Gender and the trainer: Are you fucking kidding me?!

Standard

gender-cartoon1Since last week I am attending an intensive training course to get a certificate to work as a trainer in Portugal. It is obviously a way to ensure quality, yet at the same time it is a standardizing system created to ensure things will remain the same, training will remain the same, not the same as formal education as it is delivered in schools, but close enough to make my body cry for some activity.

Anyway, the point of the post is something else, though not entirely… During this course the trainers (all women so far) also addressed, as part of the programme, the dress code of the trainer in the learning setting. We talked about the importance of the first impression and, of course (!), the clothes that would be less appropriate… What struck me was the fact that we were not talking about men’s clothes, but only about women’s clothes. Let me give a couple of examples:

  • “There was a female trainer that once showed up with shorts, very short, and that was not well received by female trainees, although male trainees liked it.”
  • “It is important to wear the appropriate clothing otherwise we (women) can distract attention form what really matters (the contents of the training).”
  • We did a simulation of a training session and one of our colleagues, while demonstrating something lifted her arms and unintentionally showed her belly. In the feedback session, to my surprise, this became a topic of discussion. First of all the young women who did the simulation showed embarrassment and shame about this, even apologizing to the group. And the trainer who was leading the session asked what we all thought about it, reinforcing once again the need to wear clothes that would not show parts of the (female) body.
  • (Showing a slide with the image of a woman wearing a dress that showed the neckline until the breast.) “Do you think this is appropriate? – No, it is not.”
  • All the female trainers so far wear blouses that cover them almost until the neck. I assume they do so to be coherent with their sexist thinking, we don’t want our male colleagues to be distracted by their breast.

Apart the realisation that Portugal is still a very conservative country (notice that I have lived 11 years abroad and returned half a year ago), what disgusts me even more is the fact that this talk is filled with a strong sexualisation of women’s body. It seems as if women’s bodies could only be looked at in a sexual way, and this way female trainers need to avoid it by wearing appropriate clothes that cover the potential sexual parts, naturally the breast, legs, bottom and belly. I am afraid we will be suggested to bring a robe to the final simulation…

And what about male clothing? Well, men have an easy task, trainers said, pants and a shirt and that’s it! No more talk about this. And in this case this silence says much more than a long talk, so… SILENCE…

But what is really being said here is that women are the responsible for men’s attraction and distraction, by wearing certain types of clothes that show too much of a private sphere that should be carefully be kept safe and secrete. So, not only there is a sexualisation of the women’s body but also the attribution of the responsibility for the attraction other men (or women) can feel. And you know how things go, from here to saying women are guilty for being harassed or rapped there is a very small step. Finally, this narrative also reinforces stereotypes about women’s professional performance, as it says we have to wear certain clothes that not only make us ‘ugly’ but also demonstrate that we are professional. Because beauty and professionalism don’t match…

This kind of narrative is dangerous as it maintains and reinforces what should actually be changed. And, in my view, trainers in the position of these women have the responsibility to work towards this change, not to reinforce stereotypes and prejudices!modestishottest

Additionally these sexist female trainers are regularly making use of gender stereotypes during the sessions. This way reinforcing once again painful stereotypes and prejudices that not all people identify with and that do not allow freedom of choice. I start to feel very annoyed by the constant reference to pink and blue, princesses and heroes, jovially referring to women wearing make up for the simulation (oh, and men too if they like!), and so on and so forth.

I feel very uncomfortable about this constant sexualisation of my female body, as if I have no other things to offer, as if my body could not have other symbolism, or no symbolism at all. And also the fact that I am considered responsible for this sexualisation, and therefore have to avoid it, otherwise my professional performance will be damaged (because my male students would be distracted and the female one would hate me)…

I feel there is a long way to go, a lot of work to do, so that people become at least aware about all this in first place.

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About Ana Rodrigues Afonso

I am a woman with a strong creative drive and I engage in foundation processes with my whole heart, head and hands. I am passionate about women’s empowerment, spiritual and self-development, and non-formal education. I work as a freelance trainer and consultant. My main fields of expertise are women’s empowerment, leadership, self-development and love. Linkedin: https://pt.linkedin.com/in/anarodriguesafonso

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