Following the Twitter backlash Donald Trump is facing over comments that his female staffers should ‘dress like women’, Girl Talk decided to take to the streets of Cambridge to ask our fellow students and citizens for their thoughts on gender and personality, dressing and comfort.
“I don’t think there is one particular way to ‘dress like a woman’. I make a lot of my own clothes so it’s when I’m wearing those that I feel most comfortable. I made this jumper, scarf and hat. I love it because I make clothes for my body and so they fit better. They’re so much more enjoyable to wear because I’ve made them myself.”
“The idea of ‘dressing like a woman’ enforces gender norms on clothes in a dangerous way. It makes clothing restrictive, rather than allowing freedom. If we’re speaking normatively I suppose I do ‘dress like a woman’, but I feel most happy when I feel it looks good on me – not someone else.”
“I dress quite androgynously. For me clothing should be comfortable and prioritise happiness above all else. Clothes are a way to express yourself and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, even if there are people who say you shouldn’t care about your appearance. I love Tilda Swinton’s style because she always looks great – whether it’s a tux or a dress.”
This week the President of the United States and Leader of the Free World came under yet more criticism for reportedly telling his female staffers to ‘dress like women’.
Naturally, a deluge of Twitter responses quickly followed with female doctors, sportspeople, soldiers, racing car drivers and even astronauts posting pictures of themselves to show Donald Trump exactly what women wear to work.
This was all an important reminder to check our inherent bias, and I was ashamed to feel even a tinge of shock from seeing a picture of a woman wearing such heavy-duty uniform or holding a gun.
However, what I immediately noticed was how slim the response from women in non-uniformed careers has been thus far. And this, presumably, because they really do have to #dresslikeawoman every single day.
Pandora Sykes (Credit Pandora Sykes/ Man Repeller)
Caroline Issa (Credit Instagram @carolineissa)
Of course, this is all well and good for two women who work in fashion. Female-dominated industries are the most open to sartorial freedom as women dress to impress each other, fishing for each other’s compliments.
But what about in the corporate world where, as much as you may want to, wearing a lilac or purple suit might not be office-appropriate?
For the second instalment of Grad Talk, we spoke to Ruby who recently graduated from Jesus with a degree in history. Now working for the Civil Service, here she shares her sparkling insights and pearls of wisdom on how to shine bright post-Cambridge.
So, what do you do now?
I’m a civil servant, on the Civil Service Fast Stream.
Describe a typical day.
My day begins by squeezing myself onto the tube at 8.20am. The heady days of walking through King’s to late morning lectures are long over. Aside from that, no two days are the same! I’ve been to training sessions in the Locarno Room at the Foreign Office, attended select committee hearings at the House of Lords and I get to travel across the UK for meetings with regional teams. I’m currently writing a communications strategy for an exciting project.
What do you like about it?
I love working on issues that matter to people in the UK and around the world. It’s refreshing and motivating to know the work I do every day makes a difference to people’s lives. The Fast Stream is a great grad scheme; it invests a lot of resources in its graduates, which is pretty rare in the public sector. I’ve received a lot of training and exposure to different aspects of government, all of which will help me in the future.
What do you dislike about it?
I’ve only been working in government for a few months, so I’m still getting accustomed to all the different department structures and acronyms. It’s difficult; there’s a lot to learn!
What do you miss about Cambridge?
I miss being surrounded by so many talented people just doing stuff all the time. I found it so inspiring to see my friends putting on plays, starting bands, and launching new initiatives (like Girl Talk!). I also miss the beautiful things you can do at Cambridge. Go to the candlelit compline at Trinity: it’s pure heaven and afterwards you’re given mammoth strawberry tarts and port – much better than Cindies.
I began this term by taking part in my College’s telephone campaign. In the middle of a Monday evening shift, after a series of voicemails and call-back-laters, I had the surprise privilege of speaking to a feminist activist from the 1970s.
‘I’m not sure how interested you are in feminism’, she said, before recounting how she had put her career as a history professor on hold to join afeminist cooperative in London. Over the course of forty-five minutes, she shared with me her conception of feminism, particularly stressing the importance of female solidarity. Remarkably, this retired academic told me that ‘Angelina Jolie’s feminism is good because she fights for others – other celebrities use feminism for themselves’. Has feminism indeed been appropriated for selfish means, a tool for securing a few more thousand social media followers rather than a collective struggle for equality?
January is all about looking forward. So, for any prematurely fatigued finalists unsure what the next chapter may hold, Girl Talk decided to interview our recently graduated female friends for some career inspiration and general words of wisdom about life beyond the bubble. For the first in our series, we spoke to banker-slash-baker Saliha, who graduated in 2016 from St. Catharine’s with a degree in Economics.
So, what do you do now?
I joined the grad scheme of a small investment bank in October – it’s a rotational scheme with a big focus on equity research.
Describe a typical day.
I get to the office just before 7am – we have a meeting every morning from 7:15 to 7:45, in which research analysts present their new research notes to others at the firm. I’m working on a small project of my own right now, so the rest of my day isn’t really too structured unless I have any other meetings. I spend the day reading articles and research papers, collecting and analysing data, and writing. Then I leave the office at around 6:30pm (with much-treasured lunch and tea breaks throughout).
What do you like about it?
The people are definitely my favourite aspect. The other grads are all so lovely – we have a class of around 30, and we genuinely get along so well. There are a few who I really expect to stay friends with, regardless of where our lives take us. And the more experienced members of the firm are also great – my manager at the moment is so down to earth and friendly, and always open to giving me guidance, despite being intimidatingly intelligent.
That’s another thing that’s cool about working here – everyone is so switched on, and so seriously good at what they do. You learn something new and interesting from every person you interact with, which isn’t something that you necessarily get at other offices.
Pass the milk tray. More than just a Christmas telly staple, Bridget Jones is a flawed feminist hero we can all learn a thing or two from.
The BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List has established itself as a modern pantheon of female achievement and activism.
So, the inclusion of Bridget Jones into the list this year, which also included Margaret Thatcher, Beyoncé Knowles and Germaine Greer, created a small controversy, and not just because she’s a fictional character.
There’s certainly a case to say Bridget Jones is an anti-feminist figure. She is obsessed by her weight, getting on the scales multiple times a day. She flirts shamelessly with her lothario boss Daniel Cleaver, dreams of marital bliss with him and wears ‘sluttishly’ short skirts and see-through tops to the office in an attempt to achieve said bliss which she believes will be her happily ever after.
However, if we analyse her inclusionwith the specific Woman’s Hour Power List criteria in mind: women who have positively impacted and reflected female British life in the past seventy years, then Ms. Jones seems rather excellently placed.
Most figures on the list are problematic in some way. Jenni Murray once said that Thatcher, ‘did nothing’ for women, as she got herself to the top but helped no women rise up with her. Greer is widely accused by third wave feminists as transphobic. Playing devil’s advocate, you could say that Beyoncé, a music industry puppet and media-trained machine who doesn’t write her own music and performs in revealing clothing, is hardly a role model for young girls.
Cambridge Girl Talk is a student-run organisation that provides free talks by inspiring female figures for audiences of self-identifying women at the University of Cambridge.
There is an existing culture at the University of inviting predominantly male speakers and charging high membership fees, thereby excluding a large proportion of the student body.
We want to champion the female voice and celebrate the achievements of women. Our accessible events invite all self-identifying women to discuss what it means to be a woman, both professionally and personally, in today’s world.
We firmly believe that this generation of female students will be the movers and shakers of tomorrow. We want to fuel their aspirations by holding events that will leave every participant feeling enriched and motivated.
Cambridge Girl Talk was founded by Alina Khakoo and Kitty Grady in 2016. You can find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, or email us at email@example.com.