June 20, 2024

Misery in Missouri: new dress code pits women against women

Remember when we were in school and teachers would dress code a female-identifying person for wearing shorts that were “too short” or showing their shoulders?

I am here to give you an unfortunate reality check; the dress coding does not stop after you enter the real world.

If you are one of the people who thinks dress coding is not targeted towards female-identifying people; congratulations, you are delusional.

On Jan. 11, 2023, the Missouri General Assembly met for a biennial meeting to debate new rules for the Missouri House of Representatives. The discussion became electrified when the workplace dress code was mentioned.

There are many other important matters that need to be deliberated by the Missouri House; what a woman wears when in the House is not one of them. 

Changing the dress code for women was brought up by Representative Ann Kelley, who happens to be a part of the Republican party. Go ahead, pretend to be shocked. 

According to an NPR article by Rachel Treisman, Kelley wanted to change the rules regarding the dress code to require women to wear jackets because, “it is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere.” 

Okay Kelley, let’s be real; you only suggested that new rule to satisfy the internalized misogyny within yourself and fulfill your pick-me needs. Once again, female-identifying people are having to fight for their right to make their own choices. 

This controversy over dress codes is not new and it is definitely not limited to the Missouri House of Representatives. Let’s look at an example of dress code in a Missouri school district, shall we? 

The Waynesville R-VI school district is located in Missouri’s Ozarks and is a good example of the inequalities within most dress codes. After looking through the guidelines, it is very clear that most of the so-called “rules” these students need to follow are aimed at people who identify as female.

According to the “Dress Code Guidelines” of the Waynesville R-VI School District, here is an example of what is considered “inappropriate” attire in school: 

“Student’s tops, blouses and shirts must have sleeves. No sleeveless tops, tank tops, muscle shirts, halter-tops will be allowed. Mesh jerseys may only be worn over shirts. Both shoulders should be covered. ‘Capped’ sleeves are acceptable.”

Blouses, tank tops and halter-tops. What male identifying person do you know that wears these items? If they do, power to them, but most of the people who own something that falls within that description are people who identify as female. 

Both shoulders should be covered. When has a male-identifying person been told to cover their shoulders? If you do not understand how that comment is aimed towards female-identifying people, you have probably never talked to one in your life.

The Waynesville R-VI School District and the Missouri House of Representatives seem to have at least one thing in common: they are sexist.

Unfortunately, the Republican controlled House decided to pass a modified version of the suggestion brought up by Kelley. Female identifying persons are now required to wear a jacket, such as a blazer or knit-blazer, or a cardigan while in session in the House. 

For our entire lives, female-identifying persons have been told to “cover up” or that our shoulders were “distracting” the people around us. How is it that a pair of shoulders on a female identifying person is distracting, but not on someone who identifies as male?

The Missouri House of Representatives is opening the floodgates for more actions of inequalities and, before we know it, we are going to be hearing about more and more “rules” that we will have to adhere to, whether in politics or not. And when I say “we,” I think we are all aware that people who identify as male will not be affected.


  • Sophie Makhoul

    Sophie is a junior History and Education major. In her free time, she likes to cuddle with her cat, read books and write new stories.

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