The new year is already off to a perfect start for women in this country—Roe v. Wade is history, pro-rape manosphere bloggers are more popular than ever, and if you’re a woman in Missouri’s state legislature, there’s now greater clarity as to what you can and can’t wear on the state House floor.
On Wednesday, state lawmakers kicked off this year’s legislative session with a prolonged debate to amend the dress code for women lawmakers, who comprise just a third of the state legislature. The legislature debates changes to House rules at the start of the General Assembly every two years, and Wednesday’s debate largely hinged around women’s right to bare arms (you read that right) on the House floor and the extent to which their attire should be policed, per the St. Louis Dispatch.
Previously, House rules stated that “dresses or skirts or slacks worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots” were permissible for women on the floor. Rep. Ann Kelley, a Republican, proposed an amendment to explicitly require women legislators to wear blazer jackets on the House floor, calling this “essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere.” She was backed up by another Republican lawmaker who argued that the amendment was perfectly reasonable, as it would simply clarify previous rules that might have allowed women to—god forbid—wear a cardigan.
One Democratic lawmaker offered a particularly fiery response to Republicans’ proposed amendment. “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’s inappropriate,” Rep. Raychel Proudie said. She argued that the dress code “should not require debate or comment,” particularly by people “who have no background in fashion.”
The ridiculous nature of all the back-and-forth wasn’t lost on other House Democrats like Rep. Peter Merideth, who tweeted on Wednesday of Missouri Republicans, “Yep, 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.”
According to Merideth, engaging with other Twitter users on the matter, Republicans proposed these changes this week because they were particularly miffed by “a couple women last year didn’t dress nicely enough for their standards.”
All of this ultimately prompted a morning spent discussing the true enemy in a state ranked among the most impoverished in the nation, with among the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation: light layers. Clearly, the real problem is that the legislature’s narrow minority of women are not suitably covering their arms with formal enough outer apparel.
After thoroughly wasting a morning, the House landed on a new dress code for women, ultimately compromising to allow cardigans so long as ladies just put their damn arms away: “Proper attire for women shall be business attire, including jackets worn with dresses, skirts, or slacks, and dress shoes or boots,” the new policy states.
Mind you, just last year, 15 mass shootings took place in the state, including one at a school in St. Louis. But, sure! The real problem worth cracking down on is women’s right to freely bare their arms, as opposed to, say, endemic gun violence.