A guest post by CAMERA intern Aron White
At the Guardian, Peter Beaumont has written an article about two Israeli parliamentary assistants who were prevented from entering the Knesset because they were wearing short skirts. They were prevented from entering because their attire did not fit the dress code of the Knesset, but Beaumont`s article paints a far darker story; the guards are acting as “modesty police” and the story reflects the growing “of Israel`s growing political and social conservatism – not least with regards to women.” The Dec. 13th article also quotes Israeli critics of the move, saying that the dress code is being used as a means to “oppress women.”
The article is laden with double standards – what is deemed appropriate dress at the Knesset is no different than what is deemed appropriate dress for the UK parliament, or frankly, for any office in the UK. Peter Beaumont is spinning the need for formality at a nation`s legislature into what he wants it to be – a story about Israeli conservatism and oppression of women, a story that bears no relation to the facts.
Let us look at the details. Beaumont article says that the Israeli parliament demands people wear “appropriate dress” – he places these words in speech marks, as if this everyday concept is actually some sinister Israeli invention. He then goes on to list the incriminating list of totally unreasonable things that Israel parliamentarians and their assistants should not wear, as they are informal – “tank/spaghetti tops, cropped tops, shorts or three-quarter length trousers, ripped trousers, shirts with political slogans, short skirts and short dresses, flip-flops or open-back clogs.”
This list does not seem in the least bit noteworthy. In most workplaces in the UK, such articles of clothing would also be deemed unprofessional or inappropriate. Formal business attire in the UK usually consists of a suit and tie, button down shirt and dark shoes for men, and a shirt (often with suit), long trousers and skirt, and smart shoes for women. There are few men entering office jobs in the City of London wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt, and few women sitting down at their desks with open back clogs and ripped trousers. The list of things not to wear in the Israeli parliament could easily have been copied from any “What not to wear to an interview” advice pieces – there is nothing surprising or noteworthy on the list at all.
The UK Parliament also has a dress code – whilst it does not go into granular detail, the website of parliament says that “the dress of Members (of parliament) these days is generally that is ordinarily be worn for a fairly formal business transaction,” namely, those things listed above. One will almost never see a male member of parliament without a suit and tie, or a female MP not dressed in a formal business dress or a suit. When I visited Parliament in January of this year, not only was every MP dressed in formal business attire, but at the committee meeting I attended, every member of the audience wore a jacket.
Does Peter Beaumont think that the Huffington Post is also “oppressing women” by writing in an advice column, that female business attire means skirts whose hem goes below the knee? The Guardian itself, in its “Work and Careers” section, features an article describing business attire as “nothing less than a suit” – evidence of growing political and social conservatism at the Guardian, no doubt.
Not for the first time, the Guardian`s coverage of this Israeli story says far more about the Guardian than it does about Israel. The Israeli Knesset has a dress code that is not in the least bit noteworthy or surprising – but for the Guardian, it’s another opportunity to demonise Israel.