Kit Steinkellner
Updated Dec 17, 2014 @ 10:47 am

How would you feel if your employer gave you (and all your fellow female employees) a brochure detailing “essential beauty tips” for female company members?

Probably as annoyed and angry as the women who work for France’s state-owned rail company, SNCF. In the 36 page document issued regarding new employee uniforms there is a section entitled “Astuces pour finir en beauté,” or, for us English speakers, “Tricks to end up pretty.”

These “pretty tricks” include the following mandates:

*Lipstick must be “discreet beige to soft red”

*Eyebrows must be “well-groomed” to “intensify your gaze”

*Deodorant should be “light and subtle”

*Nails should be “subtly painted” which means they can be “transparent, pastel pink, or red.”

*Blush should be “pink for light skin and peach for darker complexions”

If you’re wondering if SNCF had any personal grooming advice for their male employees, the answer is they DID, so this isn’t a completely gendered debacle, just a mostly gendered debacle as the “tricks” the company gave to their male employees to “end up pretty” were far less detailed. The big headline there was a section on mustaches and beards (which are apparently as “fashionable” in France as they are in Hipsterland America), the SNCF asking their male employees to keep facial hair “neatly trimmed.”

Now that the company is receiving backlash for its, let’s be real, super-sexist advice, SNCF is backtracking hard:

“This is only advice to make the most out their uniforms to provide a customer service that is a professional as possible. There’s nothing compulsory about it,” a rep for SNCF told Le Figaro.

The deal is, when you, as an employer, make a long list of beauty tips for your female employees, even if it’s not technically “compulsory,” you are saying that you would PREFER if your female employees followed these guidelines. You’re putting pressure on the women who work for you to conform to these standards, because any employee that wants to do well at her job (whether that means staying in the same position or climbing the company ladder) is going to want to comply with standards and avoid doing anything to displease her higher-ups. It may not technically be “compulsory” but these kinds of rules are going to FEEL compulsory for women who want to do well in their jobs. The problem is, what kind of blush or nail polish you wear or what your eyebrows look like have absolutely nothing to do with a woman’s ability to do her job well, and for this company to conflate the two is absolutely not cool.

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