A professor once told me that in an interview setting, a woman will always be taken more seriously in a skirt than in pants. Luckily I’m on track for a profession with a lotta lesbians in it, or I’d be screwed.
Of course, a man could pretty much never go to an interview wearing a skirt and be taken seriously. We’re still at the point where, in popular perception, man + dress = cross-dressing, where woman + pants = any number of things, but rarely cross-dressing. I’ve noticed that woman + tie, however, = extreme discomfort.
Now, I haven’t done a whole lot of reading on the necktie and its various significances, but I don’t buy into the tie as phallic symbol,* as the patriarchy, or as the shackles of the working drone.** I am, however, extremely jealous of men when it comes to the suit and tie. A dude can walk into most situations in a snappy suit and be read as respectable, stylish, and professional. When I walk into just about any situation but a gay club wearing a tie–never mind a full suit–I’m instantly read as a man (untrue), butch (true, but usually irrelevant to the situation), queer (see butch), a trouble maker (untrue), or worse.
Of course, the only real problem with me wearing a tie (unless someone decides to beat the shit out of me, which has thankfully yet to happen) is that I care about these potential perceptions. Arguably, greater visibility of women in ties–women who identify and are identified as women–would lead to greater acceptance of women wearing ties. So really, it’s chickenshits like me who are ruining it for the rest of us.
*Except that it allows the Belle & Sebastian lyric “a giant arrow pointing to my fly.”
**I’ve never actually encountered this argument in so many words, but it seems to me that I’ve seen the tie used as an example of male conformity to a certain ideal.