It’s A Little Bit About the T-Shirt

Earlier this week, I received this all-staff email:

One of the features of the Spring Fling this year is a 20th Anniversary T-Shirt. In order for everyone to get their correct size we will need you to complete the order form no later than Wednesday of this week (5/28).

This includes ALL employees (whether you will be able to make the Fling or not).

At the bottom of the e-mail was a link to a form:

T-Shirt Sizes *
90/10 Cotton/Poly
  •  Small
  •  Medium
  •  Large
  •  1X
  •  2X

I inquired about the availability of “fitted”* t-shirts. I was informed that these are not an option. All shirts are “unisex.”** And thus, it is with a heavy heart that I call bull$#!+

Since the form did not list my “correct size” (or shape, for that matter), I did not fill out the form.

I do not know what will happen now.

Best case scenario: our office manager will just shrug and order an extra shirt in one of these sizes and I can either “sleep in it”*** or “give it to someone else”****

Worst case scenario: I will get a stern talking-to about “not being a team player,” even though the work I perform at my job IS ALL TEAMWORK. For I am a lady, you see, and all ladies are collaborative, not competitive. As long as we get lots of chocolate and no individual recognition for our contributions, we are 24/7 GO TEAM #1! ಠ_ಠ

Or I suppose they could fire me, although that seems extreme — not to mention costly to all parties involved.

Although I’m a little anxious, I’ve decided that I’m going to stand my ground. If you’re thinking, “it’s just a shirt,” I’d ask you to reconsider that stance.

The t-shirt issue gets addressed, occasionally, in tech circles, and is worth reading up on…especially if you are a member of/advocate for the library profession; the majority of librarians are, after all, women.

This has been the case since 1887, when Melvil(le) Dewey first realized that women could legally receive less pay for doing the exact same job as men.

Fast-forward to the present: in our office, about 80 percent of us identify as female. Furthermore, there is considerable variation in body size and shape.

I’m not sure how many of us would feel comfortable in a straight-cut shirt (in which, for example, I’d be considered “L” with breasts, “M” without; idk, I’ve got bony shoulders). I’m guessing not many, if any.

Not that fitted shirts are perfect — personally, I am “blessed in the chest” and have a looooong torso, so a lot of these (“ladies X(X)L” — & wtf with sizing, no WAY is there that much sexual dimorphism in humans) shirts turn into midriff baring, cleavavalanche***** tops after one laundry cycle. Nevertheless, I guess I’d rather look mildly skanky than lumpy?


Ah, “choices.”

T-shirts are by no means the bane of my existence, but they are easier to articulate than some of the other, more systemic problems that are bothering me. Such as:

1.) [individual] Nearly a decade and a half into my library career — which,  admittedly, began before I could legally vote, drive, or drink — and six years after obtaining my MLS, I make slightly less than the current median entry-level salary for a member of my profession. And I’m one of the lucky ones.

Fortunately, I live in an area where this constitutes a living wage. I shudder to think how I’d survive if our company were located elsewhere, e.g. some really expensive high-tech industry hub.

2. [organizational] We are hemorrhaging (talented) employees right now, because our company has a $#!++y parental leave policy, which is to say, there really isn’t one — once your FMLA expires, either find someone to look after your baby or quit. And, since this area has three library schools, you can always be replaced by someone cheaper. Or interns! Everybody loves interns, right?

I like children; I’d like to have them. However, due to a large constellation of factors and circumstances, parenthood is probably not in the cards. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that I’m not strongly in favor of family-friendly policies for other people.

3.) [professional] Libraries are a valence issue, i.e. nearly everyone claims to love and value them, to the extent that nothing gets paid except lip service. It’s good to be loved, it’s better to be funded. And it’s best of all to have your citizens, your community fighting for you, instead of just sitting around feeling needlessly good about themselves for holding an opinion that’s so commonplace it’s meaningless.

I mean, would you go around announcing, “I would NOT commit a murder!” or “I disapprove of raping!” I hope not. I’m hoping those are a given.

So whenever you start thinking to yourself “Libraries sure are swell!” or “Reading is the BEST thing!” please tamp down the platitudes and either pester your elected officials about the latest round of budget cuts or get out your checkbook.

Now, as far as I can tell, absolutely none of what I’ve outlined above is going to get fixed, or better. Which is maybe why the t-shirt thing upsets me, because deep down, I know that if I can’t even get a damn t-shirt that fits me, then what hope is there for progress on any front?


*sometimes referred to as “women’s” t-shirts, tho’ personally I dislike this designation because t-shirt cuts are more about physical body shape than personal identity.
**another misnomer, the garment-industry equivalent of all animals are male, except for the ones that are cats and/or wear pink bows in their fur.
***Not that it’s anyone’s business, but I sleep as the Good Lord intended, stark naked and snuggled up against the hottie of my choice.
****because everyone I know wants a t-shirt commemorating the 20th anniversary of a place where they don’t even work.
*****Or as a former coworker once put it, “You’re busting out all over and your name ain’t even June.”

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