The Luv Doc: Toning It Down
This isn't about fashion
Dear Luv Doc,
I work in a large Downtown tech company with a "casual" dress code. By "casual" I mean that most people wear jeans and tennis shoes or skirts/pants with blouses, etc. I think the idea is that people are allowed to dress comfortably and not formally. The only person who doesn't seem to get this is one of our administrative assistants who routinely wears overly revealing clothes – lots of cleavage, short, tight skirts, etc. Sometimes she doesn't wear a bra. It is very clear she is trying to dress sexy but for whom? All of the men in the office are either married or gay and she herself is married. Isn't the purpose of revealing/sexy clothing to attract attention from the opposite sex? All she is doing is distracting the already married men in our workplace and making everyone think she's on the make. I don't think it's my place to ask her to tone it down, but HR hasn't done anything about it. What do I do? – Low Cut It Out
That's easy! Nothing! You do absolutely nothing! Compliment her on her fearless body positivity and get back to whatever tech task you were hard at work on before you deputized yourself as office fashion police. I think you and I both know this isn't about fashion anyway, is it? It's about control. You like things buttoned down. You like to go by the book. You like order to your chaos. You like painting by numbers – that way your painting is never really terrible, but it's also never really great.
One of the benefits of mediocrity and conformity is that they rarely inspire condemnation or ridicule. I doubt anyone will be snickering by the water cooler about your protruding nipples – precisely because the thought of being the office laughingstock actually terrifies you. And that's OK. You get to wallow in your psychoses just like everyone else, but by that same token your free-nippled vixen co-worker gets to wallow in hers.
We can't begin to know why she dresses provocatively. Maybe it's because she grew up in a patriarchal society that rewards and praises overtly feminized and sexualized attire – and maybe she gets dressed every morning, looks in the mirror and thinks, "Damn girl! You are smoking hot!" and feels really good about herself when she leaves the house. Similarly, I imagine there are women who put on those oversized acrylic sweaters with seasonal motifs and think the same thing. And guess what? They're both right. That shit is adorable.
But what, you ask, about all the distraction she's causing with her super-sexy attire and protruding nipples? Well, you have a point. Maybe all those distracted men in your office should seek counseling about their inability to focus in a gender-diverse, perhaps slightly chilly office environment. That has to be an immense burden and they should definitely take action to correct their behavior. Perhaps HR could suggest some resources.
Better yet, perhaps you should keep an eyeball peeled for any men in your office who are dressing provocatively and causing a distraction. My bet is that there is a man or two walking around there with a mooseknuckle in his chinos that would make a whore blush. Now granted, he is probably rocking that "athletic" fit to attract members of the opposite sex, but that doesn't mean he gets to strut around like a Chippendales dancer. Take some close-up photos of his junk bump and send them to HR and let them know you can barely get any work done from all the gawking he's forced you to do. That ought to get their attention – even more than you might want.