Sexy vs. sexist: Discussing appropriate attire in PR

The debate about revealing clothing crescendoed last week after a PR event and a pro-yoga-pants protest. Context—for the apparel itself and critiques thereof—is everything, of course.

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The business-casual debate is now playing second fiddle in the growing cacophony surrounding “appropriate” workplace attire.

A female agency president recently blogged about sexism after a male PR pro tweeted that he found a female event presenter’s clothing distracting. Elsewhere, a mass demonstration marched past the suburban home of a Rhode Island man (of no previous renown) who had written a letter to the editor denigrating yoga pants.

Heather Whaling, founder and president of Geben Communication, launched a discussion after she responded to a tweet about a speaker’s “distracting” apparel.

“As I mentioned at the conference, if someone can’t watch a brilliant woman speaking about a highly relevant topic without wondering what’s underneath her shirt, that’s on him,” Whaling told

After all, she heard no suggestions that a speaker with a messy man-bun was unprofessional, she says. “Why the double standard?” (For the record, she considered that speaker’s attire appropriate.)

The offender apologized and deleted the tweet, and judging from the “likes” he got, many women were willing to let bygones be bygones. Some, however, welcomed the discussion.

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