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Montana’s New Legislative Dress Code Called Sexist

It looks like the dress code issue extends beyond high schools. Women in the Montana Legislature are about to experience some big changes now that Republicans have implemented a new dress code for floor sessions in the State Legislature. The guidelines have been criticized for being antiquated and women who work in the Capitol are saying that the new codes will put their attire under frivolous scrutiny. 

“It makes it acceptable for someone who’s supposed to be my peer and my equal to look me up and down and comment on what I’m wearing. That doesn’t feel right,” democratic house member Jenny Eck told the NThe New York Times. According to Republican majority leader Keith Regier, the new dress code was made in response to government newbies asking what sort of attire would be appropriate for work. 

The dress code calls for “formal business attire” from both sexes (and members of the media, interns and other staff), but the women’s guidelines are far more detailed than the men’s. While men are encouraged to wear suits, dress pants and shirts, formal shoes, a tie and a jacket, women are asked to “be sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines.” They are also given a wider list of inappropriate footwear including flip flops, open-toe sandals and tennis shoes. Leggings are also included as inappropriate attire, which makes us wonder if anyone was slipping on their Lululemons before a long day of filibustering. Clothing made from fleece and jersey material is also listed as a no-no. 

The House Senate and leadership is tasked with enforcing the code, because apparently lawmakers in Montana have time to worry about women’s necklines and hemlines, instead of passing actual laws. Montana right-wing site Cowgirl Blog notes that these new rules were borrowed from Wyoming’s list of guidelines and made stricter for the folks in Montana.  

The new guidelines have been ridiculed by opponents, including this guy who wrote a song about the ridiculous rules wearing nary but a guitar and a cowboy hat (clearly NOT approved formal business attire). But while it’s fine to have a professional dress code, it is quite clear that they’re putting unnecessary pressure on women with this one. “Business attire” would have sufficed, but policing the specifics seems to be a little much, especially for grown women who have more important things to do than worry if their blouses are buttoned up far enough. 

[via NYT, Montana Legislature, Cowgirl Blog]