Is cleavage a distraction at work? Four writers debate whether plunging necklines are ever acceptable in the office
Last week, a survey commissioned by Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Peter Jones claimed that women who display too much cleavage at work could end up sabotaging their careers.
The survey of 3,000 managers found that almost half of bosses had overlooked a woman for promotion if she had regularly worn low-cut tops to attract attention.
Sexist - or just common sense? Here, four writers argue whether it’s ever acceptable to parade plunging necklines in the office.
It's common sense. It's incredibly patronising that women think they can get by simply by showing some skin. The message it sends is: men, I think you are stupid, drooling, testosterone-driven animals, and baring my natural assets will make your brain go so haywire that you'll overlook my performance and promote me anyway.
The reason it's not sexist is because there's nothing to measure it against. If men walked around with their penises half-hanging out, and this earned them promotions, then yes, this could fairly be called sexist. But men do nothing of the sort, and women don't need to either.
What a surprise that men aren't taken in by women resorting to their 'feminine wiles.' Turns out men aren't stupid, drooling idiots who lose control at the sight of female flesh.
Only bimbos use their bodies to get ahead, says LIZ JONES
There was a time when I owed my career to my cleavage.
What an admission. Thankyou, Ms Jones. You said it, not me.
In the Eighties, I worked on a male-dominated Sunday newspaper: me, my breasts and very little talent or experience.
I made terrible mistakes - and got away with them - because I had a giant cleavage.
More like, you got away with them because you were one of the few women working there, by your own admission. This was the Raving Feminist Eighties, when the ideas of political correctness in the workplace and quota systems and all that nonsense really took off. It was more likely the case that Ms Jones's employers could not afford to let women go.
Yet in truth, I hated the male attention and the favouritism. I started to walk around the newsroom with something clutched to my breasts to hide them: the Times World Atlas was a favourite.
Rather than, say, dressing more modestly? Ms Jones actually displayed her cleavage in order to get ahead, only to cover it up to avoid favouritism. This story is unravelling like a false rape accusation.
I despised the women around me who flaunted their breasts to get ahead.
Presumably because she saw it as her turf, and other women were a threat to her 'power' in this regard.
Another young trainee, fresh out of Oxbridge, used her breasts to get her straight to the top. She was given all the plum assignments and everyone hated her. I hated her most of all.
And so, aged 29, I took drastic action. I had my breasts cut off.
Jealousy, hatred, depression, self-mutilation; however did Liz Jones end up becoming a feminist?
I didn’t want to get ahead by plonking my breasts on to the editorial conference table. I had come of age believing that women should be treated equally, and as well as being given the same opportunities as men, this also meant not having an unfair advantage over them.
If men are no longer allowed to swear and throw their weight around, then women should be banned from acting coy, and blushing, and crying, and simpering . . . and wearing tight tops.
Actually, she's dead on here. I can't fault her on this.
And when I ultimately became a boss on a glossy magazine, I freely admit I discriminated against women who flaunted their cleavages. They were bound to disappear on maternity leave, and flirt with the inevitably male publishing directors and chairmen of the board.
I'm confused; is Liz Jones a feminist, or a misogynist? She sounds far less tolerant than the majority of MRAs.
Ultimately, a woman who puts it all on show is not only brassy, she is brainless. She usually has a face that is less than beautiful, but she always believes her breasts make up for this shortfall.
Ouch. The jealousy lingers on. Onto the next Opinionated Chick (TM), someone I've never heard of called Rachel Johnson.
I’ve certainly used it to get ahead at work - and I’d recommend any other ambitious woman to do the same.
And what ambition! As a famous celebrity once put it, "math is hard." God, I feel a bit like a feminist myself.
I’ve never minded men staring at them rather than my face. My feeling is, if you wear a low-cut top, you are asking for men’s gaze to lock on to your bust rather than listen to you warbling on about nonsense.
Quite, but it doesn't mean you get to sit on the board, darling.
Any woman knows that if you want to distract your audience from the possible vacuity of what you’re saying, allow them an unimpeded view of your cleavage.
I don't really know why I bother any more. Other people are apparently doing my job for me.
Perfect for parties, banned in the boardroom, says EVE POLLARD
This whole issue is dear to my heart because during my career in Fleet Street, I was often accused of deliberately wearing low-cut clothes to get ahead.
In fact, far from flaunting it, I invariably felt that showing my cleavage would backfire, so hand on heart, I never did.
Besides, many of the steps I took up the executive ladder came with the help of some amazing women. I don’t think putting my bust on display at interviews would have impressed them very much.
But I do know plenty of members of the sisterhood who thought nothing of unfastening a couple of buttons as they were being summoned into the lair of the big, male boss.
... Using your talent, your personality and your experience to get ahead is very shrewd; using your body is just dumb.
Next up is Lucy Cavendish, who has a face that could cut glass and whose general demeanour suggests that she is not just a career woman, but a fucking career woman.
Above: a fucking career woman.
A woman's brain should be the only asset she needs, says LUCY CAVENDISH
When I was an editor of a magazine, I would NEVER have employed a woman who’d come for an interview showing off her cleavage, any more than I would have hired a man wearing tight shorts with his lunchbox on prominent display.
So why do women insist on ‘putting it all on show’? The answer, regrettably, is because whatever Peter Jones and his survey says, male colleagues do turn in to brain-dead morons at the sight of an impressive cleavage.
Yawn. Feminist who nevertheless won't help a sista out. Hates men, hates women too, blah blah blah.
And far from taking a negative view, in their breast-obsessed stupor men are not only more likely to hire you, but to forgive any shortfalls.
I know this, because I’ve been on the receiving end of it - and felt horribly demeaned in the process.
Aww, poor Princess is upset about her privileges. You know what you could do about it, Ms. Cavendish? Stop bashing men, for a start, because that's nothing more than the exercise of that very same privilege you're so upset about.
Bashing the opposite sex is a shortfall which is forgiven only because you're a woman - any man can attest to what happens when he talks about women in this way.
I recently wore a new dress to a friend’s Christmas party that was reasonably low cut. I thought it wouldn’t matter. Why would a flash of cleavage make any difference to anything?
I couldn’t have been more wrong. One really old friend, a bit worse for wear, spent most of the night looking down my top, his tongue hanging out.
Another came up and said: ‘God, if my wife wasn’t here, I’d take you to bed.’ On and on it went.
It was bizarre. Usually, I would have expected to stand and talk to these people. We would have discussed the student riots, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. But my cleavage had turned me in to someone who suddenly had no brain, no opinions, but was centre of attention. I was horrified.
So horrified, indeed, that she even had to air the experience to the whole world in print.
The section above is nothing more than boasting about the attention she received. Take that, my poorly-endowed peers! I'm Queen Bitch of the Boob Wars.
Finally, we come to the only male opinion in this clusterfuck of an article. Surprise, surprise; like a person who has had to get by on his own merits and not by flaunting parts of his body, James Delingpole pens the only reasonable assessment.
There's one correction I would make, and that would be to substitute 'efficient' for 'simple.'
...and the male view, from JAMES DELINGPOLE
I’m no prude. Au contraire. Like most men, I like well-defined cleavages very much indeed. But that’s precisely the problem.
Men are simple creatures, they want to get the job done as well as possible in as pleasant an environment with no distraction.
And a prominent cleavage is a distraction with a capital D - and not just to men either.
Among the other women in the office, it inspires vicious, claws-out jealousy and hatred; and in the men, it acts simultaneously as either an outrageous come-on or an ever-present source of embarrassment.
You don’t know where to look. One part of your brain is urging you to linger appreciatively on the fleshy delights laid out so blatantly for your delectation; the other part is saying: ‘No! Don’t you know how easy it is to get done for harassment these days.’
Modern equality laws are bent outrageously in favour of protecting women’s ‘privacy’.
The very least women owe us in return is to turn up to the office looking like they’re dressed for business - not the bedroom.
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