I had a nice conversation recently with a student about the image of women in advertising. It’s a great classroom topic that stimulates much discussion about the influences of advertising on our lives. From an academic standpoint, the topic is flexible enough to cover in a history, marketing, psychology, art or sociology class. Personally, I like to wake-up my 9am Advertising class by showing image after image of half-naked women in pop-culture ads. This ensures everyone is shocked into consciousness and slightly uncomfortable. I employ this technique at the end of the semester when students have just about had it with me.
As many times as I’ve taught a lesson on the portrayal of women in advertising, it always gets me thinking. Am I influenced by what students wear – female and male? Do my interactions with a student change with their changing attire? Am I more generous with my grading based on a student’s ratio of fabric to exposed skin or jeans to exposed boxers?
I’d like to think I’m fairly immune at this point as I’ve seen a closet full of fashion disasters in my classroom. Students have worn everything from pajamas, costumes, shorts and a tank top in 30 degree weather, baggie pants hanging mid-thigh and tube skirts no wider than a Band-Aid.
Here’s my take on classroom dressing. If you feel awkward, I feel awkward. If you are constantly tugging something up or down, I notice and so do the other students. A suggestion to consider – college might be a good time to test the concept of presenting yourself professionally to those who are evaluating you on your brains. I’m not asking you to wear a suit. I just don’t want to be able to read the fine print on your hidden tattoo.