Into the ongoing discussion about what women should be allowed to wear comes the yoga pant. The snug and body-skimming pant is causing all sorts of ruckus. Whether or not it’s appropriate for women to wear them in public is an issue of increasingly heated debate.
A History of Control
Policing women’s clothing isn’t a new thing. The first castigation of women’s apparel goes as far back as the Baroque Period with the open dress. These were robe-like dresses, which were layered over several under-dresses and skirts. Because the fabric and flow hinted at nightwear, it was deemed unacceptable. Sound familiar?
While yoga pants cover the entire lower half of what Fergie would call, “lovely lady lumps,” their body-skimming ways arouse accusations of moral decay, seduction, and inappropriateness.
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More recently, the yoga pants debate has reared its head in a number of ways, even to the extent of trying to legislate these body-skimming garments:
- In March, 2013, Lululemon removed some of its popular pants from stores for being too sheer. Shares of the Canadian owned company fell 6 percent.
- In December, 2013, Lululemon Athletica, Inc. founder Chip Wilson stepped down as chairman after Wilson issued a formal “apology” for remarks he made about how ‘some women’s bodies just don’t actually work’ for his company’s yoga pants.
- In February, 2015, the Montana Billings Gazette reported that Montana state Rep. David Moore introduced a “public decency” bill that would expand the state’s existing indecent exposure laws to include tight pants such as yoga pants. He later claimed it was “just a joke”.
- In October, 2016, a male reader of the Barrington Times in Rhode Island wrote a letter to the editor complaining about women wearing yoga pants. In his letter he wrote: “Yoga pants can be adorable on children and young women who have the benefit of nature’s blessing of youth. However, on mature, adult women there is something bizarre and disturbing about the appearance they make in public.” In protest to his letter, and to bring attention to women’s rights to wear what they choose, women organized on social media and hundreds of people in yoga pants walked past his home in a peaceful parade.
But is there a nefarious motive behind all of this rampant yoga pant wearing? Is there an underground movement to dislodge and overthrow the powers that be with methods ala Lysistrata by wearing a pair of tight, black, hip-hugging pants? While it sounds beyond ludicrous, some would believe that there is indeed.
The yoga pant has an interesting peanut gallery of dissenters. Blogger, Veronica Patridge, jumped off the yoga pant ship when her husband admitted, “Yeah, when I walk into a place and there are women wearing yoga pants everywhere, it’s hard to not look. I try not to, but it’s not easy.”
There is even a Facebook page dedicated to the demonization of these handy duds. The About Us section of the page reads, “The world is full of sin and horror. Yoga Pants are a doorway to everlasting damnation. Stand with God against this mockery of femininity.”
Several religious groups proclaim that yoga pants are disturbingly lascivious. They claim that yoga pants leads to the seduction, in mind or body, of previously good, pure men. They believe that men cannot help having lustful thoughts with all of these brazen women running around in yoga pants.
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Ipso facto, women are corrupting men who are powerless in the face of Lululemon’s Spring Collection. These poor men will be forced to cheat on girlfriends and wives because they stand helpless against a cotton-spandex blend.
This sounds a bit like the “She had on a tight dress, so she must have wanted sex” mindset. This mentality is the one hidden behind the word modesty. And, we all know that the goal of a good woman is to be modest.
In the interest of keeping it real, let’s consider what Al Banton had to say in his article, “This Guy Gets Real About Yoga Pants and Lust and Blows the Cover Clean Off Our Little Modesty Talks.”
“When the gorgeous behinds pass by, we (men) always have a choice. Either a) look away and think nothing else of it, b) appreciate the female form while you sip your half-caf, or c) visualize scenarios that run the prurient gamut. I believe the first glance is not the problem. It’s the second and third that begin to get us in trouble. But remember, we are always presented with a choice.”
Body Shaming and Judgment
Then there are the body-shamers who prefer to only see one body type in yoga pants outside of the gym, or on those 20 or under. This is ageist, discriminatory, and a bit creepy when you think about it. Why would a tight fitting pant be more appropriate for tweens and teens than an adult woman?
Women are continually relegated to the physical level rather than the mental. Instead of fixating on women’s public attire, there are a lot of other issues about women and women’s bodies that truly merit discussion. Let’s discuss how we can stop reinforcing a rape culture; how we can teach our young male children the meaning of consent. Why not discuss how little justice is found for victims of domestic abuse? Or how about the gender pay gap?
With all of the judgment hurled at yoga pants, why would any self-respecting woman wear them in public? Well, why the heck not? Like Heather Wilhelm noted, the black ones match everything, and they never wrinkle. They are comfortable, ideal for travel, and running errands. They hide a multitude of stains like tears and snot; making them quite possibly the most mom-friendly piece of apparel ever. Plus, they make you look like you’re the sporty type who just left or is headed to the gym. And, who doesn’t want to be that girl!
At the end of the day, why is what women wear so important that it requires this level of criticism and debate? Shouldn’t it matter more what women are doing in their yoga pants, like running businesses, and improving their communities? Even if yoga pants weren’t the greatest piece of clothing ever—which, of course they are—they make some of us happy, and that should be enough.
Heather Wilhelm is the author of the article, “Fear, Loathing, And The Great American Yoga Pants Panic.”
Veronica Patridge is the author of “Why I Chose To No Longer Wear Leggings.”