The Missouri House of Representatives proposed a bill Wednesday that would restrict women’s dress code in the state’s House, but would not tighten the dress code for men, eventually passing a version of the bill calling for women to cover their arms.
The dress code was updated from 2021, in which women could wear “dresses or skirts or slacks worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots,” to now state that proper attire for women in the House would be “jackets worn with dresses, skirts, or slacks, and dress shoes or boots.”
The legislation was proposed by Rep. Ann Kelley (R) and was met with firm opposition from Democrats.
Missouri state Rep. Raychel Proudie (D) called the motion “ridiculous” while speaking on the House floor, adding, “We are fighting — again — on a woman’s right to choose something and this time is how she covers herself,” according to Heartland Signal.
“Do you know what it feels like to have a bunch of men in this room looking at your top trying to decide whether it’s appropriate or not?” state Rep. Ashley Aune (D) said on the state House floor, according to Heartland Signal, before going on to criticize the motion further as “ridiculous.”
Kelley responded to Aune, saying, “You would think that all you would have to do is say, ‘dress professionally’ and women could handle it!” the Heartland Signal reported.
Other Democrats weighed in on Twitter: “The caucus that lost their minds over the suggestion that they should wear masks during a pandemic … 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,” state Rep. Peter Meredith tweeted.
Women hold less than one-third of the state’s legislature, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and while the House dress code is debated every two years, the men’s dress code was not debated for the 2023 session.
Eventually, according to The Washington Post, the Missouri House passed a modified version of the proposal that permits women to wear blazers, cardigans and jackets, but still requires that their arms be covered.