Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be successful.
I don’t think there has been a day in my life when I’ve thought, ‘you know what, I’d rather be sitting at home with my feet up for a living rather than working hard for my money’. In addition, I have always been interested and excited by fashion and ‘looking pretty’ ever since I can remember too.
I began wearing make-up (in small amounts I might add) when I was about fourteen, and have done so since – however never to excess. I’ve always been an extremely hard worker at school and although I’m not stereo-typically clever, I have achieved good grades because I feel I’ve earn’t them. Now, I’m not saying all this to boast – but simply to bring me round to my main focus.Can women really be perceived as ‘hard-workers’ and still take pride in their appearance? Can women be successful and powerful, whilst also be perceived as someone who loves fashion (aside from those who work in the fashion world?).
Well in my very short experience so far, the answer is a resounding no. And I’ll tell you why.
School has always always seemed to me like a stepping stone. Work hard and you will achieve good results. Work hard and you will be recognized and celebrated for your success. In some respects, yes I have been celebrated. My teachers (most of them anyway) always praised hard workers and rewarded them for their achievements.
However, due to my love of wearing a little bit of make-up and having two small studs in my ears on occasions (which I will say, was allowed), I was often penalized from rewards beyond the classroom. Each year, I attended the annual awards ceremony – whereby students are rewarded for their efforts and the main ‘prize’ was the ‘Head Girl’ or ‘Head Boy’ of that particular year. Each year, around three quarters of students were handed a small certificates, having been recognized by their teachers for particular subjects. Each year, I won a certificate for a certain subject or for being ‘most improved player on the hockey team’. However, each year, I missed out on the main prize. To be Head Girl.
As the years went by, I did make more of an effort to be recognized by teachers and hopefully have a chance at becoming Head Girl, however each year – another name was announced. At the final awards ceremony, aged 15 – I politely asked (for future reference purposes) why I was not considered. The reply I was met with surprised me greatly. ‘You were on the shortlist each year Scarlett, but you missed out because you wear too much mascara’. TOO MUCH MASCARA! I know I’m one too exaggerate at times, but aged 15 I was only wearing a smidgen of mascara and not even everyday. If I was wearing too much, my mother wouldn’t have let me leave the house. And why should this matter anyway? Why should a tiny bit of make-up effect the success, or recognition of success for any student? Is it fair?
Now I know that several people might argue here that I’m being silly. Pedantic. Over the top perhaps. Yes, maybe I am. There are successful, beautiful and glamorous women who are rewarded and recognised. Of course they are. But often, they work primarily in the beauty, fashion or music industry and very rarely, do people really take them seriously in any other field (minus a few exceptions). If men are allowed to look smart, wear a suit and be granted power. Why can’t women too?
As I have grown older, my interest in fashion nor my interest in being successful has been diminished. In fact, since seeing what could potentially lay out in the world for me makes me even more determined to work hard and succeed.
Taking my A Levels over the past two years, which were more focused around what I was interested in – excited me and I was determined to make myself stand out in terms of achievement. To do this, I toned down the make-up (even though it was hardly caked on anyway) and made sure the majority of my outfits were conservative and plain – despite being able to wear what we wanted.
One Monday morning, whilst wearing a relatively conservative dress, (a black long sleeved, knee length studded dress) I was laughed at by a member of staff and asked whether I wore the dress to a nightclub at the weekend, to which I replied with a confused look and a ‘huh?’. I hadn’t been to a nightclub at the weekend, nor had I ever been to a nightclub before (apart from under 16 discos at nightclubs). ‘I think that dress should be reserved for your wild nights out Scarlett, it’s not suitable for school’.
So apparently, this ‘too much mascara’ image several years back had stuck and I was now apparently a fully fledged drunkard raver because I wore a studded black dress to school. This same member of staff, looked at me pitifully on results day a month ago and asked if I ‘was coping okay with my results’ in a very patronizing tone, indicating that I hadn’t quite got the grades I needed.
Alright? I’d just got 2 A grades and a B, and was extremely proud of myself. Clearly, due to my ‘elaborate’ make-up and studded knee length dress, I was destined for failure.
Now, please don’t take this article as a critique of the members of staff at my place of study, the majority were absolutely wonderful and I had a fantastic seven years there. I really miss being there and seeing all the teachers and students I know, however I do feel that some people there (staff and students alike) mis-judged me – and perhaps others – for being incapable of success, simply because of how we chose to dress, or the fact that we took pride in our appearance. And really and truly, is that such a crime?
Women all around the world have been told differing things over the past few years, ‘yes you can have the glamorous lifestyle and success’ or ‘yes, you can have it all’. But really and truly I think we are a long way from it. In the work place, many women feel underestimated or undermined in their achievements after being recognized and remembered solely for the way that they look, or the way that they dress. Those who turn up in something remotely ‘glamorous’ are then seen to care about their image more than their work. Surely this is better than not making an effort at all?
I’m being completely biased and one-sided if I don’t consider the thousands of women out there who are reading this and thinking, ‘I have a great job, am successful and take pride in my appearance’, which I’m sure for many of you reading this – is the case. There are many jobs where looking beautiful and glamorous is part of the job description.
However, from my experience (which admittedly, isn’t much) I can safely say that any conscious effort I do make to look ‘glam’ for work, or for any business occasion for that matter – is instantly subconsciously toned down, until I look a little less ‘done’. I wouldn’t want people thinking I’m not a hard worked simply due to the way I dress. I dress smartly, don’t get me wrong. Just not in the way I would like to, necessarily.
So, I guess – why I love my blog so much is because no-one can really look down on me or undermine me (not face-to-face anyway) regarding the way I dress or how much (or how little) make-up I choose to wear. Blogging is the one profession where success can be created solely by you, regardless of what you write about, what you choose to wear or what you look like. In the world of blogging (and journalism) your voice can be heard, rewarded and recognized without anyone judging you.
So maybe, just maybe – I could have both?
* I just want to say that I am not penalizing any one particular person (and will not disclose them) regarding what I have discussed in my feature. I have had many positive feedback from my teachers and from peers regarding my ambitions and work. I am not criticizing them or trying to ’embarrass them’. I am purely expressing an opinion, which is my own – and is open for debate. I am primarily just discussing a viewpoint and providing my own experiences. Thank you.
** The photographs in this article are my own.