Aug 10 2005

Pink Tube Tops: Get Yours Today!

Chop Suey Deluxe a la Zilker with barbecued tofu, which I ate while watching Rosalind Franklin get the shaft from Watson and Crick in The Secret of Photo 51

[Note: Philly.com can be accessed using our complimentary
InstaTwistaScriptionâ„¢ Service. Email:
philadelphiadailynews@twistyfaster.com Password: patriarchy1 ]

Some of you may recall my noble eschewment of television news and major print media. My resolve was strong. But the media were stronger. Last night, at about 10 PM central time, I experienced a core breach. My shields failed. I watched The Daily Show.

This essay is not about The Daily Show, though.

It’s about this morning, when somehow Philly.com managed to send through a hostile probe causing my monitor to display a story on saucy, savvy businesswomen who “add a feminine flair” to networking.

I cannot but cast a jaundiced eye on this dippy article. If, when you see the words “feminine flair” topping a newspaper story about professional women, your keen mind forecasts a flock of 70 or so Katharine Harrises descending en masse upon a Lilly Pulitzer store to wheel and deal while they buy “pink tube tops and color-drenched sundresses,” you will have pretty much grasped the gist.

Why are chicks with briefcases going on shopping sprees? They’re networking, girl-power-style! They just don’t feel feminine meeting the guys at the bar for beers or playing golf, and lard knows a woman without feminine pinkness is like a fish without a bicycle. So they’re “empowering” themselves at girly networking events. Sewing circles. Shopping. “Manicures and martinis.”

It’s working great, too! Women make up half the work force, and already 8 of’em head Fortune 500 companies! Eight! Why, that’s 1.6 percent! Meg Whitman, President and CEO of eBay, says she would be nowhere today without her pink Lilly Pulitzer tube top!

That’s right. The Philly.com story is another one of those bogus sisters-are-doin’-it-for-themselves pieces that pimps a completely mythical trend in an effort to reassure skittish fans of the status quo that we have no need for radical feminism, that women are doing just great. People dig stories about female empowerment that don’t require them to challenge comfortable patriarchal standards of femininity. Women stuck in dead-end support jobs probably enjoy the fantasy of a whisper of hope, that all they have to do is hook up with others of their ilk and shoot the shit while soaking their hands in Palmolive.

But of course there isn’t any whisper of hope. The article includes no statistics on how shopping at Lilly Pulitzer puts women on the fast track to lucrative business deals and promotions. Why not? Because such statistics don’t exist. Because shopping at Lilly Pulitzer is not a career-enhancing move, and suggesting that it is is a load of crap. According to an NPR report on women CEOs, one of the reasons women continue to get the shaft in corporate America is that they are stereotyped, probably as airheads who get manicures in pink tube tops. And besides, the women doing all this manicure networking are, to begin with, in the wrong jobs for advancement. New York University business school professor Sheila Wellington says that nobody who slaves like a dog in Human Resources is ever gonna make it to CEO, and I suspect that this figure will remain the same no matter how many Tupperware fashion shows she attends.


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  1. Emma

    Haven’t these tube-top purchasing ladies not missed the point of networking? While I’m sure that it’s lovely to participate in an HR-flunky sewing circle (although I would rather make shish-kebab out of my own eyeballs), it’s not going to help them get Joe CEO into their rolodex. Setting up a parallel kewpie-network, because tapping in to the existing one is too hard and scary, is not going to get them those seats on the board.

  2. Emma

    Apologies for the double negative. That should be “haven’t these tube-top purchasing ladies missed the point….”. It’s late, and I am distracted by the cuteness of Bertie.

  3. jennifer

    Don’t forget Maurice Wilkins, the third cog in the patriarchal trio of Nobel prize winners. If it wasn’t for that fuckhead, Watson & Crick would have never gotten photo 51. That’s what happens when women are more competent than their male counterparts: their work is stolen and given to (unperceived) enemies because tiny uber-sensitive male egos can’t handle it. Quite frankly, watching that episode of NOVA pisses me off more than listening to Rush.

  4. AndiF

    Hearing about things like this (there’s no way you’re getting me to read it), I am so grateful for my extreme allergic reaction to shopping and my congenital blindness to fashion. It really is true that sometimes disabilities are blessings in disguise.

  5. BritGirlSF

    See, I’m a fashion-obsessed kind of gal, but even so I’m not dumb enough to think that that shopping and martinis as “networking” is going to advance my career. And anyone who dressed herself in Lily Pulitzer is guaranteed to be stuck in the pink-collar ghetto, if only because it makes one look like a Sailor Moon character, which does make it a bit difficult to take someone seriously.

  6. glamwreck

    Damn, I did it backwards. First I enhanced my career, then I shopped at Lilly Pulitzer.

  7. Michele

    So I follow your link to the Photo 51 Story and from there to a page on Franklin’s legacy. I scroll down as I’m reading the article, past a picture of Watson, down to, why, what’s this? A Picture of Franklin serving coffee in evaporating dishes in her lab! Although the picture caption DOES note that after serving coffee she went on to publish an “impressive” number of scientific articles. AFTER serving the coffee.

  8. Sylvanite

    I would like to apologize on behalf of the entire city of Philadelphia for that goofy article.

  9. Twisty

    The PBS DNA-umentary on Franklin notes that Watson derided her for not wearing enough makeup. What a fucking fucktard. All three of’em were fucking fucktards. What they did was criminal. They should revoke their Nobels, the fucking fucks, and give’em to me.

  10. deja pseu

    Personally, I’ve always found the whole “networking” thang to be highly overrated. Most people, I’ve found, are only interested in “networking” with those who are higher up the food chain (or with those who have the potential to become clients), so even professional organizations are a pretty tough nut to crack until you’ve reached a certain level. I remember back in the early 80’s being told I wasn’t welcome to join a prominent women’s business organization for my field because my position was “administrative”. They’d probably be happy to have me now that I’m a VP, even though it’s in that same “administrative” area of the business. Fuck ’em.

  11. TimT

    a story on saucy, savvy businesswomen…

    And sassy! Don’t forget sassy!

  12. ae

    I’m seeing this story as the crazy-making flipside to the “chicks who behave sexually in the workplace don’t get promoted” story. That’s right! Wear pink! Get sassy! But not too sassy! And not too pink!

    Keep the ladies off-balance, guessing about the rules, and focused on their clothes and nails. Hark, what’s that sound I hear? Yup, like clockwork this patriarchy. Right on time.

    And, dammit, I wore a pink shirt today, but, in my defense, I always wear pink w/ 14 levels of irony so as to shield against any undue inference of “feminine flair.”

    Chairwoman of the Nobels For Twisty! Committee

  13. ae

    P.S. Twisty, barbecued tofu … do tell!

  14. nancy m

    Take comfort that Rosalind Franklin was never simpering, always cranky, and never really gave a stuff about the establishment’s opinion of her. She eschewed the patriarchy for her great love – doing science.
    She was outstanding in her field and not least because she basically pioneered its usefulness for molecular biology. No patriarchal representative could lay their hands on it – and the DNA pictures are just a small example in her great body of work.
    There’s no need to be angry about her not getting a share of the Nobel, since the Nobel is the patriarchy’s seal of approval. And if you take the patriarchy’s money – especially in these days of privatised scientific research where even your own data isn’t yours to publish – you are the patriarchy and therefore not a true scientist.
    At least she didn’t bash her head against the brick wall of bigotry or, like a sister of mine, exhaust herself to produce twice as much good work as her nearest peer just to get the same remuneration; she exhausted herself to just do as much x-ray diffraction photography as she could. The insane competition between scientists – the “publish or perish” – just wasn’t on her radar.

    This paper remains on the net because it is unrefutable and serves to irritate the patriarchy no end.

    originally published in Nature, 1997 and nothing’s changed

    It lays open the so-called value-free process of evaluation of scientific competence.
    The take-home quote?

    “a female applicant had to be 2.5 times more productive than the average male applicant to receive the same competence score as he ((40+64)/40=2.6).”

    A woman could reduce this handicap by having a friendship with at least one of her reviewers.

    Knowing James Watson, as my mother did slightly, it’s no wonder that Rosalind chose the no friendship course.

    Thanks for letting me chime in for the last week Twisty.
    I’ve been on enforced feet-up, very disappointed in the retarded offerings from mainstream net outlets, so it’s wonderful to see the next gen carry the anger.

    cheers lass,
    good boy Bertie, good boy.

  15. Emma

    I remember back in the early 80’s being told I wasn’t welcome to join a prominent women’s business organization for my field because my position was “administrative”.

    So much for sisterhood! Networking works really well in Scotland, because the country is so small that you run into everybody who works in your field about 14 times a week.

  16. Twisty

    Yeah, barbecued tofu. I’m tellin ya. It’s the only way to eat it, because tofu essentially sucks. You can also do this in the wok if you don’t feel like firing up your grill.

    Get some really firm tofu. Cut it into 1/2″ slices if you’re grilling it, otherwise cut it into little cubes.

    Make a marinade with soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, white wine, red pepper flakes, and a glob of orange marmelade. It shouldn’t be too thick. Soak the tofu in this for an hour. If you use a grill, make sure it’s well-oiled and baste with reserved marinade until it’s kind of crispy and caramelized. If you wok, use medium-high heat and stir it around until it’s kind of crispy and caramelized. It’s best to do the tofu separately even if it will be part of a more grandiose vegetable fandango.

  17. Twisty

    Nancy M, thanks for that link. That paper is completely fascinating, even though I knew how it was going to end.

  18. Finn

    Ah, networking. Or, should I say, Networking, with a capital “N.”

    Networking, in the pure sense, wouldn’t be all bad. You know, getting to know other people that do what you do so maybe you could do it together. That would be cool.

    But, that’s not what it really is.

    Networking is a reinforcement of corporate aristocracy. A level playing field requires more of a meritocracy, I would think.

    So, in my opinion, any form of networking, aside from the purest “wow, you like HR, too? that’s awesome” form, only serves to reinforce the “good ole boy” network, no matter what clothes it’s wearing or what flavor drink it’s sipping.


    A Reformed Networker

  19. Steph

    Just before I came to visit for some patriarchy-blaming I was reading this article called Dressing the Part about how women and men professors are viewed based on what they wear.

    Lesson I learned. No matter how smart or successful you are, if you’re a woman, you’re judged based on how you dress.

    Not that I didn’t know this already.

    Fucking patriarchy.

  20. Sarah in Chicago

    Hmmm, speaking as a femme who knows how much she ADORES shopping (yeah, I know it’s a stereotype, but I fought it for ages, and now I just embrace it … of course, the whole grad student thing precludes the regular emmersement that I would love), there is no way in all the hells that Bush may conceive of that I would honestly confuse it with networking.

    Furthermore, the people that have the power in business are men, and honestly, not a hell of a lot of them are going to go with the whole shopping thing. So, you’re not really networking, you’re sequestering yourself away from meaningful contact with those that hold the power in the business world.

    In other words, not only are us women image-conscious and shallow materialists, but apparently we’re dumb as planks too.

  21. alphabitch

    I sometimes make tofu BBQ sandwich-type things by layering slices of extra firm tofu with onions sliced into rings in a casserole and covering it all completely with BBQ sauce (homemade, from a bottle, whatever) and baking it for an hour or so (oven temp around 350F) — crock pot also works — then putting it in hamburger buns. Not my favorite way to cook tofu but fussy children and also grown-ups who say they’d rather starve than eat tofu seem to really love it. Also great & easy to make when a vegetarian is likely to show up at your potluck or cookout & whinge about all the dead animal parts touching the grill and there’s no way even a lentil burger will do if it’s touched the grill or the spatula.

  22. Finn

    Steph said:

    “Lesson I learned. No matter how smart or successful you are, if you’re a woman, you’re judged based on how you dress.”

    Men judge women by how they’re dressed. Women judge women by how they’re dressed. Men judge men. Women judge men. The matrix is complete. ;-)

    The whole point with networking is that we all show each other that we dress the same, or slightly better than “who we really are.” I think it’s safe to say that, if there was no patriarchy, but there still is capitalism, people are going to find a way to compete with each other on every level, clothing included.

    Capitalism is a genie that doesn’t appear to be going back in the bottle any time soon. Patriarchy, on the other hand, does show signs of fading, the article in question notwithstanding.

  23. WookieMonster

    I noticed recently that there seems to be a Womanly Uniform evolving. If you reallllly want to be a “real woman” you have to wear black pants or skirt with a pink (preferably with black polka dots) shirt, an optional black blazer, and black footwear of some type.

    The only pink I ever wear is in the form of a vintage Strawberry Shortcake shirt. Floral prints are also a big fashion no-no for me. I guess I’m not really a woman at all.

    I saw a program on compulsive shopping once that made a statement along the lines of:
    People react differently to shopping, while some apparently become addicted, others’ reactions closely resemble those of a combatant in war, excessively stressful and even traumatic. I think that describes my reaction to shopping pretty well.

  24. Daphne

    Have I commented on your blog yet? Thank you for your blog.

    Back later after I put on some prettiness and am ready to face the day!!! Just kidding. I mean that I need to read all the comments later because my feet are freezing, I need to take a shower and I want to make the Title 9 sale for some waterproof biking tights. I hate shopping so this is a matter of will.

  25. PrissyNot

    I love shopping. I work in a dead-end support job for the paycheck. It’s not a career, it’s a paycheck. I work for lawyers because they know they’re horrible to work for and they pay better. Then I go shopping. It all works out. If you want some real patriarchal news, Jessica Simpson is now sponsoring a line of plus-sized jeans . . . let’s see, she’s HOW tall, and she weighs HOW much, and she does WHAT? And this qualifies her to “make” (read, make money off of) plus-sized jeans for women who would make two of her easy? Let’s go shopping!

    Also, my brother (who is gay) sent me an interesting website, if you want to blame the patriarchy, START HERE: focusonyourchild.com. It touted a “development topic” from the “outstanding book” Preventing Homosexuality: A Parent’s Guide, by one Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D. (piled high and deep) TRUE LOAD OF CRAP ARTICLE, AND I CAN ONLY THINK THAT THE BOOK IS WORSE.

    And bbqued tofu isn’t bad . . .

  26. CafeSiren

    Twisty: This was a timely post, as I, like Steph, read the recent article in the Chronicle on how women (in academia) are not only judged by our peers, we’re judged by our students. Some little twit half my age (“twit” being a smaller subset within the larger category of “student,” rather than describing the whole) comments on the fact that I’m wearing converse one day, rather than foot-killing heels (which require me to wear hose)? Screw that. I don’t comment on *their* clothes. At least not to their faces.

    This is all exacerbated by an open-access website called “ratemyprofessors.com” — in addition to rating your professors on things like “clarity,” “helpfulness” and “easiness,” you have the option of adding a little chili pepper icon to your rating, to signify that said professor is “hot.” Of course, this may be an unintended consequence of patriarchy, because it applies to male & female professors alike.

    My response to above-mentioned twit, btw: I announced to the class at large that “one of the great things about my job is that I get to wear whatever the hell I damn well please.”

  27. ae

    Thanks, Twisty. Tofu is so … well, tofu-ish, so singularly squrky (had to make up a word) as to be its own referent! I only buy Xtra-Firm (!), as HeyZeus is my witness, and I never thought of orange marmalade in the marinade. I am so there! I might be doing this tonight, matter o’ fact. Mmmm.

    No matter how squrky tofu is, I’d rather think about it than work. Sigh. You, of course, are a shining ray of patriarchy-blaming in my day. Many thanks.

  28. ae

    Alphabitch, your BBQ tofu sammich suggestion sounds good, too. Patriarchy-blaming and tofu recipes, what an embarrassment of riches!

    P.S. North Cackalacky reprazentin’ at Twisty’s!

  29. Tony Patti

    What reveals the patriarchal curse is the response of a woman to the male gaze. Why should women care about this huge all-seeing patriarchal eye judging them so harshly from some metaphysical height?

    The pleasures of self-adornment and display are tainted by this feeling of being judged.

    I adore a woman who dresses and displays herself with as little thought as possible as to how she is judged. Yet this morning, this very same goddess, who is covered with completely invisible tiny hairs of the finest golden red you could ever imagine, showed me a leg and asked me if I could tell that she needed to shave them. I told her that I have never, in all the years I have been looking at her, ever been able to see the slightest trace of hair on her legs. This is a blessing that she resists acknowledging.

    In my researches on woman’s clothing I found – especially among plus sized women – that they know for a harsh and certain fact that they are judged far more critically by men than the men even consciously know. It’s about career advancement, money, even survival. It’s something the bigger man may suffer from, too.

  30. Christine

    I don’t think women trying to climb the ladder should wear pink with a business suit unless they like pink. I also don’t think that women should have to dress like a stuffy male executive to be taken seriously. If I look like a semi-female version of Fred down the hall, isn’t that giving in to the partriarchy?

    And all this about networking reminds me of the Whoopi Goldberg movie “The Associate”. Imagine having to make up a male partner to get your ideas out. It would be funny if it wasn’t so true.

    I’m sure the 8 female CEOs would enjoy networking over a mani/pedi and appletinis, too bad the 492 men are on the golf course.

  31. Christopher

    What the heck is Lily Pullitzer? Some kind of literary award for Strawberry Shortcake scripts? Best water-plants maybe?

  32. deja pseu

    The more time goes by, the more I think Naomi Wolf got it totally right in “The Beauty Myth”. When it comes to dressing for work, especially in corporate environments, women are often in a lose-lose situation. Dress too “feminine” and no one takes you seriously (or worse, you get pegged as asking for that sexual harassment). Dress too “masculine” and you’re a ball-busting bitch and make the boys feel threatened. I love clothes and shoes as much as the next patriarchially indoctrinated gal, but there are days when I wish there were a corporate version of scrubs.

  33. Nikki

    Footnote to nothing: Rosalind Franklin’s grand-niece, named Rosalind in honor of her aunt, is married to someone I work with. The daughter of Rosalind and co-worker is also a gifted young scientist. Chalk it up to DNA?

  34. deja pseu

    Any of you tofu fans in LA this weekend? Check out the LA Tofu Festival! (Sunday night Ozomatli will be performing!)


  35. ae

    Deja Pseu, I saw Ozomatli a few years ago down at the Santa Monica pier, and it was such a joyous, foot-stomping time that I thought the pier was literally going to collapse. An amazing show.

  36. JS Narins

    I’ve never gone shopping after Martinis.

    I have applied for jobs after near similar intoxicants.

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