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July 7 2017

Women Journalists in High Dudgeon Over House Dress Code That Forbids Sleeveless Dresses

by Charlotte Allen

Come on, ladies! Don't you want to be taken seriously?

Here's the latest kerfluffle on Capitol Hill ( from People magazine):

As temperatures have been soaring above 90 degrees in Washington, D.C. this summer, several female journalists covering Capitol Hill have reported recently being barred from the Speaker’s lobby outside the House Chamber for wearing sleeveless tops or dresses.

According to a new report from CBS News, one female journalist was recently not allowed into the Speaker’s lobby because of her sleeveless dress, which she was told was “inappropriate.” CBS News said that the journalist even tried to use notebook paper to make faux-sleeves, but was still denied entry.

The vague policy is apparently nothing new. House chamber security and the House Sergeant at Arms enforce the requirement for “appropriate business attire” for all women and men who pass through or enter the lobby, which is a key spot for post-session interviews with representatives. Women have been told they’re not allowed to wear sleeveless blouses or dresses, sneakers or open-toed shoes, CBS News reports.

Oh, the sexist cruelty! Except for this wee little sentence in the People story:

Men are expected to wear suit jackets and ties.

Mmm, which is more uncomfortable in 90-degree weather: A jacket and tie or a pair of cap sleeves over your shoulders? Besides, when I last looked, the Capitol building featured this thing called air-conditioning.

Look, the Sergeant-at-Arms's interpretation of what is "appropriate business attire" may be a tad behind the times. Sleveless dresses for women are deemed perfectly appropriate in many business and official settings.. As CBS News pointed out:

Former first lady Michelle Obama wore sleeveless dresses to several State of the Union addresses inside the House chamber. President Trump's daughter, Ivanka, was spotted in the House gallery during her father's joint address to Congress in February wearing a slightly off-the-shoulder dress with what appeared to be her bra strap showing.

(The supposed "bra strap" was actually built into the dress--but hey!, we can't pass up a chance to slam a member of the Trump family!)

But bright-line rules that seem arbitrary actually serve a purpose: making it easy to obey and enforce them. A bright-line ban on sleevelss dresses means that you don't have to hassle over whether spaghetti straps are business attire, when, say, the temps go over 100. Same for a ban on open-toed shoes: It saves fighting over whether jewled flip-flops count as dressy sandals. A hard-and-fast coat-and-tie rule for men serves the same purpose. Let's give the people who work at the Capitol and have to enforce the rules a break.

Nonetheless, a tweetstorm of protests predictably followed among female journalists feeling pushed into a Handmaid's Tale dystopia for being required to wear dresses with cap sleeves. In fact, as Twitchy notes, several of them posted photos of bonneted, red-cloaked Handmaids on Twitter to dramatize the misogyny that the no-sleeveless-dresses rule supposedly represents. "This dress code has been in effect for decades but now it's LITERALLY The Handmaid's Tale," one woman tweeted.

No, not "literally," ladies. And don't you sometimes wonder why a lot of men just pat you on the head and tell you how cute you are?

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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