WHO ELSE HAS BEEN TOLD to be more "professional" before? I've been told to not swear as much with people, because it's not as "professional," and while I agree that not everyone is open to casual swearing and that it might be a good idea to make sure people are comfortable with your swearing before dropping f-bombs on them like it's hot, I am resistant to the idea that swearing is "unprofessional."
It seems that people's ideas about what is "professional" are quite conservative, really. It's okay to mention Christmas, or throw a Christmas party in the workplace--as long as you call it a "holiday" party--and have Santa and reindeer everywhere--but a Hanukkah party and the display of a menorah at said party is "too religious." Queer people are "accepted" in the workplace, but if you want to talk about your polyamorous relationship, "you don't need to share everything" even though everyone else talks about their wives and husbands on a regular basis. Employees with mental disabilities are protected by the American Disabilities Act (ADA), but if you talk about your medication in the workplace, you shouldn't because people might think you're tripping on Vicodin 24/7.
To this I politely ask: what the hell, people?
Why is "professionalism" defined by these conservative, monoromantic/monosexual, White, Christian, neurotypical values? If we are a workplace that puts a heavy emphasis on valuing diversity, why aren't we making an effort to include others' life stories in a positive way? If we want to make people feel comfortable in a workplace, and to include positive input to our workplace community, we should be normalizing these diverse stories.
This doesn't even include the consideration that plenty of Black members of the professional community wonder if their natural hair is "professional," which in my humble opinion, is a question that should not have to be asked. Are we, as a society, so Western-normative that our Black community members' natural hair isn't considered "professional"?
And then there are all sorts of blogs that tell you what dressing "professionally" looks like. Shirts not too tight, not showing too much skin. Because apparently how you dress affects the kind of work you're capable of.
Being Jewish or having an open relationship or moonlighting as a sex worker or figuring out your drug cocktail to deal with your bipolar disorder or wearing a hijab or transitioning your gender or celebrating Diwali or figuring out which spells to cast to improve the energy in your life or fighting with your long-term spouse--these are all normal things. They're as normal as practicing yoga or going to church on Sundays or heterosexual kissing.
We do ourselves a disservice by pretending that they're not.
To pretend that these things are not a normal part of the human experience is to say that they are divergent from a norm. And the reality is: while White Christians make up certainly a majority of Americans, it is not the only norm. It's just the norm that we as a country have valued over the course of its existence. And what's worse: we somehow have decided that this version of the "norm" is the same thing as "professional."
The word "professional" simply refers to a person who performs a job for pay. That's it.
"Professional," then, should refer to how a person who has a job they get paid for acts.
Therefore: a person who is a professional should act however they see fit. The only requirement of a professional is that they do the job they're being paid to do, and that they treat others with respect. If this is the case, "professionalism" should not be judged by how people represent themselves, but how they acknowledge others. "Professionalism" should be defined by whether someone validates someone else's perspective and life experience. "Professionalism" should be defined by a lack of shouting at other people for not reading their minds, and practicing patience while other people deal with very human things.
Ultimately: the word "professional" should not define a robot. It should define a human being--and all the imperfections that go with them.
PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST
Blog not recommended for sober consumption.