The Matt Taylor ShirtGate / ShirtStorm issue has been covered to death. As a supporter of women in STEM who is not herself a graduate of a STEM program, I thought I’d be okay with limiting my participation in conversations around it to signal-boosting others’ takes on it.
Kiran Opal discusses why people’s reactions to Matt Taylor’s apology were so terrible. Gretchen Koch explains with whom exactly she is angry. Phil Plait makes a case for why, although the conversation has centered around a shirt, it isn’t just about a shirt. Greta Christina took on the issue from her unique perspective as a pornographer.
Many people on Twitter and other social media platforms have brought up the fact that women and people perceived to be female face constant criticism for their clothing choices both within and outside of the workplace.
This is where my outrage as a person perceived to be female comes in.
Until the day comes where women and women-perceived people’s clothing choices are not policed to death, especially in the workplace, I am entirely unsympathetic towards Matt Taylor’s choice to express his sexual preferences via his clothing choices at work.
Women and people seen as women have to dress along a very precarious line between “too frumpy” and “too sexy”, a line which is hardly if ever clear despite the billions of drops of ink and infinite number of pixels spilled over the matter. Read any article about a woman being shamed and harassed, given ultimatums, or getting fired over her clothing choices, and the comments and responses will generally be along the lines of “But why didn’t she just wear more professional clothes / cover up more?”
The appearance-policing gets worse for certain types of women. Women with larger busts can’t even cover them up with turtlenecks without being told that they look too sexually appealing for work. Women of color are told that their natural hair (as in the hair that grows from their heads) is “too political” to be professional. A sexy picture or porn-performer history, even if discovered well outside the context of work or from the distant past, can lead to a woman being fired.
Meanwhile, not being sexy enough means a lowered income (since fat women earn less than thin women) and complaining about bikini pics displayed at the actual the workplace can lead to termination of employment.
And that’s exactly the problem. Why is it okay to portray scantily-clad women in a place of employment, the exact same space where women are subjected to often downright draconian restrictions on their clothing choices?
It is illegal for women to go topless in most cities, yet you can buy a magazine of a woman without her top on at any 7-Eleven store. So, you can sell breasts, but you cannot wear breasts, in America.
The world is coming out in force to cry “shaming!” in defense of a man who wore a shirt covered in images of women in sexy outfits to work. I repeat: A man can wear a shirt to work depicting women wearing clothes that actual women at his workplace can’t dream of wearing in public ever, even outside of the workplace, lest they be chastised and possibly fired.
Fuck. That. Noise.
And fuck yes to a better shirt for promoting female participation in STEM.