“Too hot to be a banker”??

Kitchen Chick sent me a link to this article, about Debrahlee Lorenzana who was fired for refusing to change the way she dressed (among other things). Her employers, Citibank, said that she should not wear revealing clothes (including, bizarrely, turtlenecks!) because when SHE wore them it was too distracting for her male co-workers. The story’s gone viral now.

It seems very clear that Lorenzana was a victim of discriminatory behaviour and a hostile work environment, but the packaging of the story is really problematic. One way it’s problematic is that the “too hot” storyline being foregrounded leaves out lots of other important details, like a refusal to send her on necessary training sessions. But another is that the HOT HOT HOT angle is being pushed so hard, with photos clearly chosen as sexy, and quotes like this:

Everything about Debrahlee Lorenzana is hot. Even her name sizzles. At five-foot-six and 125 pounds, with soft eyes and flawless bronze skin, she is J.Lo curves meets Jessica Simpson rack meets Audrey Hepburn elegance—a head-turning beauty.

I’m glad to see a sexual harassment case getting attention, and Lorenzana was clearly badly mistreated. But it would be so nice if they could manage to cover the story in a less exploitative way.

2 thoughts on ““Too hot to be a banker”??

  1. I wouldn’t have thought of it that way, but you could say that the journalists that covered the story are using a story about exploitation to sell more of the same. As long as Ms. Lorenzana is ok with the coverage, it’s fine with me. Personally, I was drawn to the statements about her work habits. If she’s an exemplary worker, and adheres to the same state and company regulations pertaining to appropriate attire that everybody else has to follow, who cares if she looks better in a turtleneck than her coworkers do?

    Hot women attract customers to any workplace. My first instinct tells me that there’s more to this discrimination, and the lady’s attire is just an excuse. Without more evidence I can only speculate about who the real culprit might be, but I have to ask: Is she working with racist people? Is she working with somebody whose performance is less exemplary, who may be in line for the same promotion, that may want her out of the way? Is the boss’s wife whispering her abandonment issues turned accusations in his ear?

    I mean, really. Good workers don’t just get fired for being hot. Somebody, or a group of somebodies are harassing this woman for some other reason. Professional attire is just the loophole they used to try to prevent Lorenzana from suing the company. But she has to work with the law, and refrain from turning speculation into accusations that could be used against her.

    Now that I think of it, no, the way her story has been packaged is not exploitative at all. The packaging goes straight for the heart of the issue. She’s saying so what if I’m hot? Would you fire me for that? My answer is NO, absolutely not. The coverage was pretty shrewd if you ask me.

  2. I have had similar experiences in the work place.

    Once as a bar tender on a country club golf-course where the complaints about my jeans and relatively baggy polo shirts were causing complaint. The golf-course bar tenders were newly required to wear the same uniform as the wait staff. Both of the new uniform shirts were ordered in the size needed for the other bar tender, an extra large. I was told it was because the shirt would then cover my back end.

    Another incident was at a well known copy shop chain. I was informed that my pants were too tight. I pointed out that I actually wore the loosest pants of anyone on staff and that my co-workers were wearing (very tight) jeans in violation of the dress code. The reply was literally, “But their pants don’t look as good on them.” I let my young and inexperienced manager know that this was the last time we would discuss it unless he wanted a harassment complaint. The whole culture of that location was hostile though and the head manager was eventually let go due to related issues.

    All in all, I think that while skinny privilege and beauty privilege exist; there is another side to that coin. I don’t think this is at all uncommon and hope that more suits like this come up.

    It also reminds me of an old Ani DiFranco lyric:

    and god help you if you are an ugly girl
    course too pretty is also your doom
    cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
    for the prettiest girl in the room

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