Tradition vs. equality

Female town council members must ask permission to remove traditional black hats indoors

Thetford council member Francesca Robinson.

An 800-year-old practice in a small town in England that requires female elected officials to wear historic hats while conducting town business has pitted traditionalists against those who call the tradition sexist and discriminatory. Members of the town council in Thetford are required to wear black cocked hats along with their ceremonial blue robes while attending council meetings and ceremonies. But male members of the council are allowed to remove their hats once inside the 250-year-old King’s House where the town meetings take place, while women must keep their hats on or else ask the mayor for permission to remove them.

“I can understand why they are used for outdoor civic events, but when you are sat inside the council chamber it gets very hot,” Francesca Robinson, who was elected last May, told The Telegraph. “Men are allowed to take their hats off but the women have to ask the mayor. I just think it’s sexist and discriminatory.”

Mayor Robert Kybird said he does not want to change the policy because it “makes it clear as to what councilors should be wearing at civic events,” he said.

“I think we let go of traditions too easily,” he said. “I don’t think the fact women have to keep their hats on is sexist, it’s just tradition.”

Sylvia Armes, another council member, said she was a traditionalist and felt the council should keep the rules on hats in place.

“Many small towns of our size would love to have the traditions we have,” she said.

Read the full story at The Telegraph.

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