What's Wrong with Pink Pearls and Cornrow Braids?: Employee Dress Codes and the Semiotic Performance of Race and Gender in the Workplace

LEGAL VISUAL SEMIOTICS, Anne Wagner, Richard Sherwin, eds., Springer Publishing, 2011

Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 10-13

27 Pages Posted: 7 May 2010 Last revised: 22 Jun 2010

See all articles by Janet Ainsworth

Janet Ainsworth

Seattle University School of Law

Date Written: May 5, 2010

Abstract

Employers frequently impose dress and grooming codes on their employees, and courts routinely uphold their right to discipline workers for their violation. Employee resistance to these dress and grooming codes is grounded in the importance of personal appearance to the performance of their sense of authentic identity – particularly racial and gender identity. Employers’ insistence on appearance codes in the face of that resistance represents their attempt to assert the primacy of an employee’s worker identity over other aspects of their personal identity. This paper takes a semiotic approach to analyzing the practices of dress code enforcement and resistance to enforcement and argues that it is through these practices that the meaning of race and gender identity in the construction of the self is made manifest in the workplace.

Keywords: employment law, dress code, racial identity, gender identity, performativity, workplace culture

Suggested Citation

Ainsworth, Janet, What's Wrong with Pink Pearls and Cornrow Braids?: Employee Dress Codes and the Semiotic Performance of Race and Gender in the Workplace (May 5, 2010). LEGAL VISUAL SEMIOTICS, Anne Wagner, Richard Sherwin, eds., Springer Publishing, 2011; Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 10-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1601033

Janet Ainsworth (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
216
rank
132,102
Abstract Views
1,055
PlumX