House Of Reps Dress Code Provides Another Obstacle for Female Politicians
It's Paul Ryan's world, we're just living in it
For decades, a code of conduct has been universally accepted in congress. Whether spoken or unspoken, general etiquette has always been the norm during debates, at meetings and press conferences, and between parties.
A dress code, however, has never been specifically written and made public. This year, in the House of Representatives, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has made an attempt to enforce rules of attire for men and women alike, but of course mostly women.
This code requires women to cover their arms and shoulders and wear closed-toe shoes. Is Paul Ryan stuck in 1950? Michelle Obama, known for her intelligence, elegance, and not to mention impeccable sense of style, often bared the oh so scandalous skin of her upper arms.
Even reporters at White House press conferences are subject to this rule. One woman tried to stuff notebook paper in her dress in attempt to make sleeves that covered her arms, but this didn’t work either.
There is no published manifesto where civilians the politicians alike can refer to the policies for regulations that might affect one’s appearance or conduct in the House. In fact, the only specifics requirements related to dress code are buried in a rules manual that uses language from the 96th Congress, in session from 1979 to 1981, that called for "appropriate attire for female Members". First privacy, then appearance, what’s next? At what point does this affect our constitutionally ensured rights?
On the other hand, men are only required to wear dress shoes and ties, something they did anyway.
Let’s talk about the necktie
Aside from the patriarchal characterization given to the tie from Fifty Shades of Grey, the tie contains a few other underlying symbols.
Anthropologist David Graeber points out that the transition from Victorian Era men’s elegant formalwear to the structured (and uncomfortable) suit and tie is because of what men say about themselves when they dress formally. Men strive to show the world that they are clean, intelligent, well-dressed, and most of all dominant..
Many men wear neckties every day, they make you look important, put together, and powerful. They are associated with the look of businessmen and CEOs, positions women so rarely hold. Conversely, women's formalwear consists of dresses and skirts, outfits inherently female and reinforce with the stereotypes associated with that.
In addition, ties are a restriction, they close off shirts and necklines and cause men to feel stiff. Dresses and skirts, by their open shape, historically invite a man's gaze and physical touch-- thanks again #grabherbythepussy
Think of it this way, what does a tie look like? The same thing the Washington Monument looks like… yes, they are long, tall phallic symbols. This discrepancy between formalwear for women and men reinforces the power dynamic already naturally set in American government. Men can wear phallic symbols loud and proud around their necks, but women can’t even show they arms?
Thankfully, as of July 14, congress has agreed to disagree with the dress code for women, allowing them to wear sleeveless shirts and dresses as they please.
One small step for women, one giant leap for mankind
So men have been enforcing their dominance over women for hundreds of years, and now, congress has agreed that we can reveal the skin of our arms in the House, whoopie.
But hey, a win is a win, take that Paul Ryan.
We hope you love the products we recommend! Before you continue, we’d like you to know that there are affiliate links in this article. This means Women.com may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the following links. Prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.