Kansas state Sen. Mitch Holmes (R) recently drew a lot of criticism after he imposed a dress code that bans women from wearing, what he deems “distracting” attire.
Last week, the St. John Republican issued an 11-point code of conduct that explicitly prohibits women from wearing short skirts or blouses with plunging necklines while establishing no wardrobe rules exclusively for men.
In a statement, the chairman of the state Senate Ethics and Election Committee said the code is intended to make sure every participant dresses in a respectable and professional manner, and the reason for laying more emphasis on women’s choice of clothes is because he noticed provocatively clad women in the Capitol before.
“For ladies,” the rule states, “low-cut necklines and mini-skirts are inappropriate.”
His guidelines, though, didn’t specify at what lengths the blouses and skirt would be deemed “inappropriate.”
"People are uncomfortable if somebody is in there flaunting their physique for a lack of a better word," Holmes claimed. "I did this to respect the other women in the room and also out of respect for the wives of the men in that room."
I'm trying to think of something that would be equally offensive to men but there just isn't.— Jeena Cho (@Jeena_Cho) January 24, 2016
@Jeena_Cho outlawing ties. They are giant arrows pointing toward the genitals. Terribly distracting. . .— Heather Bussing (@heatherbussing) January 24, 2016
The last fashion controversy to erupt at the Kansas Statehouse was in 2014 when Rep. Peggy Mast decided college students volunteering as interns would have to comply with a dress code to improve decorum. However, during that time, there was a clear set of dress rules for the male interns as well.
Dress codes targeting females only smack of unfairness to women who wonder why men aren’t held to a similar standard. Also, specifying an “appropriate” manner of dress for women is an indirect way of blaming them for sexual harassment — as if a woman wearing a short skirt is actually looking for trouble.
Documented cases show female students being chastised for dressing in “provocative” clothes, told to go home, change and even banned from attending proms — it was this bias that gave birth to the hashtag #iammorethanadistraction.
Commenting on Holmes’ dress code rule, Democrat Sen. Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said the fashion statement is quite “ironic” coming from a department which "should be more concerned about violations of campus finance law than what women wear."