by Helen Cordes, Executive Editor, New Moon Girls magazine
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 ceremonies this 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.
Girls are incensed by pants bans, and the recent rise of stringent dress codes with numerous rules governing the parts of girls’ legs, arms and chests that must be covered. The consequences aren’t slaps on the wrist. Violations can result in detentions, suspensions and denied honors. As Illinois student Sophie Hasty, 13, who was part of a yoga-pants-wearing protest put it, the bans and dress codes tell girls “that if guys do something to harass us, it’s our fault.”
Outraged parents are blasting back at the actions. An Evanston group of middle-school parents told school officials that the ban “lands itself squarely on a continuum that blames girls and women for assault by men. It also sends the message to boys that their behaviors are excusable, or understandable given what the girls are wearing.” The parents want administrators to “consider the impact of these policies and how they contribute to rape culture.”
Indeed, regulations mandating female garb are always part of a continuum and a cumulative burden of crushing cultural expectations for females. Safak Pavey, Turkey’s first disabled female Parliament member, was happy to see the Parliament’s female pants ban lifted in 2013. But she sees it as part and parcel of many other restrictions that limit women daily, such as current efforts in Turkey to segregate girls in separate classrooms, keep pregnant women from walking in public, and even curtailing cesarean sections.
That’s why fighting pants rules makes a difference in gender equality. So, if you agree that the shape of a person’s body should not determine their clothing choices and other freedoms, take some of these Top 7 Actions.
- When you hear opinions like, “well, tight pants are provocative,” respond that girls and women (and boys and men) are sexually assaulted every day regardless of what they wear. Case in point: the rape epidemic in the military. Say something when you hear opinions that don’t make sense and that contribute to violence and needless limitations.
- Speak up when religious doctrine is the excuse to ban pants for girls and women. You can share that even though the Bible says, “a woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man,” during biblical times all men and women wore dresses. Take action, as Farrah Cukor did when she was turned away from a youth synagogue event for wearing dress pants instead of a dress or skirt. Farrah’s petition freed females in her congregation, and Farrah’s going to keep advocating until all Conservative synagogues allow pants-wearing. Send some kudos to the Mormon Wear Pants to Church women.
- Demand that media networks and airlines stop presenting their female workers as sex objects in skirts, and end the pants bans. If they keep their pants bans, pick different networks or fly other airlines.
- Sign Amal Habani’s petition to stop persecuting females for what they wear. Spend a minute or two Googling any country and “feminist organization” to find ways to stop inequality anywhere in the world. That way, people can focus on creating solutions to real problems instead of obsessing about whether girls and women should wear pants, and exactly what shape of pants.
- We picked June 11 as Wear The Pants Day because on June 11, 1964, the Equal Pay Act took effect in the U.S., mandating that women receive equal pay for equal work. But equal pay is still not equal — in 2014 white women earned only 78% of average men’s pay in similar jobs and the difference is even worse for women of color. And a woman’s clothing STILL can affect her pay.
- Create change the way it is always done — one leg, and one step, at a time.
- Celebrate and have fun telling others about Wear the Pants Day. Celebrate how girls and women keep moving steadily forward to equality on many fronts. Every day at New Moon Girls, I see girls’ comments that show how smart and unstoppable their generation is.
Many thanks for supporting fairness for all on Wear the Pants Day June 11!