Updated: Jul 16
I started wearing glasses about a year ago. I discovered that blue-light glasses help with anxiety, and since my PTSD is severe, I thought that anything I could do to relieve tension on my brain would be beneficial. It actually has helped, and I will continue to wear them.
However, there was definitely another reason to start wearing glasses…
In my time in the Air Force, I always found that many times, when I tried to state a simple point, I would be told to “calm down” or “not be so aggressive.” Even when deliberately trying to be calm, I would always be brushed off.
At my last assignment, my commander harassed and stalked me. She very noticeably targeted all the women of color in my unit. It was known base-wide (and yet nothing was done).
I got (potentially career-ending) paperwork for things like wearing makeup, being too happy (yes for real) and not adding a comma in the proper place in my emails. One time, she pulled a “Central Park Amy Cooper” on me and threatened to have me arrested by Security Forces “just because she could”, suggesting that she could make it happen and that no one would “believe someone like me” over her (a higher-ranking, white woman).
I stopped wearing makeup, I stopped smiling, I stopped laughing, I stopped looking people in the eye, I looked down, I stopped eating, I stopped talking to people…I tried to make myself as small as possible so that maybe she’d leave me alone (she didn’t).
I did some research on “how to appear less threatening.” I was desperate to be invisible. In my research, I stumbled across several studies that showed that, in the workplace, black women were most likely to be administratively punished, to be rated lower than their peers due to “personality” and to be seen as “aggressive” when simply being firm or outspoken.
In general, black people across the board have been presented as naturally more agressive and animalistc, due to years of stereotypes forced on us to justify enslaving us, experimenting on us, banning us from certain spaces and jobs...you've all taken U.S. History...
I felt even more stuck. This was something I’d faced my entire life and it wasn’t going to stop. There was nothing I could do to change my skin color…
So like I said, I looked up ways to seem less threatening…
One of the easiest ways I found was to wear glasses…
Studies show that people with glasses are seen as more intelligent and less threatening…
I wear large, Peter Parker, blue-light glasses just about every day. I don’t go to work without them.
In my current job, I actually feel that I am in a safe environment that values me and my input, and that is more important to me than many people will ever know.
However, when I hold client meetings, I always wear glasses. I don’t think there’s a client I have that knows me without glasses. I actually panic quite a bit when I can't find my glasses.
They help with my anxiety by blocking blue light into my eyes and relieving pressure on my brain. They also help with my anxiety of being a black woman in white spaces.
Have I noticed a difference over the past year of how I’m treated? Yes.
Has it completely deterred unfair treatment in other workplaces other than my current one? No.
Do I believe I’ve avoided some trouble by doing something as trivial as wearing glasses? Yes.
I hide behind my glasses in certain settings, particularly settings in which I have to be firm and/or present as knowledgeable on certain subjects. They are my security blanket. I feel safer behind them.
I truly believe they compensate, at least a little bit, for the fatal flaw I have of being a black woman in professional settings.