Plenty of women have been celebrating the defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama last night, including his accusers. But Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur demonstrated today in Ohio how there is still much work to do when it comes to knowing where to place the blame for sexual harassment. At a private Democratic Caucus meeting, Rep. Kaptur described another member’s décolletage as an “invitation” and recommended a stricter dress code on Capitol Hill:
“I saw a member yesterday with her cleavage so deep it was down to the floor. And what I’ve seen … it’s really an invitation. Maybe I’ll get booed for saying this, but many companies and the military [have] a dress code. I have been appalled at some of the dress of … members and staff. Men have to wear ties and suits.”
Two of the Democrats in attendance reportedly said that Kaptur was right — she might not have been booed, but plenty of jaws hit the floor at her assessment. “Nearly everyone in the room’s mouths were wide open aghast,” said one anonymous source. Kaptur has since tried to clarify her statement, and told Politico that her goal was not to “blame” victims of sexual harassment, but to “protect” women from what has been revealed to be an extensive problem with sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. She explained:
“Under no circumstances is it the victim’s fault if they are harassed in any way. I shared the stories from my time here in the context of the ‘Me Too’ legislation and how we can elevate the decorum and the dress code to protect women from what is a pervasive problem here and in society at large.”
It’s not as if Congresswomen are walking about the House chamber in Juicy Couture tracksuits, however. While the rules for female dress were recently adjusted, it was only to allow for bare shoulders and arms, similar to the ensembles that news anchors frequently wear on air. It’s also worth pointing out that most of the allegations against lawmakers (including Roy Moore, Senator Al Franken, Reps. Ruben Kihuen, John Conyers, and Trent Franks) come from before the dress code was relaxed. It’s not as if a sudden slip of the shoulder is responsible for the #MeToo movement. Perhaps the best way to protect women on Capitol Hill is not to police their dress, but to believe their accusations.