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Chloe Collins canvassed for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada last summer. She interns for a community organizer in Utah. But the Cottonwood High School senior was discouraged when she found out that her summer plans for civic growth would include "a way to force women to make themselves smaller."
The 17-year-old was surprised that Utah Girls State a five-day camp that teaches high school seniors about local and national government requires attendees to wear skirts or dresses with blouses.
No pantsuits allowed.
"The dress code, I feel, is doing a disservice to all the girls," Collins said. "When I found out that I had to wear a dress or a skirt, I was a little offended."
The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Girls State program develops "leadership skills, confidence and action-based understanding of the government process," according to its website.
Young women attending the program are required to bring "dresses or skirts and blouses to wear every day." Utah Boys State requires participants to wear trousers and provides a T-shirt for participants, according to the program's website.
Wearing a dress or skirt makes Collins uncomfortable, she said, because she has to adjust the way she sits and carries herself.
Sitting with crossed legs, Collins said, puts a woman in a position where she is folded in on herself. Contrary to men, who can sit in broad, sprawled positions, sitting with crossed legs is "a way to force women to make themselves smaller around men."
The Utah Girls State board is in charge of the dress code, according to Cary Fisher, ALA Girls State's education director. "Those girls who decide they cannot abide by the standards can choose to not attend ALA Utah Girls State," Fisher said in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The board has discussed allowing pantsuits, but scrapped the idea because of concerns over how to define what is considered a pantsuit, according to Fisher. Auxiliary members can request changes to policies, and proposed revisions are voted on at an annual convention in June, according to Fisher, who said there have been no requests to change the dress code for several years.
The dress code has been in place since the national program debuted in 1937, according to the Girls State website, but Collins said tradition isn't a good enough reason to keep a policy.
Community organizer Sarah Scott, for whom Collins interns, agrees.
"Seventy years ago," Scott said, "women couldn't open bank accounts."
Some Girls State chapters, such as those in Colorado and Florida, have changed their dress code policies to allow pantsuits.
"It's 2017, and it's extremely sexist," said Scott, who noted the acceptance of professional women wearing pantsuits in the financial sector and on Capitol Hill. "Pantsuits are such powerful dress for women these days, especially if you don't feel comfortable in a dress."
Collins plans to wear her pantsuit to summer camp.
"If they ask me to change, I'm going to change, and I'm going to abide by their rules," Collins said.
She also is planning to run for office within Girls State, using the dress code as one of her campaign points.
"I want to be the change I want to see," Collins said. "I want to go, and if they won't change the dress code beforehand, I want to advocate for it in the camp. I want to go and let all of them know what's wrong with it and argue my point."