Last week, I criticized Megyn Kelly's choice to wear spaghetti straps when she reported on the Republican National Convention. Responses were, shall we say, all over the map. On Inc's Facebook page, over 250 comments debated the merits of Kelly's choice and about dress codes in general. 

Taylor Twohy wrote: "You say "it's not sexism, it's dress code." The dress code is derivative of sexism and the sexualization of the female body. Furthermore, the clothing she wears in no way affects the ability to her job...."

Andrew Moore responded with this: "There are cultural norms that dictate appropriate attire. They often vary from industry to industry. One can dress as they choose but one is also free to criticize."

Becky Mounce-Valletti pointed out that, if there is sexism in dress codes, it favors women. She writes: "I don't think our dress code is sexist in fact it is more in favor of women than the guy's. Have you tried wearing a suit and tie in 90 degree heat?"

Women do wear a much broader variety of clothing to the office than men do, as a general rule. If you take look at male reporters, for instance, you're going to be hard pressed to find anything other than button down shirts, ties, and suit coats. Women, on the other hand, wear pants, skirts, suits, blouses, and choose from a wide color palette. (They want to be careful not to wear a green that matches the green screen as these reporters found out. Otherwise, it's free game.)

This divide between what men and women wear is brought out even more when Tom and Lorenzo (Fabulous & Opinionated) discussed VP candidate Tim Kaine's unique fashion choice--of a blue dress shirt. Talk about limited fashion choices for men, when a blue shirt that is styled exactly like everyone else's white shirts is a topic for discussion. 

There was the usual chatter about whether it's sexist to talk about what Hillary wore, but the visuals are part of a politician's message, and wearing a white suit is a loud message to the eye. Of course, we should talk about it. The day after the convention, I observed that a male presidential candidate appearing at the convention in a white suit would be considered a lunatic. And what if he turned up in cobalt blue -- like Hillary on Day 3 -- or pumpkin or mustard -- as Hillary has seen fit to do on the campaign stage. He'd be considered a clown. 

While it is clear that women have more options than men, it doesn't mean that people don't see restrictions on women's clothing as being sexist. There are good reasons to think they are sexist. For instance, my daughter's teacher announced to the class that girls could not wear clothing that showed their bra straps--because it was distracting to the boys. With that foundation, no wonder many women see dress codes as sexist.

On Twitter, posters discussed whether it was appropriate to defend Kelly's clothing choice because she is a conservative. 

This does bring up an interesting question of if this whole Megan Kelly debacle is based strictly on politics. I had plenty of people send me emails and tweets saying how I only wrote the article because I was a Hillary Clinton supporter. (I'm not. I'm not a Donald Trump supporter, either.) Others accused me of jealousy, since Kelly is beautiful and I'm, apparently, not. While I can easily dismiss these things, it doesn't change the fact that we do view things through our own lenses. A top performer gets more leeway than a mediocre performer. Our best buddies at the office get away with stuff that others get dinged for.

Kelly's foray into spaghetti straps shows that there is little we agree on overall. Or at least, little we proclaim to agree on. I would be surprised if any of the people saying that dress codes are sexist would hire an accountant that showed up to a job interview wearing flip flops, jeans with holes, and a mustard stained shirt. So, where do we draw the line?

Published on: Aug 1, 2016
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