from the workplace is an impossible proposition. As Nora Ephron told us, humans are sexual beings. “You simply can’t have it that 16 hours a day you have sexual feelings and for 8 hours you don’t.”
The problem is, when men hold all the power, that tool turns into a double-edged sword. On the one hand, catching a superior’s eye can mean more face time, opportunities to talk about your ideas, and so on. On the other, any subsequent promotions or success will be poisoned by self-doubt: was it because I deserved it or because my boss likes the way I look?
Once upon a time, working women hid all semblance of feminine attractiveness for purely this reason. But as young women, we balk at having to subvert our sexuality. Which is fine when we’re roaming the halls of the high school cafeteria, or out at happy hour, but when we’re hunched over our cubicles in a male-dominated workplace, its easy to spin into a paralyzing cycle of self-doubt.
So what do we do? Once there are really enough women at the top, these issues won’t matter so much. Our male boss can ogle us and his female counterpart can roll her eyes. But until then, what to do? Back to boxy “Working Girl” suits?
From our Newsweek story on women and the workplace:
“The truth is no matter how much I respect my female co-workers I eventually think about putting my hands on their chest whenever I talk to them. I don’t think I’m alone here on this point. And female bosses, I constantly think about having sex with them.”