bodies are often wasteful and have a tendency to intrude upon our
rights, those we have left. On the other hand, they occasionally
provide us with comic relief and the present buffoonery at the South
Carolina House of Representatives is a perfect example. But before
I describe these incidents let me assure you that I am not making
current sideshow has the Women's Caucus pitted against the young
female House pages or, more particularly, the pages' choice of clothing.
The Women's Caucus considers the pages' outfits to be "skimpy"
and demanded that the page supervisor issue a stern memo discouraging
memo contained these directives; "No low-cut blouses or shirts
that show your cleavage, and tops that are too tight will not be
allowed. Skirts that are more than 4 inches above the knee will
not be allowed. If you are not sure whether to wear something to
work or not, then don't wear it. You will be sent home to change."
Indeed, two female pages were sent home for "way-too-short
skirts and a-little-too-low-cut blouses."
the pages were offended and wanted to tell their side of the story.
But House pages are forbidden to make public statements or speak
with reporters. However, one young lady decided to violate the prohibition
in order to defend herself and her sister pages. She tried to explain
that fashions for young women are different from fashions for professional
and older women. She said, "Pages wear the clothes they have.
We're in college. You can't go out and buy real nice suits."
this Women's Caucus is hard to please. A few years ago they complained
that only male pages were allowed at the Statehouse. This prevented
female college students from learning about state politics. But
the presence of female pages apparently hasn't pacified the Women's
Caucus. I don't know what their problem is. None of the men are
human nature being what it is, some members of the House couldn't
let the actions by the Women's Caucus go unanswered. So another
memo regarding dress code appeared. This anonymous memo purported
to be from the "Men's Caucus", an organization no one
had heard of before. And, obviously, a caucus exclusively for males
would not be allowed. Caucuses are only permitted for females, minorities
and other groups; mostly groups that males oppress.
"Men's Caucus" memo contained these directives: "Pages
will receive additional merit pay for economizing and saving valuable
materials used in blouse construction. Hose are clearly optional.
Undergarments are also optional. Dresses should be no longer than
4 inches above the knee. The terms "babe," "honey,"
"sugar" and "little missy" should be accepted
as compliments and terms of endearment. Any future memos from the
Women's Caucus concerning attire can hereby be completed ignored."
this memo, admittedly a little crude and sophomoric, was a tongue-in-cheek
attempt at humor but the reaction from the Women's Caucus may be
summed up in four words; "We are not amused!"
was the Governor amused. After being bombarded with complaints from
members of the Women's Caucus, he issued this public statement.
"I find the contents of this anonymous memorandum despicable.
Moreover, I am concerned that the circulation of this memorandum
might have created a hostile and offensive working environment for
female employees of the House of Representatives in violation of
state and federal law."
the Governor asked the State Human Affairs Commission to investigate
the matter and to request the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission to conduct an outside inquiry.
the Governor's actions energized do-gooders in and around the Capitol
and brought them into the fray; much to the delight of the news
Director of the S.C. Commission on Women claimed that the "men's
memo" was "sexual harassment, period." She added,
"…it can't be ignored. We ignored it for too long."
Associate Director of the Women's Studies program at the University
of South Carolina was enraged by the "men's caucus" memo.
She claimed, "It implied that the Legislature belonged to the
House Democratic Caucus publicly demanded that the guilty parties
confess. Of course, they assumed that no Democrat could possibly
commit such a sexist act. Also a political website was created listing
possible suspects involved in the writing of the memo.
member of the Women's Caucus called for an investigation by the
House Ethics Committee, which has the resources of the State Law
Enforcement Division at its disposal.
Governor's speechwriter fired off an unauthorized memo calling male
members of the House "cavemen." This caused the State
Human Affairs Commission to ask the federal government to investigate
the speechwriter's "cavemen" memo.
chagrined Governor suspended his speechwriter for three days without
make matters worse, these cartoonish events took place during the
annual Girls' State Week at the Capitol with 460 high-school girls
attending to see how state government works. I suspect they learned
things that won't be found in their textbooks.
I write this, the page fracas is in its fourth week and showing
no signs of a let-up. The State Human Affairs Commission and the
EEOC are conducting their investigations. The do-gooders are still
posturing and publicly mouthing their pious recriminations. A member
of the Women's Caucus is calling for modest uniforms for female
pages, paid for by State funds of course. And one representative
has asked the State to implement "workplace sensitivity training
for House members and staff."
you've got to love this ongoing carnival. But while we may be amused
we know this is just another example of "Our tax dollars at
work." The matter will eventually be resolved and we'll have
to look elsewhere for entertainment.
there might be other unanticipated problems at the Statehouse especially
with communications. For example, when a new legislative procedure
manual is distributed to House members, the transmittal memo should
avoid language such as "Please don't bend your pages over."
Also, when two members are involved in a telephone discussion regarding
the details of a proposed law it would be highly inappropriate to
ask, "Which page are you on?"
we shouldn't anticipate problems. The current conflict is enough
to hold our attention and it does offer at least one plus. It distracts
representatives from their efforts to propose more laws and more
him mail] is
a CPA living in Beaufort, SC, an unreconstructed Southerner, and
an advocate of limited government.