‘Lend Me a Razor, I Work at the Dorchester’

Say you’re a woman. Some of you reading this will, of course, actually be women, and for those of you who aren’t: Use your imaginations, guys.

Okay, so say you’re a woman, and you have a fashion consultant, and the fashion consultant gives you such helpful advice as: wear full makeup (but not overly garish or bright), have regular manicures and don’t display any excess body hair, which means (among other things) always shaving your legs even if you’re wearing pantyhose.

If you think that last seems a bit over-personal and maybe even offensive, suppose further that your "fashion consultant" is your employer and the "advice" you’re being given is actually the corporate dress code.

Is Everything Old New Again?

Welcome to the 1960s—the era of Playboy bunnies, airline stewardesses and female Star Fleet officers who dress like go-go dancers (if you remember who they were). Or if you happen to work for the Dorchester Hotel in London, welcome to 2016.

As reported in both The Daily Mail and The Telegraph, the Dorchester—which has hosted the likes of Tom Cruise, David and Victoria Beckham and HRM Elizabeth II for around $900 a night (although Nicki Minaj was asked to leave when her fans got too rowdy)—recently e-mailed its female (and only female) employees a list of grooming and hygiene requirements that included (in addition to those mentioned above): wash your hair, brush your teeth, use deodorant and don’t have oily skin.

As one employee quoted in the Daily Mail put it: "The women are all pretty livid but worry that if they complain—or rebel and turn up to work with chipped, dirty nails and hairy legs, for example, they’ll be sacked on the spot."

Perhaps stating the obvious, Sam Smether, chief executive of women’s rights organization The Fawcett Society, was quoted in the Daily Mail saying "it is completely unacceptable for any woman to be told what she should wear and how she should look. . . . We need to see an end to this kind of objectification of women."

In a non-explanation explanation, general manager Roland Fasel was quoted in The Telegraph saying that "the Dorchester has a proud community of employees who uphold world-leading hospitality standards including grooming in line with many other luxury brands." And lest the hotel be accused of pulling a fast one, Fasel added that "all new applicants are sent a copy of our grooming standards in advance of interview."

Considering that some members of that "proud community of employees" are paid about $11.00 an hour, that bit about getting "regular manicures" could claw a little deeply into those workers’ take-home pay.

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