A 24-year-old sales clerk at Harrod’s resigned two weeks ago because she claims the famous London department store was trying to force her to wear makeup. Melanie Stark has been employed at Harrod’s for five years, during which she never wore makeup. She even claims she didn’t wear makeup on her job interview at age 19. Then senior managers came for a visit last August, spied her sans fards, and sent her home. Since then, management hauled Stark in for repeated meetings and PowerPoint presentations about the importance of following the Harrod’s dress code, which she received upon employment:
“Full makeup at all time: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss are worn at all time and maintained discreetly (please take into account the store display lighting which has a ‘washing out’ effect).”
Eventually Stark was told she could “just wear eyeliner and lipstick” to be in compliance. Instead, she chose to quit.Stark told the London Guardian she has worn makeup before, but it’s not for her. “I know what I look like with makeup. I have used it, though never at work. But I just could not see how, in this day and age, Harrods could take away my right to choose whether to wear it or not,” she explained. “But it’s not like wearing black trousers, or a black shirt. This is my face. Makeup can change your features completely, especially if I was to wear all of what they were asking. I would look like a different person to me. And I never chose to look like that.” Being asked to put on maquillage was “insulting,” she said. Her opinion is that she simply looks her best without it.
It’s bollocks, as the Brits might say, that Stark worked without makeup for five years before anyone said boo to her about it. That’s the most fishy part of this whole story. Indeed, a lawyer who spoke to the Guardian said she may have a case for a lawsuit, as wearing makeup was not integral to performing her job correctly for such a long time.
However, as much as I dislike the beauty-obsessed society that prefers an “unnatural” femininity, I can’t sympathize with Melanie Stark’s complaint. There’s a dress code at Harrod’s, like there is as many places of employment, and this one stresses an upscale, fancy-pants ideal. Dress codes are rules, and even if they are bad rules, they are still rules. She got away with flaunting the rules for five years, while other women and men did not. She was repeatedly asked to adhere to the rules, even a little bit, and refused. It sucks that it didn’t work out, but many aspects of working suck. (Except working for The Frisky, Amelia!) If it had been any other aspect of her job — coming in on time, for instance — Stark would have likely been fired. Instead she was just “driven out,” she said, by constantly being asked to follow the rules. Thems the brakes, kid.
Do you think sympathize with Melanie Stark? Or do you think it’s best for everyone that she quit?