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Outrage after Missouri lawmakers implement a stricter dress code for women in the state House: "Absolutely disgusting"

Missouri lawmakers on Wednesday adopted a new dress code for women in the state House, requiring them to cover their shoulders. The stricter dress code was part of a larger new rules package, and passed with a vote of 105-51. 

The dress code immediately drew criticism from local Missouri politicians, who took to Twitter to express their frustrations. The new dress code even has its own hashtag: #Sweatergate.

"I never thought my first national interview would be about what I can and cannot wear as a female lawmaker," said Democratic Missouri Representative Ashley Aune. 

Aune gave an impassioned statement against the bill on the House floor, asking her fellow lawmakers, "Do you know what it feels like to have a bunch of men in this room looking at your top, trying to decide whether it's appropriate or not?" 

The Missouri House has 116 men and 43 women. The House majority is held by Republicans, with 111 Republicans to 52 Democrats.

In response, Rep. Ann Kelly, the Republican Congresswoman who sponsored the bill, said, "You would think that all you would have to do is say, 'dress professionally' and women could handle it." 

In the Missouri state Senate, there is no rule requiring women to wear blazers or jackets.

In a statement on Facebook, Kelly wrote, "How is encouraging professionalism wrong? If there is ever a time to honor traditions and be professional it is on the House Chamber Floor in the Missouri House of Representatives; I will not apologize for standing up for these things."

"Maybe trust that women—who were in the crosshairs of your latest piece of insanity—can dress professionally on their own volition without your feeble effort of control and stripping women of their rights," read a comment from Monday on Kelly's post.

"Absolutely disgusting that as a grown woman, in a position of power in a country of people struggling you are more concerned about shoulders than real problems facing your constituents," read another.

A third Facebook user made a comparison between the new regulation and the dystopian drama "The Handmaid's Tale." 

While Kelly's initial amendment said that women would be required to wear a "jacket," which could also include "blazers and knit blazers," a revised version was later adopted to clarify that a cardigan could be worn as well. 

Under the prior existing dress code, women were required to wear "dresses or skirts or slacks worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots" without a required second layer, reported the Associated Press.

Aune was not the only member of Congress who commented on the new restrictions. 

Maggie Nurrenbern, a Democratic state Representative from Missouri, posted photos of her bare arms, writing in a separate tweet that it was "mind-boggling that members of the Missouri House have the right to bear arms on the floor of the chamber, but women legislators are forbidden from showing the same." 

"Just finished floor debate explaining why knit blazers do not include cardigans on an amendment restricting what women can wear in the House," said another Missouri Democrat, Rep. Jamie Johnson, on Twitter. "Why would we need additional class barriers to the idea that anyone could represent the people?" 

Even out-of-state politicians responded, with California Congressman Eric Swalwell tweeting, "Republicans continue to codify their brand of sexism and misogyny but let's hear more about that gas stove outrage," in response to an article about the passing of the Missouri dress code.

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