~ By Dixie Andelin Forsyth
I recently had an interesting exchange with one of our online Fascinating Womanhood friends in the U.K. She is a barrister which we refer to as an attorney in the United States. We have talked before about the challenges of being feminine while working in a formal, and often adversarial environment.
With her permission, I share what she said: “I decided to try a tip from FW yesterday and wear a ribbon in my hair. I felt silly…I’m a professional, grown woman, not a 5-year-old! But I chose a light pink satin ribbon that I had in my craft box and tied my hair half-up and half-down. I’ll admit, I did feel feminine! My husband was looking at it curiously all day. In the afternoon, he said “I like that bow!” I said, “Oh, what do you like about it?” He said, “It’s pretty, and unexpected!” I guess that’s my new goal.
I responded to her story by telling her I wondered what would happen if she wore the ribbon to work. Why should feminine be labeled unprofessional? She said she wished she could but having to wear both a barrister’s wig as well as a robe wouldn’t work so well with the pink ribbon. I forgot they have to wear those wigs! A pink satin ribbon on a formal barrister wig might not be an appropriate legal look. She said she always wears heels and a skirt to court rather than trousers like most female barristers wear, so she is being as feminine as she dares. She said if she wore a bow to court, no one would take her seriously and would mistakenly associate feminine with childish.
That brings up a point. Why and how did looking feminine become associated with not being taken seriously? Has anyone ever challenged that notion? I don’t think it’s an established fact that looking like a feminine woman means you can’t be a professional.
My husband Bob tells me all the time that men want a level playing field in professional settings. They would feel at a disadvantage with a feminine woman, especially the complete package; one who looks, moves and acts feminine. What is really going on here?
Masculine men hate to do battle with a fascinating woman. It makes them feel like a cad--yet also vulnerable. They may have conflicting feelings of wanting to protect, yet needing to win. What do they do? Well, maybe that’s why they say a feminine woman is unprofessional. It’s their way of protecting themselves.
Why not be feminine in all areas of our life? Men have advantages—so do we. We just need to exercise them. We aren’t trying to be adversarial because men can be wonderful and we need each other. But we don’t need to be at a disadvantage either. Men already have many things stacked in their favor. We can stack a few in ours—in a charming and delightful way of course. In the end, they will be fascinated, which makes them feel good though not always in total control. Let’s keep them a bit more on their toes. In the meantime, it’s great that there is at least one feminine barrister out there. I love it!