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Links related to my article on Premier Clark's attire:

Update April 3, 2012: Georgia Straight's Charlie Smith reported the official photo of the Premier changed on her website to be "more conservative". I have not demanded a wardrobe consulting fee.

Please listen to my interview on the Ryan Painter Show. I hope you find the podcast interesting.

Also please read the editorial from the Calgary Herald titled: "B.C. Premier Clark should dress the part"

October 6, 2011

Professional Attire

ClarkA storm erupted on Twitter when I Tweeted: “Is Premier Clark's cleavage revealing attire appropriate for the legislature?” The Georgia Straight published a sample of the abuse I took on Twitter for posing that question. Charges had been made that I am a prude and a sexist dinosaur. Province columnist Michael Smyth wrote: "I've got a message for David Schreckosaurus: The dinosaur age is over, pal." He went on to call me a dirty old man, a charge he repeated on CKNW’s Philip Till show.

Double standards are sometimes an issue faced by women in politics and in the workforce. For men in the legislature the rule is simple, they must wear a jacket and tie; occasionally string ties have been allowed and Harry Bloy has been allowed to wear his scout uniform once a year. There are no specific dress rules that I know of for women in the legislature, but I think everyone would agree that dress should be appropriate.

If you Google “appropriate attire cleavage”, you will find a wealth of articles on this topic. In an article titled "Workplace Cleavage: What’s the Limit?", Wellergize.ca quoted Toronto workplace attire expert Marilyn Wetston saying: "In the case of cleavage in the corporate workplace, without being trite, less is better than more, and none is best of all." In Forbes.com Tara Weiss wrote an article titled "Office Attire Dos and Don'ts" in which she quoted Ann Demarais , co-author of First Impressions: What You Don't Know About How Others See You, saying "Cleavage is the worst, it draws attention to your breasts, and in the workplace, that's not what you want attention for." The social network site LinkedIn found that of 1,953 people it surveyed in the US, 62% of women, but only 29% of men, were annoyed by clothing that is “too revealing for the workplace”.

I am a frequent critic of the BC Liberals so almost everything I say will be viewed as a partisan reply. Nothing could be farther from the truth when it comes to claims that I speak for the NDP. I am a pundit with a point of view, but I never speak for the party, any more than other pundits speak for the Liberals. Adrian Dix, and other members of the NDP caucus, publicly criticized me for my comments. I regret taking the focus off issues they are raising in the legislature, but I cannot apologize for my point of view, namely that Clark was inappropriately dressed for the legislature. Watch Hansard TV and you will not see any woman displaying cleavage as Premier Clark did on October 5th.

There is another side to criticism of my remarks and that is that women in politics are unfairly judged by appearance. There is some evidence that appearance matters for both men and women; however, it is true that you rarely hear negative comments about a man's wardrobe. It cannot be denied that there are standards for professional attire both in the legislature and in many other work places. We can hold differences of opinion about those standards. When a man, particularly an active partisan, comments on a woman's appearance it is not surprising that a good deal of the response focuses on shooting the messenger.

I agree with Michael Smyth on one thing, it's time to get back to the real issues of the day.