Esquire goes ballistic over ‘GOP-mandated’ wardrobe malfunction; just one problem

Esquire goes ballistic over ‘GOP-mandated’ wardrobe malfunction; just one problem
Paul Ryan (Image: Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock)

The F-word, which is spelled out in the body of the piece, is for some reason redacted in the title. But that’s the least of the problems in this would-be “gotcha” that purportedly exposes the blatant sexism of House Speaker Paul Ryan in particular and prudish Republicans in general.

Here’s the opening:

Among a slew of recent questionable decisions, the House’s latest call to bar women wearing sleeveless tops and dresses is decidedly idiotic. CBS reported accounts of women getting reprimanded for their wardrobe choices, which included a reporter who was wearing a sleeveless dress trying to get to work in the Speaker’s lobby. In an attempt to do her job, the unnamed reporter stuffed newspaper into her sleeve holes to try to cover her shoulders. A slick sartorial move, yes, but not one that should be demanded of her. (And apparently it didn’t work, anyway.)

She’s not the only one, either. Anecdotes from the Twitterverse affirmed the wardrobe controversies.

Last month, Speaker Paul Ryan addressed the House, reminding members to wear “appropriate business attire.” So what is appropriate you might ask? The information is unclear. Billy House, chairman of the Standing Committee of Congressional Correspondents, said “good luck” trying to find specific rules, according to the CBS report.

So as it stands, the no-sleeveless rule is both sexist and straight-up confusing.

Yes, Christine Flammia, who writes about fashion for Esquire, is up in arms over arms — bare arms, that is. More specifically over a prohibition against arms that are bared by the wearing of sleeveless garments.

Flammia rails at what she perceives as a clear double standard, noting that the rule “doesn’t apply to Paul Ryan’s … forearms,” a point Esquire proves by including a photo of Ryan with his sleeves rolled. Laments Flammia:

If decorum and business-appropriateness is really the name of the game, then surely a man’s rolled-up sleeves and a markedly absent suit jacket are just as galling as a woman’s rear deltoid.

Plus, it’s about 1,000 degrees in D.C. right now. It is hot. Let the arms and shoulders of all sexes get a little ventilation, for f*ck’s sake. [Profanity spelled out in original.]

I believe it’s also air-conditioned inside Congress (for [BLANK]’s sake) and the limousines that shuttle members of the House to outside meetings they might have during the day and home at night.

But the best part of all this is that the rule against sleeveless garments has been around for decades. That’s according to, among other sources, NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent Kasie Hunt, who tweeted in re the kerfuffle:

The New York Times, which had joined the attack on Republican sexism, felt impelled to add a correction to its story on the outrage, which now begins thus:

CORRECTION: The headline of this story has been updated to indicate that the dress code rule being enforced is not new. And further context has been added to the story on the nature of the House dress code, specifically that it also applies to men.

There wasn’t much of a story there to start with, and it became even less of a story once the establishment media were informed that they were tilting at windmills. But don’t suspect for a minute that they won’t back tomorrow with hysterics of the next Trump-era-inspired outrage.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


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