Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Forget Cleavage, Pants Drive Men Wild

I have a job interview today. It is with an excellent organization that does women's rights work, including litigation, in the areas of employment discrimination, violence against women, and criminal law issues for both adults and juveniles. I'm nervous for many reasons. I don't know if I want to work for them because I don't think the job is my "ideal" job. My ideal job would allow me to work - doing actually litigation, and not just policy work - on anti-trafficking, asylum, and/or reproductive rights issues in an international context. Even if I decide that I do want to work for them, I don't know whether they'll like me. Interviews are like the bar exams: crap shoots. One never knows.

I dressed carefully this morning in a dark navy blue suit with tiny white pinstripes. The suit, from Club Monaco, sounds far more conservative based upon my description than it looks. It has a cute cut, the pants are slim fitting but flare out just enough to be flattering, the jacket is nicely tailored and shows a little bit of my curves while being completely professional. I'm wearing a white shell underneath with a single strand pearl necklace and simple pearl earrings. I'm slightly worried the pearls are too conservative, too law-firm, but on the other hand I love pearls. They are simple, professional, and beautiful, so I went with them.

I went with a pant-suit, instead of a skirt-suit for two main reasons. First, pant suits are more "feminist" in my mind, more progressive and sassy, than the uber formal conservative skirt suits that the law firm favors. Skirt suits, though I am rather partial to them because it's so damn hard to find pants that fit nice, feel more corporate to me. Second, the Dragon Lady hates pant suits. Yes, the uber bitch female law firm partner that I work for hates pant suits. I have heard stories of her telling off female associates for wearing pant suits. She thinks skirt suits are more formal. The anti-feminist bitch. It's not really that I'm wearing pants because of her, but more that her dislike of pant suits confirms in my mind how feminist pant suits actually are. Plus, I have a meeting with her today, and I'm relishing the idea of walking into her office all done up and in my 2 1/2 inch heels. I'll be taller than her.

Speaking of heels, I blame the attention that I got this morning in part on them. That and the fact that men have an uncomfortable propensity to act like dogs in heat. Outside my building there is a construction site and each day I need to walk past approximately 5-10 construction workers. I'm aware, and largely immune to their looks. I've perfected the art of ignoring unwanted male attention. It's one of woman's most basic survival skills. Not that I'm saying there aren't times when it's necessary to tell men off for their borderline harassment. But it's a tricky issue. Men are more easy to control, and it's more easy to keep your body safe, when the men aren't roused to anger and when you can keep them at a distance. I'm simplifying here, because the way to deal with street harassment is not the main point of this story.

Usually I get looks from the construction workers and men in general. In my opinion, this isn't because I'm particularly beautiful. In fact, it's not about me at all, but about the men. Men in our society have this sense of entitlement that makes them think that they can eye every woman that walks by them like they are pieces of succulent meat roasting on a spit. Despite all the talk over the last fifteen years about sexual harassment, and street harassment in particular, men also appear to still be operating under the painful delusion that women will be flattered by their unwanted attention. Wrong, boys.

For example, yesterday as I was coming back from acupuncture treatment, I stopped on the corner of 86th and Amsterdam and waited for the light to change so that I could cross the street. While I was waiting, I suddenly heard a voice right behind me and to my left say, "I'm only going to ask one thing." The voice was so close, I knew the comment was directed at me, so I inclined my head slightly to the left to see what kind of lunatic had approached me. It was a white man in his late 50s, balding, dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase. He met my glance with a look of rapt appreciation and said, "How tall are you?" He didn't appear threatening, I don't like to be rude as a general matter, and I was on a public street in the middle of the day surrounded by at least 200 people, so I said, "5' 10." He said, shaking his head in admiration and roving his eyes up and down my body, "It's a wonderful thing."

I ever so slightly curved my lips into the briefest of smiles (far more than he deserved, I know!), and looked away to wait for the light. Harmless and Creep, I thought to myself. I knew that he had obviously checked out my ass, because he had come up behind me. I had also seen him openly eye me up and down, and then act as if he was flattering me. On the other hand, what he said was not so blatantly offensive as to warrant a public dressing down. So I let it pass and ignored him until the light changed. Pig. I'm sure he was married. This kind of thing happens all the time, and it wasn't worth it for me to engage with him.

As I left my house this morning, I was trying hard to walk straight in my heels. I'm partial to kitten heels (about 1 1/2 inches), and haven't worn 2 1/2 inch heels for months. I only wore the tall ones today because my kitten heels are trashed and I didn't want to look scruffy at the interview. I was a little wobbly. I shut the door tight behind me and started down the sidewalk. Not fifteen feet ahead of me was the construction crew. I couldn't help but notice them because they were directly in my line of sight. Two were shoveling rubble to the left of the sidewalk, and five or six were to the right of the sidewalk, one in the back of a truck, and the others on the street loading debris into the truck and unloading supplies. Apparently, they noticed me as well.

Coming up even with the construction crew I opted to glance to the left and say good morning to one guy, while looking for the most part straight ahead. There is always this dilemma. Do you say good morning, or do you just ignore them all and look straight ahead? If I wasn't certain that they would be looking at me, I wouldn't think twice about saying good morning, but I don't like meeting the stares when they're checking me out. It's awkward, it runs the risk of making them think you are interested in them (remember men are delusional), and it creates a second dilemma: whether to let their stares and comments pass, or whether to chew them out?

When I glanced at the guy on my left to say good morning to him, I found him already staring dumbly straight at me. Shit, now he thought I was paying attention to him. Gross. To get away from that awkwardness, I glanced to my right and saw that all of the men on my right had just stopped working and were staring openly at me. The guy in the back of the truck had stood up from his stooped position, and was leaning on his shovel checking me out. It was like a bad diet coke commercial in reverse.

I focused my eyes again straight ahead of me and continued on past them without saying anything more. When I was about 5 feet away, I heard one of them say, "Beautiful," and a few others murmur in agreement. They said it loud enough so that I was sure they wanted me to hear it. For "beautiful," I couldn't really chew them out, but my god, why do men have to act so often like they are sex-crazed dogs that have just been let out of their cages?

I walked to the end of the street and turned to my left towards the Penn Station subway stop. I thought that I had received my allotment of street harassment for the day but I was wrong. A cabbie whistled loudly out his window at me. I felt a glimmer self-consciousness, and then reminded myself that that was ridiculous. I most certainly am not going to blame myself because so many men find it difficult to control themselves.

Not that I appreciate the comments of the construction workers or the cabbie, but I did find myself thinking that it would work to my advantage if my interviewers thought that I looked as smashing as my morning admirers apparently did. Hopefully they will also be impressed with my brains, experience, credentials, and commitment to women's rights. The things street harassers never see because they're too busy salivating and straining at their bits.


Wood said...

good luck at the interview -- I'm sure you look gorgeous and professional, as always.

Ally Bean said...

I most certainly am not going to blame myself because so many men find it difficult to control themselves.

You're right, of course, about not blaming yourself. It all seems so warped and pointless to me. Why bother someone just for the heck of it? What do these men get out of it?

And I hope that your interview went very well. Glad you wore the pant suit-- tres chic and always appropriate, regardless of what the Dragon Lady says.

wordnerd said...

I am sure you kicked construction and law firm ASS!

Keeping my fingers and toes crossed....not my eyes though..that would be most awkward!

Tracy said...

Hi Buttercup! Keep us posted on how the interview went. I am very proud of you and happy for you that you are taking the step to interview. Even if this particular job is not the one you end up accepting, you are moving in a good direction--toward a happier future.

Prue said...

Glad to hear about the interview! You were fabulous, no doubt.

As for the street harassers, have you forgotten you live in New York Fucking City? You're just supposed to yell "fuck you" at rude construction workers and other psychos. I swear, they're almost disappointed if you don't :)

Robo14 said...

Oh how ridiculous!If the man complimenting you is decent about it,no need to go spastic!Just accept it and move on..Typical attorney making a Federal Case out of nothing..No wonder our court system is screwed up...Go back to your office,Ally McBeal....

Tory said...

Men are men, you shouldn't take anything poorly, and you certainly shouldn't over think their motives either. Regardless, you didn't wear the heels for comfort, you wore them for how they make you look, so don't get irritated for someone noticing. And I'm sure you looked great, so stop being frustrated and start being flattered.