Monday, May 16, 2011

The clothing issue: hypocrisy [part one]

Thoughts about clothes: I have many of these, given that the SlutWalk Sydney is impending, but also in general...

On hypocrisy:
One of the things I have been doing at work is gently pushing the people who order our work shirts to consistently order both men's and women's sizes. This is difficult, because all too often we end up with "unisex" sizes, which usually turn out to be men's sizes with a different label. If we're really lucky, there might be a unisex XS which might fit me, but generally it stops at S (which is marginally too big for me and probably some of the women I work with).

I think this is a problem which is overlooked because of the scarcity of women in engineering in my office (~5%), however it has also occurred when women from other departments have been included. It has also occurred in other contexts (our engineering class shirt, band tshirts). The complaint of not getting appropriately sized shirts is also often dismissed as "oh noes, the free stuff isn't perfect". Other arguments against provision altogether have been brought up, such as "economics" of doing a small run in women's sizes (read: it costs too much to be inclusive) etc etc. Another issue I've seen is that women's shirts are sometimes of significantly lower quality, causing the women to choose mens shirts anyway - prompting an outcry of "but see, they didn't want them after all!". Yet another issues I've seen is of the women's shirts having a special "women's design" on them (usually pink, and/or with hearts or flowers), which predictably sell badly/have many left over because many women will find this patronising (woman =/= little girl =/= love of all things pink and pretty), and reject them.

All in all though, I think most of the arguments against buying women's sizes when providing a [team, class] shirt fall rather flat considering a few things: the providers of the shirts usually want to appear welcoming and diverse, and/or want to increase the participation of women in [tech, engineering], are either self-pay or not strapped for budget, and also have at least a few women pointing out that they aren't being included.

Summary; it's actually not that hard to be inclusive when printing shirts. A safe option is to go with the same design, printed on shirts in both mens and womens sizes. Easy.

Anyway, that's not where I was originally headed with this post. For many reasons, I often prefer to wear shirts which are technically "mens" sizes. And so I feel like a hypocrite if I say, "so now I've successfully got these shirts in women's sizes, I actually want one in a men's size". I kind of feel like I'm being a bad leader by not setting an example, and saying "lol! Tricked you!" or something. It's totally not what I've been intending with this - I really do think that being inclusive and providing shirts in all the appropriate sizes (big sizes are often neglected too) is important!

I guess it's a feeling I need to think about and explore more before I can fully unpack why I feel it and decide what I want to do about it. Outside opinions welcomed.