A few months back, I was taking a shortcut through the House parking lot when I saw a car festooned in glittery bumper stickers. According to the vehicle’s decorations, the owner was a “Spoiled Brat” and a “Diva” who wanted others to kiss her tiara and offer “big ups” to her sorority.
As we continued on our way, my co-worker turned to me and said, “Why do women do that? It makes you look so shallow.”
Bumper stickers are meant to be funny. Often, they make light of something serious or mitigate flaws with humor. But the trouble is that when these jokes apply to the driver of the car, they require a context that strangers (ie. other motorists, passersby) don’t have.
Your friends and family might get a good laugh out of your “I Saved the Horse and Rode the Cowboy” bumper sticker, but a stranger tailgating you on the Beltway will feel differently. And your Boss probably won’t want you to park next to him in the lot.
Bumper stickers, cell phone covers, coffee mugs and other objects that feature slogans and sayings are designed to send a message about the owner. But sometimes, the message you are sending conflicts with the professional reputation you are trying to build. So here’s a good rule of thumb:
Take the saying on your bumper sticker or coffee mug and put it on a t-shirt. Now, imagine yourself wearing that t-shirt into a meeting with your Boss. If you wouldn’t wear it on your person, then it shouldn’t be on anything you own that comes to work with you. But it’s not just at the office that you need to be careful about the messages you’re sending.
Perhaps my co-worker said it best: A woman could be smart and attractive with a good personality, but if I walked her to her car after our date and saw [those bumper stickers], I’d think twice about taking her out again.
Some of you are probably thinking, “Belle, it’s just a bumper sticker,” but it’s not. It’s a tattoo, on your car, that tells hundreds of other drivers something personal about you. You may think it’s telling a joke. But they may think it’s saying that you’re vapid or shallow or immature.
So if you have bumper stickers on your car or drink from a sloganed coffee mug, take a moment to think about whether you want to be judged based on these objects. Because whether it’s fair or not, you will be.
P.S. This discussion might sound a little hypocrtical coming from a woman who jsut a few weeks ago talked about how she sees the word “bitch” as a badge of honor. But just because I don’t mind when someone calls me a bitch, doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a “bitch” bumper sticker and put it on my car.