fashion · gender policing

Put on your pants! Or not. It’s about choice…

Top 7 Reasons to Wear Pants June 11 for Girls Rights

Why wear pants on June 11? Because there is STILL debate about “Should Women Wear Pants?” For girls and women, it’s not a universal freedom.

New Moon Girls invented Wear The Pants Day five years ago because we want everyone to say yes  to  Should Women Wear Pants?  Every year we rally allies to continue the fight for females still denied that right, right here at home and around the world.

The girls we know are often baffled that female pants-wearing is even an issue. What is so terrible about females donning the same type of garments that males routinely wear? The answer is, there’s nothing wrong with girls and women wearing pants, or yoga pants, leggings, or shorts!

And yet, the sexist headlines keep coming. At graduation ceremoniesthis year, even as speakers tell young grads to soar for the sky, female grads got the message that their soaring comes with a gender lockstep. They are told they’d better follow the still-common rule of dresses-and-skirts-only under graduation robes or no walking across the stage. And showing up in a tux for prom is nixed for top honor student Claudetteia Love, despite the logic and legal precedent that formal wear is formal wear.

Worldwide, the penalty for females daring to wear pants is much higher. Sudanese activist Amal Habani says at least 40,000 women have been publicly flogged and imprisoned for wearing pants and exposing their hair in public in recent years.  Women in Swaziland seeking to nominate themselves and others for Parliament were rejected because they wore pants to participate in “democracy.” Female sugar-cane workers in Swaziland are now required to wear long skirts over their pants because men “tend to lust” when seeing pants, an official explains, claiming falsely that it’s caused a rising rape rate.

But don’t be tempted to think places such as Swaziland and Sudan and North Korea are just in an “other” category of backward thinking and religious fringery. The enduring false belief that female clothing makes males commit sexual assault is the reason that scores of US schools now forbid girls from wearing yoga pants, leggings and close-fit jeans.  Administrators say these outfits are “too distracting” to boys who are helpless to focus on schoolwork.

I was reminded of this recently when I wrote a blog post called, The case against pants. A number of slightly older readers wrote in to say that they loved the freedom that pants wearing gave them and that when they were younger they weren’t allowed to wear pants.

You don’t have to go very far back. When I was in elementary school, Catholic school, the uniform for girls didn’t include pants. This was in Newfoundland, home of very cold snowy winters and I once got punished for failing to go into the change room to put snow pants on over my school uniform skirt. I was wearing tights and I did pull the snow pants  on very quickly. But the nuns weren’t impressed. I’ve never been very ladylike!

My mother had it worse. She had a part-time job in high school helping to deliver milk. But again, she wasn’t allowed to wear pants. Instead, she left the house everyday in a skirt and kept jeans on the milk truck and changed there.

And years later when I was a journalist in Ottawa, women had to wear skirts in the press gallery.

So yes, though I’m no fan of having to wear pants, I’d be much more upset if I couldn’t. It’s about choice.

I didn’t think it was an issue today, here, until I came across this image:

Paints to church day celebrates diversity in Mormon congregations. It’s not a protest. Rather it’s meant to celebrate inclusivity. “We are active and faithful Mormon feminists who want to show that there is more than one way to be a good Mormon woman. We believe that everyone is welcome at church.” But what’s striking for me about the campaign is that pants are still a powerful symbol for feminists about the freedom to choose one’s own way.

It’s an issue too for women who ride bikes. It’s tricky to ride in a skirt and while you might choose to do it (see Riding bikes in skirts and dresses) you don’t want to be required to do so.

See Will bike riding in Saudi Arabia change the way women dress?

And then there’s boxing, Skirting the issue: women’s boxing and enforced femininity

So on June 11th, wear pants or not, but celebrate choice.

4 thoughts on “Put on your pants! Or not. It’s about choice…

  1. I’m 23 and when I was at school we got detention for wearing pants. Dress code for girls was skirt and tights (in Australia, schools have uniforms). I caught the ferry across open water to get to school and in winter it was freezing, but we weren’t even allowed to wear pants on the way to school because “it would tarnish the reputation of the school”. So you’re right, you don’t have to go very far back to see the sexism…

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  2. My mother (who lived in Czechoslovakia during WWII) refused to be limited by clothing or cultural expectations. An extremely feminine woman (but also bullheaded), she would sew her own pants when the stores wouldn’t offer them as an option. She later moved to America to taste a little more fashion freedom, amongst other things.

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  3. In the early 1970’s, in lst year of high school, we had to kneel in the hallway to ensure our skirts touched the floor….knee length.

    The school allowed girls to wear jeans and cords for the lst time the following year when I was in Gr. 10.

    This is in southern Ontario, in Kitchener.

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