Reviving the status of the skirt
Two years ago, I won an award, and my friends learned about it because it was in the paper. A senior colleague that I think of as a friend wanted to meet me. She showed me a few types of skirt suits and told me to try them on. She said I should wear one of them at the award ceremony. As soon as she read about my award, she was worried about what I would be wearing at the ceremony.
Grumbling about why she cared so much about the outfit, I said, “Why should I wear a skirt all of a sudden?” But she ignored my complaint and asked simply, “Do you have shoes to go with the skirt?”
Since I always wear pants, I didn’t have any proper shoes. She said she had a pair that she’d never worn and gave them to me. She directed me what to wear on top and what kind of nylons to wear. She added, “You should dress more nicely. What would your mother say if she knew you can’t dress up like a lady?”
My friends from school and work are mostly female, and they often pick at me for always wearing pants. They say, “You can’t be happy living life as a tomboy.”
But as my colleague helped me to get dressed up, I thought that to women, a skirt is not just a garment but a code to confirm femininity and solidarity.
Last week, the National Human Rights Commission recommended that Asiana Airlines allow female flight attendants to wear pants at work because requiring them to wear a skirt constitutes gender discrimination. It was a justifiable decision since requiring a certain outfit based on gender is discriminatory.
But a friend of mine said that the female flight attendants knew they were expected to wear a skirt when they joined the company since it’s the designated uniform, and that the flight attendants feel that the Human Rights Commission’s involvement was unnecessary. So I interviewed the flight attendants. A veteran attendant with 17 years of experience said, “Isn’t it even more discriminatory to think that we can’t perform well if we wear skirts?”
She’s right. That is discrimination. However, when I started my job 20 years ago, I abandoned the skirt first. At the time, I thought skirts were inferior. I, too, was biased. These days, I wear a skirt to work from time to time.
Wearing one makes me feel good. And it doesn’t interfere with my job at all. While I don’t have enough of them yet, I want to reinstate the status of the skirt. It’s not the skirt’s fault if people are unsure about the quality of the work done by women wearing them or if they have other negative associations with them.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yang Sunny