Last week, Fox News broadcasted a clip in response to a viral video posted on the Internet in October claiming that “leggings aren’t pants.” Of course, there are ways to report on such things in a respectful, unbiased way, however, I think most would agree that three middle-aged men making crude and, at times, suggestive comments to the faces of three different legging-clad women is neither respectful nor unbiased. They proceeded to answer questions regarding women “parading” around in whatever they please and the various things they will or will not allow their daughters to wear.
Among the comments the men made were statements suggesting that one woman had “earned” the right to wear the leggings, that leggings were only appropriate for younger girls if they were also wearing a diaper, and that women should really only wear clothes out and about if it would be appropriate to wear said clothes in a monastery (as a side note, the rolled up sleeves of one of the men on the panel would be considered disrespectful in a monastery). Another man admitted that he himself wears tights from time to time. Seeing something like this on such a widely watched news source, whose (often forgotten) job is to report rather than create newsworthy material, was infuriating to me. To avoid seeming as disrespectful and tactless as these men, here are seven things to consider before telling a woman what she can or cannot wear.
Women are, in fact, people.
People like looking good, and people like being comfortable, and there are lots of different ways to accomplish these things but leggings do them both.
You have probably taken middle school biology. Maybe you’ve even seen a naked person before. Chances are, you know what a human body looks like so leggings should not be “shocking” or “offensive” to you just because they make it so that you can tell that a woman’s body is shaped like a body.
You get to decide where you look.
Sometimes I watch scary movies and I look away during the gory parts. Sometimes when I’m driving, the sun gets in my eyes and I put the sun visor down. You get to decide where you look and if leggings bother you, you could consider looking at something that doesn’t. I haven’t asked Hollywood to stop making gory movies or asked the sun to go somewhere else so it isn’t in my eyes.
No one is claiming that every situation is an okay time to wear leggings (or anything else for that matter).
We know what we’re doing. Most women probably would not wear leggings to a wedding. If an employer decides that leggings are too casual for work, that employee gets to decide if it is worth it to her (or him or them) to go against their employer’s wishes. If a school has a legitimate uniform for both girls and boys it is understandable if there are consequences when anyone breaks it. But, it is when people start zeroing in on specific garments and claiming that women should not be seen in them during their everyday lives that they start appearing sexist, juvenile, and generally disrespectful.
By trying to decide how women dress, you are propagating a culture of dramatic sexism.
Victim blame? Efforts to ban abortions? Ridiculously insufficient maternity-leave policies? All of these things are a result of someone deciding what a woman can and cannot do with her body, often so that men can avoid facing their thoughts, actions or responsibilities.
Body shaming is a huge issue in this culture, and leggings-shaming only increases that problem.
If you tell a woman that certain parts of her body, while completely covered in fabric, are unfit for public eyes, there is a good chance this will breed insecurity.
If she’s old enough to dress herself, she’s old enough to make her own decisions.
Any responsibility to help decide what a woman should wear ends roughly at the age of three. If the woman has the motor skills to put clothing on her own body and the mental development to understand which clothes go where, she should be allowed – and encouraged – to make her own decisions when getting dressed in the morning.
Disclaimer: this article is specifically focused on women and leggings because of the recent Fox News clip, however it is not to say that other people wearing leggings are not targets of unfair treatment, or that telling ANYONE what to wear during their everyday life is acceptable.