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"Right to BARE Arms" for Women of Congress

This petition had 2,158 supporters

Join me by signing this petition and standing with the women of Congress. Urge Speaker Ryan to stop the prohibition of sleeveless attire in the U.S. House of Representatives dress code.

Nearly five years ago on my first day of junior year at Timberlane Regional High School, I was stopped by my principal walking through the front doors for wearing a cap-sleeved top, which was in violation of the newly revised dress code. I created the "Right to BARE Arms" Campaign, a grassroots movement, in response and fought to reinstate sleeveless clothing. The year after I graduated, the students regained their “right to BARE arms.” I firmly believe if positive change can happen on a local level, it can happen on a national level.

The House dress code has been in place for quite some time. Why have you, Speaker Ryan, suddenly decided to start selectively enforcing it now, after all your years in office? The timing here is telling, as the women of the United States of America are currently under a microscope on a national, political level. Mr. Speaker, your conscious choice to focus on outlawing sleeveless attire is just one instance in your constant attempts to control women’s bodies and beings. Our beliefs and choices continue to be policed at the hands of a few men who are working for we, the women. This archaic, sexist dress code is part of the problem. The time is now for it to be amended. The women of Congress must have “the right to BARE arms.”

Speaker Ryan, the message your dress code sends is clear. The only coverage you want for women is a pair of sleeves. Planned Parenthood will be defunded at the hands of predominantly white men and millions of women will lose their health insurance coverage if the ACA is repealed or the GOP plan passes. The gender pay gap is acceptable, but a woman’s arms are somehow obscene. It is evident the climate and culture of our current political system is one where disrespecting women is okay, in fact, encouraged.

Congress is only one branch of government that is complicit in the fight for gender equality and women’s rights. You only have to look to the executive branch and the individual who holds the most esteemed office in the world, the President of the United States. President Donald Trump is a misogynist. He has no respect for women. He insults and attacks the women who serve our government. He has called women, “dogs,” “pigs,” and “slobs.” Perhaps our president’s most memorable and vile words about women are those he spoke on the Access Hollywood tape, “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything” (The New York Times).

Mr. Speaker, you continue to stand by President Trump, despite his despicable, degrading, and unthinkable comments on sexually assaulting women. You think it is perfectly okay to grab women and do anything to them, including making sure their arms are covered. Mr. Speaker, your choice to suddenly prohibit women from wearing sleeveless attire is a testament to your character. Do you, Speaker Ryan, really think a woman’s shoulders are something to be ashamed of and to conceal? What would you say about the shoulders of women who have carried rifles, risking their lives to serve our country? Would you say those strong shoulders should be hidden? Representative Gabby Giffords cannot have bare arms in your House, Mr. Speaker. Her strong shoulders must be out of sight, out of mind, when she is in your presence.

First Lady Melania Trump wears sleeveless constantly. She wore a sleeveless dress in Germany while attending the G20 Summit. Ivanka Trump sells sleeveless clothing in her fashion line. Would the Trump women be banned from the halls of Congress? Would they have to change or cover up? The sudden change in protocol and evident inconsistency in interpretation is jarring. Speaker Ryan, your selectively enforced dress code policy must be amended to allow sleeveless attire for all women. The 83 women currently serving in the House of Representatives and the countless others who work in and visit it, must have the “right to BARE arms.” No woman should ever have to cover herself up for a man. Women's bodies are not "inappropriate" or "a distraction." Women should not be judged, excluded, removed, and reprimanded for what they wear. Down with sexist, archaic, biased dress codes rooted in misogyny, body shaming, and gendered power dynamics. Stop perpetuating rape culture. There is so much resting on the strong shoulders of every woman right now. Let hers be free.


Elizabeth “Bitsy” Skerry

Founder, “The Right to BARE Arms” Campaign  

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