Despite the rain and wind, female parliamentary aides were not skirting the issue and showed some leg (or tights) in protest of the Knesset’s dress code on Wednesday.
The issue of inches snowballed into a fashionable cause after several women were turned away at the entrance to the legislature because their skirts were too short. Dozens of aides and MKs showed solidarity with their beleaguered colleagues and protested against the Knesset guards turning into the fashion police.
As more and more aides in skirts huddled in the security booth at the Knesset’s main entrance, the protest reached its peak when MK Manuel Trajtenberg (Zionist Union) stripped down to his undershirt and shouted: “You’ll all have to wear burkas!” When he calmed down, Trajtenberg said he is in favor of a respectable dress code to honor national institutions.
“But what does that mean?” he asked. “What are the criteria? I have no doubt that this is discrimination against women. The dress code for men has nothing to do with style, like the women’s code does. We need to respect and not humiliate these amazing women who work with all their hearts.”
Short skirts have long been against the Knesset’s dress code, but the code does not specify what is considered short.
Knesset guards started enforcing the rule more strictly in recent weeks after a woman came to the legislature in attire that was deemed inappropriate, and the Knesset’s administration received a complaint. The Knesset’s new director-general, Albert Sacharovich, then sent a reminder of the rules to the guards.
The Knesset dress code, available in several languages on the Knesset website, states that “entrance to the Knesset is permitted only in appropriate attire (no tank/spaghetti tops, cropped tops, shorts or ¾ length trousers, ripped trousers, shirts with political slogans, short skirts and shorts dresses, flip-flops or openback clogs). These rules apply to adults and youth aged 14 and over.”
Female guards have made the final decision about the appropriateness of skirt length. An aide said she was told at the door that skirts may be no shorter than two inches (five centimeters) above the knee, but no official instruction has been made to that effect.
The Knesset says only one aide was turned away on Wednesday, but the protest’s organizers insist that as many as nine were denied entrance.
Aides spent several hours in the security booth, with some taking out their laptops to work while they were there.
Some security guards brought the protesters coffee and tea.
The Knesset’s spokesman called the protest “an orchestrated provocation that does not show respect for anyone...
The men and women of the Knesset guard are doing their work faithfully according to what has been the accepted dress code of the Knesset for years and protecting... the Knesset’s dignity.”
Liron Shalish, a spokeswoman for MK Yael German (Yesh Atid), said: “The small-minded focus on the clothing of women who are not dressed provocatively in any way, and are dressed formally enough while doing their job faithfully, turns women into objects instead of treating them like everyone else in the House. I didn’t choose to work in the place laws are passed so... people would focus on my body instead of letting me do my job.”
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) said the protest is not just a colorful story, but is an important matter of values.
“In my 10 years in the Knesset, no one thought to measure the workers’ skirt length, and beyond that, the uniforms of female Knesset guards are at a length that according to the new and bizarre rules would have them be sent home,” she said. “This is a struggle for freedom of movement and women’s freedom, on which Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein declared war.”