Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

Clothing wars are nothing new to society at large, particularly for women, going all the way back to when post Victorian members of the fairer sex began shedding their corsets, when high collars completely covering the neck stopped being the norm, when women dared wear dresses, other garments exposing their arms or, gasp, their shoulders and were not immediately deemed harlots. In America toward the more modern era, controversy hit its peak with early 20th century, 1920’s flapper girls, by the 1950’s we were censoring Elvis for swilling his hips especially on television, in the 1960’s men were chastised for long hair and beards versus the clean shaven looks, hemlines shortened and it was a big deal when Disney star Annette Funicello bared her belly button in a popular beach movie. Next it was the spandex and tight jeans of the 80’s, celebrity envelope pushers; who could forget Madonna’s cone bra? At the turn of the 21st century it morphed slightly from the usual older generation complaining about the fashion choices of youth, the age old struggle of what is ‘appropriate’ and what isn’t, to genuine concern for that youth; besides employers going so far as business formal attire to combat wild millennial individuality screaming style choices, there were adults concerned about youth who couldn’t get jobs constantly wearing baggy pants, the sexualized, dangerous message, consequences of trying to imitate lil Kim and her pasties sans anything else covering her top half. Schools have for years walked this line of caution reaching new heights, many would say lows, when a Utah high school’s botched editing for modesty was done without student or parent permission covering shoulders and removing hardly noticed bra straps, keep in mind for pictures taken in the dead of summer, elevating bust lines to an arbitrary notion of acceptability, doing so at random to boot. Where citizens all thought they crossed the line is when a county in Florida seriously discussed a dress code, not for students but for their parents, chiefly for dropping off and picking up their children. Tired of too short shorts, children embarrassed by parents showing up in hair curlers, pajamas, off color t-shirts they received national attention trying to do something about it. Lock step with the religious minded, small town thinking folks who believe people in general have become so trashy, dress in such poor taste they now have to adopt clothing dress codes in their towns against just some of the following thong underwear and see through clothing worn in public, pajamas worn in public, thank you Louisiana commissioner our tax dollars at work, baggy pants, flip flops. The middle school who banned yoga pants calling them too form fitting only to get a lesson in civil disobedience from students will love the next chapter in the clothing wars coming from a woman’s blog that went viral who would doubtlessly advocate the extreme proposals described here and became one of her own.

An overwhelming majority find our blatantly conservative, unsurprisingly Christian, young woman’s blog much ado about nothing, asserting she is free to make her choice wondering why we find it news worthy, yet it speaks to a larger problem missed by the blogger, most Americans, indeed most of the western world, women buying into the ultra-modesty idea and men without a modicum of respect. Rarely seen today is a modern, mainstream woman sans gray hair and a role model of aunt Bee from the classic, no body under 45 knows it, Andy Griffith Show, doing anything but decrying attempts to sanction what women wear in public, on their own time, even denigrating outlandish workplace restrictions seeming to solely target women. No so with Veronica Partridge writing about her experience with her husband, being a wife and why she vows to no longer wear ‘lustful leggings’ saying they provide too much temptation for men to look at her body, they inspire lust, cause men to think of her sexually; she is doing it thinking of men, who unlike her husband do not possess his degree, motivation for self-control, earning her a huge backlash on social media and a spot on at least one morning show’s segment detailing hot social trends. Though why a man who is not married, in a committed relationship, doesn’t have a serious girlfriend should be hated for noticing a woman’s flattering outfit, jogging pants or no, is perhaps a bigger mystery, question. Sidestepping sinister conclusions, it could be the spark that leads to a conversation, a date, long term relationship; how things have been done since man as a species started walking upright and lost the Neanderthal whole body hair look. Interesting too, the Good Morning America lead in describing America’s new habit of “wearing leggings as pants,” pointing to everything from top fashion runways, to celebrities donning the aforementioned garment right up to the ordinary citizen calling it the new ath, short for athletic, leisure line making it acceptable to wear just about anywhere. Almost as if they were talking about tights, usually warn under a short dress or skirt, fishnet, see through tights to boot, suddenly worn like a pair of pants. But judging by the photos displayed of both famous persons and ordinary people sporting the trend, chiefly the referenced Huffington Post poll materials, they are actually talking about standard yoga pants, women’s stretchy athletic pants, even a sleeker form of traditional sweat pants, cotton stretch plants. None of which should be called inappropriate for running errands, common daily activities, going to the gym, going jogging exactly what Rihanna and Olivia Wilde looked like they were doing, had just done in their press snapped photos. Also worth noting, for those who support the bloggers sentiments saying it’s about modesty, there was no camel toe, visible outline of a woman’s crotch present in any of the examples presented; most women who wear leggings don’t wear them that way. In fact one picture showed the crotch of the pant had an obvious gap revealing nothing, proving them a little loose, would have had the hosts of the former TLC show What Not to Wear telling them to get a different size; another showed a woman’s possible panty line. Tacky ok, but since she seemed to be out jogging, probably hadn’t showered yet that day, one doubts she cared; incidentally had she chosen not to wear underwear to avoid the “unsightly” possible line, that would have been the story, her deemed raunchy, low class on that account. What do you mean you won’t take a woman seriously in leggings, wearing yoga pants; plus who wants to be taken that seriously on their morning jog, doing daily tasks, no one said anything about this trend in the board room. And while many understand Ms. Partridge was writing a personal blog, detailing her personal choice based on her own reasons, not trying to start a movement, she obviously has, women falling on both sides of the reignited debate. Lion’s share of the backlash coming from women who believe, rightly so, similar to the Facebook commenter quoted in the piece saying “not wearing leggings is not a magic bullet that will stop men from looking.” Women who believe the missing element to stop “lustful” thoughts, harassment of women and a sex obsessed society, always treating women as sex objects no matter the situation, putting a halt endless clothing wars is men being held accountable for their own thoughts, men being responsible for their own thoughts, being expected to show respect, to anyone, everyone, not just women, respect based on them being a fellow human being, them having done nothing negative to you, not based on what they are wearing. Likewise let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment putting leggings in the same category as tights, they are meant to be worn under something, worn, as one commenter put it, with an oversized, shirt or sweater, ironically exactly how it was showcased in runway video, coming down past the model’s, a woman’s crotch area; men who are primarily attracted to, turned on by a woman’s legs, a common attracting feature for the opposite sex, will still look, ogle or stare, preventing none of the underlying problem, men’s total disregard for women as anything other than a piece of meat.

Thought provoking grains of truth in this YouTube comment as well, if we don’t want to become mirrors of other freedom-less countries; “She doesn’t seem to realise that the screwed up logic she’s applying here is the same exact screwed up logic that is applied in Saudi Arabia to justify making women cover themselves from head to toe in a burkah. When are we going to stop telling women that they are responsible for men’s thoughts. MEN are responsible for MEN’s thoughts. What are women supposed to do? Never play sport in proper sport’s gear? Never wear a bathing suit (the most modest of which is still more revealing than a pair of leggings)? Never wear summer clothes, because they’re shorter and more revealing? Or should they just never leave their house? It’s such stupid thinking and it needs to stop.” [Sic] Lost completely on the modesty crowd, covered in that burkah or not, men will still look at women, look at those who are their type; there concurrently needs to be a clear distinction made between looking, taking in your surroundings, registering the fact that woman is wearing leggings, another is wearing a dress and the man over there has on green boots, finding any of the above, attractive, appealing, something they look good in and gawking, ogling, staring, following or commenting to a woman lewdly and crudely about her clothing, all of the latter being their primary problem, rather than the former. This follows another viral video that has not left our memory, a women who dared show us one day of what it’s like being an attractive female, not so much as trying to look that way, and being constantly cat-called going about her business on the streets of New York city; ABC News quickly able to duplicate the experiment with one of their staffers in casual wear, skinny jeans, V-necked T-shirt coat, scarf, handbag. One man surprised when her fellow reporter went back to him and asked did you just say “damn Mami you got some cake,” asked him what that meant. Bewilderment shared by men in Minneapolis where one woman created the website Cards Against Harassment and began handing them out to her catcallers, most of whom were encountered on her commute to work, encouraging women across the country to do the same. Now commenters were divided on the contents of ABC’s coverage too, several latching on to the man filmed who said “…dressed the way you are…”despite the reality he was talking to the work commuter obviously holding a job, in an office, wearing a normal black dress, average length, yes showing neck but not cleavage, heels, pearl-like necklace and complementary hand bag/purse. Others calling out the earlier woman for her tight shirt and jeans asking why she expects anything less than “unwanted” attention; women polled on the street however did not find her clothes too revealing, on the contrary, were shocked she was wearing as much as she was and was still being treated in such a way. Said women wasting no time putting the shoe on the other foot and reminding us women don’t go around yelling to men cute butt and related comments. More members comprising the commenting public pointing out that supposed cat-calls, offensive language consisted of hello, how are you, good morning; men upset that the so called neo-fema-Nazi woman/women were chastising men for hello, appalled said phrases, even in that context, were viewed as harassment, inappropriate while select women had a similar responses recounting attention they received throughout their lives feeling flatted, indicating our news profiled women should feel the same. While that may have been their truth, their feeling on the experience, not all women will feel the same, not all women will be comfortable with male behavior filmed here; just like all women will not choose to be in a sexual relationship during their lifetime, not all women will choose to get married, women choose their comfort level of how much or how little they reveal clothing wise in public. Yet again, in this case, it was a tone problem; the men captured weren’t saying good morning to be sociable, to be polite, even in a tasteful way you speak to a girl you like, want to take out on a date, can see yourself in a relationship with, perhaps would someday want to marry, the sweet, innocent beginnings of something bigger, something that would progress, if they wanted it to. They were saying it with a clear wish they could get in their pants, all they wanted from them was sex, probably had an added bulge in their pants from seeing them walk by. Underscoring the problem is with men’s attitudes, their total lack of respect for the opposite sex as sentient beings housing feelings, dreams, aspirations, insecurities, sorrows and joys just like they do; instead, seeing them as a means to their ends, a thing for their enjoyment, to hell with anything else.

Further, somewhat hypocritical or at the very least leaving viewers confused, is Veronica’s vow not to wear leggings, because of reactions they elicit, but towards the end there is a family photo of her in, if not leggings a pair of just as form fitting skinny jeans apt to gain identical responses. Her husband wears form fitting kakis also, which could entice women to look as his butt, to be excessively attracted to him, thoughts clearly not on her mind, his clothing not being critiqued, by her or commenters; repeating the pattern of placing the onus on women to cover themselves, change benign habits while completely absolving men of responsibility. Perhaps worst of all Ms. Partridge has a young daughter and this is what she blatantly plans to teach her child, not just about faith, not just about basic parameters of modesty but that modesty means not wearing a should be perfectly fine garment because of how others, men might view you, to adjust herself, not that any other person in society needs to adjust their thinking.  Never mind these women either oblivious, or refusing to stoop to age old circular arguments by bringing it up, it’s hard to tell, are being targeted for unwanted attention, endless comment almost exclusively because they fit the construct 24, 36, 24, a long accepted version of a statistically perfect figure, or men who do this’s approximation thereof. They don’t have fat rolls, muffin tops, belly bulges, thunder thighs, cellulite, no more than an ounce of extra body fat on them; meaning they would be exposed to the same treatment were they wearing sackcloth and ashes, or as another story commenter put it, “jeans, a t-shirt and no makeup,” some would face comment simply because they dared don any, dido with sweatpants, the most shapeless garment in their closet, items two sizes too big. Nearly guaranteed is if these women gained 50 to 100 pounds the attention would cease and they would be lucky to get needed help in the street as “fat suit” experiments have shown, would be stared at on the bus/subway for their size, leaving women damned if they do look skinny, fit and healthy and damned if they don’t. Practicality wise a big problem for these women is they can’t buy their clothing 2 sizes too big, less form fitting, not only due to the clothing styles available to buy, the stretchy “short” shirts that show every contour, crease, bulge for lager women and make skinny women something to drool over, skinny jeans being the dominate jeans sold today in retailers nationwide, slim cargo variety pants replacing traditional sizes, leaving your options either the Capri pants or cotton stretch pants having the same effect for women who, if they buy it a size larger than they actually wear, it will fall off. Women, girls, who were they to go back to dressing like the existing conservative Mormon, Amish, Mennonite communities, would continue to find themselves targets, on the wrong end of unwanted attention, harassment due to their automatically assumed naiveté, meekness, virginal qualities, further removing clothing from the equation of how men think about women or preventing, abuse, assault, attack, harassment of women. Forget the apparently novel concept no woman wearing average, normal attire should be cat called going down the street, nor should it be implied she is deserving of the treatment given because of what she’s wearing period, but especially not in work clothing headed to an office, as opposed to a skimpy outfit headed for the corner, a strip club, her job at hooters; we shouldn’t need a campaign to stop this, women shouldn’t have to be passing out cards advising men what to do/say instead, it should be a part of basic decency common to the majority. Is it any wonder a group of 8th graders petitioned their school for sex ed. to include consent, an excited, enthusiastic yes to sex and what that looks like, because case after case proves young men, men in general don’t know what consent means, how to recognize it; men across the country are on video  ignorant to their offensive nature toward women, have no idea what they are doing constitutes harassment, adding insult to injury, feel justified in saying the things they do because the woman, women they are talking to are, in their opinion, dressed in a way society says is inappropriate, immodest, indicates you want flirting, harassing attention from men, could be available/open to sex, casual, promiscuous, unwholesome sex at that. From Steubenville to Vanderbilt, to whatever actually happened at UVA, the predominate feeling there is a rape culture both in America at large and running rampant on college campuses, women who have for years dressed down, refused to wear makeup in the nation’s subways to avoid rape. Response to the, turns out majority fictitious Rolling Stone article, first closing all fraternities then banning sorority girls, women from attending frat parties, illustrates women activists’ points; their solution, to tell women not to go as opposed to men not to rape, sexually assault and harass, as opposed to teaching party safety for both genders. Gotta love the slogan for the program promoted by those astute 8th graders; “my dress is not a yes.” Neither is the length of my dress, my skirt, my leggings, my makeup, my presence in your neighborhood, the fact that I am at a club, have a drink in my hand or drank more than one alcoholic beverage, the fact a may be drunk, in any way a yes, an invitation.

Issues of women and respect rippling through the western world, those middle-schoolers from Canada;  people outraged female competitors in the Australian open were asked to twirl in their standard Tennis uniform, including skirt, in addition to telling spectators about themselves. Clearly the announcer thought it was a cute, fun, even sociable thing to do at an event, adding to the showmanship, audience spectators seeming to agree; participants had something else to say. Most notably Serena Williams, who didn’t necessarily find it sexist, inappropriate but told reports she didn’t feel like twirling while remarking, if she was going to be asked to twirl, then guys should be asked to flex, show off their muscles. Also pointing out the latter would never happen, guys would never be asked to flex; tone, implication being to do so would be demeaning, take away from what they were there for. Feelings echoed by the Good Morning America anchor who said, why couldn’t they just focus on why they were there, i.e. these athletes prowess in the sport of Tennis, not what they were wearing; a damn good question really. Australia seems to have a particular problem with this, sticking the nation’s preverbal foot in its mouth; shortly after the Australian open faux pas, an Australian newspaper was called out by media globally regarding the obituary for one of their national bestselling authors, Colleen McCullough writer of The Thorn Birds later adapted for U.S. television becoming one of the most watch mini-series. Their beef, press writers working at the nation’s largest newspaper seemed to care more about her appearance than her long list of varied achievements embodied in the following quote from the Sydney associated press, “The Australian newspaper’s obituary of Colleen McCullough, whose novel “The Thorn Birds” sold 30 million copies worldwide and who died on Thursday at age 77 after a long illness, opened not with a list of her myriad accomplishments, but with a description of her appearance.” Blatant sexism was another outcry on social media venues, hash tags on twitter regarding comments about her weight and features not talent, perseverance and standard keys to success, unique keys to her success, ‘The other critique was the implication that someone who was plain and overweight could “nevertheless” be witty and warm. “A person of warmth and wit DESPITE being overweight? That’s incredible!!!! (also talent and stuff) (hashtag)everydaysexism,” tweeted Kerri Sackville, columnist for the rival Fairfax newspapers. “I did not realize that this was how we were doing obituary ledes, now,” The Washington Post wrote. “Now that I know, here are some obituaries for men, updated lest we fall behind the new standard. Teddy Roosevelt: Resembling a fat walrus in little spectacles, he was, nevertheless, president at one point or another.”’ [Sic] Just more bad press culminating in making shocking headlines over the last few years by following in the footsteps of an Italian court upholding the jury ruling acquitting a man of rape based on the idea there is no way the woman’s skinny jeans could have been removed sans her help, cooperation. When 9 other woman came forward accusing the same man it prompted the same judge to issue a mandate depicted in the proceeding 2014 article title until his retrial, trials on the new charges can be settled; “Judge Orders Man To ONLY Date Women Who Wear Hammer Pants After Skinny Jeans Defense Rape Acquittal,” leaving the rest of the world to ask, what were you thinking?  Repeating a complete disregard for women, on one hand demeaning, denigrating them for not fitting the beauty ideal, for “not even trying;” then punishing them, blaming them for their own assault when they do.  But the problem today is women’s skimpy outfits, trying to imitate celebrities who wear next to nothing, in public and on stage no less, people who don’t know how to dress appropriately i.e. what leggings are supposed to be for, sure.

Closing, of course Veronica Partridge has every right to choose what she does and does not wear, what is and isn’t right for her family, representative, non-representative of her faith, her interpretation of that faith; simultaneously she has every right to the same freedom of speech as anyone else, to share her views with the world at large. That however is no guarantee the majority, a majority will agree with you; what garnered so much attention is her archaic antiquated reasons why she has chosen to act as she has, her underlying, maybe even subconscious motivation behind posting her blog on the internet, knowing others could and would read it, rather than making her choice in private with the world none the wiser. Quite disturbing to opposing thinkers is that she lives in the 21st and believes the problem with male lust is women’s garments, that the solution to that problem is for her, women in general, to alter their appearance, cover their bodies in more and shapeless, non-form fitting clothes, not for men to get their minds out of the gutter, learn respect. Perhaps more importantly she does have a daughter and this too is undoubtedly what she will learn observing her mother, that there is something so bad, shameful about her body she has to excessively cover it up to keep men from treating her like trash, to avoid uncomfortable leering, commenting situations. Coming away from her formative years with the thought pattern she is at fault, failed to cover up enough if she finds herself receiving unwanted attention, harassment, god forbid assault; perpetuating almost as negative a message as men who continue to overtly, relentlessly disrespect the opposite sex. And wouldn’t it be far better to teach her the confidence to say to the boys, young men, men she encounters throughout her life; my dress is not a yes, if you ever want me to take you seriously as a person, if you ever want any hope of achieving your goal, being in a relationship with me, virtually any women, really that could/will at some point lead to sex, then you need to drastically change your approach incorporating words like class, dignity and respect into your behavior before you demand it of me. Wouldn’t it be far more productive for her, for getting to the core of the problem, stopping it in its tracks to give her the confidence so many women lack, to confront their harassers, their cat callers telling them exactly what she thinks of them? Better yet wouldn’t it be better for society as a whole, the world over if we stopped putting so much emphasis on looks, be it physical features you were born with, whether or not you won the cute, pretty, handsome genes birth lottery, whether you look good in the latest fashion trend, and focused on the intrinsic things that make up a person, what kind of human being they are, what kind of citizen they are, what kind of worker they are? Imagine if there were someone to impart this to the world, get us to think beyond the superficial, too bad it won’t be Ms. Partridge’s daughter; now that would be a blog worth reading.