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I’m a business reporter. How I got here is another story for another blog; but here I am, reporting about business. It’s something I could make interesting if my editor would let me, but for some reason my editor feels that ‘interesting’ and ‘hard news story’ do not mix.

Anyway, the last two days, one of my fellow business reporters, a young man, in his early twenties, has appeared clean shaven and suited up. The reason? He’s attending two editorial board meetings (when big business people meet with a roomful of editors and reporters, get their picture taken saying important things and many stories are written about the appointment conversation, as if something actually took place).

The men he’s meeting with are wearing a suit and tie and so will he. Seems reasonable. Except I’m not certain that it is.

Because as someone who can’t wear a suit and tie, I’ve been noticing what happens to men when a group of them get together, each dressed in suits of dark ‘serious’ shades and ties of varyingly similar patterns: they feel they are members of an exclusive club of men who are somehow smarter than others and that the things they say are more insightful, more worthy of quoting in the newspaper. And when a journalist is compelled to dress like these men, he, by default, joins their club. Mentally, he feels part of their club, and less likely to be either objective, or able to think his own thoughts – which is supposed to be the point of a journalist.

The longer he reports on business the more pronounced the change I see in this young man: never mind the lack of mentorship, the lack of ethics at this newspaper I work with; he has begun reflecting the very people we should be more critical about, the monied, influential big business men.

Another issue with the suit and tie thing: as a woman I cannot wear that costume without looking terribly silly and defeating the point. I can wear a softer, woman’s version, or add a skirt and heels if I feel inclined to torture my poor feet and back, never mind that hobbling about isn’t exactly my style.

So, I cannot wear the costume, the uniform: therefore I am not a part of it.

Which is, sometimes, a blessing in disguise in this place. But at the end of the day, I cannot wear a suit and so I am slightly less reliable than my colleague. It is something unspoken, but in the mind of my editor, I think it is real.

A note on the monochrome display: I attended a board of trade luncheon weeks ago and was struck how alike everybody looked, like they had all phoned each other before the meeting to consult on just which shade of blue to wear, which length of tie, how short to crop the hair, how much paunch to have. The few women had abandoned their freedom to wear colour, to fit in I assume. Colour, somehow, isn’t ‘serious’ as noted above.

It made me feel clausterphobic to be in a room with so little ‘thinking outside of the box’ amongst a group of people who pat each other on the back for pretending to ‘think outside the box’ as they go after profit above any other consideration.

But that’s just me.


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