‘This is beyond belief’: Outrage after Missouri GOP makes dress code change that only affects women

The Republicans controlling the Missouri state House have come under heavy fire after they began their new session by tightening a part of the dress code in a way that only affects women.

The updated code required women to wear a blazer in the House chamber before it was modified to only require women to cover their arms, meaning that jackets and cardigans will also be allowed. Outraged Democrats called the measure “ridiculous” on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.

Raychel Proudie, a statehouse Democrat, said on the chamber floor that “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”.

“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,” she added.

The previous code said that “dresses or skirts or slacks worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots”.

Republican Ann Kelley argued that women have to wear jackets because “it is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere”.

She suggested that the dress code be amended so that “proper attire for women shall be business attire, including jackets worn with dresses, skirts, or slacks and dress shoes or boots”.

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

Democratic State Representative Pete Merideth tweeted that “the caucus that lost their minds over the suggestion that they should wear masks during a pandemic to respect the safety of others is now spending its time focusing on the fine details of what women have to wear (specifically how to cover their arms) to show respect here”.

He added that Republicans were “tweaking the dress code because they thought a couple women last year didn’t dress nicely enough for their standards”.

The Republicans were slammed on social media, with former Republican US House Representative Joe Walsh tweeting, “Uh…what country is this? What century is this? Ridiculous”.

“I mean it’s 2023. This is beyond belief,” Maria Shriver wrote.

“Fun fact; the Australian parliament already mandates against us saucy ladies showing a bit of shoulder. Gotta keep a lid on things in the House,” Australian MP Dr Monique Ryan added.

“Women demand the right to bare arms--especially in the ‘show-me’ state. Maybe if we called them ‘guns’ instead of ‘arms,’ these foolish men would back off. #MarjorieTaylorGreene, who often goes sleeveless in Congress, would not be thus welcomed,” LA Times columnist Patt Morrison tweeted.

“FYI. I do some of my best work in pj’s,” former Democratic State Representative Trish Gunby wrote.

The rules of the Missouri House can be debated every two years when a new session begins. Less than a third of Missouri House members are women, the St Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

The dress code also affects men, but that part of the code wasn’t amended on Wednesday. It states that “proper attire for gentlemen shall be business attire, including coat, tie, dress trousers, and dress shoes or boots”.

“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,” Ms Proudie added.

“You would think, you would think, that all you would have to do is, say, dress professionally, and women could handle it,” Ms Kelley said as she argued in favour of the updated code. “You would think elected officials could handle that.”

She was debating Democrat Ashley Aune, who noted that Ms Kelley was wearing a sequin top at the time.

“But we’re walking around here in sequins and velveteens for the lady’s point,” Ms Aune said. “So, what is appropriate, and why do you get to decide?”

“We need to get over the sequins. That’s ridiculous,” Mr Kelley responded.

“Proper attire for women shall be business attire, including jackets worn with dresses, skirts, or slacks, and dress shoes or boots,” the dress code for women now states.

Democratic State Representative Jamie Johnson tweeted, “just finished floor debate explaining why knit blazers do not include cardigans on an amendment restricting what women can wear in the House. Why would we need to add additional class barriers to the idea that anyone could represent the people”.