Sunday, December 11, 2005

Nobodies Body but Mine

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has released new grooming guidelines for their staff:

For Women
- When choosing stockings "avoid shiny finishes - they make your legs look larger."
- "Flesh coloured, smooth finish t-shirt bras will give you the best, most discrete look."
- "Take the time to style your hair before leaving for work in the morning."
- "Your hands do get noticed - moisturise your hands regularly."
- "Consider having unruly brows regularly waxed or plucked."

For Men
- "Trim your nose and ear hair. Hair in these areas can increase as you age and may give the impression that you are not well groomed."
- "If your hair is light in colour, grey or curly, a shine product can add lustre and help it look healthy."
- "After-shave lotions contain alcohol and can produce broken capillaries on your face (small red veins). Use eau de colognes on your body instead."
- "If you wear glasses, update them at least once a year."
How do you 'update' a pair of glasses, and why do only men have to do that?

On a practical level these guidelines make me angry for so many different reasons: they're expensive, time-consuming, sexist, and what is wrong with having big legs?

But the fundamental problem is that the Bank thinks it's buying not just workers' time, but workers' bodies. That as well as controlling what workers do in the 8 hours they're at work, they also get a say in the workers hands, hair, eye-brows and nose hair.


  1. Anonymous2:53 pm

    I found the guidelines online:

  2. "update" means get a new set of frames. Often not a cheap exercise. I have actually changed my lenses but not my frames because the only frames i found that suited me better than the ones i already had were $500. not including the cost of the lenses.

  3. "...what is wrong with having big legs?"
    Well according to Robert Plant, "A big-legged woman ain't got no soul", but he doesn't cite a source for this surprising information. In any case, overall he seems to be endorsing big legs rather than denigrating them.

    I presume they want flesh-coloured T-shirt bras for a "discreet" look rather than "discrete" - giving your chest a discrete look would really be quite a trick to pull off.

    Some friends of mine worked for Westpac way back. Such foolish guidelines were equally common back then. One of them was a skinhead, this was no problem because his hair was always well-groomed - after all, he was down the barber's every other week. One of the other staff members always chose the most appalling ties he could find, declaring this his "silent protest", much to the amusement of his co-workers, who assured him everyone just assumed he had very bad taste. One of my friends retaliated by skimming money on a regular basis, netting enough to pay for a guitar, amp and P.A. before getting caught and sacked. And the skinhead eventually issued himself with multiple credit cards before quitting to go to University, something which made him a great guy to go out on the piss with and an ongoing headache for Westpac measured in years. We always figured Westpac brought it on themselves.

  4. It is all that "the customer is king" idea. really the customer is no more rightious than the employee.

  5. I don't think it has that much to do with the customer. Do you know anyone who cares about the amount of nose hair their teller has? I think it's about control.

    I thought that was what it meant span - but thought it was quite funny that they weren't prepared to say 'buy new glasses'.

  6. Maia - ok this may be out of control even by those standards.

    John - I suggest that the employer doesnt hve to be the enemy of the employee and lets say the business was owned by a collective - it would still have the same problem if they believed "the customer is king".

    This is about considering leasure time to be a time when you can make arbitrary and irational decisions (like "I want my caviar and I want it now!") and working being a time where is it appropriate to eat humble pie (like "yes sir I am an idiot sir")