July 27, 2007

The summer associate who sent a senior partner the text message: “Are bras required as part of the dress code?”

I don't know what's more absurd: asking that question of a senior partner or using a text message to do it.

A word of advice: If you're even thinking of asking the question -- that is, if you're not already noticing braless women in your workplace -- don't ask the question -- just figure out how to go braless without it showing. Camisoles with lycra content, jackets, layers -- there are many tricks. Don't forget nippies!

If none of the various tricks work to keep people from noticing that you are braless, you shouldn't go braless even in a workplace where you can tell women are going braless.

45 comments:

Paddy O. said...

I liked this comment:

"Add to this the favorite fact of human resource managers everywhere: this is the first time in history that four generations — those who lived through World War II, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y — are together in the workplace."

Is the NY Times a believer in a really, really, really young earth? Does this explain its perspective that there were no generations prior to the so-called "Greatest"?

Or were prior generations not really generations because they didn't have lettered names?

Does the D-generation feel insulted by the NY Times blatant disregard for its pioneering efforts in bringing youth to the hunting and gathering field?

Roger said...

Bad pun alert: I am an enthusiaster support of braless women.

MadisonMan said...

You can not be too overdressed at a summer job/internship. You never want to be remembered as dressing too casually at a summer job/internship.

Texting the question shows very poor judgement. If you can't ask in person, don't ask.

Cedarford said...

Weeeeelll......I think it depends on the workplace.

I once toured a nuclear facility undergoing major rennovation when I noticed that one lunch trailer had a line of construction workers a few hundred long. My escort showed me the secret to the windfall business they were doing was stocking the trailer with 3 braless local hotties hawking the salads and grinders.

Other workplaces may also find some economic advantage to some titillation

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a certain authenticity to braless fat 60-year old hippies at a Leftie activist NGO workplace or organic store...

I agree that in most cases the public image aspirations of workplaces discourages those that got it from flaunting them for sake of professionalism.

And texting people to find out what the "bra norms" are is pretty dumb. Ask around.
And for younger folks, watch out for excessive tattoos or a face full of metal - they don't do anything but expose you to a downside in job interviews for mainstream jobs!

davidc. said...

If the senior partner is like me and in his/her 50's, then I would be very mad. First, it is a stupid question. Second, I hate cell phones. Third, I have never figured out how to access the messages and do not understand the code they use.

SteveR said...

They should be thankful that there seems to be a worker shortage.

Jennifer said...

What did she grab her cell phone and pose the question while she was getting dressed in the morning? This is too funny.

Jeff said...

If I was the manager, I wouldnt be happy. However, I am not. So if my coworkers wanted to adopt the bra-less look here at work, I am fully behind them. Or in front. Where ever the better view is.

igbalonigbanlo said...

Can somebody please explain what the rationale for considering nipples to be sexually offensive but not the lobe (i.e. rest of the breast) is as seen by the whole don't show nipples thing, maybe it's because I didn't grow up here but is that a cultural thing as I don't understand it from a scientific point of view. Nipples are not attractive, a baby suckles on it and knows what it is and what it looks like. Why is it considered here that adults can't see it or they would go crazy. Or is it the whole attractive because forbidden scenario?

AJD said...

I don't know what's more absurd: asking that question of a senior partner or using a text message to do it.

Neither! What is more absurd is that you actually believed this bit of folklore!

Didn't you notice that the NYT called it "a tale" and inluded no actual names or identifying features?!

Total fiction. And you fell for it!!

Roger said...

David: quick primer: click on view text message; it opens, click on options, click on text reply; no code involved--press the number key corresponding to the letters one two or three times depending on the letters position on the number key. Click send; Voila

You are too young to be a luddite!

Hoosier Daddy said...

If I was the manager, I wouldnt be happy.

I'd be beside myself with joy and would immediately have her on the fast track to promotion.

The Drill SGT said...

If I were structuring an intern program, I would assign a partner and a first year associate as the management team.

need I explain more?

Bruce Hayden said...

The problem here is that she is a prospective lawyer trying to get an associate's job there upon graduation. This shows a significant lack of judgment on her part.

To understand the problem, you have to remember that law is a business, and most of the firms hiring summer associates are operating at the high end of the business. Why should someone spend $400 an hour for a big firm attorney, or, indeed probably near $200 for a fresh out, when you can get an experienced attorney for what the firm will be charging for the fresh out associate? The reason is trust that the job will be done right.

A woman who too obviously is not wearing a bra comes across as flaunting her sexuality. But that diminishes her appearance of competence, since males react to her first sexually. And that reduces her value to the firm, and the firm's value to their customers.

Associates need to be thought of as attorneys first, and then men or women later. Not the other way around.

And yes, it is likely unfair that women can't flaunt their sexuality whenever they want in business. And, yes, in certain situations, it is advantageous when they do. But not when the appearance of competence is at issue. It may not be fair, but it is reality.

Ann has a number of excellent suggestions for women who just have to go braless, without violating the norms that are there to make sure that these law firms continue to make money.

So, my advice to women who are troubled by this male prejudice is to suck it up and deal with it. The woman wasn't trying to get a job selling sandwiches to construction workers, but to sell very high priced legal services to corporate managers.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I dreamed I went-to-work-at-a-high-power-law- firm-with-only-nippies-for-coverage in my Maidenform bra.

Blah-blah-bra-blogging again? I'm up for a juicy lactivist post!

froggyprager said...

I found this article interesting and posted it on my new blog (check it out). The no bra question caught my eye but as a man I did not feel I could comment on that without putting my foot in my mouth. Perhaps if the partner were a somewhat younger woman who the associate felt comfortable with she could have asked her the questions without too much embarrassment.

MadisonMan said...

The woman wasn't trying to get a job selling sandwiches to construction workers, but to sell very high priced legal services to corporate managers.

And yet she couldn't even figure out what is or is not appropriate as far as undergarments are concerned. Who is gonna want to hire such a person who is so obviously unaware?

rhhardin said...

Social awkwardness at a law firm! (Feigns horror.) Apparently senior partners have an effect on some here that they don't have on others.

It's material for an Embarrassing Moments in Reader's Digest : ``I was sure I had two when I came in.''

A woman has to do what she has to do to get the job done, is my advice on bralessness.

Richard Fagin said...

If that young lady goes to work for a mega-law firm, the dress code will be the last thing in the world she'll need to worry about. When it's "bill 2500 hours a year - or else", she'll have little time left to even put her bra on, never mind whether one is required as part of the dress code.

May they all go out of business!

Balfegor said...

Re: MadisonMan:

And yet she couldn't even figure out what is or is not appropriate as far as undergarments are concerned. Who is gonna want to hire such a person who is so obviously unaware?

Well, not me. But at the same time, I'm sympathetic to the problems that many people in my age cohort face, when going into corporate jobs. Many of us come from families where the adults generally did not wear proper attire. I was fortunate enough, in that I kind of did -- my parents have more or less acclimated to California style, but when I was small, my father taught me how to tie a necktie, knew that a blazer wasn't a suit, knew the difference between casual and dress shoes, etc. I may be fond of an outre look, and utterly incompetent at shining my shoes, but I know more or less what's appropriate for the office. It would be much simpler if we all just wore grey and navy suits, but barring that, even business casual is an easy enough code, once you get the hang of it.

I mention the obvious things, though, because many people in my age cohort don't know them. Not so much at law school -- you get a certain type of person at law school, after all -- but in college and so on. I had a suitemate at university, for example -- brilliant and highly competent fellow -- who did not know how to tie a necktie. Not the four-in-hand, not the Windsor, not the half-Windsor, nothing. I had to teach him how. I have peers who think any tailored jacket counts as a suit.

So there are plenty of people who just don't know. It's not that they're unaware -- it's that there's nothing for them to be aware of in their everyday life. They're translating from school into a world where the sartorial codes are radically different from everything they've grown up with.

To give a comparison, it's a little like asking the average middle-aged man today to dress for dinner properly. He might be able to do it. And he's probably seen some examples of it on TV, so he has some idea how it's supposed to go together. But then there's all the things that normal people just don't use -- braces, not belts; studs, not buttons; a bow-tie, not a four-in-hand . . . gloves? Patent leather shoes? And do you need a hat? An opera cloak? Honestly, how would you know? I wouldn't. I'd have to guess. And probably guess wrong.

Undergarments, in contrast -- that's something you can't even see.

Roger said...

Damn Balfegor: when you say dinner you MEAN black tie dinner!

I will see your dinner and raise you morning dress. There's one you dont see often--I mean who has black and grey striped trousers and cutaways now?

Joe said...

Why the war on nipples (even when covered by clothing)?

AJD said...

Bruce,
"The problem" here is that all of you people seem to think that this fake story actually happened!

Damn you are gullible. There is NO WAY this story is true.

One word, kids: apocryphal.

Fen said...

But that diminishes her appearance of competence, since males react to her first sexually.

I think if sexual harassment laws weren't so strict, this would not be such an issue. From a male pov, its bait. We are visual creatures who readily percieve sexual signals that aren't there. If the female is sporting hard nipples under a tight blouse, we're going to notice it.

Esp with younger females. One thing I noticed with 20+ year-old workers is their propensiy to flirt and tease - not because they want a sexual relationship with me, but because the wanted to test their "charms" on an older man.

A woman going braless in the workplace is a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. As a manager, I would not allow the taunt.

Roger said...

AJD--and you know that how? it is indeed unsourced, but as I read the article, it is one of the tales told by HR managers--perhaps fake but accurate--narrative, and all of that.

AJD said...

Well, let’s see:

1. We could start with the fact that the story is absurd on its face.

2. Then we could move to the fact that the NYT never calls something they are describing as fact as a "tale."” I defy you to find an example.

3. Then we could add the fact that the NYT’s own guidelines REQUIRE reporters to explain anonymity. This story—I mean, tale—does not do that. Why? There is only one possible reason: they were not protecting any “source” on this tale. Why? Because it s a tale!

But Roger, I'm confident you are right that this truly is a "tale" that law partners are passing around.

Christy said...

True story. I was once given word from my CEO, via a close mutual colleague (not at my company,) that my boss wouldn't get that executive position for which he was in line, until he stopped dressing like a tweedy professor. Try delicately passing on that little bit of info.

Cedarford, my experience of nuclear power plants during outages has more to do with coming out of a hot (temperature) sweaty containment, stripping off the anti-contamination clothes (anti-Cs) down to one's underclothing, or nothing in some cases (and soaking wet underwear might as well be nothing,) doing the scans and sign-outs, and only then heading off to the locker rooms to dress. Anyhow, I made a lot of enemies when I lobbied management for everyone wear something under their anti-C's. No one wanted to lose undies to contamination. (I once offered to call a welder's wife and explain why he was 6 hours late getting home without his underwear, but he didn't think it would help for some reason.) This was years ago, I don't know how it is done now.

As has been said, it all depends upon one's corporation and where one is and expects to go within that company.

tc said...

My dear Ann,

I love women's breasts,nipples... especially if they're naked. But stupid questions like this merely reinforce my contention that feminism must be totally destroyed. For more on that check out this blog:
jewsyonkersislamiii-tc.blogspot.com

tc

tc said...

My dear Ann,

I love women's breasts,nipples... especially if they're naked. But stupid questions like this merely reinforce my contention that feminism must be totally destroyed. For more on that check out this blog:
jewsyonkersislamiii-tc.blogspot.com

tc

The Drill SGT said...

Roger said...
Damn Balfegor: when you say dinner you MEAN black tie dinner!

I will see your dinner and raise you morning dress. There's one you dont see often--I mean who has black and grey striped trousers and cutaways now?


so much easier in the Army. The invitation says: Mess Dress, or Blues, or Greens. And the train the first years associates (2nd LTs) on basic manners :)

The Drill SGT said...

they don't of course teach us to type or spell :)

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Drill Sergeant: Those were the days. And what about those officers who looked good only in their uniforms? In their civilian clothes, they looked like they were wearing adult-sized Garanimals from the 70s.

For my military wedding, my boss asked me what I wanted him to wear. And he put the word out..dress blues for the military guests. Only the groom was to be in dress mess [my gift to him]. But people always knew what was expected of them and that made them feel comfortable in all those work and social settings.

John Burgess said...

Roger: I have them and wore them as part of my work as a diplomat. Not in most countries, granted, but in the UK? You just don't show up at Buckingham Palace in flip-flops.

It is a pity that a loosening of dress standards seem to have resulted in ignorance of the fact that such standards might actually exist.

Adrian said...

my dad gets so depressed about this. there were restaurants he used to go to back in the day (40s and 50s) where they did not let you in unless you were in tails. now we go back to the same places, and we still dress formally, and there are people right next to us in t-shirts!
like people have been saying, many people simply don't know better; they've never been taught, it's not their fault. still, i wouldn't mind seeing a few more fancy restaurants step up the dress code requirements - i think they may be surprised that they won't lose as much business as they fear, might even gain some.

From Inwood said...

It's another tale written by Scotty for TNR!

Seriously, why does the NYT & its devotees laugh at bloggers when, as it does in many news stories, it includes this “tale” (which it actually identifies as such). Some of my friends turn up zee nez at blogs for their lack of “real’ sources” & proof to back their blogging. They have no answer when shown who the NYT sources may sometimes be or shown that it passes on unverified or worse unverifiable tales as news.

As for such rebellion being invented in the present, the story goes that one day the cadets at West Point were told to wear their overcoats on the parade grounds & Cadet Edgar A. Poe showed up in his overcoat without any pants, under or over pants.

Now if the story as published in TNR had been to the effect that Poe had shown up with a square dead dog in two pieces, one covered with a bra & the other with an overcoat, which dog had been run over by a horse-drawn caisson, those who hate the Army & Michelle Malkin would hasten to say that they would suspend judgment as to the bona fides of the story.

Bruce Hayden said...

Since we are talking required dress, I am reminded of my college days. I was a freshman in 1968, and coats and ties were required for Sunday dinner. Luckily, they had dropped mandatory chapel services a year or so before.

Well, given the time, by about Christmas, about half the guys were showing up in coats and tie, but without collared shirts. By spring, for many it was without shirts or long pants. But we were still all wearing our coats and ties.

And that was the end of an era. The requirement to dress up for Sunday dinner was dropped before the end of the term. Even being a member of a fraternity, I think we only wore coats and ties once or twice a year after that.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think if sexual harassment laws weren't so strict, this would not be such an issue. From a male pov, its bait. We are visual creatures who readily percieve sexual signals that aren't there. If the female is sporting hard nipples under a tight blouse, we're going to notice it.

Fen has a point here. Males are wired a certain way. No matter how much political correctness and concern for feminism is absorbed, the normal heterosexual male is going to react to certain sexual cues. He doesn't think about it first, but rather he just responds automatically. He is likely able to suppress most of the outward signs of his response, but a physiologist could detect them by his pulse rate, pupil dilation, and even brain waves.

So, a woman who thinks that it is her right to dress anyway she wants to (which invariably means in a sexually stimulating manner) is asserting a right to sexually stimulate males with impunity.

But even if not immediate, there is often a cost to this. In the case of a summer associate or junior lawyer, the cost would have been being seen as a sexual object before being seen as an aspiring or real attorney. And that would invariably result in being seen as less competent in comparison with other real or aspiring attorneys.

reader_iam said...

I notice, once again, for the nth time, the 2500 hour thing. As IF only young lawyers have (had to) put in those kinds of hours.

What's up with the historical blinders, there? I've been wanting to ask that one for at least a couple of decades.

Joan said...

Re dressing appropriately for dinner, or anything else: Honestly, how would you know? I wouldn't. I'd have to guess. And probably guess wrong.

Really? I don't believe you, or any other member of Gen X or Gen Y would be unable to use a search engine to find out what the proper attire would be. There's no need to guess about anything like that these days.

Now, as to whether or not you or anyone else would make the further effort to go out and rent/purchase the clothes you were supposed to wear is another thing entirely.

I'm inclined to believe that this story is apocryphal. I was about to say that no young woman, having made it through at least one year of law school, could be so dense... but then I remembered the woman who lived just upstairs from me, who was academically brilliant but otherwise clueless, even to the point of knowing just how astoundingly perfectly her body was proportioned. She could've sent that text message, but that was in the era before cell phones.

knoxwhirled said...

I don't understand the resistance some women have to wearing a bra. Grow up, you're not 13 anymore, you have boobies now.

Balfegor said...

Re: Joan:

Really? I don't believe you, or any other member of Gen X or Gen Y would be unable to use a search engine to find out what the proper attire would be. There's no need to guess about anything like that these days.

The problem with finding things like that out from a search engine is that the internet is full of lies. I mean, really it is. You can go to ordinary mainstream sites and get ridiculous advice telling you that fat square-toed shoes with lug soles are acceptable businesswear with a suit, or that a funny-looking narrow-lapeled suit in black with contrast stitching passes muster for an auditor or an attorney. Or you can go to a niche website no one's ever heard of, and they'll tell you that "formal" means a dinner jacket is unacceptably formal -- nothing will do but white-tie and a cutaway. Patent leather lace-ups are right-out; opera pumps only! And that "semi-formal" doesn't mean lounge suits, but dinner jackets and cummerbunds.

Wikipedia on dinner dress sounds more or less right to me -- right-enough in these demotic days, I suppose -- and notes differences between British and American styles which have the ring of truth. But can you really trust wikipedia? Only to a first approximation.

In my case, of course, I'd probably ask my grandfather, who was a diplomat and had to wear black-tie and white-tie and all that for his work. But not everyone can just ring up the older generation and expect to get a correct answer.

And not everyone in my generation would even think they need to check the internet or anyone else. They'll just wing it, and go with that. Or text the senior partner or something.

Balfegor said...

"dinner jacket is unacceptably formal"

-- meant that as "dinner jacket is unacceptably informal" of course.

From Inwood said...

Maybe she wants to join Breasts Not Bombs.

IMHO, most women who go bra-less or wear semi-bras, seamless bras or spandex shouldn't. Even if they're, Lake Woebegone like, above average.

I wouldn't wear a tight-fitting T shirt anywhere because I don't have the body beautiful, & as for wearing one to work....

If this "tale" is true, or even fake but accurate, we are dealing with a vapid person.

Better still, as others have suggested we have a parable, a teaching tool, a tocsin, an "aha" (someone's been watching "What Not To Wear"). And a tale which carefully makes the point that the older story teller is high tech (i.e., he uses text messaging; I'd say au courant, but that might make me look low tech!)

From Inwood said...

Does anyone remember the G. S. Kaufman's mot that Jane Russell's movie, The Outlaw, should've been called "A Sale Of Two Teaties"?

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