Congresswomen Hold ‘Sleeveless Friday’ in a Show of Their Right to Bare Arms

Elena Sheppard
Wellness Editor
Congresswomen showing support for #SleevelessFriday. (Photo: Via Twitter/alisonnews)

On Friday, a number of congresswomen showed up to work at the U.S. House of Representatives in sleeveless dresses and tops, all in support of the rallying cry that “women have the right to bare arms.”

This took place one day after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced that he was working with the sergeant-at-arms to modernize the House dress code — a change likely initiated due to the fact that reports went viral of female reporters being barred from Ryan’s Speaker’s Lobby because their shoulders were exposed.

#SleevelessFriday, as today in Congress was called, began when Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) started circulating flyers asking women in Congress to join her in going sleeveless during their House votes and then all convene on the steps afterward for a photo op and a show of solidarity for the rights of women in Congress, as well as female reporters.

“We’d heard earlier in the week that a reporter was denied access to the Speaker’s Lobby because she had sleeveless attire on or open-toed shoes, or both. We just wanted to show our support that that’s ridiculous,” Speier tells Yahoo Style in an interview. “It’s just another example of how this institution is still mired in the 19th century.”

From the looks of Speier’s Twitter, #SleevelessFriday was a success.

She even gave a shout-out to a few men in Congress for showing support for their female colleagues by wearing short sleeves. “It was simply the right thing to do,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) tells Yahoo Style, about why he donned short sleeves to support his female colleagues.

And many women in Congress used the hashtag to show their support:

Speier considers the push to allow sleeveless attire as being in the same progressive thread as adding women’s bathrooms to congressional buildings and allowing women to wear pants on the Senate floor (which was prohibited until 1993). “It literally almost took an act of Congress to get a women’s bathroom on the second floor and close to the House floor,” Speier tells Yahoo Style. “So this is kind of a continuation of that.”

Earlier this week, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) stood on the House floor and, after giving remarks on a different topic, commented on the antiquated dress code. “Before I yield back, I want to point out I’m standing here in my professional attire, which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes,” she said.

As for the pending changes to the dress code, those remain to be seen. “This is nothing new and certainly not something that I devised,” Ryan said about the dress code on the House floor. “At the same time, that doesn’t mean that enforcement couldn’t stand to be a bit modernized. So that is why we will be working with the sergeant-at-arms to ensure the enforcement of appropriate business attire is updated.”

“One of the women who wore a sleeveless dress today said to me, ‘I never wear sleeveless dresses,'” Speier tells Yahoo Style. “She said to me, ‘But gosh, it feels so freeing.'”

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