Missouri Democrats say the House dress code debate is a distraction

Women serving in the Missouri House will face a stricter dress code when they return to the floor this week after a debate Democrats portrayed as a pointless distraction from the state’s problems.

The new rules require female lawmakers and staffers to wear a jacket like a cardigan or blazer. The Republican legislature that introduced the change said it was done to ensure decency and to reflect men’s dress codes. Democrats called it ridiculous and said women shouldn’t be monitored for their fashion choices.

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

“It is important to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere in the House, and to ensure that happens I felt compelled to offer this amendment,” she said during Wednesday’s debate.

Her original amendment said women would have to wear business attire – specifically a “jacket” which would include “blazers and knitted blazers”. After lively debate, a revised amendment was adopted to clarify that a cardigan can also be worn.

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

Kelley said ensuring decency was a key reason for her proposal — an idea Democrats have embraced.

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

Aune went on to say that despite sticking to the rules, she was personally asked about her clothes.

“You know how it feels when a bunch of men in this room are looking at your top and trying to determine if it’s appropriate or not?” she said.

Virginia Ramseyer Winter, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions and director of the Center for Body Image Research and Policy, said lawmakers shouldn’t even have discussed this because it unnecessarily puts the focus on women’s appearance issues .

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

Ramseyer Winter and other critics of the measure said the debate mirrored the debate on abortion restrictions that lawmakers approved last summer after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade had picked up.

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

MP Raychel Proudie, a Democrat, questioned the amendment before adding “cardigan”. She pointed out that it’s not easy for pregnant women to comply because “they don’t make jackets or blazers for pregnant women. That could be very uncomfortable, especially in a pro-life state.”

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

“There are some very serious things in this set of rules that I think we should discuss, but instead we’re fighting again for women’s right to choose. And this time she’s covering herself with it,” Proudie said.

legislator oneother stateshave resisted dress code rulessexistand culturally insensitive. The longstanding Congressional ban on sleeveless tops and open-toe shoescreated a quarrelin 2017 before these rules were updated.

Missouri Republicans said criticism of the dress code was overdone, even though the rules only clarified what was required.

“It’s a normal process for any company to have a professional work environment,” said Republican Rep. Doug Richey. “We just have a political context to navigate, and so it’s ripe for some members to stand their ground and try to make it something that it’s not.”

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

“That’s ridiculous,” he said. “Our people sent us here to make laws… not to argue about laws and rules about women’s dress.”

By JOSH FUNK, Associated Press

https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/missouri-democrats-say-house-dress-code-debate-a-distraction/ Missouri Democrats say the House dress code debate is a distraction

Sarah Y. Kim

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