Feminism, it seems, has come full circle. It used to be men who kept women down — withheld the vote, closed off job opportunities, told us how to dress and what to say — but now it’s other women. If you don’t say #MeToo, you’re a bad feminist. If you don’t feel like a victim when your date goes wrong, you’re a bad feminist. If you choose not to work, you’re a bad feminist. And the latest example of women’s oppression of women: If you don’t wear the right workout clothes, you’re a bad feminist.
That’s right. An op-ed in The New York Times — written by female senior staff editor Honor Jones — wants us to know that yoga pants are just too darn sexy to be worn to the gym. In the article — called “Why Yoga Pants Are Bad for Women” — Jones laments, “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?” Gee whiz, Honor, you sure sound a lot like the patriarchy!
Jones’s argument seems to be that women who wear yoga pants — as opposed to sweatpants, which Jones proposes as the feminist gym-going uniform of choice — are trying to look sexy. “The gym is one of the few places where we’re supposed to be able to focus on how our bodies feel, not just on how they look,” Jones writes. “We need to remember that. Sweatpants can help.”
But what if yoga pants make women feel good? I mean, they’re called yoga pants, and the women Jones is describing are actually at the gym doing yoga. (I don’t do yoga myself, but it seems to me that if I did, it would be kind of hard to do it in sweatpants. I’m already totally uncoordinated, and with all that loose fabric flapping around it would only be a matter of time before I stepped on my pants cuff and went careening into someone else’s downward facing dog.)
But all that is kind of beside the point. The point is: what gives Honor Jones the right to tell us what to wear to the gym? Even — especially — in the name of feminism? What’s wrong with wanting to look good while you work out? Presumably, you’re working out, at least in part, in order to look better. So why not look good while you do it? Maybe yoga pants make you feel lithe and unencumbered. Maybe they make you feel svelte and desirable. Maybe, in fact, they feel more comfortable to you than sweatpants. Who the heck cares?
Honor Jones. That’s who. “I got on the elliptical.” Jones’s dramatic retelling of her uneventful trip to the gym wearing sweatpants goes on for three paragraphs. “A few women gave me funny looks… Men didn’t look at me at all.” Sounds like Jones is self-conscious about her choice of workout wear, but no one else seems to care. The “few” women giving her funny looks could have been glancing at her for any number of reasons that had nothing to do with her pants. (Maybe they were wondering why she was looking around so judgmentally instead of minding her own business at the gym.)
But, I mean, what if (horror of horrors!) these yoga-pants-clad women are trying to look sexy? What if they did put on those skintight pants that morning hoping to make an impression? How could that possibly be anti-feminist under the current definition of feminism? How, in the age of free the nipple, and hats that represent vaginas, could a woman showing off her body be wrong? Is it because she’s doing it — in Jones’s over-sexed imagination — for the benefit of men? But isn’t even that a kind of female power? The ability to attract the male gaze — or not — at will? (“Yes” is the correct answer, by the way. But don’t worry about it, I stopped trying to understand feminism a long time ago.)
“Step into some slouchy pants with me,” Jones entreats us. “Bring back sweatpants.” Be my guest, Jones. And, you know, while you’re shaming women for their choice of gym wear, why not tell them what to wear to the office too? Or on a date? Or in their homes? Heck, why not dictate everything a woman should wear, and do, and say? “It’s okay,” you can tell us. “I’m a feminist.”