This morning, as I was posting on Instagram, I couldn’t figure out whether National Women’s Day was National Woman or National Women’s day. Yes, I was an English major. Yes, baby brain is still a thing when your baby is almost two. Not wanting to make a grammatical faux paux on my return to social media, I googled it. I stumbled upon an article on Forbes called “On National Women’s Day, Don’t Look Less Than You Are.” And wanting to delay the start of my billing as long as possible, I clicked on it.
I think as a proper feminist I was supposed to feel empowered reading this article. My actual reaction was a squinty eyed “What. The. F***?!”
The article discussed how “warm signals,” typically used more by females than their male counterparts, have the potential to make you look less than you are – “less powerful, less confident, less competent.”
The article reads: “Even a smile (which is the most positive display of warmth) can work against you if you smile too much when delivering a serious message or stating an objection…There are also cases where warm cues can make you look submissive. Head tilts are one example. Symmetry is powerful. Taking your body out of alignment by standing with crossed legs, shifting your weight onto one leg and hip, or tilting your head — all of which females do more than their male counterparts — makes you look less sure of yourself…And when you stand, remember to “stand tall,” with your feet about hip-width apart, shoulders pulled back and head straight.”
Maybe I took this article a little too personally since I am the quintessential smiley, blonde who on more than one occasion has been compared to Elle Woods, and who definitely does not spend any time in my day timing my hip weight-shifting or frequency of head tilts. I’m also a little cranky before I’ve had my second cup of coffee.
But in all seriousness, this is an issue that has gotten under my skin in recent weeks. The other day I dropped Tripp off with my mom on my way to work. As moms do best, she looked me up and down and said, “Isn’t that more of a night-time lipstick…” After rolling my eyes in true 13-year-old form, she responded, “Well men are going to sexualize you if they’re looking at your lips. You want them to be thinking about your brain, not your breasts.” Mom: 1, Berkley: 0.
But here’s the truth. Men are going to “sexualize” me regardless of lipstick shade. Regardless of dress hem, whether my hair is up or whether my hair is down. Whether or not I wear dangly earrings or studs. And while I agree that you need to dress and look professional in any work setting, there comes a time when you need to be focusing more on your work product, and less on your heel height.
Feminism should be about feeling empowered, not playing a part. On National Woman/Women’s Day we should be celebrating who we are. We can never control other people’s thoughts, but we can control our own success and happiness. And today that means excessive smiling and wearing lipstick that is a little too dark for my mother’s liking.