It is simultaneously interesting (because I find most terrible things interesting in some way) and distressing to note the fundamental power difference between men’s suits and women’s pant suits. Take a moment to think about it. What adjectives or images come to mind when you think of each? Men’s suits give off feelings of power, wealth, classiness, status, neatness, competence, and did I mention power?
Now think of women’s pantsuits. They give off wealth, to a degree, but not necessarily, and it doesn’t wear as well. They give off sex appeal. Look at the tapered waist and the jacket which is always too short to cover your ass. The accentuated neckline. Even in so-called professional wear, where this should be completely irrelevant (I mean, flaunt it or not, but it shouldn’t matter), women are associated with sex.
What else do you think of? If you’re me, you think of Hillary Clinton. Pantsuits are essentially her uniform. Now, do you like her? I mean, sure, she’s intelligent and competent and obviously qualified for her job, but doesn’t she just give off the vibe of pushy or bitchy? Or like she’s trying too hard?
Look at that. Look at that right there. Almost never would you say that of someone of the male persuasion. You don’t say, “Oh, he’s just wearing that suit because he’s trying to be taken seriously.” You also never say, “He’s unqualified for that job because his hormones could affect his judgment by making him emotional,” even though, frankly? Too much testosterone could well be the bigger problem here. And yet we belittle women based on their hormones, but not men. (Perhaps, we should belittle no one based on their chemistry). No matter how competent, intelligent, or insanely qualified she is, Hillary will never give off the same aura of power as Obama, or Romney, or whoever else wears that suit. Look right there – there’s another one. We use first names for women, and last names for men. We call her Hillary, not Clinton. Clinton means her husband, even though he’s mostly out of the game. We call him Obama, not Barack, not unless we’re joking.
Ultimately, of course, this is about more than just suits versus pant suits. It’s about respect, and it’s about power. Women are not respected as much as men. Therefore, women have less power than men. Regardless of competence. Regardless of actual power, or influence, or money. Regardless of the head on top of the pair of tits.
This fall, I was talking to my mother about desiring professional wear for when I start having job interviews, or merely needing to make a positive impression. I mentioned wanting a suit, and for a while, we had two different conversations. She thought I meant pantsuit. I meant a men’s suit, because I had started to notice this – that pantsuit means pushy, or bitchy, or fake, while men’s suit means power. This is why I wanted it – to help offset the scales which tip unfairly away from me, and which give me different standards by which to live. To have some of that power.
But who knows? Maybe I’d just look like I was trying too hard.