Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Women respond to being told to cover their bare arms in B.C. legislature (Photos)

Women and men are fighting for the right to 'bare arms' across B.C. today in solidarity with a dress code protest at the B.C. legislature.

 Shannon Waters / Shannon Waters / Twitter

Women and men are fighting for the right to 'bare arms' across B.C. today in solidarity with a dress code protest at the B.C. legislature.

As a result of the protest, the speaker's office ordered a review of modern dress expectations at the building.

Acting clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd said Speaker Darryl Plecas directed her to review the legislature's dress code policy to determine what is considered appropriate business attire for women. She said the current policy dates back to 1980.

"The phrase contemporary conservative dress has been the standard here for many, many years, but of course business attire evolves over time," she said. "We will be undertaking a review of the dress code to ensure that it meets modern business attire expectations."

A number of women Tweeted their reactions to the dress code, as well as pictures of themselves or other women donning bare arms.

Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, reported that one of her staff was instructed that she should to wear a 'a slip under her dress.' In response, she said, "Heaven forbid people should realize she has limbs under her skirt." She also underscored that women are in the legislature to work, and that the rules were outdated.

Vancouver criminal lawyer Kyla Lee also Tweeted that, "Telling women what undergarments to wear is absolutely unacceptable. This whole issue is appalling. The public deserves to know who is telling women what to wear and what to put underneath that."

Vancouver Is Awesome spoke to Lee, who further elaborated on her opinion.

"As far as I am concerned, unless a workplace has a safety issue that requires arms to be covered, there is no need to regulate this. There are, of course, workplaces that have these requirements for good reason. But in a professional environment, an arm is just an arm," she said.

"You see women in television shows in professional environments (like Suits, How to Get Away with Murder, House of Cards, Veep, etc) wearing sleeveless attire and it is never an issue. Clearly as a society we are able to tolerate it. So if one man or a group of men are not able to tolerate it, then they are the ones who need to cover a body part: their mouths."

Sage Aaron, Communications Director for BC Premier John Horgan, Tweeted images of women going sleeveless in the House of Commons and the White house to underscore the sentiment.

Reporter Shannon Waters said she and her female colleagues decided to challenge the dress code after hearing about a senior NDP staff official who was told her short-sleeved shirt was not appropriate for the legislature.

"We don't have a problem with there being a dress code and us dressing professionally," said Waters, who works for the online publication BC Today. "What we are frustrated with is sort of an arbitrary enforcement or arbitrary interpretation by staff in this building about what does not constitute professional dress for women."

The office of the sergeant-at-arms recently circulated a media conduct brochure that said men must wear shirts and ties but made no mention of a dress code for women.

With files from the Canadian Press.