Missouri GOP dress code fight is an insult to women

Adrienne Lawrence
Liberal Opinion

Adrienne Lawrence

Legal commentator
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Missouri Republicans sparked national attention by enacting a stricter dress code for female lawmakers in the state House. The new rules require women to cover their shoulders while on the House floor, with either a blazer, cardigan or knit blazer. Supporters of the new dress code say they just wanted to remove the vagueness of the previous policy. However, Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence isn’t buying that reasoning. Lawrence calls the Missouri GOP dress code fight to bare arms an insult to women.

These antics are just another unnecessary effort to exercise control over the female body. And it’s really to the detriment of the state, much like Missouri’s ban on abortion. Yeah, as of June 24 of last year, abortions are illegal in Missouri, except in cases of medical emergency. Yet at the same time, Missouri still ranks 42nd on the maternal mortality rates. Because we know it’s not about preserving life but controlling women’s bodies, which would be consistent with the recent change of House rules. 

And proponents of the rule change, well they do love to argue that they were just clarifying the existing rules. But that would suggest something was unclear about what women could wear. Or said another way, that women lawmakers were dressing unprofessionally by not covering up their arms with a blazer. Yeah, that sounds pretty much like the patriarchy to me. And yes, I am well aware that Republican Rep. Ann Kelley was the one to advance the rule change but that doesn’t change my opinion in the least.

The fact remains that women uphold the patriarchy with just as much vigor as men. So it’s no surprise that it was a woman who was looking to police the bodies of her fellow female members of legislature. And I also wouldn’t be shocked if, when pushing the rule change, Rep. Kelley used terms like decency to mirror and distraction. Because it’s all a part of the patriarchal playbook to reinforce antiquated, sexist beliefs that there’s some kind of inherent impropriety with the body of a woman, thus requiring men to maintain control of it. 

In Missouri’s legislature, men have always maintained control. In the House in particular, women hold less than one-third of the seats in a state where women make up 50% of the population. Male domination in both public and private spaces must come to an end if we want to advance as a society. Otherwise, we’re going to keep wasting time debating nonsense, like whether and how women in Missouri’s House can bare arms.

Instead of addressing issues that would advance their constituents, Missouri Republicans decided that they needed to spend time debating what women can wear on the House floor. Apparently, Missouri’s GOP was disturbed by the potential sight of women not wearing blazers while doing their jobs. As if women lawmakers can’t be trusted to dress professionally. Even though Missouri’s House ultimately decided to require women and men to wear blazers, cardigans, or knit blazers, the entire exercise speaks to how patriarchy prevents our representatives from actually serving the people. 

Seriously, these people have been elected to office and they ought not spend hours of their time debating what’s appropriate for a professional woman lawmaker to wear to work. Missouri’s House should have gotten a jump on raising the base salary for teachers, adding literacy programs and water led testing in schools, providing accessible and affordable childcare or maybe even supporting infrastructure projects, like widening Interstate 70. There are so many important issues that those in Missouri need their legislature to focus on fixing right now. 

 

Yeah, GOP lawmakers in the Show Me state couldn’t help but show they’re asses by making women’s wardrobe their first priority. Yeah, these antics are just another unnecessary effort to exercise control over the female body. And it’s really to the detriment of the state, much like Missouri’s ban on abortion. Yeah, as of June 24 of last year, abortions are illegal in Missouri, except in cases of medical emergency. And at the same time, as there is still ranks 42nd maternal mortality rates. Because we know it’s not about preserving life but controlling women’s bodies, which would be consistent with the recent change of House rules. 

And proponents of the rule change, well they do love to argue that they were just clarifying the existing rules. But that would suggest something was unclear about what women could wear. Or said another way, that women lawmakers were dressing unprofessionally by not covering up their arms with a blazer. Yeah, that sounds pretty much like the patriarchy to me. And yes, I am well aware that Republican Representative Ann Kelly was the one to advance the rule change. But that doesn’t change my opinion in the least.

The fact remains that women uphold the patriarchy with just as much vigor as men. So it’s no surprise that it was a woman who was looking to police the bodies of her fellow female members of legislature. And I also wouldn’t be shocked if, when pushing the rule change. Representative Kelly used terms like decency to mirror and distraction. Because it’s all a part of the patriarchal playbook to reinforce antiquated, sexist beliefs that there’s some kind of inherent impropriety with the body of a woman, thus requiring men to maintain control of it. 

In Missouri’s legislature, men have always maintained control, and the House in particular, women hold less than 1/3 of the seats in a state where women make up 50% of the population. Male domination in both public and private spaces must come to an end if we want to advance as a society. Otherwise, we’re going to keep wasting time debating nonsense, like whether and how women in Missouri’s house can bare arms.


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