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“It’s all in your head” : Balancing internal and external misogyny

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

Today, I had a video-interview with a well-known company for a summer internship. To prepare, I wrote out some answers to common interview questions, practiced speaking assuredly, and spent an hour doing my makeup and picking out clothes. I really enjoy the process of getting ready and choosing an outfit that I feel most confident in, but part of me wondered whether I was doing this for myself or for the world. As a woman, I felt a pressure to look “presentable” which meant putting on a subtle touch of eyeliner so I look nice but not too confident, applying a thin layer of blush so I look lively but not too girly, and covering my acne with concealer so I look mature but not too vain. I realized after the interview that I didn’t know if I felt this pressure because of how society treats working women or because of how I perceived expectations of corporate workplaces for women. 

The answer, as usual, is “it’s complicated”. Corporations have a long and never ending history of creating extra hurdles for women, whether it’s pregnancy discrimination, pay gaps, not addressing microaggressions, or more. While there are many policies that protect women’s rights in the workplace like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) or The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), many women are still respected less than men in workplaces, especially in fields like computer science and finance. This difference of treatment is what drives women to pick up certain personas in the workplace. Women’s emails tend to use more exclamation points and apologies, while men’s emails are generally shorter and straight to the point, which could be because women are avoiding coming off as blunt or uninterested in their work. Women pick outfits that make them look presentable and try to come off as approachable. These sources of external misogyny have made it difficult for women to fight back without repercussions that could threaten their job or livelihood.

Fortunately, it’s 2024 and not every workplace has the same outdated treatment of women anymore. Personally, I don’t know if I would have been treated worse or considered less than in my interview if I hadn’t been wearing makeup or speaking at a slightly higher pitch than my normal voice. The percentage of women in leadership positions has increased and more workplaces are committing to providing an open and inclusive workplace for all people. As this positive shift continues, women who work will face the question “Who am I performing for?”. For example, if a woman wears heels everyday to work, is she doing it because it’s the expectation for a woman in her role or because she personally feels confident in them? Does she use excessive exclamation points in her email because she’s excited about the project or to avoid coming off as rude? I know for me, wearing makeup gives me confidence and makes me feel equipped for the workplace, but I don’t want to be dependent on it. Because of this, I avoid wearing makeup on a daily basis and instead reserve it for special occasions. Ultimately, I know that makeup only gives me confidence because of the unrealistic beauty expectations placed on women, but part of me still holds on to the idea that being more “beautiful” will make me more confident. This internal battle between what society expects of me vs what I actually want haunts me at every choice I make, whether it’s what lipstick to wear or what kind of job I should pursue. Fortunately, having a community of women to talk to about this issue helps me make choices that are true to what I want. 

As a new generation enters the workplace, we must decide how we want to present ourselves. It’s up to us to decide what outdated double standards it’s time to break and to usher in a new era of individuality and honest self-expression.

Hi there! I am a sophomore Biology major at UT Austin. I am super interested in research and science, but I also love writing about my life and what I see around me. I love cat videos, weird science facts, and cooking new food. Thanks for reading!