In which Lady Bracknell toys with the idea of developing a "strident feminist" persona
Whilst waiting - in what some might term a triumph of hope over experience - to drift into the arms of Morpheus, Lady Bracknell's musings turned to something the editor had reported to her earlier this evening when she returned (still moderately snappish, Lady Bracknell regrets to report) from her place of work.
Apparently, the editor had encountered a young woman in the lift who, by all accounts, had forgotten an important article of foundation wear when she dressed this morning. (Lady Bracknell would like to believe that the young woman in question was eventually mortified when she realised her omission. However, standards of dress not being what they were in Lady Bracknell's far distant youth, she has a sneaking suspicion that said omission may actually have been deliberate.)
Now, Lady Bracknell is aware that her own behavioural principles are not generally shared by the Youth Of Today, and that times - and dress codes - change. But she remains of the opinion that, whilst young women should be free to dress in whatever manner pleases them during their leisure hours without ever being accused of inciting molestation from unruly members of the opposite sex, outfits which might be deemed suitable for a trip to a nightclub are unlikely to be appropriate as office wear.
(Lady Bracknell has just realised that "office wear" creates the unfortunate - not to mention inaccurate - impression that a range of clothing and/or natty accessories has been designed for office equipment. She now has visions of photocopiers sporting fashionable ponchos, and fax machines wearing fedora hats at a rakish angle. In her defence, it is very late.)
To return to the point she was making prior to her surreal imaginings, Lady Bracknell is aware that the majority of the editor's mature female colleagues regularly deplore the failure to enforce standards of decency and respectability in dress in their workplaces. None of them wish to impose ankle-length, shapeless, fustian gowns on their young female colleagues, but neither do they find bare midriffs, visible thong underwear, teetering stiletto heels, or deeply plunging cleavages acceptable in what is supposed to be a professional environment.
However, Lady Bracknell is disappointed to report that this is not an attitude which is generally shared by the editor's male colleagues. Regardless of their age and otherwise dignified mien, they will all, to a man, if questioned about such divergences from the accepted dress code, snicker like schoolboys, and mutter something to the effect that they have no complaints. Lady Bracknell suspects that they would very soon start to have complaints, though, if their middle-aged female colleagues - whose bodies are no longer firm and lithe, and whose bosoms have lost some of their initial capacity to entrance - were to attend the office clad in crop tops and mini skirts.
So here we are faced with that much-discussed dichotomy between a woman's right to wear whatever pleases her, and the recognition that even those men who are decent and respectable will respond to the baring of flesh in a lascivious manner. Or at least, they will do so as long as the flesh which is being bared is young and nubile. Which results in the acceptable dress codes for mature woman being markedly different from those for young women. But professional dress codes are not enforced, presumably because the only sector of employees who would really like to see them imposed are women in their forties and above, and middle-aged women are not perceived to be a powerful lobbying force. Their motives in such a debate are also often misconstrued as being derived from envy of their younger (and thus automatically more beautiful - at least in the eyes of the persons who are imputing the envy) colleagues.
Lady Bracknell's own equality hobby horse is, as her regular readers will be aware, disability. She is not practised in feminist debate or rhetoric. And she is too tired to develop the argument she has initiated to a logically compelling conclusion. Nevertheless, she remains convinced that there is something repugnant from a gender equality perspective in the situation which she has outlined above.
Perhaps, when the Goldfish is feeling a little stronger, she could be persuaded to comment from her own greater understanding of feminist tenets?