As I was talking to my daughters today about the significance of voting for a woman for President for the first time in the history of this country, a story floated back to the forefront of my mind. I’d nearly forgotten about it.
Back when I was a wee young professional trying to climb the ranks of the Disney company in Florida, I interviewed for a job at the prestigious Disney University. Back then, it was the home to seminars and corporate training for clients worldwide who wanted to emulate the Disney service standards. I was a Disney trainer, a leader, and a VIP tour guide. I spoke French semi-fluently and I met all of the requirements for the job.
I was nervous. Back then, there was no Internet or even an InTRAnet so finding out about jobs meant you relied on other people or on the “Eyes and Ears” newsletter, which was circulated to the 40,000+ cast members with our paychecks every Thursday. I forget exactly how I learned of the position, but I remember my “lead” (assistant front-line supervisor) encouraging me to apply. He knew I was a decent speaker and I had held my own as a lead in Guest Relations.
I reviewed the qualifications, prepared my resume, and hand-delivered it to the Disney University offices. This would be a great opportunity to move to a coveted leadership role backstage. I was ready for this next step in my professional career.
Since I was an “onstage” cast member, I wore a costume every day. Are you ready for this haute couture ensemble?
I wore a beige wrap-around skirt (which was super see-through and thus required nude hose and nude underwear) and matching boring beige button down blouse (short or long-sleeved! – also see-through….so a nude bra), with a red plaid vest (SEXY), a navy blue tie BOW TIE, and matching navy blazer (like what the rental car companies wear) was my uniform du jour. In fact, it was my uniform every ‘du jour.’
The point, is I had no professional clothes in my closet. So off to Orlando Fashion Square Mall I trotted. Little did I know, about a decade later I would be the Marketing Director at said mall…but I’m jumping ahead.
I perused the racks at Burdines, passing lovely dresses and skirt suits. Nothing was jumping out at me. I wanted something that said ‘confident’ and ‘please give me the job.’ Then I landed on a navy and white pin-striped pantsuit.
(There’s a pretty funny side story about this exact same pant suit. Give me a minute.)
Anywho – I tried it on and it fit perfectly. It had a pre-sewn white dickie attached to the jacket, which buttoned into a sleek, flattering v-neck. It also gathered slightly at the waist, which I loved. The pants fit perfectly as well. I was in the petite section so hooray for no hems needed! I bought some matching navy shoes – pumps – and tried the whole thing on.
I felt sure of myself. Confident. Ready for the interview.
And then I was sitting in the conference room being interviewed by a panel of Disney leaders. They asked me the typical questions and then one person – a woman, if you can believe it – asked me this question. “Why did you choose to wear a pantsuit to the interview today?”
I froze. What did she just ask me? I had all my notes committed to memory. My qualifications, my desires for this job, my references. What the hell did my outfit have to do with my qualifications and ability to do this job?
I blinked my eyes a few times to try to process the question and formulate a semi-coherent answer. I muttered something about being comfortable in a professional pantsuit because it would enable me to get on and off the tour buses with greater ease than a dress or skirt (the job required hosting bus tours, among other things). But the whole conversation felt … weird.
Why was this relevant? Was wearing a pantsuit such an abomination?
So, believe it or not – with a smile on my face – I asked them. They sort of brushed it off and said that the women on their team wore dresses and the men wore suits and that’s sort of the way they’ve always done it.
And I didn’t get the job.
Sitting here watching the election returns (and chewing off every available nail I have), I just watched ABC news run a clip of an interview with a Trump voter. They asked him a question about what he thought of a possible Clinton presidency. His response? “A woman doesn’t have what it takes to be president.”
And there it is.
I remain hopeful as these returns slowly come in. But I’m worried. The sexism, racism, xenophobia, hatred, and fear we’ve seen and heard these last several months have unleashed a fury of rage that’s been almost too much to bear. And the fact that this race is currently as close as it is, is a stunning indictment on the state of our society.
It is sad that we still aren’t able to see people for what’s in their hearts instead of what’s in their pants.
I so desperately want to be able to say Madam President, tomorrow. I will keep believing, because I’m with her. Pantsuits and all.