Is the new UC tour guide dress code sexist?

Photo Courtesy of Kayla O'Mahony

Shelsea Deravil

Ursinus instituted a new dress code for campus tour guides this semester. The new guidelines were introduced at the team’s first orientation, and seem to be aimed at encouraging a more business-casual look at the workplace and during tours. A flyer laid out the details, identifying acceptable and unacceptable attire for men and women. The women’s list is longer than the men’s. It calls for no leggings, yoga pants, or spandex. The men’s list only prohibits athletic gear like tank-tops, other than Ursinus-branded sweatshirts. To me, this seems pretty sexist. The policy limits women’s clothing choices, and forces female tour guides to change outfits if they don’t want to stay in their business clothes all day. It seems sexist because women are given stricter guidelines. The discrepancy is blatant.

Per a copy of the flyer obtained by “The Grizzly,” women have nine different guidelines or sub-guidelines for their apparel, while the men only have six. Additionally, all the men’s rules are written in standard-case font without punctuation. The women’s criteria, on the other hand, feature two rules that are in all caps and one with excessive punctuation, “LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS!!!!!!” and “PLEASE USE THE FINGERTIP RULE FOR LENGTH.” The fingertip rule seems to refer to a guideline often featured in high school dress codes that states skirts, dresses and shorts should extend past a woman’s fingertips, if her hands are at her side. There is also a quote from Lady Bird Johnson at the top of the page which reads, “I’ve really tried to learn the art of clothes, because you don’t sell for what you’re worth unless you look good.”

Allison DeGerlia, a junior who’s been a tour guide for almost two years, is quite vexed. She said the office is “creating an image of students that is not really there.” She also objects to the fingertip rule. A week after the orientation, she sent an email to assistant director of admission Brittany Grason about how strict and sexist the new policy is, but Grason has not gotten back to her. Grason also has not replied to “The Grizzly’s” request for comment.

“You would expect that in college, you’d be treated like an adult and be given more respect,” DeGerlia says. “It’s very condescending and a turnoff [for me].”

Kiley Addis, the president of the campus’ Feminists in Action club, shared her perspective on the new policy. “I am angry,” she said. “This dress code is similar to the ones in high school. It is inherently sexist.” She added that the policy splits tour guides into a gender binary, making non-binary people have to choose which dress code to follow.

On the other hand, Dan Becker, also a tour guide, does not see this new policy as inherently sexist. He understands the frustration of some of his co-workers, but believes the code is not as bad as it appears. “[There’s] an easier understanding for men’s clothing range [because there] is a much better, defined barrier…which makes it difficult for women to dress professionally due to this nuanced-gray area.” This new policy, he adds, is not unfairly policed.

Nevertheless, I think the kind of attire being required of female tour guides in particular is uncomfortable and unnecessary for a college campus. Tour guides will probably have to change their wardrobes constantly, if they get the chance at all. Otherwise they’ll sit in class looking like Lady Bird Johnson. The policy is a pain, it’s unfair to women, and hopefully it will be changed again in the near future.


Photo obtained by the Grizzly