Every day in Wagga this week, the temperature is going to be in the 30s.
With that in mind, it’s not unusual for the women in our office to be wearing short-sleeved, or even sleeveless, shirts and dresses.
A few of us also tend to chuck on a cardigan or jacket if we find the air-conditioning a little chilly, but for the most part, arms are on show.
That’s a typical working office in 2018, I would have thought.
Yet, just days ago, journalist Patricia Karvelas found herself booted out of the parliamentary press gallery during question time for showing “too much bare arm”.
Ms Karvelas was wearing a seemingly unremarkable white blouse with a capped sleeve, so more covered than if she was wearing a sleeveless top, but less than what would be termed “short-sleeved”.
Of course, just after Ms Karvelas posted an image of her “unacceptable” shirt on Twitter, social media went nuts with images of politicians dressed similarly.
Former foreign minister Julie Bishop, in particular, seems to have a bit of a preference for sleeveless dresses, as does senator Pauline Hanson, but nobody has ever seemed to be in any hurry to toss them out of the chamber.
I understand the need to maintain “appropriate dress standards”, but in the 21st century, what does that mean?
We know in Parliament, at least, male journalists are not allowed in without jackets – even photographers and camera crews must wear them – but when did bare arms on women become “inappropriate”?
Why are we still hung up on the anachronistic stereotypes that apply much greater emphasis on what women wear compared to their male counterparts?
It is a long-standing myth that the Antebellum mansions scattered across the southern part of the United States were often built with twin staircases because it allowed those lovely young Scarlett O’Hara types to walk up without worrying about accidentally revealing an ankle to a man.
Society has been trying to dictate what people wear for millennia, and what is considered acceptable is constantly changing, but it does seem that there have always been far more restrictions on what women are allowed to wear, because somehow their clothing choices reflect their morality.
There have been enough social experiments trotted out that we know a bloke can wear the same suit every day and nobody cares, and probably still wouldn’t blink if he also wore the same tie.
But the reaction would be very different if a woman did the same thing.
A woman is still supposed to dress in a way that is all things to all people. She is supposed to look professional but attractive, confident but not overly so, alluring but not come-hither and who-knows-what-else.
The messages are complicated, conflicting and constant.
But it does feel like no matter what, it is women who are going to be judged to be at fault.
There was a minor kerfuffle very recently because Sarah Hanson-Young wore a top with a cut-out neckline, and some commentators decided to use that as the basis for a shabby sexist attack.
But before you dismiss this as superficial, stop and think about how much an attitude of demanding women dress in a particular way helps to perpetuate their objectification.
A new survey into community attitudes towards violence against women showed a downward trend in the percentage of people who recognise that men are more likely than women to use violence in relationships, down 22 per cent since 1995.
Released by the National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, the survey also found 1 per cent of respondents also believe that ‘sometimes a woman can make a man so angry he hits her when he didn’t mean to’, while a third believe rape results from men not being able to control their need for sex.
I know there are judgments that apply to how men dress too – just try wearing budgie smugglers at the beach if you have a “dad bod”, for example – but overwhelmingly, it is still women who are critiqued about the way they look as if it affects their intelligence or professional ability.
Let’s call it straight: Patricia Karvelas looked absolutely fine. How do you even show “too much” bare arm?
The whole thing was also nonsensical and added, if that’s still possible, to the continuing feeling that everything that goes on in Parliament these days is pointless, silly and designed to distract voters from the circus.