I was just scrolling through Facebook this morning, when I came across a post advertising jobs for air staff for a particular airline and all the comments were about how it was so sexist and ridiculous that in this day and age, ladies are told they need to wear make up in certain jobs and it got me thinking about my own experiences with this.
I’ve never worn a lot of make up. I fill my eyebrows in and I wear a bit of concealer under my eyes, but I could happily wear no other make up and I don’t get myself dressed up very often, especially not for work. However, when I like dabbling with make up, I do so proudly. I don’t have a problem with anyone doing anything to enhance their features. I know there will always be the people who say that no one needs to wear any make up, society has forced this on us, etc etc.. I don’t mind what anyone does to their body or whatever they put on their faces. If it makes you happy to wear make up, go ahead. If you’d rather not wear any, I have no preference.
But apparently some people do really care about other people’s appearances way too much and, unfortunately, I used to work for a company where this was very important.
I used to work for a small client services organisation, a company that did the ‘front of house’ services for other (usually) large companies, who wanted professional front line staff with no fuss. I was contracted to work in a very large, well known company, on the reception desk of a huge busy building, where I saw literally thousands of people a day. I remember being so terrified on my first day that I didn’t quite know what to do with myself, but the team I worked with were amazing and from the very first day, I fell right into place. I absolutely loved my job there and I can’t write this blog post without pointing out that I only left the company when I did because of the travel and public transport, with it being in a busy city centre, or I’d have been there for a long time.
I wore a little suit, complete with neck scarf – as if I worked as an air hostess! – trousers, because the only tights we were allowed to wear would have been the skin coloured ones and I didn’t fancy these at all, and heels. I found this part of the uniform a little strange, because I worked closely with facilities and the management of the building, being front of house, so sometimes I would find myself literally running around the building to get something sorted for someone, up and down stairs (because no one has time to wait for a lift in a building with a few thousand people!) so I wouldn’t say this was practical. Also, for the most part that people would see of me when I wasn’t running up and down the stairs, I’d be sat behind the reception desk, so no one would have seen if I’d been wearing flats or heels and I don’t think they would have cared anyway.
One girl was allowed to get away with wearing flat shoes due to a health problem, but I never mentioned the circulation problems in my legs, or the fact that I was wearing compression stockings under my trousers! I just didn’t want the fuss, so I wore the heels and I actually learned to enjoy wearing them. They made me feel pretty good about myself, as I’m pretty short (4’10, to be exact) so they gave me a bit of height and I think it made the suit look a bit better!
The rule I just did not like was the every day full face of make up, but I did try. At first, it was a bit of a novelty. I’d just come from the most relaxed environment ever at my previous job, so dressing up and putting a full face of make up on for work was a bit exciting at first.. and then I realised how much I didn’t like it. My skin was breaking out and on got days, I could feel my skin dying to breathe, but I wasn’t letting it! Also, who can be bothered doing their make up every day at about 5am? Definitely not me!
One day, I thought I just could not be bothered and didn’t wear any. I had comments from the security guards about how ‘fresh faced’ and pretty I looked, how it was refreshing to see one of the girls not ‘putting that rubbish’ on her face and none of the staff or customers said anything about how I looked, so I figured it didn’t matter. I’d go between wearing no make up, and maybe putting a bit of mascara on, or a bit of concealer where needed, but I didn’t bother with a full face and I still looked as smart as before. I always wore my hair up.. except one day when I had my hair cut into a graduated bob and tried to get away with wearing it down – I was prompted caught and forced into a tiny strange ponytail!
One day when I’d been with the company a few months, when I was full of a cold, eyes streaming, nose running, pockets full of tissues, I was pulled to one side by my manager for a ‘catch up’ to see how I was getting on at work.. Everything seemed to be perfect, except the fact that I wasn’t wearing any make up. I was told I’d been really pretty and done up when I’d started work and I needed to start wearing make up again.
I think if anyone said this to me now, in or out of work, I’d find the appropriate words to tell them where to go. I was 21 when I started working there, fresh out of university and I’d only ever had the most casual jobs before. I didn’t know what to say and I’m ashamed to admit I woke up the next morning and applied a full face of make up, mascara clumping in the corners where the cold was making my eyes water and foundation hugging the dry patches on my nose where I’d been blowing it over and over again.
I felt bullied into wearing make up. At 21 years old, in a professional working environment, I had been bullied into putting colours on my face to please my boss, who was all about the look of the company. I was amazing at my job – I can say this with complete confidence and pride. I made it my business to get to know everyone in that building, every manager, every member of staff that conducted regular interviews, the girls that would often lose their phones, the teams that needed meeting rooms, the staff that would forget their work passes. I was bloody brilliant at my job and my appearance had nothing to do with that.
I was surprised to find that the law wasn’t on my side, when I Googled whether your manager can force you to wear make up. Apparently, they can get away with this by making it part of the uniform. It looks like it’s the same thing as expecting you to turn up to work in a clean uniform and to not wear nail varnish. There is no protection for girls at all. You can be bullied into wearing make up at work.. in 2018! The only small glimmer of hope I could see online was a single article about a girl, working somewhere as a temp, who sued for sexual discrimination over being told she had to wear heels at one of her jobs. I hope in a few years, girls can work in flat shoes and without make up, the same as I hope men can wear make up if they choose, or even heels if they choose!
Today, I have a bit of make up on to go with my nice summery dress I’m wearing to a work, because I chose to. I’ve been here a couple of years and no one has once told me to wear make up. Everywhere else I have worked, no one has ever mentioned whether I’m wearing blusher or not. No one cares when I rock up to my desk in a full face, or without my eyebrows on. I’ve never experienced discrimination or sexism like that since, thankfully!
Hope you’re all having a fab week! It’s almost weekend! ♡