Leggings are not pants!
It seems to be the rallying cry of a generation (mine), aimed at younger generations (including my daughters’). To be totally honest, most of the time I just ignore it as so much irrelevant internet noise in a world already full of irrelevant internet noise.
But from time-to-time, elements of the “leggings are not pants” battle percolate up and grab my attention. When teenagers are banned from wearing them in schools because of outdated and sexist dress codes, for example.
The reasoning behind each and every one of these bans (and similar bans on shorts or tank tops) is basically thus: the men and boys in your life cannot control their sexual urges, and therefore you must be prevented from wearing clothes that reveal or highlight parts of your body men may find arousing. Because men and boys cannot be expected to control themselves, their thoughts or their behaviour, natch.
Whether you like them or not, leggings-as-pants needs to become a feminist issue.
One middle school in Illinois went so far as to plaster its hallways with signs asking, “Are my pants lowering your test scores?” I mean REALLY. Even more disturbing though, are the scores of school districts who publicly say that teachers – yes, teachers: adult men in positions of responsibility and influence with tween and teen girls – are distracted by tight or revealing clothing on their female students. If it were up to me, any teacher who uttered those words would be fired. On the spot. Because guess what? It’s up to them to rise above those thoughts, and it’s up to them to control themselves and their behaviour.
Yesterday I came across this post and the accompanying Good Morning America feature, by a Christian blogger in the US who had recently felt a strong conviction from God that she must stop wearing leggings and yoga pants, because men (including her husband) admit they find it “hard not to look”. (A cursory look at her blog, however, reveals that she has no trouble wearing tight skinny jeans. Maybe God can help me understand the distinction there.)
Stop telling other women or girls not to wear leggings, or how, with what, under what circumstances, and so on.
Reading her post got me all hot under the collar again. And it’s not because I even care that much about what people choose to wear (I don’t), but because I find it frightening how many women are willing to accept the “modesty” argument made by this blogger and all the well-meaning school administrators who have run afoul of the press in the past year or so.
Here’s the thing, sisters: whether you like them or not, leggings-as-pants needs to become a feminist issue. And so do short-shorts and tank tops. Why? Because the premise against this type of clothing is always the same, and it’s a bastion of the rape culture that all decent people abhor:
Heterosexual males cannot be expected to control their sexual desires, therefore it is incumbent upon all females (regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation) not to arouse them.
And by extension, if you ignore this advice: You got what you deserved.
You see? It’s not a convoluted logical puzzle, it’s a journey of one step. Don’t dress sexy, or we cannot be held accountable for the consequences.
And it’s based on a misogynistic fallacy: that men cannot regulate their own sexual thoughts and behaviour; which is patently wrong and, by the by, totally unfair to all the decent men out there who can and do. Every day.
As women, mothers, daughters, sisters and feminists, we need to overcome our personal taste objections – NOW – and stop telling other women or girls not to wear leggings, or how, with what, under what circumstances, and so on. We need to raise our sons (as most of us already are doing) to treat every woman and girl they encounter with respect, no matter what what she’s wearing (or not wearing), no matter how drunk or sober, no matter what. We need to insist that the men and boys in ours and our daughters’ lives do the same.
So please, do us all a favour. Stop saying, “leggings are not pants” and focus instead on something constructive like, “what I wear is not an invitation”. Leggings should be whatever the hell you want them to be.
Your body, your choices. End of story.