In the last blog post, I listed six ways in which Dobby communicates low status to others, and over the next six posts I will look at each one and how that relates to my own behaviour as highlighted by Big Sue.
The first way in which Dobby communicates low status is with his appearance.
Like all house elves, Dobby wears a grubby tunic that looks as though it’s never been washed. How you dress communicates your status to others; no one would assume someone who routinely wears grubby and tatty clothes to be high status. Looking at my own wardrobe, my clothing choices are determined by positively answering the following questions: Is it stretchy? Does it fit? Is it clean? Is it comfortable to wear for long periods of time? There’s a little bit of rebellion going on here as I detest the fact that people judge me by what I wear. I’m the same person, with the same values and abilities whether I’m made-up and wearing a suit, or make-up free and wearing leggings and a T-shirt, which is my usual attire.
A few years ago I went to the bank to deposit a large check, and when the teller suggested that was a rather large sum of money to leave lying in my current account, I said ‘that’s OK, I’ll move it online when I get home’. The teller snorted at this and rudely said ‘oh no you won’t!’ and suggested that law enforcement might be paying a visit to my house if I tried to move the money. I looked at her aghast, shocked by her rudeness, and her implied perception that I was skint and not to be trusted with my own money, as she went on to say that I wouldn’t be able to move more than £2,000 without getting investigated. Now I do understand there are measures in place to prevent money laundering from happening, but obviously, most people running a business could not be subjected to a £2,000 limit for moving money; you just couldn’t function as a business with this restriction in place. Clearly, it was all down to her perception of which category of customer I fell into, and with a £2,000 limit she must have considered me to be bottom of the heap. I did look a tad scruffy at the time to be fair – my hair could have done with a wash and I didn’t have make-up on, but I was unaware that I had to dress formally to go and bank a check! By this time the other customers had gone quiet and engaged themselves in my conflict with the teller and I could feel them rooting for me as the battle of wits continued. ‘I frequently move sums of money much larger than £2,000’ I continued, ‘and I’ve never had a problem before’. ‘What, THAT much money?’ she sneered, motioning a hand towards the cheque. All eyes shifted back to me for my next move ‘no, not THAT much money’, I responded ‘but I did move £25,000 last week and I move £5,000 to £10,000 fairly often.’ A guy stood near me flashed me a beaming, triumphant grin before smirking as he watched the irritated and now vanquished teller squirm. Incidentally, I did move the money when I got home, without a hitch, and there were no visits from police wondering why I had brazenly moved my own money between my own accounts. As I left the bank I wondered if that conversation would even have happened if I’d been wearing a suit and make-up. She clearly assumed I was lower status than her and saw no problem with being condescending and rude to me in front of other customers. I somewhat resentfully conclude that I will have to address the way I clothe myself if I want to be treated with respect, although the thought of this galls me, as I feel it’s a slap in the face to a core value of mine that everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect, no matter how lowly society may view their position and no matter how they are dressed. Playing their game feels like I’m validating their rules, which I don’t agree with, but as my university professor said to me, ‘you can’t win the game if you refuse to play’ as I whined about hating office politics and voiced an unwillingness to play along. Still feeling resistance about needing to dress up to get respect, I hear a whisper in my heart that makes me laugh out loud. ‘Dressing the part assists people with no imagination to see who you really are. So, suck it up sunshine!’
Dressing the part assists people with no imagination to see who you really are. So, suck it up sunshine! – Big Sue
I can’t leave this without mentioning the body itself. This is obviously something you have less control over, you have to play the genetic hand you’ve been dealt, but diet, exercise, and grooming can all make a difference and the more improvements you can make in this area the higher status you will communicate, even if you are dressed down for the day. My aunty Joan who contracted polio in her early 20s spent most of her life in a wheelchair. I remember her telling me about how people would stop her husband in the street and ask questions about her without even acknowledging that she was sat there right in front of them, almost like they assumed that being in a wheelchair made you too stupid to comprehend what was going on. She took to dressing up to the nines whenever they went out and always looked glamorous and stunning. She was a strikingly beautiful woman and I doubt anyone overlooked her when she was made-up and dressed like a 1950s film star. She obviously understood the impact of appearance on status and did all she could to make sure others acknowledged her for the amazing woman she was.