Did Citibank Fire A Woman For Being "Too Attractive"?

From my e-mail box, a Shaker writes to point me to The Village Voice, and an article asking "Is This Woman Too Hot To Be A Banker?."

Now, before you rush over there, let me point out that the article uses some framing techniques that are fauxgressive at best, so be aware that this one may get to you on a couple of levels. For me, framing the entire aspect about the "hotness" of this victim of misogyny rings a fairly dissonant note. That note continues to clang along through the entire article, so it's not going to be an easy read.

But the issue itself is one of basic misogyny, and of a nearly breathtaking level of gall: Debrahlee Lorenzana, a woman who (per the article) identifies as part Puerto Rican- and part Italian-American, was fired because she was so attractive that her superiors at the bank couldn't work for the distraction. And not constructive dismissal, or any other sneaky method of firing someone for one thing and meaning another, oh no: that's what they told her they were firing her for.
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.

As Lorenzana's lawsuit puts it, her bosses told her that "as a result of the shape of her figure, such clothes were purportedly 'too distracting' for her male colleagues and supervisors to bear."
I'm not sure whether Ms. Lorenzana identifies as a woman of colour, but I can't help but assert that it'd be foolish to imagine her externally-apparent ethnicity didn't play a part in this: bodies perceived as being of colour are incessantly hypersexualized in the kyriarchal culture, in particular those marginalized bodies which are viewed as most conforming to the white beauty standard, while retaining enough of their colour to be exoticizable.

So, let's recap, shall we? This woman goes to work in a bank. She is constantly criticized for her appearance, ordered to cover herself more than other women in the bank, and eventually fired from her job so that the men whom she worked for could avoid having to control themselves.

It's the ultimate expression of the dudebro culture, the rape culture, the kyriarchy, the idea that a woman can be so attractive that no man should be expected to, y'know, not force his unwanted attention on her. And it's only a short step from there to can't be expected not to force himself on her.

It is one of the bitter aspects of the kyriarchy and how it treats women's bodies, and women in general, that even those women who succeed most visibly at meeting the kyriarchy's expectations of them will end up being punished for being women.

It's also a reminder of the incessant genital-essentialist position that "penis-bearing people are visually oriented in their sexual desire, and vagina-bearing people aren't".


Teaspoon time: I couldn't find a directly-applicable place at Citibank to which to direct messages, but did find their US contact page. Remember that generally in activism, letters are better than e-mails are better than phone calls.

Note: Please remember to consider the Shakesville comment policy before commenting. Comments which discuss what Ms. Lorenzana is wearing in the photos, or her appearance in general, are off-topic. I hope Shakers don't need to be told why "Look at what she's wearing" is problematic in a feminist forum anyway, but note that the article explicitly points out that other women employees were allowed to wear more revealing clothing than Ms. Lorenzana without issue, so it is clear that it was not "just the clothing" causing the problem; it was her managers' inability to behave like respectful adults that caused the problem.

It is also good to recall that feminism involves choice for women, and that some women choose to present themselves in ways which conform with traditional expectations of feminine beauty, and that on an individual level, it is not very good feminism to be criticizing a woman for doing so. While a useful discussion can be had about where the pressure to conform comes from, and about how women can subvert or invert that pressure, and all sorts of things, they're not really relevant to this post, which is about the misogyny of the managers, not the choices of Ms. Lorenzana about whether or not to conform to the beauty standard.

Teal deer version: Be good feminists* progressives, people.

Tip of the CaitieCap to my good friend and fellow Shaker, Hel M.

* I changed this because it's less awkward-sounding than the "feminists or womanists" which I had wanted to change it to; my apologies to womanists who were excluded by my original statement. Per usual, for "modeling that fucking up isn't the end of the world" reasons, I am leaving the error marked (or going to try to, anyway, hoping that I can use the strike tag) but not erased. I would like to request that, if you're feeling like saying that my posting this edit is awesome, you please remember that the only way I get to be "awesome" in the way you're suggesting is by starting off othering people, not something for which I much want to be lauded. Thanks for understanding.

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