More Than Just a Joke About Pants

On any given day at Boston College, you can be sure that at least a few hundred women are wearing some iteration of the popular,  comfortable and still flattering yoga pants. It’s certainly not news that yoga pants have escaped the studio to become a prominent fashion choice for many young women across America. What is news, however, is the backlash that they are still receiving even years after they have become part of popular culture.

The latest voice to join the outcry against yoga pants is Montana State Representative David Moore. After watching—in horror, we can assume—a pack of naked bikers roll past his home earlier this year, he decided that Montana needed to tighten its indecent exposure laws.

Amongst the bill’s specific proposals for outlawing both nipple exposure (including those of men and women) and any clothing that gives the “impression of a person’s genitals” is Moore’s personal call for the outlawing of yoga pants. “Yoga pants should be illegal in public anyway,” Moore said.

The internet immediately took notice of Moore’s proposal. In an attempt to cool the media firestorm rising against him, he quickly claimed that his comment about the illegality of yoga pants was meant as a joke.

Photo courtesy of EyesOnFire89 / Flickr

Photo courtesy of EyesOnFire89 / Flickr

This, however, is more than just an alleged joke about pants. In a country constantly troubled by lawmakers' attempts to control women’s bodies, Moore’s comment raises more questions and concerns than he may have intended. He may have recanted his statement by claiming it was a “joke,” and his law may also place further bans on men’s bodies as well—with the clarification that nipples are indeed considered indecent, regardless of the gender of the person they are attached to—but Moore’s casual “joke” still allows for a wider range in what, on a woman’s body, the government can state is public property.

Extending public indecency laws to any-gendered nipples is one thing—perhaps something even somewhat equalizing for men and women, despite the fact that it is simply removing more rights from citizens—but claiming a garment that fully covers a woman’s lower body should be made illegal is entirely another. This seems to be where Moore’s proposal crosses the line from indecent exposure laws to government-imposed dress codes.

Although Moore may be the one in the spotlight now, he is certainly not alone; there has been an increased focus in recent years on various laws that seem to restrict women’s rights to their own physical bodies. Amongst the highly publicized policies restricting access to birth control and abortion, laws like Moore’s would deepen government control over women and their personhood.

What lies beneath this proposal is an assumption that not only can lawmakers govern women’s choices even down to the minutia of what they wear, but also that men are allowed to make any comment they want about how women present themselves. Despite outcries from women across the country, female bodies are still considered public rather than private. As a powerful male, Moore can ultimately claim his comment was a joke, but his legislative power still allows him to speak in a disrespectful way towards women with little repercussion but bad press.

Beyond public figures and policy-makers, however, a more implicit discrimination against women and how they choose to dress their own bodies still seems prevalent, even at BC. We’ve all done it, even fellow women; you see a picture on Facebook of a girl you met freshman year who you never really liked all that much. She’s wearing a revealing dress, one that might make her feel beautiful, but out of spite you still mutter, “she looks so slutty.” Your friends laugh and agree, but no one bothers to question it.

It’s something we hardly notice at this point, but giving an unwelcome opinion about how a woman presents herself only strengthens the general atmosphere in America that allows lawmakers like Moore to propose laws like his making yoga pants “illegal,” or, even more so, that allows powerful men and women to get away with spouting off casual discriminatory comments. Despite Moore’s argument to the contrary, things like that can never really be considered jokes.

Maybe it’s time we all just let women wear yoga pants—or anything else they may choose to wear—without feeling the need to comment on it.

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