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Overly serious reply Re: Dress Code

by adamsj (Hermit)
on Feb 04, 2001 at 20:59 UTC ( #56314=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Dress Code

I'm going to make a supreme effort not to have to put a language advisory here.

On my home node, it says: Sure you can read my geek code (but I'm not a geek.

There's a long history of people taking on words and terminologies that were used toward them as insults and trying to reclaim them. Just in the United States in the last forty years, we've had:

Black people started using the N word as a self-descriptor in the mid-sixties. The comedian Richard Pryor was, at one time, the best known example of doing so. He later decided this wasn't a good idea and quit using it in his act.

In the later phases of feminism, the B word (probably I could use this one) was recognized as a way that women were described when they acted like men. Accordingly, lots of women started using it to describe themselves.

During the early seventies, many lesbians decided the D word was a perfectly good way to describe themselves. Gay men picked up the idea in relation to the F word, and by the late eighties, the major gay group was named Q Nation.

All these attempts were made in good conscience by people who were trying to do something good for their community. None of them succeeded in making those words stop being used as insults by people who hated them.

I do my very best to counteract the geek stereotype. I try to dress up rather than down. I shoot for slightly flashy at work. I tend to banded collars rather than shirt and tie (the tie gets in the way when you're opening up equipment), but I don't wear jeans on jeans day--ever. It's sort of personal gamesmanship, I guess, but I try to look and sound and be just a little better than those around me. I don't ever want to be mistaken for Dilbert--or Wally!

That means I actually learned how to tie my tie (I do wear ties fairly often, though usually not a suit) carefully (and keep it from turning up). I bought a really good pair of shoes (which also saved my back).

I really do believe that as long as tech people accept being called and treated like geeks, we'll not get what we deserve. During boom times, that isn't a problem--but we're entering a bust time, aren't we?

Those are my thoughts on the subject--no, let me add that there's nothing wrong with dressing how you want to dress.

I want (as an ex-hippie) to have the respectability that more formal dress gives me. I also found that, once I started dressing nicely well (as opposed to dressing nicely poorly) that I enjoyed it.

(It also helped me meet more women--but that's another story.)


They laughed at Joan of Arc, but she went right ahead and built it. --Gracie Allen

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Overly serious reply to Overly serious reply Re: Dress Code
by Petruchio (Vicar) on Feb 05, 2001 at 18:42 UTC
    No language advisory. None of the words I use are profane.

    None of them succeeded in making those words stop being used as insults by people who hated them.

    To the extent that this was ever the intention, quite true.

    I forget the broader sociolinguistic term, but within the context of black history, this is known as "signifying". The black adoption of the word "nigger" (which I see no reason not to use in the context of our present discussion) as a term of approbation goes back a lot further than the 1960s. It was not a conscious effort to influence mainstream culture through language until much later (the '60s); I suspect, though I don't know, that this was the case with your other examples as well. Signifcation originally served (and arguably still serves) to build solidarity and morale.

    I would say that, adapted for political ends, the phenomenon indeed had almost as little effect as later campaigns to "debunk stereotypes" and to promote various flavors of Newspeak.

    I don't want to tread too far down this line, though. Political argument in the Chatterbox is one thing, but I'm afraid unvarnished opinions on such subjects are a dangerous thing here. Suffice it to say, I think we will profit not at all by renouncing the word "geek". Nobody will forget the word.

    What we gain from the word "geek", is a sense of identity; and what other word suits? "Intellectual" and "hacker" both have rather specialized connotations; I identify with both, but many who presently call themselves geeks do not. And in any case, people today have chosen the word for themselves; geeks are a cultural reality, because they think they are. To deliberately eschew the word will not make anti-intellectuals stop using it as a pejorative... but it may isolate their victims.

    Why not be bold, then? For my part, I'm a Scientific American-readin', code hackin', dyed-in-the-wool propellerhead. Geek is beautiful. Crank up the Devo, and bring out the polyhedral dice!

Re: Overly serious reply Re: Dress Code
by Anonymous Monk on Feb 05, 2001 at 00:08 UTC
    sounds like you dress more like dilbert than anyone else who has posted... avoidance is not working
      Maybe so--but I wouldn't be caught dead in a white dress shirt a la Dilbert.

      At my last job, IBM was our primary competitor. I felt that, on the one hand, they looked more professional in the IBM uniform than we did in casual clothes. On the other hand, I thought that wearing non-casual clothes which did not look like theirs would both make us look more professional and would differentiate us from them. My model in this was those great billboard ads Sun ran in 1998 showing people dressed in twenties-style gangster clothes.

      I favored silk paisley ties, bold primary colored shirts, subtly patterned slacks, and the occasional vest. However, I occasionally wore items like hand-dyed batiked slacks and very fancy non-dress shirts, and sometimes wore a hat.

      Dilbert, for all that I can relate to the strip, is just another corporate conformist, and it shows in his clothing.

      Of course, if we weren't at least as good at what we did than the other guys, it wouldn't have made any difference.


      They laughed at Joan of Arc, but she went right ahead and built it. --Gracie Allen

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