Question For Paul Ryan: Should Female White House Reporters Have The Right To 'Bare Arms'?

Reporters should be able to dress, at the very least, in accordance with the dress codes of their actual employers.

Reporters should be able to dress, at the very least, in accordance with the dress codes of their actual employers.

The Speaker’s Lobby is a part of the Capitol extension where reporters often grab quick interviews with House members between breaks. 


Like an exclusive club, if you want to gain entrance you have to be dressed to suit the bouncer — in this case, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Like many exclusive clubs, the dress code is not really clear. CBS reports:

"The only specifics that exist -- and they're not extensive -- lie in Jefferson's Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives, which spells out the history of the somewhat vague guidelines. In the 96th Congress, then-Speaker Tip O'Neill, a Democrat, 'announced that he considered as proper the customary and traditional attire for Members, including a coat and tie for male Members and appropriate attire for female Members,' a 2015 edition of the manual said. It added that the House then adopted a resolution that required Members "to wear proper attire as determined by the Speaker."

Recently, Ryan decided that “appropriate attire” for women will exclude sleeveless dresses and open-toed shoes, and pretty soon thereafter, several women reporters were refused entry to the Speaker’s Lobby for showing their arms. 

At first glance, it seems like an Alanis Morissette level of irony that the same man who cares so little for women that he is championing the Republican Insurance Plan (RIP). This plan attacks women from every possible angle — defunding Planned Parenthood, allowing maternity care only to be covered by special insurance rider, increasing the cost of contraception and more. So ironic it is indeed that Paul cares so much about how we dress. But, of course, it is two sides of the same misogynist coin which seeks to control women in every possible way. 

It turns out that while Paul isn’t keen to provide health care to women, he is super excited about micromanaging our wardrobe decisions (not a shock, as he’s a misogynist from way back, but still ridiculous). And let’s remember that we aren’t talking about women who are members of the House, but rather reporters. This administration has worked tirelessly to dismantle the free press, and now they’re doing it for dress codes that aren’t appropriate for school kids, let alone professional reporters just trying to do their jobs. 

Inevitably, people argue that we shouldn’t complain because “rules are rules,” but that way of thinking has cemented and perpetuated any number of oppressions, so we can’t accept it or let it go unchallenged. If a man is to control the way that women (including and especially women who are not in his employ) dress, then there had better be a damn good reason. There is absolutely no reason to force reporters to wear closed-toed shoes or dresses with sleeves since making women uncomfortable and over-warm has not been shown to improve the reports that they file. 

Then there’s the argument that if men must wear a suit and tie, then women should be forced to wear closed-toe shoes and sleeves. That’s ridiculous, of course, and not just because women are already burdened with spending time and money on makeup, manicures, hairstyles, eyebrow waxing, and ridiculously expensive shoes that all but force us to commit shoeicide just to be seen as “professional.” 

It’s also ridiculous because if male reporters feel their dress code does not allow them to do their jobs in attire appropriate for both the setting and the weather, the answer is to demand a rules change, not to insist that women suffer "equally." 

And speaking of equality, apparently, this rule doesn’t apply to everyone. Certainly not to Ivanka (Trump's daughter who, despite being given the title of “Senior White House Advisor,” recently told Ainsley Earhardt: "You know, I try to stay out of politics.").

Ivanka showed up at her dad’s first address to a joint session of Congress with her arms bare and what many thought was a bra strap showing:


And here’s Ivanka and Melania (Trump's, until recently, estranged wife) going sleeveless for the third presidential debate:

Source: Getty Images

Since the truth is that the only thing at which Ivanka has perhaps any expertise is fashion, perhaps Paul should take less of a “do as I say, not as she does” approach and let the reporters bare arms. But even if he has as little respect or care for Ivanka as he seems to have for all other women, this is crap and reporters should be able to dress, at the very least, in accordance with the dress codes of their actual employers.

Or, at best, with their own discretion.

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