The World’s Most Powerful Women: July 10

Jul 10, 2017

In an apparent effort to establish "appropriate business attire," the House of Representatives under Speaker Paul Ryan is enforcing a dress code in the Speaker's Lobby in the U.S. Capitol—a space adjacent to the front of the House chamber—that bans women from showing their shoulders.

CBS News reports that several female reporters have been kicked out of the lobby for wearing sleeveless dresses as Washington, D.C.'s temperatures and humidity have soared this summer. (One intrepid reporter tried to comply with the rules by stuffing notebook paper in her arm holes, but the DIY effort didn't work.)

The specifics of the dress code, which also reportedly bans open-toed shoes and requires men to wear ties, are rather vague and not posted anywhere, meaning they are largely determined by the speaker.

Perhaps Ryan simply has an outdated perspective on what qualifies as professional dress, and the current policing of women's clothing is yet another instance of the federal government's painfully slow adaptation to modern times. (For evidence of just how mainstream sleeveless dresses have become for women in formal and professional settings, look no further than the outfits first daughter and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump wore to any one of these events or see former first lady Michelle Obama's State of the Union dress last year.)

Ryan's old-fashioned take on what qualifies as appropriate attire for the speaker's lobby is hardly surprising considering the only specific requirements related to dress code are buried in a rules manual that uses language from the 1979-1981 Congress that called for "appropriate attire for female Members."

Several reporters have pointed out that the dress guidelines are not new, and a Ryan spokesperson says they were in existence when his predecessor Rep. Nancy Pelosi served as speaker.

Nevertheless, the CBS story has prompted cries of sexism, specifically against Ryan and the Republicans. That's an easy accusation to make since the dress code fits into the on-going narrative of the party pursuing policies that limit women's rights, specifically control over their own reproductive systems and access to adequate, affordable health care.

The dress code also smacks of the kinds of implications raised by Vice President Mike Pence's vow to not dine alone with a woman other than his wife. The self-imposed rule regards women as nothing more than sexual beings and reduces all male-female exchanges to sexually charged interactions. Both directives are instances of powerful men building arbitrary barriers for women who are simply trying to do their jobs.

-@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Substitution scandal

Ivanka Trump stepped in for her father at a G20 Summit working session on “Partnership With Africa, Migration and Health,” putting the first daughter-slash-presidential adviser squarely between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Critics bashed her presence there, pointing to it as another instance of President Donald Trump flouting democratic norms in favor of familial ties. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, defended the move, stating that Ivanka Trump belonged to the American delegation and her seat at the meeting "is in line with what other delegations do."

Fortune

Another dress code clash

A new government directive in Uganda that bans female civil servants from wearing short skirts, sleeveless tops, brightly colored hair, and long nails has sparked a fierce debate about morality, clothes, and women's rights in the country caught up in rapid social change.

BBC

Graduating to Twitter

On the day she finished school, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani campaigner who survived being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, joined Twitter with a call for others to help her in the fight for girls' education.

BBC

THE AMERICAS

Medical bill maelstrom

Last month, Alison Chandra, a former pediatric intensive care unit nurse, tweeted a medical bill for her son's open heart surgery—with all but $500 of the massive expense covered by insurance—as the debate over Trumpcare raged. Chandra says she initially received messages of support, but then got an influx of hateful feedback: "They called me ungrateful, a thief, a lazy mooch, an attention whore." 

Vox

Sentenced in El Salvador

A judge in El Salvador has sentenced Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz, 19, for failing to seek prenatal care for the baby Hernandez delivered stillborn in a bathroom. Hernandez was repeatedly raped by a gang member over several months as part of a forced sexual relationship and says she hadn't realized she was pregnant. The verdict has reignited the debate over women's reproductive rights in El Salvador, one of five countries where abortion is illegal in all circumstances.

Guardian

Uniting for a record

On what would have been Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's 110th birthday last week, visitors to the Dallas Museum of Art likely set the world record for the largest gathering of Kahlo lookalikes dressed up in floral-printed dresses, shawls, flower crowns, and—of course—unibrows. Her art is on display at the museum as part of a wildly popular exhibit of Mexican work that had attracted 75,000 visitors as of mid-June.

NPR

ASIA-PACIFIC

Pot of gold

A series of startups in India are working to improve what is—as of now—an incredibly unpleasant and sometimes unhealthy experience: using a public toilet as a woman in India. Quartz reports: "From a funnel-inspired contraption that helps women avoid that awkward hovering pose to a portable toilet sanitizer spray, startups are helping women in need."

Quartz

Marriage on demand

For years, the tribunal set up by the Cambodian government and the UN to prosecute the offenses of the Khmer Rouge overlooked the crime of forced marriage as it sought to adjudicate claims of mass killings and other human rights violations. But in August 2016, it started hearing the heart-wrenching stories of women coerced into marriages, a tactic the regime used to increase the next generation of workers for labor power. A provisional judgement in the cases may be delivered later this year. 

Quartz

IN BRIEF

Ashton Kutcher responds to social media backlash after post about women in the workplace

People

The Swedish maternity hospital with no babies

BBC

Millions of U.K. mothers are suffering from a lack of breastfeeding peer support

Guardian

Actress Emma Stone says male co-stars have taken pay cuts so she could have equal pay

Fortune

Science fiction’s under-appreciated feminist icon from France

Atlantic

PARTING WORDS

"Don't take any bologna."

—Florence Bearse, 100 of Bangor, Maine, on advice for a long life.

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