My sister Joanna is a tough cookie, fiercly independent, and isn't impressed by a person's moniker or profession. It's who you are in the inside that counts.
So when the history department held their bi-weekly meeting, one of their topics of discussion was Joanna...specifically how she dresses.
Joanna teaches history at one of the universities here in town and is madly working towards her PhD. She's part of that select group of individuals going down a path that few follow these days: becoming a history professor.
But Joanna is also stubborn, and she either hate you or loves you. There is no inbetween except for nonexistance.
So it all began with a complaint. One person out of that entire university complained to a tenured professor about my sister's clothing.
In fact, to get an idea of how my sister looks, the singer Maki Nomiya, lead singer to my favorite group, Pizzicato Five (see above), is a dead ringer for Joanna.
I asked Joanna what happened.
Apparently, a student complained that the skirt she was wearing to class was too short. How short was it?
"It was just above my knee!" she yelled over my cell. I held my cell a few inches away from my ears, but I heard every word.
The higher ups in the department politely asked her to maybe be a bit more professional, and "to think how one represents the history department with those who choose to take our courses."
And in true Joanna style, she quietly yet with a firm voice said that what one wears had no bearing to how one teaches. She looked at their faces and said she will not change her clothes; she will not stop wearing what she chooses to wear. Then she sat back down and said nothing more.
Joanna knew she was going into an environment that didn't value fashion, looking good, or being conscious of how their look.
Let's face it; academics isn't famous for anything but intellectualism and that's how it should be. But to put a blanket over its entire members to dress the same, no I don't believe in that.
Years ago when my sister and her late husband were living overseas, a photographer from Vogue Japan gave her a card. He spied her walking down the street and ran up to her, and strongly urged her to call him at the latest. This happened again when she came back to the States while visiting family in Los Angles.
Again, another photographer gave her his card and urged Joanna to call. Unfortunately, her husband was against it both times, and Joanna reluctantly never pursued it further.
She told me that when the department bought the subject up about her clothes, she thought of those two photographers. What if she had pursued her dreams? Where would she be now? But the bigger question: do clothes indicate the performance or ability of an individual?
The answer: absolutely not!
And so the department quietly left the subject; nothing else was discussed and Joanna went back to her teaching and dressed as if she was on the runways of Milan or Paris.
A year from now, she wants to be at UCLA to further her education.
"Yes! Plus, I don't have to drive there to get better clothes. I'll be living there" and with that she laughed and hung up the phone.
Oh, the student who complained was female.