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DIA Briefing Encourages Women to Wear Makeup and Skirts

business-attire-women

The “I” in DIA apparently does not stand for Intelligence.

Washington Whispers (“Fashion Advice at the DIA: ‘Makeup Makes You More Attractive’“):

 A week after women were cleared to serve in combat, Defense Intelligence Agency employees got a different message. “Makeup makes you more attractive.” “Don’t be a plain Jane.” “A sweater with a skirt is better than a sweater with slacks.” “No flats.” “Paint your nails.” “Don’t be afraid of color.” And, “brunettes have more leeway with vibrant colors than blondes or redheads.”

Men and women at DIA were given fashion advice in a presentation prepared by an employee at the agency this week. Susan Strednansky, public affairs officer at DIA, offered the agency’s regrets about the briefing, which raised eyebrows among some employees, saying, “I’m not going to deny that it exists, and it was bad. It was inappropriate for sure.” She added, “Neither the agency nor the leadership has condoned anything that was in that briefing.”

The presentation offered gender-specific advice on how to improve one’s success in the workplace through appearance. “It was an informal event that an employee put together, a briefing on How to Dress for Success,” Strednansky says. “It’s not directive. It is not mandatory. It is just, ‘Hey, here are some suggestions.'”

This is one of those instances, and they’re becoming more common, when speaking the truth doesn’t do anybody any favors.

The fact of the matter is that one’s appearance in the workplace matters and that this is an area where men have it easier than women. That is, in an office environment where formal attire is the custom, men can’t go wrong with a well fitted dark suit and a coordinating conservative shirt and tie. Grooming is similarly pretty easy: get a decent haircut on a regular basis and either shave daily or grow a conservative beard and run a trimmer over it periodically. Women, by contrast, have all manner of choices. Unless they’re over 60, the pants suit is pretty much out. Unless they’re under 35 and blessed with fantastic skin, makeup is probably called for.

Alas, government agencies—and, indeed, employers, period—can’t give the impression that these differences exist, much less that there has been any official notice.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Koda says:

    Oh yeah, this isn’t gross or clueless at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. grumpy realist says:

    Well, at least they didn’t suggest that women have breast augmentation surgery to improve their chances of promotion…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. bernieyeball says:
  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    If this were a private company and this administration’s EEOC (gulp) caught wind of this skull session there would be short odds of a full investigation if not a proverbial legal colonoscopy. Long odds, however, for obvious reasons, that the DIA’s “The Office” moment will result in too much if any flak.

    In any case, the truth does hurt. Reality is harsh. Working is a bitch. Otherwise it would be called something else, like leisure. Life is not fair. Nor should it be. Thin skin is not merely a problem for hemophiliacs. It’s a problem, period.

    Women don’t get very far in business if they look like hookers or if they look like they spent the night sleeping in subways. For their part, men don’t get very far in business if they incessantly complain about things like brats or spoiled bitches. Why not call spades? Being “P.C.” sounds great at cocktail parties, but how exactly does it help anybody get ahead in the real world?

    All of which raise the questions, do they not, of why we have so many alphabet soup federal workplace laws, and why do we spend so many taxpayer dollars micromanaging what’s said in workplaces? What exactly are we accomplishing? Title VII. ADA. ADEA. EPA. OWBPA. EEO audits. FMLA. The EEOC. The amount of time, effort and money that goes into compliance, avoidance and loss mitigation, etc., truly staggers the mind. And every one of those dollars is one less dollar that can be spent on hiring people. And that truly stings when, you know, we have a catastrophic unemployment and underemployment crisis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 11

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Well, a lot of what those cover are things like making sure that things like the Triangle Fire don’t happen again, people don’t end up with chronic pain to their bodies due to repetitive actions, people don’t have to worried about getting fired if they turn down their boss’s advances….

    Of course, if you don’t mind not having any redress against your employer for any of those things….?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  6. Ben Wolf says:

    Given that women are my weakness, I whole-heartedly support encouraging women to always be beautiful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    I worked for the DIA for a few years in the late 60s and early 70s and there were very few women and most of them wouldn’t have been helped by makeup or skirts. That said I agree this is outrageous and for once Nick is right – if this was a private corporation they wouldn’t get away with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Given that women are my weakness, I whole-heartedly support encouraging women to always be beautiful.

    Hey, I wholeheartedly support encouraging men not to be clueless entitled jerks who imagine that women only exist for men’s amusement rather than as autonomous human beings who just want to be able to go to work every day without getting harassed, but where’s that getting me?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. Linda Roberts says:

    This is how my taxes are spent?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. CSK says:

    @Linda Roberts:

    You took the words out of my mouth.

    What struck me first was the tone of the briefing, which managed to be simultaneously puerile, condescending, and intrusive: a trifecta of stupidity. “Don’t be a plain Jane?” Please.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  11. The “I” in DIA apparently does not stand for Intelligence.

    Everyone knows that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron, but I didn’t know that it was this bad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. Ben Wolf says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Hey, I wholeheartedly support encouraging men not to be clueless entitled jerks who imagine that women only exist for men’s amusement rather than as autonomous human beings who just want to be able to go to work every day without getting harassed, but where’s that getting me?

    You’re right. There should be a national financial incentive for women to be beautiful.

    Money for the public purpose, mmmmmmm baby.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  13. Pharoah Narim says:

    Bottom line–an radom pencil pusher; probably as part of professional development credits you have to teach a class or attend a session to get; briefs this content. To then say “DIA encourages or endorses this” is a bit disingenuous. Move along please–nothing to see here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. Just Me says:

    Is this really good use of tax money?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Unless they’re under 35 and blessed with fantastic skin, makeup is probably called for.

    I know I am in the minority, but make-up should be banned. The 11th Commandment says: Thou shalt not bear a false face.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  16. Fiona says:

    Gross. Just gross.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. bernieyeball says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: …but make-up should be banned.

    Then so should tats, body piercings and boob jobs. They are all seen as beauty enhancements by one crowd or another.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    Unless they’re under 35 and blessed with fantastic skin, makeup is probably called for.

    James, you’re over 35, and judging from pictures your skin is not, let’s say, fantastic. Just curious: how much makeup do you wear on a daily basis, and got any tips for other guys on how to hide what the ravages of time, not enough exercise, and too much food and drink have done to your complexion?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  19. Rafer Janders says:

    That is, in an office environment where formal attire is the custom, men can’t go wrong with a well fitted dark suit and a coordinating conservative shirt and tie.

    About one in ten men, if that, wears a suit that’s actually well-fitted, to say nothing of their ability to match that with an attractive tie/shirt color combo (none of the shirts fit, either). Most of these clowns schlump around in suits and billowy pirate shirts that I wouldn’t be buried in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  20. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: Men don’t , as a general rule, wear make-up in our culture. Women do. Women are judged more harshly on their appearance than are men and are in competition with other women who wear makeup and otherwise spend substantial time camouflaging their flaws. I don’t think government agencies should weigh in on such matters. I do think that women would be prudent to comport with social realities rather than ideals.

    @Rafer Janders: No doubt about that. Most American men look like crap in a suit because they wear them at least a size too big and two inches two long; that is, unless they’ve had the suit long enough that they’re now bulging out of it. I’m just saying, it’s much easier for a man to look good at work.

    One advantage women have, and it’s recent, is that they can dress much more seasonally, especially in the warm weather months. Since the days of mandatory pantyhose and wool suit jackets have gone away, women can dress comfortably and still be work appropriate. Men can wear, say, a poplin or seersucker suit, but it’s still going to be damned hot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I do think that women would be prudent to comport with social realities rather than ideals.

    Social realities aren’t handed down from on high, but are as we create them by our behavior. If we accept them, they continue; if we rebel against them, they don’t. In the 18th century, for example, it was the fashion for men (well, upper-middle and upper class men) to wear makeup, wigs, high heels and brightly colored silk clothing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    One advantage women have, and it’s recent, is that they can dress much more seasonally, especially in the warm weather months. Since the days of mandatory pantyhose and wool suit jackets have gone away, women can dress comfortably and still be work appropriate. Men can wear, say, a poplin or seersucker suit, but it’s still going to be damned hot.

    Yes, but, on the other hand, a suit is much more versatile as a piece of clothing. In the right suit I can go from the office to the theatre to a dinner to a downtown (or Downton!) party without ever having to change, while women need a separate outfit depending on the occasion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  23. DC Loser says:

    DIA tells their employees to wear makeup.

    NSA tells theirs just to remember to put their pants on in the morning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Beth says:

    Unless they’re under 35 and blessed with fantastic skin, makeup is probably called for.

    What about the men over 35? Why is it OK to look at men’s skin without make-up but not women’s?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. bernieyeball says:

    @Beth: Why is it OK to look at men’s skin without make-up but not women’s?

    Because we are all a bunch of Sexist Pigs Beth. Doesn’t everyone know that by now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. DIAalum says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. DIAalum says:

    Just so you know, the names of both women and men are on the DIA wall of honor. They have and will continue to sacrifice as civilians in the performance of their duties. You may think that that oft repeated oxymoron is “cute” but along with Military Intelligence there is honor. This is just a blip, don’t forget DIA employees are keeping our Military safe no matter what they look like.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. grumpy realist says:

    I don’t know what is worse–the foot torture called high heels (for women) or the act of tying a little noose around your neck every morning (for men.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0