The Government Are Taking Workplace Sexism Seriously, But Just Not Too Seriously

By not enforcing their own laws they can't help anyone

The government are taking workplace sexism seriously, but just not too seriously

by Chloe Gray |
Published on

Lets just get one thing straight: wearing heels is not synoymous with looking smart. The latter is an understandable dress code applied to both men and women in order to promote a professional working environment. The other induces medical problems and disabling effects. And is sexist AF.

Everybody knows that work place discrimination is illegal. So why, in 2017, are MPs having to discuss introducing a new law to make it illegal to impose sexist, harmful and sexual dress codes on female employees? This debate of workplace rules which are reminiscent of the ‘1850s’ happened yesterday, and finally it was agreed (by the MPs who actually showed up) that forcing women to wear heels, touch up their make-up, show off cleavage and/or dye their hair is pretty unacceptable.

Promted by a petition which was signed by more than 150,000 people, launched by receptionist Nicola Throp who was sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels, female MPs told stories of their experiences with sexist outfit advice in the workplace, such as how Labour’s Labour’s Gill Furnace’s daughter suffered a metatarsal fracture after being made to wear high heels, and then was refused sick pay as she hadn’t been at the job for long enough. They recounted women’s tales, as told to the petitions committee via a web forum set up to discover more about the issue. Some told of how their feet bled at work, others of how they were forced to look ‘sexy’ in order to push more sales. Helen Jones, Labour MP and Chair of the Petitions Committee, spoke of how women were threatened with dismissal if they complained and felt demeaned by the over sexualized dress codes.

And, shock, The Daily Mail has failed to see the importance of protecting women from those who break pre-existing laws. An article today, conveniently written by a woman so as to not appear sexist (lol), was headlined: ‘There’s the Budget, Brexit, Trump… so what are our MPs debating? High heels!’. Oh har-her, Daily Mail, how SILLY of our government to discuss illegal practices which put women in hospital when they’re missing out on opportunity number 3689628 to discuss Brexit. Not BREXIT! It only happened 9 months ago, you know.

But seriously… the newspaper even used inverted commas around the word dodgy to describe the rules imposed on these women. And this ‘who cares’ attitude is the problem. The government is the first to admit that these experiences of women break the discrimination laws as outlined in the Equality Act 2010 and that they need to do more to help, and fast. But with such a low turn out at yesterdays debate, and no male MPs weighing in on the issue, it is just another example of women preaching to the choir about their mistreatment but failing to make any actual changes (not through any fault of their own, but through the fault of patriarchal systems which have taught us that women’s issues aren’t important). Hence why the Daily Mail feel they have the authority to take the piss out of the issue. Its been put in the same category as the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, section 60, which makes it illegal to shake a rug in the Metropolitan Police District after 8am: unenforced, and therefore laughable.

The shadow equalities minister, Paula Sherriff, said the introduction of hefty employment tribunal fees had stopped many women from taking action on discrimination. So maybe if they won’t introduce a new law in order to enforce an already-existing-yet-regularly-broken one, they should help women cover the costs of fighting their own fights against sexism?

I can’t pretend that I know how to solve the issue of gender discrimination. But I will welcome the comments and advice from the female MPs who stuck up for womankind in front of the world. And I hope that they are listened to on the political playing field. Because there are other issues than Brexit in our country.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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