Do outfits define your excellence?

Image: 123RF/NYUL

Activist Lesley Ncube from the #TotalShutDown movement says female dress codes are deeply entrenched in patriarchal norms.

"Even if human resources that come up with policies is led by women, we cannot ignore internalised misogyny that is entrenched in women as we grow up. So, having women decide the dress code doesn't fix the problem," she says

Fashion designer, Tshepo Mafokwane, of Sober Designs, says it's sad that it's mostly young women who have negative views against other women.

She reiterates that women should not be dictated to how to represent themselves.

"Men get to wear what they choose and never get criticised for it. Women are however always criticised. The focus in the workplace shouldn't be on clothes but on your skills and how well you perform.

"A company will tell you how to dress based on how they want clients to perceive you. But I doubt you would go to work in your clubbing clothes," she says.

Ncube says the best way to change the narrative is to interrogate men who objectify women.

"Place the onus on men to explain why they police women's dress codes.

"When you dehumanise a woman, you put her in a position to be treated (with) disrespect."

Ncube says in a generation where mindsets should be different SA is still stuck in a sexist society.

"The sexualisation of women's bodies starts at a young age. When you tell a girl to cover up, you teach her to see her body through the male gaze. "  

Who made the dress rule for women today?  

Fashion experts reckon that covering of the breasts was first documented in ancient Greece before Christ was even born.

  • Romans decided married women should wear floor-length gowns called Stolas, and labelled women who dressed in togas like men as prostitutes.
  • Men at Bree street taxi rank in Joburg were beating up women wearing short skirts, labelling it "slut wear" until a mini-skirt protest was organised against this practise.
  • And just recently the BBC intro- duced strict dress code for staff and banned skirts above the knee. Most companies have dress codes aimed largely at women, calling for covering of the cleavage, avoiding form fitting clothes and jeans as a big no no.

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