Two very different stories about women-i.e., strength, beauty, femininity, fantasy, cowardice, bravery, and acquiescence-struck me this week. I still don’t know whether they fill me with hope or sadness.
First, there was the 22-year-old U. of Illinois student Disney recruited online and telephonically through a campus event. She had to rock to snag an internship with a company like that.
It was a dream come true for Disney’s newest intern; she’d grown up revering the Disney princesses. Belle ( Beauty and the Beast ) and Ariel ( The Little Mermaid ) in particular. Also my 7-year old’s fetish-princesses. So the psych major worked her booty off, thrashed the competition, and moved that triumphant booty, that life, from Chicago to California for the fall 2010 internship for which her relatives likely held family celebrations, perhaps fundraisers, all summer.
On arrival, triumph became humiliation. One look at her and she was summarily “assigned  to a more secluded stockroom.”
Silly Noor Abdallah. She’d arrived in her “scary” hijab.
She was guilty of Excelling While Muslim : They wanted her Muslim name on the rolls. Just not a visible Muslim on the grounds.
“Managers balked,” but at least didn’t immediately send her packing on trumped up “incompetence” or “insubordination” charges. Woulda been nice to see them go with “misrepresentation.” Growing up ‘70s-style poor and black but bilingual (See: ability to “be” telephonically white while Afro’d) … been there. Lived with that. But that was then, right?
While Noor languished in quarantine, “[c]ostume designers came up with a more suitable headscarf. Managers told her that likely would take the entirety of her internship.”
“It broke my heart a little,” said Abdallah.”… “Like any little girl, I liked all the princesses.”
So, while her fellow interns went free-range at a Disney Resort, Noor sat obediently in her decontamination chamber while designers whipped up “a blue beret atop a company-designed headscarf” to wear while “selling tickets in [the] box office.”
No picture was available, but here’s what they worked out for another Disney worker with the same “problem”:
Noor proclaims herself happy to have worked out a compromise: “I’d really hate to see another person lose the magic behind the Disney characters,” she said, a third of her internship pissed away by our stupidity.
But maybe she can make some lemonade by pitching them an idea for another Disney princess franchise: “The Little Intern.” And maybe they could have a special showing for these employers : “A Lithuanian company says it plans to open an island resort in the Maldives … with only blond staff. … And it wants to bring visitors to the island on flights entirely crewed by blonds as well … and yes, that includes the pilots.”
The firm claims to work in 75 different business sectors, mostly staffed and advertised by “sexy blond women.” It also claims not to discriminate. They don’t have to because “we find that when women with dark hair work here, they are surrounded by all these beautiful blondes, so eventually they end up going blond, too.”
See? No decon chamber needed when women are sensible enough to pre-homogenize themselves.
Photograph of a blonde ponytail by katehudson for Wikimedia Commons.