According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Kansas state Sen. Mitch Holmes decided it was necessary to amend his committee’s guidelines after he espied a number of “provocatively clad females” on Capitol grounds. It is not clear how these particular ladies had garbed themselves, but we can probably get a clue from Rule No. 2, which declares that “[f]or ladies, low-cut necklines and mini-skirts are inappropriate” when testifying before the Ethics and Elections Committee. For gentlemen—well, no rules are set forth for gentlemen, because Holmes reportedly decided that “males didn’t need supplemental instruction on how to look professional.”
In interviews last week, the report says, “a bipartisan group of women senators responded to the rules with varying degrees of dismay” and/or outrage. “Oh, for crying out loud,” said one, “what century is this?” In Kansas, it is the early 20th.
At least, it seems unlikely that the 21st has dawned in Sen. Holmes’s home district of St. John, Kansas, a city of 1,295 that, as you probably know, is on Highway 281 in south-central Kansas between Seward and Iuka (and not too far from Radium). St. John is a town of such importance that—not even kidding here—its name has been misspelled on official maps for the last 40 years due to an error in the 1970s that the government just recently agreed to fix. (“Some people may not have given a toot,” a longtime resident was quoted as saying, “but I do.”) I have no doubt it’s full of wonderful people, I’m just guessing they are significantly more conservative than your average Topekan about things like women’s rights, necklines, evolution, and whatnot.
According to Sen. Holmes’s webpage, during the current session he has sponsored bills relating to concealed handguns, acupuncture, automated ice-vending machines, and child dismemberment (he is pro, con, pro, and con, respectively), just to give you an idea of the range of things he gives a toot about. I am currently trying to get a copy of his draft anti-cleavage legislation, but so far the above are all the details I have.
So questions remain. “Who’s going to define low-cut?” said Sen. Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka). And that is still an issue, because according to the report the rules did not “set a maximum depth of cut for blouses” nor did it “denote a minimum skirt length.” Sen. Holmes noted that “[i]t’s one of those things that’s hard to define,” but I imagine he’ll know “it” when he sees it.
UPDATE: On January 26, Sen. Holmes apologized for the one-sided dress code rules and said he had decided to retract them. “My failure to clearly specify that all conferees, regardless of gender, should strive to present themselves professionally is unacceptable,” he said in a statement. “I apologize and meant no offense.” Holmes had initially defended the rules and criticized the reporter who wrote about them, but obviously has changed course. “I think Sen. Holmes came back to the Senate on Monday and he had conversations with a lot of his colleagues and he personally chose, after talking to everyone, to release a statement” retracting the rules, said the President of the Kansas Senate, Susan Wagle.