Society and Culture
Levo League’s Advice to Working Women: Look Prettier
Hey loves! How’ve you been? Did ya miss me?
I know, I know, it’s been awhile. I’ve left you hanging. But I’m back now, and after the past few weeks of doom and gloom left in the wake of the Hobby Lobby catastrophe, I’ve got some slightly lighter fare up my sleeve for you all.
Have any of you heard of Google Code School? It’s pretty rad. Basically, Google and Code School — two separate companies — teamed up to offer coding and development classes for folks working in technology. More rad, they announced that they’d be giving out vouchers for free classes to women and minorities — two groups that aren’t as well represented in the tech industry, in large part due to lack of access.
My best friend shared the news with me when Business Insider broke it earlier this summer, and both of us were pretty pumped.
We’re women! We work in technology — sort of. Doesn’t everyone kind of work in tech, nowadays? Our jobs are almost completely dependent on the Internet, so improving on our very rudimentary knowledge of coding would be hugely, wildly useful.
So, my friend and I followed Business Insider’s prompting and signed up for Code School. It was a pretty straightforward application, as user-friendly as all things Google tend to be. We gave our basic identifying information, confirmed that we were, in fact, WOMEN, a.k.a. qualified for said vouchers, and provided a little mini-essay about why we wanted to learn more about coding.
Unsurprisingly, neither of us was accepted. Probably about a zillion other people applied for Code School, and Google can only give out so many vouchers for free classes. We understand, Google. We forgive you. (Sort of.)
That’s where the story should end, right? Apply to Code School, get rejected, walk away with our womanhood and lack of HTML coding fully intact, right?
You would think so.
But! The plot thickens. In applying for Google Code School, my friend and I were both also clandestinely enrolled in a strange, mysterious mailing list. It’s now terrorizing our inboxes a few times a week.
Has anyone here heard of the Levo League? It’s fucking ridiculous.
On its website homepage, Levo League claims to be a community “dedicated to your career success.” It’s geared toward professional women and offers tips for progressing in your career, weekly video chats with mentors, and job listings. To be fair, some of the mentors are pretty awesome — it counts women like Sandra Fluke among its ranks, and even a healthy smattering of men, like Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton. (HONY, we love you.)
But, I didn’t come across Levo League because I was excited to hear Sandra Fluke tell me how to stick it to asshats like Rush Limbaugh. Nope. I came across Levo League because it sent me this wildly — almost laughably, absurdly — infuriating email.
Subject line, “How to Dress Professionally for Your Body Type.”
Seriously? This is the awesome advice you’re dishing out to professional women about how to boost their careers, Levo League?
How about, PUT PROFESSIONAL CLOTHES ON YOUR BODY. Boom. Done. You’ve dressed professionally.
Because, seriously, isn’t that what men do? Show me an article telling men how to hide their beer bellies and elongate their legs at work. Can’t find any? Yeah. That’s because a man’s professional worth isn’t measured by how tastefully he shows off his pecks or how skillfully he can cinch his waist.
Articles like this do nothing to help women boost their careers. If anything, they contribute to a culture that devalues women’s contributions in the workplace, reminding us all that our main function is ornamental. We’re only as valuable as we are attractive.
Despite Levo’s obvious effort to be a wee bit less objectifying than most attempts to sort women into shapes — they define body types not by fruit, but by adjectives like “petite,” “curvy,” “athletic,” the ever diplomatic “column,” and the always obnoxious “plus-size” — this is still nothing but sexism and body-shaming, cloaked in kindly advice.
Instead of instructing curvy and plus-size women on how to appear thinner and more petite, and dishing to athletic, column, and petite women about how to appear shapelier, why don’t we just tell all the women to love their damn bodies and pour more brain power into their actual work than into their wardrobe?
Think about all of the awesome, wonderful, revolutionary things women could be doing if they weren’t so busy worrying about whether their peplum top is making their hips look too big.
Think about all the time and brainpower we’d collectively save if we thought less about if our pants are just the right length for our curvy/athletic/column-shaped legs (each type requires a different length, apparently), and more about our actual jobs.
These kinds of advice articles — all of them — do nothing but distract women from doing valuable, wonderful things by reminding us that we have a thousand other things to worry about. Were you feeling confident and secure in yourself for a minute there, sweetheart? Stop that shit right now, take all of the energy you were previously dedicating to positive innovation and self-love, and redirect it toward fretting endlessly about all of the insecurities our patriarchal, consumerist society has manufactured for you.
Not to mention, this particular article assumes that all of the women it’s addressing are cis-gendered, feminine, and upper-middle class. Levo League, like so many other women-in-business organizations, fails to address the needs of queer folks, gender-non-conforming people, butch women, poor women, or working class women.
In other words, Levo League is really only interested in helping the women who need help the least. They’re not about inspiring and facilitating a mass revolution, where all the women collectively rise up and improve their lots in life. They’re about helping already privileged women amass even more privilege.
Levo League, you’re not helping. You’re just perpetuating the same damn problems that keep women disadvantaged at work in the first place.
Knock it off.
Hannah R. Winsten (@HannahRWinsten) is a freelance copywriter, marketing consultant, and blogger living in New York City. She hates tweeting but does it anyway. She aspires to be the next Rachel Maddow.
Featured imaged courtesy of [Andre Benedix via Flickr]