The Internet is having a fainting spell over a 2013 PowerPoint presentation with guidelines about professional attire for male and female employees at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Women were reportedly required to adhere to the guidelines in the presentation while Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was the head of the agency. Flynn, whom President-elect Donald Trump tapped yesterday to be his national security advisor, is now being painted as a sexist for suggesting that, like their male colleagues, women should look pulled together at work.
“Makeup helps women look more attractive,” the presentation stated. “Coordinated makeup communicates that you are moving assertively towards identifiable goals.”
This advice is not wrong. The whole point of makeup is to make women look more attractive and polished. Should men come to work with cowlicks or an unshaven face? Only if they don’t want to get promoted. Makeup for women is in a similar category.
In many professional settings, there’s a certain level of personal care and hygiene that’s to be expected. Apparently at the DIA, that level meant women should wear enough so they don’t look like slobs, but not too much that they might be mistaken for a lady of the night. This is a very basic expectation that only needs to be stated when people begin to break it, at which point it’s appropriate for supervisors to re-state agency expectations.
Flynn’s office made clear to employees that showing up for work at the DIA without makeup is the facial equivalent of showing up in sweats. It’s not at all unreasonable to state this and to hold women to a certain standard of professional attire, especially in a military agency, which have extremely detailed requirements for personal appearance. If Flynn really did write that presentation, it’s clear from the other rules it includes that he viewed makeup as just part of a uniform.
According to The Daily Beast, men were also instructed to present themselves professionally.
‘Two should be plain/one pattern,’ the presentation said, and informed the employees that a light shirt was required for a dark suit. Another slide provided a sliding scale of male professional dress, starting from dark suits with French-cuffed white shirts all the way down to knit tops, jeans, and sandals. ‘Brown shoes only with brown/tan suits,’ it added. ‘Black with all other.’ And men were told that neck jewelry and earrings ‘= negative impact.’
It’s clear the presentation was aimed at assuring that all employees, men and women alike, dressed and looked respectable. For women, that includes makeup, and there’s nothing wrong with pointing that out. Pretending otherwise in an attempt to portray Flynn as sexist is intellectually lazy and dishonest. The media (I’m looking your way, Daily Beast) should stop fanning these flames or risk becoming even more hated and distrusted than they already are.