Sixteen months ago I auditioned for a job as a Kilt Girl. I was broke and desperate and tired of filling out applications that only led to dead ends. My thought process was, “If I can’t get a job based on my qualifications and experience, then I’ll get one based on my looks”. At that point in time the difference between the two didn’t matter a whole lot to me. The first time I put on that plaid bra and miniskirt I was excited. I looked in the mirror and saw someone confident and sexy, someone who deserved to be looked at. I’ll admit I wasn’t much of a looker in High School, I was rail skinny and had braces for half of it,. It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally started to think there was someone worth looking at in the mirror. College did the rest, and after receiving my bachelor’s degree I felt confident enough to walk into the Tilted Kilt and know I could live up to that image.
After the first few months there, I began to learn a hard lesson. People say that first impressions mean everything, and unfortunately they do. Putting on that kilt everyday made me a stereotype, a cut-out of a person, and no matter how many times I said, “I’m going to graduate school to get my Master’s” the first impression was always going to be something else. The first few times it happened, it made me angry. A customer would ask things like, “does the carpet match the curtains?” or once I even got, “are you a virgin?”. And when I complained about it, the resounding answer that I got was, “well that’s just how guys are”. I’ve heard other, more harsh explanations as well. Most commonly the sentiment was, if I was doing to put on that outfit and look that way, then I really couldn’t blame men for making lewd comments. Boys will be boys after all.
That makes me angry. And men, it should make you angry too. Are we really saying that men have no control over themselves when it comes to women? No, what we’re doing is giving them a free pass. Society is telling them it’s perfectly fine to treat women that way, because they are asking for that kind of attention. The problem with that is that society is also sending women a bunch of mixed messages. Society tells us, be sexy because that’s what men want, and you want to be wanted. But society also tells us to be pure and innocent, and keep our legs locked if we want to be respected. And while we’re trying to combat these messages and be everything we are ‘supposed’ to be, women keep getting blamed for mistakes in extremely public arenas. We see celebrities in the spotlight for cheating scandals and somehow if it’s a woman who cheats she is automatically branded a slut and home wrecker, whereas if it’s a man they get a slap on the wrist, and, “well, he probably couldn’t help himself”. Seriously? Why do we continue to allow men free passes and shame women every time they make a mistake?
Someday, I will have to tell my daughter why I chose to work at the Kilt, and I’ll have to caution her when she inevitably decides to spread her wings and figure out who she is as a person. I never want her feel that she has to abide by society’s description of what a woman should be. At the same time, I don’t want her to find out the hard way what it means to be a woman in our society. I suppose when she asks me about the pictures and what it was like, I’ll say this:
“There is nothing wrong with thinking you are attractive and beautiful. The important thing is for you to think you are beautiful by your standards, not by someone else’s. And if someday you feel the need to use your looks to get a job, get ahead, or get noticed, I won’t stop you. However, you should know some things about that first. It may not look like it at first, but you’re making a trade. It is very rare to find yourself in an arena where you’ll be respected for being both beautiful and intelligent. Society doesn’t want you to be both, because when you have both of those qualities and you know it, you have power. Society doesn’t want you to have that, so it’ll do everything in its power to take one of them away from you. Society will tell you, you aren’t pretty enough, you aren’t thin enough, and you’ll spend your whole life trying to reach a standard that is made by airbrushing and computer programs. So, then you’ll settle for being smart, but society will tell you smart women aren’t attractive, smart women are bitches and manly, and none of that is attractive. I know it will be hard, but please do not listen to any of those things. You are beautiful and smart, and if you decide to wear a kilt and wait tables, I won’t tell you it’s wrong, as long as you remember those things. Don’t let anyone make you into a cut-out, a paper doll of what they want to see. If someone tries to degrade you, talk back. If someone says there is something wrong with you, let them have it. Unfortunately, being yourself is going to be struggle, but don’t stop fighting for it. Half the days I spent at the Kilt were a struggle, an uphill battle to prove that I was more than a pretty smile and a nice body. And while I may not have changed the impressions of most of the customers in that restaurant, I changed mine. I became someone of worth by my standards, not by someone else’s.”