Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) is being criticized for comments she made during a caucus meeting about women’s attire in Congress and how revealing clothing could be seen as an invitation to sexual harassers.
Politico is reporting on the dustup which occurred in mid-December when Kaptur spoke her mind about immodest dress during the meeting.
“I saw a member yesterday with her cleavage so deep it was down to the floor,” Kaptur said, according to the sources present at the closed-door meeting. “And what I’ve seen … it’s really an invitation.”
Kaptur, a 71 year-old lifelong Catholic, called for a stricter dress code on Capitol Hill such as the codes used by the military and some corporations.
“Maybe I’ll get booed for saying this, but many companies and the military [have] a dress code,” she said. “I have been appalled at some of the dress of … members and staff. Men have to wear ties and suits.”
Just as she predicted, members of her own caucus were shocked by her remarks and believed she was blaming the victims for the widespread sexual harassment women suffer in their professional lives.
But when pressed for comment, Kaptur refused to back down and told Fox 8: “When I was first elected to Congress my office and I became a refuge for female staffers who had been mistreated by their bosses. Some of them in tears many days. It is something I carry with me to this day and something I brought up during our Caucus meeting. Under no circumstances is it the victim’s fault if they are harassed in any way. I shared the stories from my time here in the context of the ‘Me Too’ legislation and how we can elevate the decorum and the dress code to protect women from what is a pervasive problem here and in society at large.”
The METOO Congress Act, authored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), requires all Congressional employees to receive sexual harassment awareness training and reforms the process used by staffers to file complaints.
Kaptur later spoke with the editorial board at The Blade in Toledo where she again stood her ground. “You don’t invite encounter,” she said. “And dress can be part of that.”
The editorial board agreed with Kaptur. Although they clearly state that women should not bear the major burden in cases of harassment because it is not their responsibility to avoid being treated inappropriately or illegally, “there is nothing wrong and everything correct about expecting professional people to dress professionally. This is especially true at the United States Capitol or the White House.”
However, while society does not blame a homeowner whose house is burglarized or the man who is mugged because he was carrying a wallet, “At the same time, a wise person does not sleep with his or her windows open in parts of Brooklyn or the Bronx. And a man walking in some of those areas at 3 a.m. might want to leave his Rolex at home,” the board states.
“If something does happen in those instances, it does not mean the victim was to blame. But it does mean the victim was not smart about self-protection.”
The same rules apply to dress, the board continues. “Urging self-protection, prudence, and professionalism is surely compatible with a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment, sexual predators, and sexual assailants. This is true of all crime. A potential victim has an obligation to take care. This implies no mercy for his assailant.”
The need for modesty, especially in today’s permissive culture, is apparent, but the media is full of so many contradictory messages on this subject that it’s difficult to make sense of it all.
For example, as Catholic radio and TV host Teresa Tomeo told the National Catholic Register, this dichotomy was in plain view during the recent Golden Globe Awards. It was great that the women all dressed in black to make a unified statement about the harassment issue, but why did the advertisements feature a trailer for Fifty Shades Freed, which is the sequel to the pornographic film, Fifty Shades of Grey. For that matter, one of the presenters at the Globes was Dakota Johnson, co-star of the Fifty Shades films.
“This, to me, spoke volumes that there is still such a disconnect with Hollywood, in terms of the need to change what they represent and sell in their films,” Tomeo said. “Nothing is going to change if we continue to see people and sex as objects.”
Furthermore, when it comes to attire, Tomeo said, “If we want to be treated as dignified people, why do we feel we have to expose ourselves when we dress?”
In too many cases, this only leads to temptation. As Jason Evert, author of the new book Theology of the Body in One Hour, admits, when he sees a woman who is dressed immodestly, “It requires an act of the will to remind myself to quickly affirm her value as a person, rather than valuing only the appearance of her body.”
Unfortunately, tens of millions of men who routinely consume pornography have no idea how to properly look at a woman, he reminded. They just can’t see past her physical appearance.
“When a woman dresses in a way that accentuates her sexuality alone, rather than her full dignity as a woman, these men view her as an object to be used rather than as a person to be loved.”
Sadly, this reality is too often missed by women, many of whom are not aware of their full dignity as a woman. Here at Women of Grace® we encounter women all the time who are amazed to discover what it means to be a daughter of God whose feminine genius has nothing to do with her dress size.
Too many women are still unaware of the high esteem in which they are viewed by Jesus Christ and His Church. As St. John Paul II once wrote, “the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable.”
Every woman deserves to hear this and, like Rep. Kaptur, we must not stop professing the truth until they do!
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