Democrats, Media Imply Sexism In Missouri Women Lawmaker Dress Code Change, But It Hardly Changed Anything

Missouri House lawmakers voted to change the women’s dress code on Wednesday, sparking outrage from Democrats and several legacy media reports that looked to imply there was sexism at play, even though the new code ended up looking surprisingly similar to the previous dress code.

Republican state Representative Ann Kelley pushed for the changes, saying that the dress code needed to be clarified.

“Isn’t it is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere on the House floor?” Kelley asked. “And to ensure this happens, I have felt compelled to offer this amendment, which cleans up some of the language in rule 98 by mirroring the previous language and the gentleman’s dress code.”

“Men are required to wear a jacket, a shirt and a tie, correct? And if they walked in here without a tie, they would get gaveled down in a heartbeat. If they walked in without a jacket, they would get gaveled down in a heartbeat. So, we are so interested in being equal,” Kelley also noted.

“All we’re trying to do today is to take the same rules that we have and make them more clear,” Republican state Representative Brenda Shields said.

The previous dress code from 2021 states that “[p]roper attire for women shall be dresses or skirts or slacks worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots. This rule shall apply to all members and staff on the floor of the House and lower gallery.”

For men, it says that “proper attire for gentlemen shall be business attire, including coat, tie, dress trousers, and dress shoes or boots.”

The dress code amendment was approved in a voice vote. A rules package with the new dress code then passed on Wednesday in a vote of 105-51.

One dress code amendment stated that “[p]roper attire for women shall be business attire, including jackets worn with dresses, skirts, or slacks, and dress shoes or boots. For the purposes of this rule, ‘jacket’ shall include blazers and knit blazers.”

The word “cardigan” was also added after the word “blazers” in an amendment by Shields as people reportedly pushed back on the rule change.

Democrats, in particular, voiced their concerns on the House floor.

“We are fighting — again — for a woman’s right to choose for something. This time, it’s how she covers herself — and the interpretation of someone who has no background in fashion,” Democratic state Representative Raychel Proudie argued during a speech. “I spent $1,200 on a suit, and I can’t wear it in the People’s House because someone who doesn’t have the range tells me that it’s inappropriate.”

Proudie also said that some coworkers might be pregnant and would have to spend money on new attire to be in line with the rule.

“We are a place of laws and words do matter,” Proudie said. “This is a place where we ought to be dressed in business formal, which does call for women to have our arms covered. I think we’re being quite pedantic here by making rules so petty and what it will ultimately lead to is the disenfranchisement of folks.”

“You surely don’t have the money off the salary that we make to go buy a bunch of new clothes or tailored clothes, and I hope you’re able to continue to wear your cardigan and vote on behalf of the people who sent you here,” Proudie said.

Democratic State Representative Ashley Aune also pushed back, saying, “Do you know what it feels like to have a bunch of men in this room looking at your top trying to decide whether it’s appropriate or not?”

Kelley, in favor of the change, questioned why they were discussing the matter on the House floor at all.

“You would think, you would think, that all you would have to do is, say, dress professionally, and women could handle it,” Kelley responded. “You would think elected officials could handle that.”

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