Wearing Yourself or Dressing the Part: Navigating Workplace Dress Codes as Queer, Androgynous Women
In this thesis, I explore various workplace dress codes and expectations in the Niagara Region through the experiences of six queer, androgynous women. Through a theoretical perspective that is informed by both Erving Goffman and Judith Butler, I analyze the women’s decision-making around managing their appearance for work, and the relationship they perceive between their clothing, queer identity, and sense of self. I also explore the multiple challenges that participants have faced in attempting to meet normative standards of ‘professionalism,’ and suggest that many dress code expectations emphasize dichotomous gender norms, and notions of white femininity. Participants’ narratives suggest that rigid dress codes reinforce heterosexist dynamics in the work place, and contribute to the ‘othering’ of queer, androgynous women who do not ‘fit in’ to the status quo. I argue that workplace dress codes need to be more flexible in providing multiple options for employees which do not rely upon gendered norms or categorization. I conclude by suggesting that more work needs to be done on the significance of workplace dress codes regarding their impact on workers who do not neatly fit into the normalized gender binary, and are ‘othered’ at various intersections of their identities.