Congresswomen demand the right to "bare arms" in face of an outdated and patriarchal dress code.
Last week, several female reporters were turned away from the Speaker’s lobby and subsequently escorted out of a House of Representatives chamber. Government official cited dress code violations— the women were “caught” wearing worn open-toed shoes and sleeveless shirts.
When news of the event spread, dozens of women working in the government building decided to dress together in the offending outfits, in protest of the patriarchal and outdated dress code. Some male colleagues also wore sleeveless shirts in solidarity. As a result, at a press conference on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed the upheaval, saying:
“I’ll be honest, this is not something that was covered in my new speakership orientation ceremony. Um, the sergeant-at-arms was simply enforcing the same interpretation of the rules, as under my predecessors. This is nothing new, and certainly not something that I devised…
At the same time, that doesn’t mean that enforcement couldn’t stand to be a bit modernized. So that is why, we will be working with the sergeant-at-arms to ensure the enforcement of appropriate business attire is updated.
Decorum is important, especially for this institution, and a dress code in the chamber, in the lobby, makes sense. But we also don’t need to bar otherwise accepted contemporary business attire. So look for a change on that soon.”
The idea for the #SleevelessFriday protest— for the right to “bare arms”— came from Congresswoman Jackie Speir from California. Speir claims House authorities only selectively enforce the dress code, and it leads to disadvantages for women in the press. Speir also said she’s tired of seeing women being told what to wear.
Republican Representative Martha McSally had also denounced the sexist code. While speaking on the House floor she contested, “Before I yield back, I want to point out I’m standing here in my professional attire, which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes.”
Global Citizen reports, “In the US, gender barriers pervade politics at all levels. Only 19.4% of Congress members and 24.8% of state legislators are women. Just four of the current 50 governors are women and only 37 women have ever served as governors in the history of the country.”
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