WHEN Felicia Czochanski claimed ‘being beautiful isn’t easy’, with her 5’5” stature, blonde locks, ‘hazel eyes, 34DDs and toned calves’, few people jumped to her defence.
Managers have doubted my intelligence because I choose to look feminine...
The twenty-year-old's blog revealed that she believed her attractiveness led people to 'ignore her accomplishments' and found people only take her 'at face value'. As social media fell into uproar, few have empathised with her 'plight'.
Of course being 'too beautiful' isn't a plight worthy of collective sympathy, yet in many ways being able to boldly proclaim that you’re gorgeous, while alien to most women, is a refreshing sentiment.
The average woman will spend at least 20 minutes questioning why our eyes are so close together and why we don’t have plump pillow-lips whilst applying our Monday morning warpaint pre-commute. Admitting we are beautiful to ourselves is of itself a mean feat. We have no issue in slaying in the style stakes, and collecting compliments from our colleagues on our arrival at the office. That outfit took hours at the Trafford Centre to painstakingly assemble after all. Having the balls to tell the world we are beautiful is arrogant. Critiquing ourselves is acceptable. But saying you aren’t being taken seriously purely because of your looks is defeatist. It's easy to figure out why.
Every woman knows how it feels to be objectified. They know how irritating it is for a cab driver to call you ‘sweetheart’ or ‘babe’. Or for the roadworks crew digging up the city centre to wolf-whistle at them or make lewd gestures. Most women also accept that they’ll need to prove themselves if they not only have ‘beauty’ but brains too.
I’ve experienced it first-hand. My nails are always perfect. I usually have at least ten rings scattered across both hands. My make-up is on point. My daily uniform consists of a figure-hugging dress with at least 3” heels. Managers have doubted my intelligence because I choose to look feminine. Those managers are usually male, though I’ve experienced my fair share of judgmental women in the office too. I got given some great advice by a manager I genuinely admire, she said: "Don’t change who you are to fit in, accept that you’ll have to work that bit harder to be taken seriously." She wasn’t insulting me. She was telling me what most women already know. I don’t accept the status quo that women should have more to prove than their male counterparts, but I don’t resign to the fact that how I look will determine how far I progress in life.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is also what we are told is beautiful. To use your perceived good looks as an excuse for your success or failure is shallow. In 2013, Laura Fernee claimed she was ‘hounded by sex pests and jealous females’ to the point that she decided not to work. At 33, her parents paid her £2,000 per month rent and financed her designer habit. She was a scientific researcher educated to doctorate level, who claimed her appearance meant she was constantly harassed, so she decided ‘employment just isn’t for [her]’. Bullshit. Attractive women can hold down high-flying jobs: they’ve learned to grow some balls. You receive the treatment you accept. If a male colleague asks you out and you’re not interested, you calmly and politely decline. If they repeat-offend, you report it to HR. It doesn’t stop you from working or progressing. Your failure or success only hinges on someone else if you allow it to.
Women are afraid to have real personality. They dull their assertiveness, hold their tongue, and exercise restraint. Being bold isn’t femme. Felicia Czochanski admitted to dulling her personality and wearing oversized clothing in an attempt to be taken more seriously. That’s the exact opposite of what she should have done. She should wear her dress and heels ensemble, she shouldn’t question whether her shirt is too low or her skirt is too short. Instead, she should have the confidence to be herself, and she should also accept that there will always be men and women with an opinion. You can be too frumpy, too scantily clad, too well-kept or too dishevelled. The media portrayal of female politicians is particularly amusing to me. Liz Kendall (Labour MP) has been admired as a ‘slinky brunette’ with a ‘lithe figure’ who remains ‘New Labour to the tips of her stilettos’. Yes, it’s articulate journalism. But it’s also damaging for women: I care about what Liz Kendall has to say more than whether she resembles Kate Middleton.
Femininity doesn’t mean the same to us as it meant to our mothers. We are the Google generation. We speak our minds, we have kinky piercings, we aren’t afraid to walk into the office with shopping bags from Ann Summers, and we aren’t afraid to tell men to take a walk when they comment on our physical appearance. Blonde or brunette is irrelevant. Every woman is armed with a personality and she shouldn’t be afraid to use it. Being told you’re beautiful is great. Believing you’re beautiful without being told is even better.
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