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Woman "Too Hot" for Job -- Some Outrageous Workplace Sexism from Citibank

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This post originally appeared on Daily Kos.

If you're ever walking around Manhattan you'll notice, albeit with less frequency these days, red boxes all around town that contain the Village Voice. The cover art is usually rather striking. Last week, the cover photo was particularly striking, in my opinion, because of the subject of this story:

This is the way Debbie Lorenzana tells it: Her bosses told her they couldn't concentrate on their work because her appearance was too distracting. They ordered her to stop wearing turtlenecks. She was also forbidden to wear pencil skirts, three-inch heels, or fitted business suits. Lorenzana, a 33-year-old single mom, pointed out female colleagues whose clothing was far more revealing than hers: "They said their body shapes were different from mine, and I drew too much attention," she says.

The article notes Ms. Lorenzana, 33, filed a lawsuit against Citibank for firing her because of her style of dress. She says managers at her branch repeatedly tried to get her to tone down her "provactive" appearance. Her lawyer says that they simply couldn't control their libidos. Citibank cited performance issues and vows to defend itself with the usual lawyerly vigor. I'm sure the matter will be settled in the usual lawyerly way. In the meantime, she is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame.

What is interesting is "provocative" appearance in the workplace. Hard thing to pin down for a court of law, mindful of Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote. But we can say there are some commonly held opinions on the matter and they mostly apply to women.

For men, it's difficult to dress provocatively. Men have to go pretty far over the edge to provoke any sort of response, excepting for men in uniform. You'd have to wear extremely tight pants around the crotch, no shirt, and basically parade around like a peacock. Otherwise, for men, a standard issue suit or jeans and workboots constitute a rather simple workplace habit. In fact, for most fellas who don't wear a suit everyday, casual dress rather closely resembles work attire. Personally, I grab whatever shirt, tie, and dark suit that appears clean and put it on, sometimes not even noticing various stains until I have my coffee. No matter the body type, it's pretty difficult for a man to get it wrong when going to work.

For women, the whole thing appears to my untrained eye, ridiculously subjective. Is this skirt too tight? Is this neckline too low? Is this too expensive-looking? Colors. Fabrics. For a woman like Ms. Lorenzana, who is very well blessed in the looks department, it is even more complicated. She has to balance her desire to look as fabulous as possible while being careful not to "provoke" men from being distracted by her beauty. It's always up to the men to determine if she is succeeding or not. My wife has told me of her struggles as she is also rather generously blessed in the measurements. No matter how hard a woman tries, she never can quite get it right. Too frumpy? Too bitchy? Too sexy? I go through these questions during our morning dress. Me? I smell the underarms, check the collars, if its not too wrinkly, I put it on.

If I had to do what women do, I'd demand extra pay for the time I'd spend preparing work. It's a job all its own.

Update: This morning on CBS's Early Show, it was alleged that Chase Bank, her current employer, has told Ms. Lorenzana that it disapproves of her speaking out about her experience because "the statements reflect poorly upon the banking industry."

(hand slapping forehead)

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