Same suit, different day...

Same suit, different day...

WHAT TO WEAR

Same suit, different day...

It’s rarely pointed out when men repeat the same set of clothes on different occasions. But does this work for women? Mala Ashok shares an interesting story.

Can you imagine a scenario where a lady working in, say, a bank wears the same sari to meetings for 15 months? She certainly would attract attention, negative attention, and might even be transferred to a remote branch. But, this is exactly what a Vancouver, Canada area Mayor did. Every Monday, for 15 months, Mayor Richard Stewart of Coquitlam, British Columbia, would ride his bike to City Hall shower and then put on the same dark suit. And, it wasn’t an Armani or other designer suit; it was just an ordinary off the rack suit.

And even though he attended scores of council meetings, not one person noticed. The mayor commented that he would be shocked if someone ever raised the idea that his clothing was somehow inappropriate. “I was wearing the same suit to every meeting and there was no indication that anyone was ever going to notice. The point was made I think.” So, what was the point? Richard wanted to highlight the double standards that existed in apparel and how women were discriminated against.

Richard began his “social experiment” in November 2014 shortly after a municipal campaign in which he repeatedly heard comments directed only at female candidates about their outward appearance. Viewers of the coverage on the current American election campaign must be familiar with the negative comments hurled at Hilary Clinton on her appearance.

Richard had read an article about an Austrian newscaster who criticised sexist attitudes in society by wearing the same outfit for one year. The anchor of this newscast, Karl Stefanovic was concerned that his female co-host received regular emails and criticism about her dress sense. Coquitlam Mayor Richard said he launched his own test to discover if indeed there was a double standard that women had to endure. “The kind of comments someone will make about a female politician’s clothing, about her hair... we don’t say those things about men,” said the mayor.

Richard lamented the fact that this was yet another barrier for preventing women from
entering politics or the corporate world. His experiment was intended to shed light on
gender inequity with a goal of eliminating it altogether. He said there are other issues that women face that a man wouldn’t even have to think about. This, however, was the most blatant one. “I’ve never heard a man say ‘well, I got criticised because I was door-knocking in the rain and my hair wasn’t in perfect condition for the all-candidates meeting that night!’”

Richard received plenty of support in comments responding to his Facebook post revealing the results of his “social experiment”. He hung up his suit but not because anybody had noticed what he was up to. “I want us to always focus on the skills and abilities and experience that people bring to the table in every job that they do; I want my daughters to grow up in a society where they’re judged on how well they do their job and not what they were wearing when they did it.”

Do we have men like Mayor Richard Stewart in India? Men, who care about the fate of women and the issues they encounter?

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