Missouri Democrats say House dress code debate is a distraction

Missouri Democrats say House dress code debate is a distraction

Missouri Democrats say House dress code debate is a distraction

Women serving in the Missouri House will face a tougher dress code when they return to the floor this week after a debate Democrats have seen as an unnecessary distraction from the problems facing the state.

The new rules require legislators and staff to wear a jacket such as a cardigan or blazer. The Republican lawmaker who introduced the change said it was done to ensure decorum and reflect men’s dress code. Democrats called it ridiculous, saying women shouldn’t be scrutinized for their fashion choices.

Republican Rep. Ann Kelley, who introduced the amendment, said it cleans up language in current House rules so that the dress code for women mirrors the dress code for men.

“It is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere on the floor of the House and to ensure that this happens, I felt compelled to propose this amendment,” she said during the debate on the floor on Wednesday. .

His original amendment stated that women would be required to wear professional attire – specifically a “jacket”, which would include “blazers and knit blazers”. After heated debate, a revised amendment was passed to clarify that a cardigan could also be worn.

Men in the Missouri House of Representatives were already required to wear a jacket, shirt, and tie. Under the old dress code, women had to wear “dresses or skirts or slacks worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots”. A second layer of clothing was not necessary.

Kelley said ensuring decorum was a key reason for his proposal — an idea that Democrats have embraced.

“I’ve seen a lot of lack of decorum in this room in my two years here and not once has that lack of decorum been spurred on by someone’s blazer or lack thereof,” the rep said. Ashley Aune, a Democrat. “There are many ways to break the decorum in this room. But a woman, what she wears, it’s ridiculous.

Aune went on to say that she was personally questioned about her attire, even though she followed the rules.

“Do you know what it’s like to have a bunch of men in this room staring at your top trying to figure out if it’s appropriate or not?” she says.

Virginia Ramseyer Winter, an associate professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Health Professions and director of the Center for Body Image Research and Policy, said lawmakers shouldn’t even have debated it because it put unnecessary emphasis. on the appearance of women instead of the problems.

“I think it reinforces the idea that we value women more for their looks above other more important things like their intelligence and their contributions,” she said.

Ramseyer Winter and other critics of the measure said the debate echoes one over abortion restrictions that lawmakers approved last summer after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“I think it also sends the message that we need to control women’s bodies,” she said.

Representative Raychel Proudie, a Democrat, challenged the amendment before it was changed to include the “cardigan”. She pointed out that it would not be easy for pregnant women to comply because “they don’t make jackets or blazers for pregnant women. It could be very uncomfortable, especially in a pro-life state.

The dress code was just a small part of a set of rules that state lawmakers finally approved last Wednesday.

“There are some very serious things in this package of rules that I think we should be debating, but instead we are fighting, again, for women’s right to choose something. And this time, that’s how she covers herself,” Proudie said.

Lawmakers in other states have dismissed dress code rules as sexist and culturally insensitive. Congress’ longstanding ban on sleeveless tops and open-toed shoes generated a fight in 2017 before these rules were updated.

Missouri Republicans said criticism of the dress code was overblown as all rules made clear what was required.

“It’s a normal process for any entity regarding a professional work environment,” Republican State Rep. Doug Richey said. “We happen to have a political context that we have to navigate and because of that, it’s time for some members to step up and try to make something out of it that it’s not.”

Yet Rep. Peter Merideth, a Democrat, refused to vote on the dress code amendment because he didn’t want to dare say what was appropriate or inappropriate for women. In the House, there are 43 women and 116 men.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “Our people sent us here to pass laws…not to fight over mandates and rules on women’s clothing.”

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