Labour MP Tracy Brabin has defended her choice of attire after she was criticised for wearing an off-the-shoulder dress in the House of Commons.
The shadow culture secretary received negative comments about her dress on social media, including suggestions that it made her look like “a slag”, like she was “hungover”, and that she was “about to breastfeed”.
She told the BBC that the responses were “sadly” routine and “another example of the everyday sexism women face”.
Hello. Sorry I don’t have time to reply to all of you commenting on this but I can confirm I’m not….
About to breastfeed
Just been banged over a wheelie bin.
Who knew people could get so emotional over a shoulder… 🙄 https://t.co/sTWWiEY2TF
— TracyBrabin (@TracyBrabin) February 4, 2020
Her response prompted other women to share their stories about how they had been shamed for their choice of work attire. One Twitter user said: “This rarely happens to men – calling it out is the only way to educate”.
Sarah Evans, a partner at JMW Solicitors, said the issue highlighted the difference in the way people often speak about how women and men dress in the workplace.
“Women are, generally, judged more harshly than men in the workplace, illustrated by the existence of a so-called ‘grooming gap’,” she said.
“From a legal perspective, it’s appropriate to have a dress code that specifies the need for employees to be clean and tidy – they are representing the organisation and it’s values – however, it’s a completely different scenario when it’s about what outfit style someone has chosen to wear. A dress code need not usually be too prescriptive and mustn’t be gender specific.
“Male members of parliament have also come under fire in recent years for their appearance and choice of attire – Boris Johnson being likened to a “scarecrow” and Jeremy Corbyn criticised for failing to wear a tie, for example – however, they were not criticised in the same vitriolic way.”