You know what are fun? Boobies. I know, because I’ve got ’em and boy are they a hoot, but you know where they’re not so cute? The workplace. Yeah, that little productivity hub is a real blast until someone raises the hem line and drops the cleavage, then it’s slutty Chinese Whispers and ‘bitches be cray’ all ’round the stationary cupboard.
But, why is that? Why is it that a woman that exudes, nay capitalises, on her sexuality in her work environment is labelled as stupid, ditzy or worse yet ‘a slut’? Meanwhile, her male counterpart exhibits his stature and good looks like he’s showing at the Louvre and touching is prohibited but looking on in adornment and intrigue is widely encouraged.
For some reason, women are very cautious when it comes to using their beauty capital (read babin’ bods) to get ahead in their careers. We often feel embarrassed and even shocked that our attractiveness could or should play a part in our own professional advancement, but we’re not shy of using our social premium and networks. Why? Mostly because we’re too concerned with achieving equality and success the ‘conventional’ way. That somehow, if we open doors because a man liked the way you sashayed into his boardroom, then you didn’t really earn it, at least not the right way. Somewhere along the line we were taught to separate our brains and beauty into competing days of the week. Like, no Doll, save the pretty face and leggy skirt for the weekend when you’re looking for a man, now go put on your pant suit – it’s Monday.
Bitch puhhleasee, do you think men have qualms about using all their assets to get ahead? Nope, they blend it all up into a sexy souffle then let people eat it right out of their crafty little hands. So, why shouldn’t you?
Last year, I managed to get an unheard of second interview with the CEO of one of the world’s most noted luxury companies while working in Asia at the time. Why did I get it? Because he enjoyed my company in the first interview (thanks to some freshly tanned pins on show paired with charming banter) and naturally, for fear of losing the story, I knew that and used it to my advantage. I used my prowess as a commodity, which sounds like I’m verging dangerously close to prostitution, but his feature profile got glowing reviews and that magazine is still fatly filled with that companies ad spend to this day. You’ve got to be in it to win it.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a very low tolerance for sexist bullshit. And, this is not about feminism. In fact, I do not even know what a feminist is anymore or how I would go about associating myself to the varied dilutions of that bra burning movement. What I mean is, I have very little time for the sexism debate. When I hear those buzz terms, ‘girl power’ or ‘Fempowerment’ I’m all, ‘Ew, I don’t want to be that girl’ and sort of throw up a little bit in my mouth. What I do want to be is a successful business person. Maybe not one that manipulates and exploits men, but instead one that says to herself, “Oh hey there, I see you staring at my breasts, now watch me make this badass deal because you are too busy having a conversation with your penis”.
On the other hand, some of you know your milkshake brings all the business to the yard, but damn right, you’re too scared to charge. Well, stop being a cry baby, the business landscape has changed and the lines between our personal and work lives have never been more blurred. Catherine Hakim, a professor at the London School of Economics says in her book Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom that women should use their ‘beauty, sex appeal, charm, dress sense, liveliness, and fitness — to get ahead at work’. We need to understand that in fact there are biological differences between men and women, which still remain throughout our work cultures, and the same path to success that exists for men is not necessarily always open to women. So, instead of waving a flag and starting a Facebook womens lib group, we should discard the notion that beauty or attractiveness only holds a superficial value and perhaps cultivate our own path to the top using our non-traditional assets.
Let’s think about it in terms of sexuality in advertising. Imagine if that woman in the commercial being used for her provocation and body had a voice, a voice that was powerful and informed, a voice that could make you do anything she wanted… would it still be discriminatory? Sure, it still might be poor form on the brands part, but I guarantee you the audience doesn’t just see her as a play thing. It’s all about who’s in control of it, and no one should ever dictate the meaning or intent of your own beauty capital except for you, particularly at work. What I’m saying is, there’s nothing wrong with understanding the fact that a man you are doing business with finds you attractive. At first, you may be confronted, even offended depending on how he goes about it, then what you should do is recognise it, then identify how you can use it to your advantage. But, don’t misinterpret me, you still need to have the authority, education and drive to back it up. I would never suggest a woman should aim to get by based purely on her looks. That would be a huge faux pas for our entire gender.
Like every other business oriented woman, I’ve been reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (apparently you aren’t ambitious if you don’t have this sitting by your night stand, I still haven’t finished it) and in it she asserts that ‘aggressive and hard charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct’. To me that reads: let’s change shit up because whatever we’re doing right now is working about as well as a Libra super slim on a heavy flow. Sandberg makes the obvious but daunting statement that men still run the world. Citing that of the 195 countries in the world, only 17 are led by women, and only 20 percent of seats in parliaments are held by females globally. Sheryl Sandberg knows where the bread gets buttered.
So surely something needs to change, doesn’t it? And, perhaps it is taking control of our workplace sexuality, something that males have marginalised women for in the past, that will alter dynamics and see females in more senior positions in the future. Of course, the notion of beauty capital is sensitive to cultural change and everyone should assess their situations individually, but it’s about being real and analysing how you can better get ahead, being honest with yourself about it, and then taking action.
Naturally, I’m not only talking about generic good looks or the perfect 10 here, everyone has beauty capital in their own right, it’s about finding out what goes in that milkshake to make it delicious, then taking it to the yard.
Then, damn right, I sure hope you’ll charge.