Missouri House of Representatives lawmakers this week adopted a stricter dress code for women as part of a new rules packand now requires them to cover their shoulders by wearing a jacket such as a blazer, cardigan or knitted blazer.
The addition, which was proposed by Republican State Representative Ann Kelley, sparked outrage from some Democrats who said the change was sexist because the dress code for men was not changed.
Men in the Missouri House of Representatives are required to wear a jacket, shirt and tie. The previous dress code for women required “dresses or skirts or trousers worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate shoes or boots”.
Kelley, speaking on the House floor, said she felt compelled to offer the change that “cleans up some of the language … mirroring the language in the gentleman’s dress code.”
“Men are required to wear a jacket, shirt and tie, correct? And if they walked in here without a tie, they’d get a hammer in a heartbeat. If they went in without a jacket, they would be shot down in the blink of an eye. So we’re very interested in being equal,” Kelley said Wednesday during the plenary debate.
Women occupy less than a third of the seats in the Missouri House, made up of 116 men and 43 women, according to the State House website.
The dress code amendment passed in a voice vote and the rules package was later adopted by the GOP-controlled legislature in a vote of 105 to 51, but not without resistance and debate from House Democrats.
“Do you know what it’s like to have a bunch of men in this room looking at your shirt trying to determine if it’s appropriate or not?” Democratic State Representative Ashley Aune proclaimed from the floor of the House.
Republicans amended their amendment to include cardigans after Democratic State Representative Raychel Proudie criticized the impact the blazer requirement could have on pregnant women.
Democratic State Representative Peter Merideth declined to vote on the amendment, telling his colleagues on the floor: “I don’t think I’m qualified to say what’s appropriate or not appropriate for women, and I think that’s a really dangerous path for us to take.” all to come down.”
“You guys had a tantrum the last couple of years when we talked about maybe, maybe wearing masks in a pandemic to keep each other safer. How dare the government tell you what to wear on your face? Well, I know some governments require women to wear things over their face, but here, that’s fine because we’re just talking about how many layers they should have over their shoulders,” added Merideth.
In the US Congress, until 2017, reporters and legislators were required to wear dresses and blouses with sleeves if they wanted to enter the House. A group of bipartisan lawmakers protested against their “right to bare their arms”, prompting then-President Paul Ryan’s office to admit that the dress code “could use a little modernization.” The US Senate also later changed its rules, The New York Times reported.
Aune told CNN on Friday afternoon that the move indicates that Republicans in the state are not focused on “important issues.”
“In 2019, House Republicans passed the abortion ban that went into effect this summer after the Dobbs decision fell through, fully restricting women’s right to choose in this state, and on the first day of our legislature, they are doubling down on the women’s control,” she said on “CNN Newsroom.”
“It’s wild for me. I think it’s sending a message that the GOP, the Missouri GOP, doesn’t have our best interests in mind and isn’t focused on the important issues.”
This story has been updated with additional details.