William Eichler 10 May 2016

Sexist hat-based tradition causes controversy

A row over double standards in a Norfolk council has erupted after a councillor complained women have to ask permission from the mayor before removing ceremonial hat - but men don’t.

Thetford Town Council requires its councillors to wear traditional attire - black cocked hats and long blue robes - at civic events and ceremonial meetings in the town council chamber.

According to 800-year-old protocol, female councillors must keep their hats on during all ceremonial meetings, while men are free to take theirs off.

A recent loosening of the rules means women are now able to remove the headgear with the mayor’s permission.

Labour councillor Francesca Robinson has branded the rule ‘outdated’ and ‘demeaning’.

‘Men are allowed to take their hats off but the women have to ask the mayor. I just think it's sexist and discriminatory,’ Cllr Robinson said, according to the Eastern Daily Press.

Mayor Robert Kybird defended the rule and said they were 'just maintaining traditions'.

'I think we let go of traditions too easily. The policy makes it clear as to what councillors should be wearing at civic events, and helps the public identify who is a councillor,’ he said.

'I don't think the fact women have to keep their hats on is sexist, it's just tradition.'

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