Patricia Karvelas Getting Kicked Out Of Parli Had Nothing To Do With Sexism

We could all become outraged and determined to make this another argument about gender imbalance. Or, we could all just put on a goddamn jacket and get on with it.

Unless you spent yesterday under some kind of long-sleeved jacket you’d have been hard-pressed not to notice the uproar over ABC Radio National presenter Patricia Karvelas being asked to leave Parliament House during Question Time for showing “too much skin”.

In a tweet which unleashed a torrent of feminist fury, Karvelas posted a picture of the modest outfit she was wearing at the time and wrote, “I have just been kicked out of #QT because you can allegedly see too much skin. His insane #Auspol”.

The tweet provoked immediate reaction on social media with comments such as, “kicked out of QT by misogynist traditionalists from the dark ages” adding to the outrage over such chauvinist injustice and gender inequality.

BUT WAIT.

Before you get your blazers tangled in a knot of miswoven misogyny, let’s look at the facts.

We can all agree that Karvelas was dressed both appropriately and professionally. She didn’t go romping into Question Time in a spaghetti-strap LBD or with cleavage spilling out from an off-the-shoulder boob tube. Without a doubt, she was attired in accordance with the Chamber’s standard of dress code, which requires “neatness, cleanliness and decency” at the discretion of the Speaker.

However, this same document also states, “that the standards should involve good trousers, a jacket, collar and tie for men and a similar standard of formality for women.”

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Despite the apparent confusion over what constitutes a similar standard of formality for women, is there really much room for ambiguity here in the stipulation of dress code?

Jackets for men. Similarly, jackets for women.

Was Karvelas dressed with neatness, cleanliness and with decency? Absolutely. Was she wearing a jacket? No.

Rules are rules, and a woman was kicked out of Parliament yesterday for not adhering to these rules, just as men have also been kicked out of Parliament for not adhering to these rules.

As Gareth Hutchens, political correspondent for Guardian Australia, wrote in a tweet yesterday, “I was kicked out of the Reps, along with Paul Karp, during a special condolence motion for Michael Gordon because we weren't wearing jackets. We'd been in a rush and forgotten them. We hoped they'd cut us slack so we could pay respects to a former colleague. They didn't care.”

Given the Parliamentary dress code states there are possible exceptions to the jacket rule, like, if the air-conditioning isn’t working properly and it’s just too bloody hot to wear one, or if Members are just kinda running late from their boozy lunch and forget to grab their jacket on the way out the door, then Hutchens has just as much scope to gripe about being kicked out as anyone.

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There’s also the issue of Julie Bishop wearing that dress in Parliament last week; not only sleeveless but bright pink, if we want to talk about overstating the point -- again proving this isn’t an issue of gender equality or chauvinism or misogyny or about a woman being kicked out of Parliament for showing too much skin, but an issue regarding a set of rules that are just plain stupid.

For instance, the Chair has also ruled it’s cool to distribute books to other Members in the Chamber, but not apples, according to the Dress and Conduct in the Chamber document.

And it’s also been deemed to be totally against protocol to read a newspaper in the Chamber, but totally okay as long as you’re discreet about it.

And Members have been given permission to keep their hands in their pockets while they speak, but not allowed to bang their hands on Chamber desks. Which, thank God for that -- we wouldn’t want any kind of zealous passion displayed in regard to the politics of our country or anything like that.

Sure, it was unfair for Karvelas to be asked to leave Question Time yesterday, but is this really about sexism?

Or is the Australia Parliament just as confused as the rest of us in its implementation of a document where the rules aren’t that different to a kindergarten playground?

By all means, label these rules outdated, antiquated, ridiculous; they are. But let’s not make this another issue of gender equality when it isn’t.

Karvelas didn’t follow protocol yesterday. The same protocol that requires equal compliance from men and women alike; the same protocol that delivers equal disciplinary action regardless of gender.

We could all become outraged and determined to make this another argument about gender imbalance. Or, we could all just put on a goddamn jacket and get on with it.