Today the usually fabulous Jezebel posted a ridiculous article entitled "Can You Maintain Your Feminist Ideals in the Modern World?" Apparently the Jezebel crew thinks that London Times columnist Caitlin Moran has brought up a valid question in the Elle UK article in which she ponders "what should a woman do when the only way to get ahead at her job is to make use of her feminine wiles?" Jezebel goes on:
Moran suggests that while "writhing around on top of piano like Michelle Pfeiffer in the Fabulous Baker Boys is definitely out...you could certainly allow yourself to be a little bit extra 'charming' in that rather tight Moschino sweater."Look, there are two problems here:
1) This seems to make the argument that wearing flattering clothing is somehow an anti-feminist act. Allowing yourself to be attractive or sexy is in no way a betrayal of your feminist ideals. This notion that feminism is trying to rob the world of sexy is a perfect example of a strawfeminist argument. Men and women alike like to feel attractive and both can be stupidly forgiving of the obvious flaws of someone they find alluring. I am aware that I have occasionally gotten away with one half-baked argument or another because my listener thought I was 'charming' at the time. Is it anti-feminist of me not to immediately say "Ah-ha! I just said something dumb and the only reason you think it's clever is because I look good in this dress"? Of course not. But...
2) The original question posed was "what should a woman do when the only way to get ahead at her job is to make use of her feminine wiles?" So, this hypothetical woman is well qualified, but is still not advancing professionally? She is in a situation where it is understood that she has to flirt (or sleep?) her way to the top? Now we are talking about a case of sexual harassment, not a failure of feminism. In this case the answer should be to document everything until she can bring up a lawsuit, or to find another job where her success is in no way dependent on her sweater collection.
To be clear, flirting is not an anti-feminist act. Denying someone opportunities because they are not behaving in the sexual way that you wish they would, however, is an example of sexual harassment. Jezebel and Elle alike should be clear on this point.