Cocktail Crossfire: Is Washington Horrible for Women?

new report came out today bestowing Washington, D.C. with the distinction as the number one city for the "well-being" of women. As women who live in this city, we debate that point. 

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A new report from Measure of America (by way of The Washington Post) came out today claiming that Washington, D.C. is the number one city for the "well-being" of women. As women who live in this city, we debate that point.

More Jobs, Less Pressure to Be Stylish, and Lots of Drinking: Who Could Ask for Anything More?

There are many awful things about Washington, D.C., but if we're talking about the well being of women compared to other women in other cities, it makes sense to this D.C. woman that D.C. wins.

  • There are lots of jobs here with lots of women in those jobs. For women in the workforce, Washington, D.C. wins, according to this data from The Atlantic's resident demographic data man Richard Florida. Of the five states in which  ladies have the majority of the jobs, D.C. has the highest percentage with 52.6 percent of the District's jobs held by people with ovaries -- er whatever it is that define women in these stats. Not only do we have a lot of the jobs, we get paid more for those jobs here, with the nation's capital having average women’s wages of $53,450, more than $10,000 more than Maryland ($42,164), which is ranked second. Booyah! After all his indexing and calculating, Florida declares: "The clear winner is the District of Columbia." Jobs are important for well-being, even—especially— as a lady.
  • As my colleague, and fellow Woman of The Atlantic Wire notes, the woman of this city look to Ann Taylor, a not too adventurous, somewhat dowdy, mom-store, as their fashion muse. There's little beauty in this city. (Another ranking placed D.C. as the 6th ugliest in the country.)  But, as far as well being goes, this is a plus. Unlike women who live in image obsessed cities, like New York or Los Angeles, D.C. women don't have to try as hard to stand out in the clothing and beauty department. There's no endless (expensive!) competition for the latest fashions or the "hottest" (a.k.a most emaciated) figures. From a well-being standpoint, D.C. ugly wins. [All of this applies to "cool," too.]
  • D.C. is clean. As the nation's capital, they keep it like that to impress the world. That means less dog crap on the ground and less garbage on the streets. That means fewer ruined pairs of shoes, but it also means there's just a general overall less icky-ness. 
  • The social life is apparently fun and boozy, says another science survey, which found D.C. as the drunkest for singles. But the bars close early enough to ensure a "fun girl" doesn't blow her entire paycheck in one night. And that 2:30/3:00 a.m. curfew also ensures everyone's either getting laid or getting sleep -- both important things for well being. 

—Rebecca Greenfield

You Have to Wear Pantyhose to Work and Someone Will Still Probably Comment on Your Anatomy

Washington is a terrible place that can barely sustain human life, but it's particularly terrible for female human life. Here are eight reasons why.

  • When you go to a fancy party in most cities, there are lots of games you can play with your friends as you scan the guests: Who's the most famous person in the room? Who's the most attractive? Who's the best dressed? But in Washington, D.C., the most appropriate question is: Who's the biggest monster? Usually, the biggest monster reveals himself during some skin crawling act of social climbing. But in his report on the White House Correspondents Dinner Monday, FishbowlDC's Eddie Scarry outed himself as the biggest monster in town by posting photos of easily identifiable female asses he found unappealing. "Big Butts Abound at WHCD Weekend" was the headline of the post by this "human being" named Scarry. This is what it means to live in Washington: All the meanness of Gawker circa 2007, but none of the fame, glory, money, all-night subways or decent eateries.
  • Relatedly, you're not allowed to be vain, because you are a Serious Person. But if you don't look perfect, FishBowl will make fun of you. Then-White House social secretary Desiree Rogers was publicly shamed in 2010 because her Commes des Garcons dress at a state dinner was too fancy. On the other hand, in the 1990s, it was publicly acceptable to make fun of Chelsea Clinton for being ugly -- when she was 13 years old.
  • Also related: It gets really humid in the summer, making your hair impossibly frizzy. 
  • In this city, Ann Taylor is a fashion mecca.
  • You are required to wear pantyhose in most offices. Writing for The Atlantic in 2006, Joshua Green explained Hillary Clinton's remarkable popularity among female Senate staffers -- even Republicans. One marveled: "She wore slacks to her swearing-in ceremony…  I mean, you just don’t do that in the Senate." Though the "lipstick-and-skirt dress code" ended in 2002, there had been a dispute that summer over open-toed shoes, and women were still required to wear jackets over their blouses to be allowed on the Senate floor. This was monitored by "bench ladies," whom staffers called "SS guards."
  • A female intern can never escape the shadow of Monica.
  • People in Washington tend to conflate what is "nerdy" with what is trivial. See, for example, the White House Correspondents Dinner referred to as "nerd prom." This is a little trick of faux self-deprecation in which people, especially men, make a claim to being smart. But these people don't build rockets or calculate the probability of Earthlike planets in another galaxy. Yet a single woman is required to be very impressed by a male suitor's knowledge of political trivia and to pretend that this signifies a great intellect.
  • Just like in New York, no one wants to meet up on a Friday night till like 11p.m. or midnight. But unlike in New York, bars in Washington close early, at 2a.m., sometimes 2:30a.m. This makes the ratio of "hours spent having fun" to "hours spent applying various beautification lotions" quite low. Thus, each 30-minute unit of fun time is relatively more expensive. 

--Elspeth Reeve
Image via by  eurobanks.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.