Why wear pants on June 11? Because for females, wearing the pants is STILL not a universal freedom. So, when you wear pants this Thursday -- thanks! -- tell people that.
We at New Moon Girls invented Wear The Pants Day five years ago because we wanted girls and women to celebrate our hard-fought, centuries-long pants-rights battles. And we also wanted to rally allies to continue the fight for females still denied that right. New Moon Girls is the fun, feisty, and feminist international print magazine made by and for girls (I'm the editor) that's also home to an awesome online girls' community.
Our girl members are often baffled that female pants-wearing is even an issue. Why wouldn't we all be baffled, really? What is so heinous about females donning the same things that men routinely wear?
And yet, the headlines don't stop. At graduation ceremonies this year and of late, as speakers exhort young grads to soar for the sky, female grads got the message that their soaring comes with a gender lockstep. They'd follow the still-common rule of dresses-and-skirts-only under the 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 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, and that has caused a rising rape rate.
But don't be tempted to put places such as Swaziland and Sudan and North Korea into that "other" category of backward thinking and religious fringery. The "tend to lust" (and "naturally," possibly sexually assault) defense is the reason that scores of stateside schools are now forbidding girls from wearing yoga pants, leggings and close-fit jeans. These lurid outfits are "too distracting" to boys who ogle and lust rather than read and write, administrators say.
Girls are incensed at pants bans, and by the recent rise of strident dress codes with numerous rules governing what parts of girls' legs, arms and chest must be covered. The rules aren't slaps on the wrist -- violations can cause 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-schooler 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 skin should not determine their clothing choices and other freedoms, consider these actions.
- When you hear opinions to the effect of, "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. Would anyone consider military uniforms a sexy come-on? Say something when you hear opinions that don't make sense and that contribute to violence and needless limitations.