Québec solidaire MNA Catherine Dorion has been in the news quite a bit over the past couple of weeks. And it all has to do with her wardrobe choices.
Known for wearing what many call casual clothing when on the floor of the National Assembly, the elected official for Taschereau decided to flip the script for Halloween. She posted a photo of herself dressed in business attire, the common go-to look for MNAs, on her Facebook page as her Halloween costume.
It was a clever move and all in good fun. Of course it drew the ire of incredibly vulgar and mysoginistic trolls online, but it also drew official condemnation from the Quebec Liberal Party.
They took issue with the fact that she was sitting on the Speaker’s desk in the photo and wanted an official inquiry (while really wanting relevance for their failing brand). But that wasn’t the outfit choice that got Dorion in trouble.
Denied the Right to Represent Her Constituents
Fast-forward to yesterday. Dorion showed up at the National Assembly to represent her constituents as she was elected to do. She was wearing a hoodie, a fact that is only relevant because some as of yet unknown MNAs complained to the Speaker and she was kicked out of the Blue Room, the room she needs to be in to discuss and vote on laws.
According to Deputy Speaker Chantal Soucy:
“We have a decorum to respect, we reminded her of it several times, it was time to draw a line. She was not wearing clothing worthy of an MNA within the Blue Room.”Chantal Soucy in a statement to the press
Now, putting aside, for a moment, the Quebec Government’s ongoing and borderline fetishistic obsession with what women wear, which really is at the root of this, what happened on Thursday was a disgusting attack on democracy. People in the Taschereau riding had no voice in the National Assembly yesterday and it was in no way their representative’s fault.
If Soucy’s statement seems lacking of any reference to an actual rule Dorion was breaking, it’s because there isn’t one. Quebec’s National Assembly doesn’t have an official dress code, nor should it.
Why is Corporate Attire the Norm for Government?
When people commenting on the story in support of barring Dorion reference the fact that they would be sent home for coming to work dressed as she was forget one crucial fact. They work, most likely, in a corporate office, while Dorion doesn’t.
The business world has its dress code, so do farms, so do transit workers and so do police. If a banker shows up in jeans, they will be sent home. If a farm worker shows up in a suit, they’re in for a sweaty day and torn clothes. If a cop wears camo pants to work, it’s a protest.
Dorion showing up in a hoodie, Doc Martens or jeans and a t-shirt isn’t a protest, or at least it shouldn’t have to be one. Elected officials are supposed to represent the people, not corporations.
When Dorion wears a t-shirt promoting Franco-Ontarian poet Patrice Desbiens produced by Quebec writer Mathieu Arsenault on the floor of the National Assembly, she’s doing just that. When she wears a hoodie, there may not be a particular reason, she’s just wearing a hoodie, and that’s fine.
I wear hoodies sometimes, too. I don’t wear Doc Martens, but that doesn’t mean someone who does isn’t representative of me when speaking in the National Assembly.
Why is business formal or even business casual the default dress when it comes to elected officials? If the argument for is that they are conducting the “business of the state” which includes things like budgets, then it’s important to note that non-profit co-ops and other organizations without corporate dress codes also deal with budgets.
Insisting that corporate dress is the only way for a politician to appear professional is an implication that, for them, professionalism means serving corporate interests. This is sometime Catherine Dorion clearly doesn’t want to do and we should applaud her for it.