Dear Outraged Female Americans,
It has come to my attention that you feel personally victimized by the circulating story that Paul Ryan required a female journalist to cover her shoulders while doing her job in the Speaker’s lobby.
Not only that, but apparently the professional dress code standard itself (suits and ties for men and no sleeveless tops or open toed shoes for women) infringes on your very rights as human beings.
“Sexism! Injustice!” You cry.
“What an antiquated dress code! What is this, 1950?”
“Just another way Republicans in Congress treat women as second-class citizens.”
I’ve even seen comparisons made to The Handmaid’s Tale.
Oh the inhumanity of having to cover your shoulders in a professional setting!
From personal experience working for years in DC, I urge you all to calm down.
I know you think it’s unfair that Congress has stricter rules for what constitutes “professional attire” than your company does. But that’s just the way it is. And this dress code wasn’t invented when Trump was elected as a way to stick it to liberals.
DC has a very formal dress code compared to other cities.
During the Obama Administration, I worked at a think tank not far from Capitol Hill, and I could wear more casual clothes to my office. However, when we were going to the Hill, the White House, or somewhere like the National Press Club, we knew we had to dress up. I always kept pumps and a blazer or cardigan at work just in case. Male coworkers always had an extra tie on hand.
Is this annoying? Maybe. It this sexist? Absolutely not.
And before you complain about the summer heat, we DC women are smart enough to get around without sweating through our dry clean only cashmere blazers and stretching out our leather shoes.
Women run around town in their sleeveless dresses and flip flops all the time. But they also toss those sandals in their bags, change into pumps, and put on their blazers outside their ultimate destination.
This is Washington, D.C. Every building has air conditioning.
Compare it to your winter layers. We may wear snow boots and puffer jackets as we hail a cab or head to lunch; but in the office, we look like we belong there, not outside in the elements.
A valid argument can be made that this dress code is not uniformly enforced. If anything, Congress can be accused of allowing First Family members and legislators off the hook. Obviously I would agree that such a rule ought to apply no matter who you are.
But please do not conflate the two problems to conclude that this rule is in itself is sexist.
There is real sexism in the world, and much of it may be perpetrated by these men you hate in Congress. But let me assure you, a professional dress code is not part of their agenda to turn us into Gilead.