Wednesday, November 14, 2007

OMG! Like, how's my hair?!? And, like, can I have a job?

Apparently the Times thinks a serious discussion about how the character traits we like our successful professionals to have are exactly those traits we like our women not to have is a discussion that belongs in the fucking Fashion & Style section. So I figure a serious discussion of women's fashion in this, the most female-unfriendly of the humanities professions, is a discussion that belongs on this fucking blog.

And so. What to wear on the job market? We'll start with the shoes.

If you ever find yourself needing something to do during a particularly dry APA conference session--having already counted all the ceiling tiles, perhaps--try counting the Danksos on women's feet. You'd think we got a SWIP discount on these puppies. They're everywhere. It makes me happy. I kind of can't make myself wear anything else. They're seriously comfortable, but still shoes you can get by wearing with a suit. (Or so I try to convince myself.)

Don't get me wrong--I know it's important to present a professional-looking image when we're trying to convince the old boys that maybe a lady colleague won't spell the end of the world as they know it. (Heh. Little do they know... .) I really should wear proper dress shoes. But I'll have enough on my plate in Baltimore trying to avert the fantods; the last thing I'll need is sore feet.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, the conventional wisdom, I take it, is for men to wear a suit and tie for interviews, and for women to wear something comparable/analogous. (Yes?) But what about the smokers? What ought one to wear at these?

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Wear them -- I have a couple of pairs of winter Birkenstocks that I tell myself have the same air of respectability about them.

Besides, you don't want to go around the conference looking like you were the 'I go to conferences to get with smart guys' girl... you know who she is -- she's the one in uncomfortable shoes.

Philla said...

I'm not sure what (if anything) this reflects about the atmosphere in our profession, but I find myself inhibited from participating in this discussion out of fear that it might make us female philosophers appear superficial, despite the fact that many of the male philosophers I know care more about fashion than I do. (Then there is the additional worry that expressing a preference for super-comfortable and relatively androgonous shoes like the Danksos pictured might make one appear not feminine enough. There is something of a Catch-22 for women here, of the sort discussed in the Times article.)

Anyway, despite my inhibitions, here goes: I am pleasantly surprised, but still somewhat dubious, to hear that PGOAT thinks one could wear Danskos (of the type pictured) with a suit. I was thinking more along the lines of the more dressy Danskos one can find on the website linked in the post. In fact, I was hesitant even to go for those after seeing that the norm in other professions (especially law) is that any woman wearing a suit must wear dainty pointy-toed, pointy-heeled, stylish but uncomfortable shoes.

Of course, this is philosophy, so we can dial down the dressiness (and stylishness) at least 5 notches from what's expected of lawyers. But there's a worry that if one is going to wear a full-on matching suit one might thereby obligate oneself to wear shoes the dressiness of which matches the dressiness of the suit. (Whereas if one were just wearing, say, tweedy wool pants and a nice cashmere sweater one could certainly wear chunky shoes.) One problem here is that "dressiness" comes with some unreasonable gender expectations built in. The Danskos pictured are shiny, clean, and sleek, and would be plenty dressy enough for a man to wear with a suit if they were shaped the way men's shoes are normally shaped. So saying they are not "dressy" enough for a woman is really a remark about their femininity, not just their position on the scale from casual to formal. I don't endorse these expectations about femininity, but I recognize that the APA is probably not the place to test the limits of the social norms. Am I making any sense?

Anonymous said...

Those shoes look quite unprofessional and horrid to say the least. I do you get a job though.

Anonymous said...

I do hope you get a job though.

P.G.O.A.T. said...

Philla, you're making all kinds of sense.

I was initially reticent to write this post, for the exact reasons you give for being reticent to comment on it. But fuck that. If we’re going to be held to the sorts of impossible standards described in the Times article-—where we freak people out if we're not feminine enough, but we make them not take us seriously when we're too feminine—-the least we should be able to do is talk about how we’re all trying to navigate this shit. I don’t think this is superficial at all.

Susan said...

I can report first-hand that Dansko's dressier-looking non-clog shoes are absolutely as comfortable and wonderful as the pictured clogs, though. My standard dress-up shoes are a pair of Dansko mary janes, and they're wonderful. No heel, good support, comfortable for walking and standing and all sorts of long-term wear, but also professional looking (and cute). (I'm in history, not philosophy, and from what I've seen at our big conferences, uncomfortable dress shoes outnumber the Danskos by a huge margin.)

And I agree that it seems superficial but is actually kind of important--presentation and perception issues affect women much more than men, especially in the fields that are generally more hostile to women. It sucks, but it's there, and you may as well find a way to work with it.

Anonymous said...

As a female who has successively navigated the (philosophy) job market, I have found it helpful to think of the APA interviews and even the campus visit as theatre. I am a performer, playing a role. I dress for the role. The role in this case is a female philosopher, future colleague.
No. Do not grow a beard.
Wear an outfit that is professional enough -- slacks and a nice top, suit, skirt and sweater -- but in which you feel comfortable playing the role of future colleague (for that is your role).
I don't think many philosophers would feel particularly comfortable talking with anyone in three inch heels, let alone a future colleague. So, I wouldn't take that as obligatory. On the other hand, I wouldn't wear those worn in Danskos either. Treat yourself to a new pair of shoes, and use the horror of shopping for them as a constructive way of channeling your anxiety. (Rather than 'will I get a job?!, think 'will I ever find a pair of sensible, yet stylish shoes I can actually walk in AND afford?!').
On a related note, I think the philosophy boys, especially the older lot, are getting to be far too slovenly, and I am trying to convince whomever I can that the smoke should be more formal attire. Fashion sense at an APA?! One can dream. (Really I just want some excuse to buy a party dress beyond being able to look at it in my closet.)

Sisyphus said...

I hereby move that, in a gesture of solidarity toward their female colleagues, all male philosophers should wear dresses to the APA.

And since I'm actually in English, I hereby make the corollary proposal that all male attendees of the Modern Language Association should wear dresses in solidarity as well.

I'm hoping that this move would shake up the profession in productive ways.

Heh.

languagepolice said...

Glad to see this thread. As a guy, I don't have quite the same set of concerns, but I have been thinking a fair bit about suits and the persona one puts forth with them.

The kind of suit I would really want to get, the one I would feel cool and professional in, is at least $600. Ugh. Not on this year's budget. The problem is that suits I can afford would leave me feeling boring. The thing is (and as some have already mentioned), philosophers aren't exactly known for their crisp sense of style, so boring may actually be just right.

Not exactly my most pressing concern in this job season, but I have been wondering about all this...

Good luck everyone with your sartorial selections!

philla said...

Anon 5:33's notion of APA-as-Theater is very helpful. I think approaching it as theater could go a long way toward allaying certain anxieties. There is something odd, though, if the role we are playing is "female philosopher, future colleague". (This goes for men too.) For it seems that almost no professional philosophers wear formal business clothing to work, whereas it seems that the vast majority of job-seekers at the APA do (i.e., they wear matching suits for the most part). In my department, there is one person who always wears a suit and tie (albeit a somewhat shabby one) and one person who regularly wears jeans. Everyone else is in between, in a business-casual kind of way--men tend to wear dress shirts tucked into khakis or cords, maybe a sweater or blazer or fleece vest, and women wear pants and dress shirts or even nice t-shirts, or sweaters, more Eddie Bauerish than Brooks Brothersish. Lots of sensible and comfortable shoes (e.g., leather walking shoes that are essentially sneakers).

So when I think of the role I'm playing--future colleague--I think of someone who looks like them (or maybe a slightly more put-together and stylish version of them). I certainly don't think of someone wearing a suit and dress shoes. So when I wear a suit and dress shoes (as I will, since everyone else does, at the APA), I feel weird--I feel like I look like a businessperson and not a philosopher.

Granted, it's expected that we will ratchet the formality up for a job interview. But it's weird to be playing the "role" of philosopher when you really don't look like a philosopher. I almost wonder if it introduces noise into the committee's decision. Wouldn't it be easier for them to imagine us in their department if we we wearing the type of clothes people generally wear around a department?

Anonymous said...

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

"Besides, you don't want to go around the conference looking like you were the 'I go to conferences to get with smart guys' girl... you know who she is -- she's the one in uncomfortable shoes."

I sincerely hope that this is not how all women in uncomfortable shoes are perceived. The majority of women's *dress* shoes (not shoes we hope pass as dressy enough) are heeled. Heeled shoes are almost always uncomfortable. Forgoing uniformity for comfort is immediately obvious to even the casual observer because suits and orthopaedic shoes do not go together, period.

Personally, I would buy shoes that are appropriate to the suit (they do not have to have 3 inch heels or pointy toes), and then pad the hell out of the inside so they aren't horrendous. Wear them around the house in thick socks, or stretch them with a shoe tree. I know it's a hassle and the last thing you have the time, money or inclination to do at the moment, but I think it is important to show that you are capable of dressing like a professional, as needed, even when you're being interviewed by someone in SmartWool socks and Birkenstocks. It's just not fair that way.

Anonymous said...

First: props on the blog. I stumbled here after a link at Leiter's crib. The comments are absolutely ass-roaring hysterical. I landed a TT job last year, but it took me four years of screw ups and failure, so I feel everyone's pain. Also, I've had a lot of time to think about the market.

About dressing: IMHO the biggest issue for male philosophers is the "daddy's wardrobe" phenomenon. For some reason, many of my friends think it's kosher to wear their father's clothes to their APA interviews. Leapin' lizards! They look ridiculous.

Let me urge the fashion dolts among you to go to a nice, reputable, upscale store and to buy a suit. Once you have that suit, have it tailored to fit you (and only you). As it is being tailored, buy several shirts that will look stunning with your tailored suit. Then, wear that suit to another store and buy some shoes that fit the look of the suit. While you're at it, buy a belt. Please: get some help from people in the store while you're doing this. Let's all work together to crush the daddy's wardrobe phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

I am a female philosopher who went on the market decades ago and have since been on the hiring side of the application process more times than I care to count. Worries about how to dress and present oneself are understandable, but I would recommend taking deep breaths and rethink. Remember who your audience will be---mostly male philosophers. Do you honestly think that they will notice your footwear, or be able to understand its semiotics? I recommend you dress comfortably but professionally---black pants, jacket, unobtrusive footwear. The last thing you need as you are waiting for your next interview is to have your feet hurt.

Anonymous said...

Coming from another humanities field, I feel so sorry for all of you. I have worn everything from medium heels to a tasteful pink blouse to my conferences/interviews, and it has not hurt my career one bit. As long as it isn't something utterly bizarre and not distracting, who cares if it's feminine? Why should I have to dress like a man if I don't want to?

Anonymous said...

Another female philosopher here, who has successfully navigated the job market, and who has also been on several search committees. I do not ordinarily look at anyone's footwear during interviews unless it's really outrageous. I would also grant grad students or people supporting themselves on adjunct salaries a lot of leeway when it comes to clothes for interviews. Nice clothes are expensive.

That being said, I don't think the Danskos pictured are a great choice for an interview. They aren't terrible, and no one would lose a job over them. But there are other great, more professional shoes out there that are comfortable and aren't outrageously expensive. At some point, it's worth investing in a pair. Trivial? Yes. But true.

Anonymous said...

So men wear matching suits at the APA. I was planning on wearing Docker's, button up shirt with a tie, and a jacket. Will I be underdressed?

selbst said...

when i first started "adjuncting" i was wearing a tie to class, and looking uncomfortable to say the least. a "colleague" of mine, then a ABD looking to get a job said, "who are you trying to fool?" he said that often at the APA people get dressed up only to discover it makes them feel uncomfortable and then prospective colleagues think you are a nervous or anxious person. it's not that you can't be in your own skin; it's that you can't be in professional clothes. the very idea of a dress code for a professorship (for men) brings to the imagination khakis, oxford, leather elbowed wool jacket, docksiders, unnecessary spectacles... but, my khakis are stained from hiking, my oxford got bleached by the laundryman (now it's pink rather than bluestriped), my jacket is from target, i haven't worn docksiders since eighth grade and even then i felt as if i was posing (maybe i should peg my khakis...), and my glasses are necessary, though broken and taped. my wife asked me the other day before she went to visit a high school art class (as an artist), "will I make a good impression?" she was wearing wool chuck taylors, wranglers, and a cowgirl shirt with marble buttons. i said, "not unless you want to be a ranchers daughter..." she replied, "but i am a rancher's daughter." anyway, is there a way to meet the demands of the phil. market dress code without giving up your wallet or your authenticity? i don't know...

helenesch said...

I successfully navigated the job market in philosophy about 8 years ago, and I've been attending APA's sitting on the other side of the hiring table recently. I think the most important thing is to wear shoes you feel comfortable in. If you are comfortable in heels or in traditionally feminine shoes, I wouldn't worry about wearing them and having people judge you negatively for this.

We had a guy from English on our hiring committee at the APA with us a few years ago, and he commented on how unstylish most philosophers are (everything from our attire to our eyewear). Really--take a look at the fashion sense of many of the guys (and some of the women) interviewing you! Who are they to judge?

But of course, anxiety about this is normal, since as women we are always being judged on our appearance.

By the way, it is pretty ridiculous that the story mentioned in the origial post was in the Styles section of the Times. It seems like a lot of stories that have to do with women--especially with women balancing careers and family--end up in this section. I suppose their assumption is that women care about "style" and will be likely to read the story if it's placed there. What's odd is that I now *do* read this section each week--or at least be sure to see what's there. And I have little interest in fashion/style, but I want to be sure I don't miss stories that pertain to women/feminism.

P.G.O.A.T. said...

Okay, troops. What do we think about these ones?

http://www.zappos.com/n/p/dp/23801556/c/886/reviewcount/25.html#mr

Suit-appropriate? Or do I need to abandon my dreams of comfortable dress shoes, suck it up, and wear some damn grownup shoes?

Anonymous said...

No, you don't need to wear a suit. Some people wear them, but they are the exception. You'll feel over dressed in a suit.

Anonymous said...

Those danskos you link to are ok -- if you can pull them off (they seem really high to me) The key is to find your own professional style. You will in general come off better if you find a way to be comfortable in costume (and it is a costume). So if those shoes work for your costume. Go for it.

You could always go for a pair of boots -- black skirt or pants, black boots. Kick ass.

helenesch said...

I think those Danskos look quite a bit dressier. I don't think I'd wear a suit either, but maybe this is because I don't own one! Nice dress pants with a blouse or jacket (or both) is fine. That's what I wore when I was on the market and it seemed appropriate. (I did wear my mother's shoes one year--literally, I borrowed them from her for this specific occassion. And I remember them being not so comfortable, but I didn't have anything else, and it was the cheapest/easiest thing to do).

Good luck!

modmaven said...

These latest Dansko's you posted are fabulous. I've been through the job mill, been tenured, and now back out there looking for more interesting gigs. As a woman somewhat fashionista philosopher, I hear what the nonphilosophers say of all of us. I like to wear black nail polish and and pointy-toed high-heeled pumps under a black pantsuit because in it I feel powerful. Wear what makes you feel not just comfortable but also like you are really special. If you are a year or more away from the job market, just practice at this. It's not just about getting a job but about living your life creatively and with panache. All the women where I now teach dress with flair. This is good.