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Sophia Bush’s Anger About the Congressional Dress Code May Be Overkill

One of Congress’ rules is getting a lot of press attention today: Women on the House floor and in surrounding areas, including a Speaker’s Lounge where reporters wait for interviews with lawmakers, are forbidden from wearing anything sleeveless.

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Sophia Bush, who is often politically vocal, chimed in on this on Twitter, writing, “This is fucking pathetic. Policing women’s clothes? Our bodies? And all while screaming that OTHER cultures detract from women’s freedom!?”

But is Bush overreacting a little bit here? I think so.

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Dress codes are silly and antiquated in many of their applications. Dress codes in schools, for example, that forbid girls from wearing sleeveless tops when no such rules exist for boys, would certainly fall under Bush’s interpretation of “policing women’s bodies.” In an attempt to be fair, I should point out that these rules are not new and that men are policed just as closely when it comes to the Congressional dress code. Even in the swampy D.C. heat that drives women into sleeveless dresses and blouses, men are required to wear jackets and ties. There are no sneakers or open-toed shoes allowed for either gender. The dress code is clearly in effect to ensure formal dress in the House, not to oppress or target women.

One argument being made is that the rules should simply state that anyone on the House floor or in the surrounding rooms must be dressed professionally. Without clear definitions of what that means, however, boundaries can be pushed and enforcement can be tricky. Hence the “policing” rules, which are actually just clear and specific, not policing.

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Is the dress code old-fashioned? Absolutely. Should the rules be updated to reflect more modern styles and attitudes toward dress? Arguably, yes. But as long as the rules currently on the books stay put, they should be followed.

While Congress is actively working toward legislation that will oppress women in the United States, whether we can wear sleeveless tops in certain places is not the battle we should be fighting.

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