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Of Sirens and Scholars: The Making of a Pin-up Feminist

“You look like a victim.”

I pursed my cherry-painted lips and folded my arms. “What do you mean I look like a victim?”

“I would just suggest dying your hair brown. Wear glasses. Invest in some baggier clothes.”

I instinctually pulled at the hem of my pencil skirt.

“But I have perfect eyesight. And my natural hair color is blonde…well, maybe not this particular shade…”

I thought back to the beginning of the semester and the orientation I attended for doctoral student professors.

A seasoned instructor proffered this gem: “The best piece of advice I can give you women is to dress like a man. Students won’t take you seriously otherwise.”

I remember turning to a female colleague and exchanging an incredulous smirk. Dress like a man? What does that even mean?

Years before, a graduate professor had instructed me to speak in a lower register for similar reasons. Determined to be “taken seriously,” I unintentionally delivered my class presentation in a cartoonishly seductive voice. Needless to say, the professor promptly retracted his advice.

Dress like a man. Talk like a man.