I have worked in a handful of corporate offices in my professional career. At each place, a female employee or two could be found wearing a sleeveless dress. That includes assistant managers and executive vice presidents. Yet, ask Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and he'll tell you sleeveless dresses are inappropriate. And now the House is enforcing an antiquated dress code rule for women because sexism.
Before I go any further, I want to note that the temperature high for Washington, D.C. on Thursday was about 81 degrees, but felt like 91 degrees, according to Accuweather.com. The average person would agree that that's hot for a city (unless you live in Arizona).
So donning a sleeveless dress to work on a hot July day wouldn't seem unreasonable, right? Wrong.Vogue reported that a female journalist was banned from entering the Speaker's Lobby on Thursday morning because she dared to show her shoulders. And the reporter was warned that the next time she wore a sleeveless dress, she would be removed from the House grounds, according to Vogue.
Keep in mind that first lady Melania Trump and first daughter Ivanka Trump have worn sleeveless dresses numerous times during serious meetings with business leaders, government officials, and heads of state.
But, CBS News reported, the journalist had a quick and ingenious fix: Rip out pages from her notebook to create sleeves. But that unfortunately didn't fly with the officer who had to enforce the rules of the Speaker's Lobby. (The effort is impressive, though. Forget your heart; you wore the freedom of the press on your sleeve!)
The rule isn't new, though. The Jefferson’s Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives states that "traditional attire" deemed "appropriate" includes "coats and ties for male Members and appropriate attire for female Members." How that rule is interpreted is determined by the House Speaker, who, according to the manual, has the power to "relax such standards." CBS News also pointed out that the incredibly vague rule is not even enforced on the Senate side.
According to Jezebel, Ryan told members of the House that, while on the floor, to "wear appropriate business attire" — meaning no open-toed shoes, no sleeveless blouses, and no sleeveless dresses. (In May, another reporter was kicked out for bearing her shoulders, CBS News reported.) Again, it's summer in Washington, D.C., which means it's hot and humid and sweaty.
It should not be ignored that one male reporter told CBS News that men who've forgotten to don ties are given one to wear. He called it the "Tie of Shame."
And that's where the issue of sexism lies. The dress code seems to be evenly applied to male and female reporters and lawmakers. But the Speaker's Lobby apparently has an array of ties to give male reporters who violate the dress code, yet female reporters are kicked out instead.