Telling Women What to Wear

The New York Times recently published an opinion piece by contributor Honor Jones entitled, “Why Yoga Pants Are Bad for Women.” It seems that Jones arose early one Sunday morning with a sudden inclination to get fit. “It’s a new year and I’ve got a new gym membership.” When she arrived at the gym for her first workout, she was incensed that the women doing yoga were wearing yoga pants.  She, clearly the only woman at the gym with any sense at all, had chosen no-nonsense, loosely-fitting, sweatpants.

“Seriously, you can’t go into a room of 15 fellow women contorting themselves into ridiculous positions at 7 in the morning without first donning skintight pants? What is it about yoga in particular that seems to require this?”

Atop her high horse, Jones scolds women athletes over thirty, insisting they wear sweatpants, or as she describes them, “…towels with waistbands,” so that “every dimple and roll” is not threatened to be exposed when they are doing yoga. She lectures about how yoga pants are too tight and sexy, too expensive, overly revealing, sexist, and proof positive that staying fit is an obsession. Speaking for all women athletes(?) she proclaims, “We aren’t wearing these workout clothes because they’re cooler or more comfortable. We’re wearing them because they’re sexy.” Having already admitted that she is new to the world of fitness, one wonders whether her use of the word “we” used during her condemnation, is appropriate?

Jones, while lambasting all women over the age of thirty for wearing yoga pants, puzzlingly slips into the role of Miss Manners and reminds readers that telling other women how to dress is bad manners, “It’s not good manners for women to tell other women how to dress; that’s the job of male fashion photographers.”

Well Ms. Jones, even a broken clock is correct twice a day. You’re right, it is bad manners to tell other women how to dress. It is also bad manners to chime in about a topic that you know nothing about and it is really bad manners to correct other people’s manners. (Her jab at male fashion photographers was pretty rude too.)

To what end does Honor Jones get to use a huge public platform like the New York Times to shame women? Will Jones chastise Olympic gold-medalist Lindsay Vonn, age thirty-three, for racing in skin-tight ski attire? How about shaming Serena Williams? At thirty-six-years-old she has the nerve to win Grand Slams in mini-tennis-skirts. There is always Kikkan Randall the tight-pants wearing, thirty-five-year-old, five-time Olympian who won the first Olympic medal in cross country skiing since 1976 in tight pants? How about the millions of other insolent, yoga pants clad women athletes of all ages working their hardest to be the best versions of themselves?

Thankfully, WE, the women over thirty, who have (anonymously) been slogging out workouts most days of our lives (not just one day after New Years) do not have to listen to Honor Jones of the New York Times. We can wear whatever we want to feel comfortable, to motivate ourselves, to feel stronger, to feel more powerful, to outline our hard fought for muscles, to allow our yoga instructors to help us “contort into our ridiculous poses”, even to feel sexier.

Honor Jones’ argument that women cover up to exercise so as not to disgrace themselves by exposing their rolls of fat and dimply skin is sexist and archaic. In publishing her article, the New York Times, which touts itself as being a bastion of feminist ideals, is promoting chauvinistic rhetoric and flipped by 180 degrees their position on the hijab and burka.

In another opinion piece printed in the same month entitled, “Why Iranian Women Are Taking Off Their Head Scarves” by Nahid Siamdoust the newspaper praises the women of Iran for their fight against being told what to wear.

”These bold acts of defiance against the hijab are unprecedented…”

Iranian feminist Ms. Alinejad describes the issue passionately to reporter Siamdoust when she proclaims,

“We are fighting for our dignity. If you can’t choose what to put on your head, they won’t let you be in charge of what is in your head, either.”

A stark contrast, to the Islamic Republic officials who argue, “the hijab bestows dignity on women.”

Women don’t need people telling them what to wear.

It is time to stop infantilizing women. Grown women do not need to be told what to wear by anyone, including Honor Jones of the NYT posing as a concerned activist. She declares, “Women can, of course, be fit and liberated.” Does Jones actually believe that women are too stupid, or have such a sheep mentality that they don’t know that they can choose to slip on a pair of sweatpants to visit the gym? How insulting and patronizing. Telling women what to wear does not “liberate”, it does the opposite, it restricts and denigrates.

Not living in isolation has its pitfalls, one of which is that it is necessary at times to brush elbows with other members of society. That means that there are going to be times when you visit the gym and you don’t care for some stranger’s pants. These are the times when you reach into your social skills toolbox and pull out some empathy, kindness, warmth, understanding, and tact. We practice good social skills primarily to get along well with one another because life is better when we do. We support you in your decision to wear sweatpants to the gym Honor, now please back off and allow us the freedom to wear what makes us comfortable while we rejoice in our strength and power.

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