29 April 2022

Conference dress codes, or, “Twitter outrage of the day”

Making the rounds on Twitter today an image of a dress code for a physics conference. Here’s the top result as I write this. Click to enlarge.

The top tweet from David Smith calls it, “the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen.”

Now, as someone who became an academic precisely because I hated the thought of wearing ties, I get it. I get the resistance to policing appearance. I get the social media outrage that this image has generated.

But here’s the original image from the conference website. While the image above has the conference website embedded in it, the website is printed a bit small, and a lot of tweets (including the top one) did not include a clickable link in the tweet.

Notice that the image has been cropped. It’s missing its top half.

The full image appears to show two points that seem pertinent to the discussion (if I understand correctly).

  1. This code applies only to the opening ceremony.
  2. A member of the host country’s royal family is attending: Her Royal Highness Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

So perhaps the conference organizers are not being the super strict fashion police that the cropped image suggests? And this kind of feels like a manufactured controversy?

Whatever you may think of royalty, people are usually expected to act in a particular way around political leaders. A certain level of formality is expected.

If a head of state or someone in a similar position were coming to an academic conference (maybe even strolling through a poster session!), would it be reasonable for the conference organizers to require their attendees dress a particular way? For example, “No sweat pants,” “No sandals,” “Shirts with buttons for men,” or what have you?

I am currently running a couple of polls about this on Twitter, so will update this when I have results.

It’s also worth noting that this kerfuffle about a dress code is happening in a country that is not mostly white and anglo.

Update: Poll results are mixed and seem to be sensitive to exact phrasing. When I asked if it's okay for organizers to put in a dress code if there was a visiting head of state during a poster session, most said “No.” When I asked if there was a head of state visiting your lab, most said they would dress up.

Petra Boyton tweeted what may be a good summary:

- dress codes are important
- we don't discuss researcher clothing in the context of respect, dignity, accessibility, inclusion and safety enough
- this area is more complex than we know and deserves more attention
- you are fabulous whatever you're wearing #ResearchTip

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regardless, there is still no need for a gendered dress code.