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Congresswomen Bare Their Arms on 'Sleeveless Friday' to Fight Patriarchal Dress Codes

Joe McCarthy

By Joe McCarthy

Brought to you by: CHIME FOR CHANGE

Twitter/Jackie Speir

In what seemed like a throwback to an earlier era, female reporters were escorted out of a chamber in the House of Representatives earlier in the week for wearing sleeveless dresses and open-toed shoes. 

They were apparently violating the dress code — a fact that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan acknowledged in a press conference on Thursday, when he vowed to take a look at and modernize the dress code so such incidents wouldn't happen again.   

For many congresswomen, the incident was absurd no matter how you looked at it and represented the outdated expectations that often surround gender throughout the country.   

So on Friday, congresswomen stood up for their "right to bare arms," by wearing sleeveless dresses and open-toed shoes. It was the whimsical idea of Congresswoman Jackie Speir of California, who was tired of seeing women being told what to wear.

Dozens of colleagues dressed in solidarity with Speir and the reporters and made it known that they should be able to dress how they want. Even some male colleagues showed up in short sleeves to show support.

In the US, gender barriers pervade politics at all levels. Only 19.4% of Congress members and 24.8% of state legislators are women. Just four of the current 50 governors are women and only 37 women have ever served as governors in the history of the country.

This disparity plays out in many subtle and not-so subtle ways, from hiring and wage discrimination, to being openly disparaged by male colleagues. It's a problem that Global Citizen is exploring in a new series called "Who Run the Gov? Girls!"   Read more here.

About Our Partner

CHIME FOR CHANGE is a global campaign founded by Gucci in 2013 to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world. The campaign uses innovative approaches to promote gender equality. Co-founded by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Salma Hayek Pinault, CHIME FOR CHANGE works with a coalition of partner organizations, including the Kering Foundation, Facebook, and Hearst Magazines.