Early in my career, my colleagues would frequently refer to me as “the guy who wears the bow tie.” It infuriated me. “Seriously,” I would say to myself, “is that the only thing you can say about me? What about all this great librarian work I’m doing?” This of course led me to question my own abilities: “Damn, maybe my work isn’t that great after all?” There was a long spell of a few years when I refused to wear a bow tie except when a tie was required, which in Southern California is a rare event. I even tried to give it up altogether in my last position, but by that point the badge was so integrated into my professional identity that not wearing a bow tie always elicited awkward comments and questions.
This is why Dani B. Cook’s latest post at the Rule Number One blog speaks to me:
“Baking is just one example, but what other parts of ourselves do we have to deny in order to be taken seriously in the workplace? Is it worth it? What does it mean to elide parts of yourself so that you aren’t just described as “the girl who bakes”? At what point does my work speak for itself and I don’t have to worry about this anymore?”
I don’t want to suggest that my experience as a cis-gendered male equates with the gendering that often occurs to women in the library work space. However, I can relate to the frustration of loving something and feeling that that love needs to be suppressed for the purpose of advancing my career. Thankfully, I am in a place now where I feel both my professional capabilities and my personal passions can merge seamlessly into a unified identify. Bring on the bow ties!