Hmmm. My perspective on this comes from two sources. First source comes from having been a pre-Goth glamour punk in the 80's while writing instructional software for a military project. Second, I'm of the subgroup that generally has to "do it twice as well to be considered half as good," but have spent my professional life generally in male-oriented arenas. The last is subtext -- this is not a feminist manifesto. For the record, I don't think that specific rules for specific people are necessarily fair.
When I worked on JSEP (PLATO-based system for the Army) I had multiple hair colors, spiked wrist bands, sleepless eye make up, and a very bad attitude. I also did my job. When the brass showed up for a tour of our university-based programming (such as it was) shop, I was one of the few warned in advance and asked to take off for a smoke. I would have left the job if my appearance had become an issue, but then, they wouldn't have hired me if it were.
As translit said: "Civilised life likes to have different rules for different situations."
In my last job before going back to grad school (head technician, cancer biology research lab), I made sure to look very normal. We're talking Lands' End. My work involved dealing with people outside the lab, and in order for those interactions to run smoothly and efficiently, I had to play the nice girl. Inside, I was still the mohawked glam-punk. But I knew this was all part of the job. I could not simply produce work in that position; I had to participate in primate politics games.
Which brings me to the real rant here, now that I've established my alternageek credentials (did I mention the Linux fish on the back of my truck?). I've been on the periphery of hacker culture from back when most of the programmers I knew could juggle. (What else did one do during 3-7 minute compiler times?) One thing serious computer people rarely learn is how to hack culture and interpersonal interactions.
I have a lot of respect for people who can maintain their lives / appearance / etc. exactly along their chosen model. However, most of the people I know who do that successfully have picked their battles and made their choices. They have not asked the world to conform to them.
Now I'm in grad school and can pretty much look the way I want, given the options when broke. Because I was broke I've looked pretty normal if slightly out of fashion. However, when my battered khaki mac needed replacing, I went out on the anniversary of the Columbine massacre and bought a black trench coat.
I bought a black trench coat for reasons of a longer rant (where were those boys' parents?!), but I told people why. My reasons were deeply grounded in my emotional response to Voices from the Hellmouth (which I know has been chewed over ad nauseum ). It gave me a way to talk about profiling with people who already knew me, but knew the wearing-out Lands' End clothes me. They had no clue about the punk inside.
I chose to talk about what is under my surface precisely to throw an interrupt into most people's opinion of me and what they thought they knew. In other words, it's my small attempt to hack their wetware. Like any good virus, though, I haven't hit head on. Instead I learned how to look like them, let them get comfortable with that, and then unveiled a stripe or two.
Summary: If you want to look however you want and decorate your workspace to your own tastes, then start your own company or telecommute. Working with other primates involves primate politics. If you don't learn to play, you'll get dumped to the bottom of the troop hierarchy. Expanding your hacking horizons does not necessarily mean capitulation.
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
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