fuck your khakis
Ok, I’m going to step away from the normal focus of this blog for a minute to get on my little soapbox and address something that has really been pissing me off for the last few days.
“KC,” you say. “Do you mean to say that you have a problem with those lovely people from Dockers who have set up their booth at SFSU? All they’re trying to do is outfit students so they have a better chance of getting a job. They’re so cheery, so harmless!”
No. No they absolutely are not.
There are a couple problematic things happening here. Maybe I’m overly sensitive to these sorts of things as someone who has always been decidedly on the outside of the khaki colored majority. Maybe I’m just being intentionally difficult. But I’ve walked by this booth every day this week, and each time… I just feel sick.
The first problem with a display like this is that it is an example of the aggressive commodification of values which have no place being bought and sold. Can you put a monetary value on work ethic? Can you set a price on your chances of gaining employment? According to Dockers, you can. And you can even get a special deal! Yeah, it might be a lot to pay for a single pair of pants, but can you even imagine the money that you will make once these pants get you a job?
This is incredibly dangerous reasoning. It turns employment into something that you cannot obtain because of your qualifications, skills, or talents, but because of what fucking insignificant products you buy. It creates an atmosphere where those who perhaps cannot afford a pair of overpriced pants are now under the impression that they are less qualified for a job. Of course, this is an illogical assumption, right? But nonetheless, this is an assumption that people can become conditioned to operate by, and has a real effect on how people interact with the world. I think anyone who has ever applied for a job has been a victim of commodification. I know I’ve gone out and bought an article of clothing because I thought it would make me a more appealing job candidate. You probably have too. In the end, did that blouse get me hired? Looking back (with an eye free of the clouded judgement that comes from pre-employment fears), the answer is probably no.
There is a second problem with this booth. Their banner boldly proclaims, “Land the job!” But what job are they talking about? What are the kinds of jobs that one would want to land by dressing in khakis for a job interview? What kind of jobs do we value highly enough to require a separate interview dress code for? Office jobs? Management? Accounting?
Fine. Sure. Ok. But here’s a short list of jobs that I consider to have real value, and/or social impact, that probably couldn’t give less of a crap if you show up in something other than khakis.
-Homeless outreach coordinator
-Suicide hotline councilor
-Professor (Ok. This might be a stretch. But when was the last time you went to class and each of your professors were wearing khakis? Yeah. Thought so.)
-Chef (trust me on this one. The last 3 kitchen jobs I landed, I showed up to the interview in blue jeans.)
-Activist of any sort.
My point is that these days employers are far more concerned with your talent and drive than what you show up for the interview in. I think this has always been the norm. Companies like Dockers set up shop on campuses not because they want to exploit the market of college kids trying to snag a job, but because they need to create the illusion of that market to sell pants.
The pamphlet they hand out is even worse. I initially discarded the first one I got handed, but in the interest of writing this post I figured I’d immerse myself in the propaganda of the slack-wearing overlords. Here are some key quotes, matched with what I hear in my head as I read them:
-“Consider the company culture and then find subtle ways to express your personal style.” They want to know that they’re hiring a person and not a machine, but it would really be swell if your individuality didn’t clash with their artificial construct of corporate identity.
-“Trust us, you don’t want to be that guy in the office.” Assimilate! Assimilate! For God’s sake, don’t be unique! Only freaks are unique! You aren’t a freak, are you?
-“Be honest.” You know. As long as that doesn’t mean being honest to your sense of self.
-“Fitting in while standing out- the ultimate balancing act.” Well, actually. It’s not that difficult of a balancing act, as long as you constantly keep it tipped in favor of your corporate overlords.
I feel like at this point I should also mention that the advertisements exclusively feature white males. Sigh.
In conclusion, fuck your khakis. Fuck your commodification of employment. Fuck your commodification of social worth. Fuck your corporate values. Fuck your disregard of personal identity. Fuck your definition of success. Fuck your booth at Cesar Chavez. Fuck your indoctrination. Fuck your heteronormative pamphlets. Fuck your perpetuation of the corporate myth. Fuck your exclusion of anything that falls outside the khaki colored norm.
And most of all, fuck your khakis.