Ask A Feminist is Stylist.co.uk's new column answering your questions on feminism, sexism and womanhood in a real-life, 21st Century context. Send your dilemmas to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get one of our brilliant panel of feminists to cast a discerning eye on the issue at hand.
This week's question:
"I’m pretty flirty at work and I find it helps to use a bit of charm in getting ahead – it just greases the wheels, so to speak. But am I letting down the sisterhood by playing this to my advantage?"
Feminist Anna-Marie Crowhurst says:
With all its unsociable hours, melting pot of personalities and codified rules, the workplace can be a tough place to navigate.
As there is way more to life than endless meetings about meetings and lunch al desko (and people who use the phrase “lunch al desko”), I’m a firm believer that for people of both genders, employing a little bit of charm, friendliness and funniness - if that’s what you mean by flirty - is definitely the way to ease the horror and make the 9 to 5 a little bit more bearable for everyone.
And let's not forget that men have been using their charm at work for decades, without any of minutiae of sexual politics that women are subject to. If guys behave in a friendly way, we tend not to think twice - but put a woman in the flirtatious role and we read manipulation, casting her 'tactic' as strategic or ruthlessly ambitious.
Either way, studies have found leveraging social charm at work to reap success, regardless of your gender.
But there is a line.
If by “pretty flirty”, you mean roaming around the office in a predatory manner, batting your eyelids, finding a sexual innuendo in everything and, touching anyone anywhere, then I as your co-worker I would find that annoying and possibly think you were a bit daft.
As feminists we have the choice to act, wear, think whatever we want, because that’s the equality we’re fighting for, obviously - but I would ask if as a woman, you want to use that particular method to get on at work.
Because as women in said workplace, it’s a statistically proven fact that many of us have to work that extra bit harder and be that extra bit better to be taken seriously, and get the promotions and salaries that we deserve.
Some of us, brainwashed by the media and hundreds of years of stereotypes, can also find it hard to behave in a way that might be considered by some (idiots/dinosaurs/fools) to be “unfeminine”, “aggressive” or (ha ha) “bossy” and resort to using our “feminine wiles” (bleuurrgh) to get what we want done, done.
So maybe that’s what you’re doing, maybe without realising it? I would ask if it has to be that way.
Could you get the same results by being friendly - but firm? Could you just ask for what you want in a direct but polite manner?
Could you make a few jokes, without them being flirty?
Could you be confident enough in yourself and your abilities to act professionally and seriously?
Could you just be really funny? I think you could. Good luck.
What do you think? Do you agree with Anna-Marie that using our 'feminine wiles' to get ahead at work is a bit 'bleugh'? Or is it a perfectly acceptable tactic in the dog-eat-dog world we find ourselves in? Let us know your thoughts by scrolling down to the comments section, below.