The worst piece of professional advice I ever received was from a self-identified feminist. She was a professor at my university, and I took a few classes with her during my time there. In my senior year, as I was preparing for a job search, I entered her office to ask for a letter of recommendation.
After a brief discussion in her office about the letter, she agreed to write it. As I thanked her and turned to leave, she stopped me. “Maria, I have one piece of advice for you, one feminist to another,” she said.
“When you go on an interview, don’t ever wear your hair natural. The curls are too wild, and unprofessional. You’ll do best if you pull it back securely, or maybe even straighten it.”
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My silly young self thanked this woman for her terrible advice and left her office.
Months later, as I was preparing for my first interview, I remembered her words and, despite what she said, I just couldn’t bring myself to tie my curls back.
My hair is my thing and is reflective of my personality.
I’m a bit off-beat and spontaneous. Though, as I’ve grown, I’ve learned how to harness that free spirit in positive ways, much like I’ve learned to tame the frizz during the humid summer months.
Trying to tame the wildness so it fits in with societal constructs of what a professional woman should look or act like is against the feminist agenda.
Feminists advocate for equality for all women in the workplace. This woman’s advice made her declaration that she was a feminist laughable.
True feminists build each other up and cheer each other on. There is no room in the feminist agenda for picking on someone’s physical appearance, especially over a few ringlets.
I remember watching beauty pageants with my mother as a young girl. I don’t think she was wrong to watch them with me, I watch princess movies with my daughter. However, I often reflect on the conversations we had during the shows now that I’m grown and have daughters of my own.