Women and dress codes: it's a complicated relationship. When particular clothing items get banned, it's often for secularizing reasons (France and the burqua, Australia and the niqab) or for supposed modesty purposes at school (prom dress drama, crop top-spurred suspensions, a high-schooler's "bare shoulders" and a 5-year-old's actual bare shoulders). But the reason JCPenney sent employee Sylva Stoel home may be a new hypocritical low. "Boss sent me home for wearing 'too revealing' shorts that I bought from the store I work at in the career section," Stoel tweeted from her handle @queenfeminist, along with two photos of the innocuous shorts in question. Later that day, the 17-year-old from Sioux Falls, SD outed the department store and its dress code more explicitly: "Hey @jcpenney wanna know how to appeal to ur millennial customers ur losing? Bring ur dress code to the 21st century." The responses were all over the map, with some echoing the irony of where the offending shorts were stocked: "If [JCPenney] thought [the shorts were] too revealing they shouldn't have it in the career center. They're hypocrites and sexist." Others tweeted that Stoel's shorts were "unprofessional at best," admonishing her for not looking the part for her gig ("You're a retail salesperson. Not a bartender") and telling JCPenney to "hold employees to standards, lose those with attitude like @queenfeminist."
"The only word the manager said on dress code during my job orientation was that denim was not allowed, T-shirts were unacceptable, spaghetti-strap tank tops weren't allowed, and skirts couldn't be 'too short.' But I was never warned that wearing linen shorts to work could get me sent home," Stoel told Mic. Beyond the company's unclear dress code itself, there's the gender factor. Whether it's shorts, leggings, miniskirts, or even underwear, far more rules seem to apply solely to women's garb. What's acceptable when it comes to dress codes and taboo attire, and what's simply sexist?