Missouri is all for the right to bear arms – but the right to bare arms is up for debate | Arwa Mahdawi

The Republican-controlled state house decided to debate what sort of clothes female legislators should wear, to the dismay of Missouri Democrats

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Republicans debate cardigans

The right to bear arms is sacred in Missouri: the state has some of the weakest gun laws in the US. The right to bare arms, however? Well that’s a little more complicated. On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Missouri House of Representatives decided to spend its time debating what sort of clothes female legislators should wear in the chamber. Did they also review the current dress code for male legislators? No, of course not. After some deliberation on this important issue, the lawmakers decided that women were allowed to wear cardigans and jackets but must conceal their arms. Can’t have ladies flashing a naughty bit of elbow when men are trying to get important stuff done!

Just in case you thought internalized misogyny was a myth, I regret to inform you that the instigator of this dress code review was a woman. “It is essential to always maintain a formal and professional atmosphere,” Republican state senator Ann Kelley explained as she sought to force women legislators to wear blazers. Eventually, after thinking things through, the Republicans came to a compromise and said that cardigans were OK as well.

I know that nothing Republicans get up to should be a surprise any more but … seriously? Do these people seriously have nothing better to do with their time than debate the propriety of cardigans? Is everything in Missouri running so smoothly that state legislators can sit back and talk about sleeve lengths? Republicans certainly seem to think so. The Democrats in Missouri, meanwhile, were vocally dismayed at their colleagues’ priorities. Democratic representative Ashley Aune pushed back on the need for the dress code amendment and pointed out that Kelley was wearing a sequined top. “We’re walking around here in sequins and velveteens,” Aune said. “So, what is appropriate, and why do you get to decide?”

Kelley replied: “We need to get over the sequins. That’s ridiculous.” Got that, everyone? Sequins are professional, short sleeves are not. The jury is still out on glitter.

This isn’t the first time that Republicans in Missouri have got het up over covering up, by the way. It will come as no surprise to you that they also have some very strong opinions on masks. “The caucus that lost their minds over the suggestion that they should wear masks during a pandemic to respect the safety of others is now spending its time focusing on the fine details of what women have to wear (and specifically how many layers must cover their arms) to show respect in this chamber,” Pete Merideth, a Democratic state representative, tweeted.

Whenever Republicans do something that feels just a little bit stone age (which is all the time) the term “American Taliban” tends to get thrown around a lot. There are already a lot of people online comparing the shenanigans in Missouri to the Taliban. So here’s your semi-regular reminder that this is an incredibly lazy comparison. The Taliban aren’t forcing American women to give birth. The Taliban aren’t policing the clothing of female legislators in the US. Republicans are. This misogyny hasn’t been imported, it’s homegrown. Own it.

Women are like cows, says Idaho Republican

Jack Nelsen, who was recently elected to his first term in Idaho’s lower house, wants everyone to know that he knows a lot about women. “I’m a lifelong dairy farmer,” Nelsen told the first meeting of Idaho’s agricultural affairs committee. “I’ve milked a few cows, spent most of my time walking behind lines of cows, so if you want some ideas on repro and the women’s health thing, I have some definite opinions.” Nelsen has now apologized for these comments. Seems he may have spent too much time with cows and contracted foot-and-mouth disease.

It’s 2023, where are the sex robots?

The Guardian examines the question that has been on everyone’s minds. The answer is they’re probably not coming to the mass market anytime soon.

Mars has another go at fem&mism

Last year M&Ms waded into the culture wars when candy maker Mars unveiled new sensible shoes for its green M&M mascot. Now they’ve announced a limited edition pack of M&Ms which only features purple, brown and green sweets as they’re the ‘female’ ones. The packs also show the characters upside-down on the package to “celebrate women everywhere who are flipping the status quo”. Please, Mars, I’m begging you – we don’t want this, we want equal pay!

People are getting sexually harassed by an AI chatbot

In 2017 a Russian programmer called Eugenia Kuyda launched an app called Replika, billing it as an “AI companion who cares”. There was a touching backstory to the app: Kuyda’s friend had died and she wanted to preserve their memory by creating an AI companion that had been trained on her friend’s text messages. Like pretty much everything AI-related, however, this app now seems to have taken a very nasty turn. According to Vice, it has now started sending sexual messages to some of its users and being aggressive.

A new study says progress on closing the gender pay gap has stalled

The Harvard and St Bonaventure study argues that family leave policies may be to blame. Women are more likely to take family leave when they have kids, which tends to result in lower pay increases down the line. Yet another reason why we need to normalize more men taking paternity leave.

India’s top court to consider legalizing same-sex marriage

A colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality was struck down in India back in 2018. Now there’s mounting hope that same-sex marriage might be legalized. In December two LGBTQ+ couples filed public interest litigation arguing that the state’s refusal to recognize them as married violated their constitutional rights. Last week India’s supreme court set the ball rolling on considering the issue. While there is a lot of resistance to same-sex marriage in India there are reasons to be hopeful. The leader of an influential Hindu group has just come out in support of the gay and transgender community. Reuters reports that his comments “could force the government to reassess its opposition”.

The week in pawtriarchy

Looking for a wall calendar that features giant cats screaming at excavators? Well, you’re in luck! Portland’s army corps of engineers has just released a calendar featuring a mashup of cat and infrastructure projects. There are cats on ships, there are cats on cranes, there are cats on dams. Without a doubt, the most a-mew-sing wall calendar of 2023.


Arwa Mahdawi

The GuardianTramp

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