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
27 Pages Posted: 7 May 2010 Last revised: 22 Jun 2010
Date Written: May 5, 2010
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
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