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Feminspire | July 11, 2014

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How Accepting Leggings as Pants Made Me a Better Feminist

How Accepting Leggings as Pants Made Me a Better Feminist

I’ve come around on leggings.

For years, I was one of the most adamant legging haters in the country. When I saw a girl/woman walk by wearing leggings “as pants” my stalwart go-to reaction was: eye-roll + “echh” + one or more of the following: “Leggings aren’t pants” / “That’s not even flattering” / “Does she think that looks cute?” / “Put some pants on.”

I was so proud of my patronizing disdain for this superfluous, sure-to-be short-lived, trying-too-hard-to-bring-back-the-‘80s trend. Except it turned out to be not so short-lived. It’s been a good seven years since my leggings-hatred hatched, because it’s been a good seven years since leggings “came back.”

I didn’t always hate leggings. In fact, I distinctly remember loving one particular pair that I had as a kid: white ones with neon purple, pink, and orange geometric patterns on them. (It was the early ‘90s. They were awesome.)

But something happened in my psyche sometime between 1994 and 2006 that totally altered my opinion of long spandex-cotton bottom-wear and made me believe they were unacceptable to function as anything other than thick tights. By the time I was a college freshman in 2006, my opinion of leggings was set in stone: Thou shall not wear leggings with anything but a skirt or a dress. Thou shall not even wear them with oversized sweaters or long button-downs. Thou shall especially not wear them with normal-length shirts, “as pants.”

And it wasn’t just that I personally rejected these fashions in my wardrobe. Nay, I judged every woman who wore leggings in any way I deemed sinful. I judged them hard. The wrath of my leggings-judgment poured down frequently via disapproving glares and silent head-shaking.

But then my slightly-younger, slightly-more-stylish cousin started wearing leggings as pants. She embraced the look and rocked it. My cousin made me realize that leggings created the option of simultaneous style and comfort.

On paper, it seems like such a simple revelation, but it was not. At the time, I was about to start writing my Master’s thesis on 1920s flapper fashions and Simon de Beauvoir’s theories of the “eternal feminine.” I was thinking a lot about the uncomfortable, often medically dangerous things women do to contort their bodies to fit some unrealistic feminine ideal. In the past: Chinese foot-binding, African neck rings, Euro-American corsets and crinolines. In the present: high heels, spanx, false eyelashes, tight (like, circulation-cutting-off tight) jeans, corsets (…still).

In contrast, I began to develop a soft spot for soft, body-hugging (not body-squeezing or -contorting) leggings. As Amanda Hess wrote for Slate’s XX Factor earlier this month, leggings aren’t pants, and they aren’t tights, either. She’s says they’re better than both because they’re more comfortable.

“Pants are great if you’re a woman with the perfectly-calibrated corporate-sanctioned ratio of waist to ass to leg. What are you, a ringer for the jeans industry? It’s time to stop squeezing our lower bodies into constrictive denim prisons and instead envelope them in a forgiving cotton-spandex jersey. Never again will we be forced to choose between visible ass-crack and bulging muffin top.”

As for tights,

“Tights have exerted their control-tops over our torso-crotch areas for too long. They snag on everything. They warp in the wash. They create itches that cannot be scratched. The discomfort of the toe seam is, frankly, egregious. But it doesn’t have to be this way: Sturdy. Footless. Washable. Leggings.”

Hess concludes that leggings have subversive power (my word, her meaning) because they’re not really meant to look good, but rather to feel good. When the fashion police and legging-haters of the world (AKA me pre-2012) look down their noses and scoff “Those aren’t pants. Put some real pants on,” what they’re really saying is “You’re not conforming. Women wear pants, skirts, or dresses. Leggings aren’t any of those. You need to conform.”

And, it’s taken me a long time — about seven years’ worth of judging women for wearing comfortable, trendy not-pants — but it’s finally, fully dawned on me: I was judging women for not conforming, too. All this time, I thought I was the system-bucker because I avoided this trend like the plague. But it turns out I actually missed out on years’ worth of system-bucking via comfy, trendy bottoms. OH GOD. Excuse me while I crawl off to a corner now and die of self-disappointment.

But no! No actual dying today, because I’ve discovered my conformity-based-judgment and I’ve reformed. Practically a 180-degree reformation! I’d say about 175; I sometimes wear leggings, and I definitely never judge other people for wearing them.

Sure, maybe it has something to do with the fact that skinny jeans and yoga pants have become norms, so after a while leggings seem to be just another part of the leg-hugging gang. Because I’m not the only one to come around on leggings recently.

But it’s definitely more than that. Because my leggings-conversion was the start of something bigger, something really significant for me: my journey to stop internally judging women for wearing things society considers(ed) to be “slutty.”

No, I never thought leggings were slutty. But realizing that I was wrong to judge women for wearing leggings made me realize that I was wrong to judge women for wearing other things. I’m ashamed (and frustrated) to say still haven’t quite conquered that mean girl (or is it a man?) in my brain, with her supposed high-standards and apparent Colonial fashion-sense, who whispers “slut” from the depths of my Repressed-Stuff Brain Cave when some a girl wearing stilettos, high heels, and a low-cut top walks by.

It’s an on-going process, beating internalized slut-shaming, but awareness is definitely the most crucial step. And I defy anyone to tell me that conquering internalized slut-shaming isn’t hard work, given that our entire culture judges women on what they wear, draws the line between “attractive” and “slutty” with invisible ink, and rarely questions slut-shaming, even in the case of a 16-year-old rape victim — it’s hard work, even when we’re feminists and uber aware.

But my leggings epiphany has shown me that I need to tell my Creepy Subconscious Slut-Shaming Cave Dweller to shut up. Judging a person based on what they wear is weird and wrong. And in the case of women, it furthers sexual objectification and the idea that appearance is a woman’s most important characteristic.

Leggings have shown me that judging women for “not wearing pants” is almost as bad as judging them for wearing pants instead of skirts, like they were doing 70 years ago. (Yeah, it hasn’t been that long. Weird, right?)

Leggings may very well represent a new level of comfort for the 21st-century young woman, who doesn’t let thick, tough denim hold her back, or uncomfortable, footed, seam-filled tights slow her down.

And leggings may also mark a new, subversive frontier in women’s fashion: where there used to be only skirts and dresses, there appeared pants; now, where there used to be only skirts, dresses, and pants, there appeared leggings.

Written by Jess Eagle
Reposted with permission from House of Flout.

  • Nicole Resweber

    Woah. Rethinking some thoughts now…

  • Daniel

    I love when some self-important person writes a trival article about something as mundane as what we wear on our legs, and manages to convince themselves and others that it’s a serious and progressive topic.

    Somehow I get the feeling the author hasn’t experienced much real hardship or suffering in her life, because otherwise she’d she how ridiculous it is to write an article like this and never would have put pen to paper, lol. Shows how stagnant and pointless feminism has become as well, that this is kind of drivel coming from it in its attempt to pretend it’s still relevant and important.

    Sometimes I wish a nuclear war or mass societal collapse would happen, people might get a better sense of what to take seriously lol. Or dropping the author of this article to live in a warzone in Afghanistan for a year, entirely on her own… that’d be good too. We have it way too easy these days, it’s allowed us to become weak, shallow empty people who place importance on the most unimportant of things. THANKFULLY, humanity will eventually die out, and the sands of time will win over.

    • lion234

      Are you serious….? I assure you we, at least *I*, am aware of the “real hardship” and “suffering” happening around the world and in my own country. Not ALL articles have to be about wars and starving children, I’m not saying we should forget about them either, because I mean, there are TONS of those articles out there on the internet, so I don’t understand why you would click on this one.

      I actually like how the writer links something so mundane to something serious; I find it entertaining and easy to read and I’d never thought of linking
      the two together, so it gives me something to think about. Conforming to beauty standards would be conforming to the patriarchy and its stupid expectations of women — which shows that the writer IS contributing to feminism.

      And lol if you seriously think we’d need a nuclear war to “take life more seriously” as you say. I think you’re the one who hasn’t been paying attention to your surroundings.

    • California Frost

      Problem solving doesn’t work that way. You can’t rate problems and then claim that only the ones that could be considered most life-threatening deserve to be addressed.
      I try to accept everybody’s different views, obviously. But since you don’t seem to have any issues with stating your opinion in an immature and purposefully insulting way, I don’t mind telling you that you are plain and simply wrong either. Take it or leave it. (Although, I’m not getting the impression that you’d be intelligent enough to actually participate in a proper debate and reconsider your views based on those of others.)

  • rabbitwithfangs

    You haven’t brought up the whole ‘yeast infection’ issue, which is and always will be why I find leggings on *anyone* not participating in a sport gross.

    • Vivid Sammy

      Wait, what?! How are leggings and yeast infections related?

      • rabbitwithfangs

        Leggings are usually made of synthetic material and obviously don’t leave your ladybits much breathing room. Lack of fresh air can make the ‘friendly’ bacteria in your vagina turn not so friendly – in fact a doctor friend of mine said that *always* wearing leggings, tight nylon pants and/or pantyhose is the quickest way to develop a yeast infection.

        • Rosario

          I have been wearing skin tight leggings for years and I have never developed a yeast infection. If the leggings I am wearing are see through I will wear pantyhose under them so nothing shows through. So according to your doctor friend I should have had a yeast infection by now.

          • Lauren

            It depends on the woman. I am severely prone to them so leggings is the worst choice ever. Some women never get yeast infections (lucky girls) so it isn’t much of a factor.

          • Athena

            Oh and obviously your experience is the benchmark for all of us. *rolling eyes*

          • Rosario

            No, just saying for myself wearing pantyhose is dress code for work and I haven’t had any problems with least infections. If that was the case that pantyhose are the cause of infections I am sure it wouldn’t be mandatory. Most of my leggings are 95% cotton and 5% lycra which breaths really well. I guess I am just lucky that way.

    • Renee Quick-Chapman

      It really depends on the girl. Some girls wear there jeans 2 days in a row and get one and others never do.

  • Skeptical

    Speaking as an avid advocate against leggings as pants, I disagree somewhat. On the grounds that if you are wearing leggings tight enough and see-through enough that I can discern every single detail of your ass, it’s not a good bottom-wear choice.

    To be clear, I am not saying that you should dress to please others in any way, or that butts are shameful and need to be hidden from the world at any cost. I am not making an anti-feminist statement. I’m saying that there is a fine line between confident and fashion forward and uncomfortable for everyone.

    If you’re wearing leggings that still manage to be comfortable and stylish without alienating every person who sees you, then you go for it.

    • pan

      i think you just need to get over it. in this case, i think it’s your choice to feel alienated, since it’s not even hurting you in any way.

    • Lindsay

      And we have a winner for “Totally Missing the Whole Fucking Point.”

      So sick of people playing the ~uncomfortable~ card. “It makes me uncomfortable” is code for “I don’t like it” which is, wait for it, judgmental slut-shaming. Leggings aren’t see-through. You can’t actually see “every single detail” of a woman’s ass. Stop making shit up to justify your misogyny.

      • Sandra L Mort

        Where do you get from “I don’t want to see ANYBODY’S bits and pieces” to “misogynistic”? Frankly, I think seeing boy bits is even more uncomfortable than girl, since they’re external. Just blech. Mind you, I don’t criticize people with different tastes than I do, but I still strongly prefer modesty for all sexes and genders.

      • WMPlem

        Now that “slut-shaming” has become a buzzword, people are really mis-using it. To clarify, “I don’t like it” does NOT equal “slut-shaming”. Slut-shaming is insulting a woman for expressing her sexuality in a manner inconsistence with patriarchal norms. Don’t dilute the term my misappropriating it. I realize it’s easier to label and dismiss anyone who disagrees with you as a slut-shaming misogynist, but that convenience comes at the cost of accuracy.

        Also, unless you are speaking on behalf of every pair of leggings ever produced, you cannot make the assertion that they do not have the potential to be see through, at least to the extent of showing undergarments (or lack thereof).

  • Kristen

    I agree – I hated leggings-as-pants for so long until the past year and then decided, screw it, I just want to be comfortable too. But I don’t think that wearing leggings is a form of progressive system-bucking; if anything, leggings are the most “conformist” item of clothing out there and, though more comfortable, are also designed to show off every little curve of women’s bodies. I think its more important to think outside this framework generally. Wearing leggings isn’t a political thing. Wear them if you want and don’t judge women for wearing or not wearing them, but also – don’t be deluded into thinking that you’re “bucking the system” by wearing leggings.

    • Pixx

      I started wearing leggings when I was three and refused to ever put on actual pants because they were (and still are at age 25) so uncomfortable to me. So three-year-old me was definitely not concerned about showing off every little curve of my body–it truly was and remains to this day a comfort issue.

      Of course leggings look sexy on older women, but that is an added bonus in my book: I personally like dressing sexy and don’t intend to stop, and I don’t think that makes me a conformist or not-a-feminist. But when choosing between skinny jeans or leggings, I’m going to choose the leggings. Because they’re comfortable.

  • Guest

    I’ve worn leggings-as-pants for the past 7 years, except for the days it`s been warm enough to wear dresses. The hatred towards leggings has always made me immensely uncomfortable, but still not as uncomfortable as pants made me.

    Since entering high school, I have not owned one pair of pants that fit me properly and comfortably. Not one pair of jeans, not one pair of dress pants, not even causal khakis – nothing. I’m of average height and weight, but my body proportions do not fit the norm. Basically, to put it blunty, I have a huge butt in comparison to the rest of my otherwise-proportional body. Before leggings came along, the only thing I found comfortable was a flowy, kneelength dress. I live in Canada though, so that’s not an option every day.

    Pants are just not made to fit me, and it used to make me hate my body. When leggings came along, and they were fashionable, I finally began to love my body and my bubble butt, because I could finally look fashionable! Of course there was something much more important now… I was finally comfortable at school and work! I didn’t have to attempt wearing dresses and pantyhose in January anymore!

    This article meant a lot for me. Thank you so much for writing this & admitting you were wrong! You have no idea how good it feels to know we`re all capable of opening our minds and coming together.

    tldr; just shedding some light on why one may choose to wear leggings-as-pants

    • WMPlem

      My problem with leggings-as-pants is not that I don’t understand the appeal of comfort, it’s that I truly look awful in them, and I don’t personally know many people who are an exception to that. I would far prefer to wear a loose fitting pair of pants (or a full skirt) than something that emphasizes my thighs/butt. When I wear leggings, I feel fat and insecure. Then again, I also won’t wear mini skirts or tight fitting tops, because I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable with how they made me look or feel. To me, dressing well is all about being honest with yourself, and finding clothes that you are both physically and mentally comfortable wearing. If you feel that you look good in the leggings you choose, and they feel good to wear, more power to you. My silent judgment is not “that’s slutty”, rather “do you really feel confident wearing those, or o you just not care”? I’m sure that makes me an awful feminist, but hey.

      • delizabeth3

        Kind of, yes. Maybe try to content yourself with loathing your own body and leave other women’s bodies out of it.

        • WMPlem

          I applaud you for responding in the last constructive way possible. If you had even the most rudimentary understanding of self-esteem issues, you know that “try to get over it” is an absurd thing to expect. Additionally, those judgments are not an active, deliberate response. Sure, I’d love to think “you go girl” about someone dressed poorly, but that isn’t something you can just decide to do. Again, you’ve made a snarky recommendation that isn’t reasonable to expect someone to have the power to just change. Having enough self-awareness to understand why one feels the way they do does not merit condescension and absurdly unattainable recommendations.

          • delizabeth3

            You’re right, it is hard to control your immediate response to something. Sorry for the unhelpful advice. Maybe this will be more useful: save that judgmental poison up in your own head – do not go out of your way to openly justify your behavior born (apparently) of your own low self-esteem on a blog post that is largely about self-acceptance. I guess I don’t care what you think about women in leggings in your head. The crappy behavior on your part was laying it in this particular public sphere. Does that clear it up for you?

  • rosie

    Thank you for writing this! A few years ago when I was like 14 I was really wary of leggings because of the idea that they were too revealing to wear. I owned one 3/4 length pair that I would wear around the house with long t-shirts but if I went outside I’d change into jeans or put on a skirt over them. I love my jeans but they rub really uncomfortably on my hips and leggings are a welcome change.

  • Allison

    It’s something I’m still working on. I remember being shocked the first time I saw an adult/teen wearing leggings for daily pants purposes– I could distinctly see the outline of her crotch! And she wore this to class! WHY? In my mind my knee-jerk reaction was completely different from my common arguments with my mother over how low-cut a top I was “allowed” to wear (male chest is normal, female chest is obscene??). Eventually I realized these two topics are more or less the same issue: policing women’s clothing = policing women’s bodies. Chests and genitals are not cultural equivalents, however, which I suppose is my hang-up about leggings. But the body parts other people choose to display does not affect or harm me at all; even if someone is walking around naked that’s none of my business. So I try not to judge for leggings or anything else, but I still can’t see myself ever being comfortable wearing leggings as pants.

    • Athena

      It’s not “policing women’s bodies.” Most of us just *gasp* don’t want to see your camel toe! I don’t want to see your vagina either, does that make me a bad person who hates my fellow woman? No! I just think you should respect yourself better than to prove your feminist idealism by showing us your private parts or even the outline of them.

      • Sandinista

        Helpful hint: As soon as you tell women that they should simple “respect [themselves] better”/enough to do whatever you want them to do, you are almost certainly policing their bodies or slut shaming or engaging in some other misogynist noise.

        If you don’t wanna see my camel toe, may I suggest not staring at my crotch?

        • Eric

          Great response!

        • Athena

          Nope, sorry! I ride public transit and you are normally running your crotch by my face or shoving your ass there. People are notoriously un-selfconscious of where they are shoving their ass when riding public transit or even moving towards a seat in a theater. I can’t help but to see your camel toe since it gets shoved in everyone’s personal space, and yes I think you are gross. And yes, you SHOULD respect yourself better. Unless you are a hooker, then that is your choice and feel free to dress the part. Respecting yourself and others is just what people in healthy communities DO. I’m guessing you don’t pick your nose in public either, so stop flaunting your crotch area.

          • Sandinista

            I respect myself better than to care whether you like the way I’m dressed or not. How’s that?

          • Athena

            No, you disregard your self respect by dressing in a way that leaves nothing to the imagination. Do you not feel attractive unless you are flaunting your body parts? True sexy and being feminine doesn’t entail flaunting anything. Only the insecure do that because they think no one will notice otherwise.

  • Kim

    No worries toward people who wear them as pants in general. It’s the people who wear them as pants to the office, unaware that they’re inappropriate professional wear (like you wouldn’t wear a see through blouse, your butt shouldn’t be on display like that). And the people who wear a size too small, because the world doesn’t want to see the colour of your knickers any more than the guy with his pants around his knees. Leggings are great. But they’re not for everyone’s body (and we equally judge men on horrendously unflattering clothes) or every situation. Its not that difficult to understand!

    • Athena

      Apparently, it is difficult. Rocket science for some people in fact.

  • Candles

    Um, no, I just prefer not to see the outlines of strangers’ private parts. This has nothing to do with gender for me. I don’t like leggings as casual wear because they’re too revealing — and if men wore them I would be even more emphatic. I don’t want to see your ass crack or your camel toe or your sealed sausage unless I’m already shagging it. If you’re at the ballet or a gymnastics club or something that requires clothing like that, fine. But as casual wear it genuinely makes me uncomfortable. No matter who wears it.

    • Brian

      Candles, just because you go around staring at people’s crotches doesn’t mean everyone does. Sounds like a personal problem.

      • Anonymous

        Maybe its the fact that walking around with your cunt hanging out is just something you shouldn’t do, regardless of who’s looking, why is it that you want to jut your fat ass out too the world anyways?

        • Pixx

          Wow, really?

          • Athena

            Yes, REALLY.

          • ana manea

            well, it’s sad you guys hate other people body parts that way, thats all

      • Jaime

        Just because you happen to see something doesn’t mean you go around staring at it. There are plenty of girls where I live who wear thin, not-quite-opaque tights in place of leggings; it’s hard to avoid seeing the things below them–and believe me, I’ve tried. To me, this also is not an issue of gender. I don’t even shame people in my own mind–people should be comfortable with their bodies and with what they wear and all. It just makes me a little uncomfortable to see a bunch of strangers’ (less than) privates when I’m going about my business.

  • Lauren

    Just something worth thinking about: what’s wrong with women who choose to wear corsets? I love corsets. I’ve always loved wearing old things and I like tight things around my waist (even as a kid – yes I’m odd). Very very few women in Western society, if any, are forced into wearing corsets – in fact most of the time when you wear a corset you’re met with disdain and anger even. So why the …still for the corsets? What upsets you so much about women wearing something that makes them happy?
    This applies across many things. Of course women feels pressured to wear heels and other uncomfortable things. But I wear heels every day. For fun. I follow a blogger who wears false eyelashes everyday, even at home, because she loves them.
    So fine, hate society for the pressures. But do not hate on women for conforming (often for survival) or for bloody enjoying herself.

    • ana manea

      I suppose it depends of the corset, but if you use it for what its intended and squeeze yourself, it makes you less able to do sports, short of breath easily, less flexible, weaker looking. that is sad.

      • Juliet

        If I’m wearing a corset I’m not planning on going out to play soccer…I’m wearing it to feel sexy! Most corset wearers nowadays don’t wear them full time or tight enough to cause permanent physical change.

        • ana manea

          There still is something awkward in wearing something you can’t wear if you want to be able to have fun spontaneously an run a little bit. That makes you unable to bend, unable to enter a car except awkwardly and etc. It’s more restrictive than stilettos! I would be sad to see such a trend spray even for “non sportive events”, as normally one should be able to act spontaneously at all times… I mean, I guess, wear it as a restrictive outfit if you are into masochism at home, but elsewhere… iich.

      • TattooedLittleMiss

        Not even people who waist-train wear corsets to that extent anymore. No more than two-four inches and certainly not the s-curve or wasp-waist of the late 19th century.

        • ana manea

          even a loose enough corset (as long as its tightened at all, otherwise it’s just a corset looking regular top) makes you unable to run, short of breath, less flexible, and etc. I did not even mention body deformation, which is one step more extreme

    • TattooedLittleMiss

      I don’t think she intended to hate on anyone for wearing heels or corsets. But there’s no denying that both can be harmful to a person’s long-term health, if worn often and to the extreme. I also love to wear corsets and heels. I used to wear the latter every day, never less than three inches. Most of my shoes still have at least a four-inch stiletto heel. But I’ve seen first hand the damage to your feet and legs heels can do and I acknowledge that.

  • Martha

    YES! Thank you!!!! Thank you for acknowledging the “inner slut-shaming,” for self-examining, and for writing such a thoughtful, kind piece. (I swear I don’t usually use this many exclamation points…)

  • Average Jane

    The award for missing the whole fucking point goes to you Lindsay. As a woman, am unimpressed with how girls, and other women, disregard others. Just because its what YOU like doesn’t mean that EVERYONE else has to deal with it. I hate leggings because they are worn rarely for comfort, and are generally made to be semi- transparent, or have some sort of embroidering to draw attention to asses. I may be old fashioned, but as a member of the main target market for these see-through skin covers, I am disgusted that it is now acceptable to wear them, and I’m only 18. If grandparents are cringing at the sight of these hybrid pants, maybe they shouldn’t be something worn everyday.

    • Pixx

      Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you win a “get out of misogyny free” card. I don’t personally give a damn whether my clothes make you comfortable or not. I don’t dress for your comfort, and I don’t give a toss what you think I should be wearing. My body is not open for public commentary. People like you–people who think that you have a right to tell me what my body should look like it, simply because you said so–are the problem. Yes, telling a stranger that she needs to change her clothes because you decided she doesn’t look acceptable IS misogyny.

      • Athena

        If you go out with crotchless panties next, let us know. I want to see you tell off the staring public and screaming about your right to express yourself. Oh right, there IS a line to be drawn isnt’ there?! One must have standards after all. LOL

        • Rosie

          um, LOL, if someone wants to go out with crotchless panties, why shouldn’t she? You may have noticed that in the animal kingdom, no one feels the need to cover up their body parts. It is only humans who teach that genitalia are “unacceptable” and “shameful”.

          If you personally don’t feel comfortable wearing leggings, then that’s fine. But you shouldn’t tell other people to change their clothes because they aren’t “modest”. Modesty isn’t a virtue; it’s a social construct. If I’m not embarrassed by my camel toe, why do you really give a fuck?

          • R

            This is wonderful. I mean, you’re totally right. We should be more like animals, you know? Poop outside, hunt for our food and kill it with our bare hands, eat it raw, have mating rituals based on the strongest males getting their choice of females, and of course not use technology like phones or computers. Congratulations, you won feminism. That’s what the movement is about. Being like animals instead of humans. I’m glad you give me approval to run through town with my genitals flapping in the wind.

          • WMPlem

            Drawing comparisons to the animal kingdom seems a bit contrived. Sure, modesty may be a social construct, but as humans, we conform to these constructs – to some extent – to maintain our place in the societies in which we live. If you want to adhere to someone else’s social norms and gain unwavering acceptance, find a group with norms consistent with your extant preferences, for instance, a nudist colony.

      • marty

        You say in one statement that you “don’t give a damn” and in the next that your body is not open for public commentary. Pick one or the other… If you really don’t give a damn, then you shouldn’t care if anyone comments on your body or not.

        Wear what you want, but don’t get upset if people gawk at you and stare. If you truly don’t care, it’s a non issue, right?

      • WMPlem

        The irony here is that you in fact care so deeply about sending a public message to the people you purportedly don’t care about that you can no longer claim you are genuinely “wearing what you want”, but rather that you are dressing to deliberately evoke a negative response so that you can casually toss around the word misogyny and carry that more feminist-than-thou aire throughout the rest of your day.

  • Not falling for your excuses

    Oh denim is just SO uncomfortable to wear. Especially since nowadays it’s hardly even made with the real thing, there is latex and spandex incorporated., Shut up, admit that America has a greedy and attention problem. Look at Hollywood.

    • Renee Quick-Chapman


  • MattyB

    They aren’t pants but I don’t think everyone who wears them is slutty or terrible or of moral disrepute. Much like harem pants, I just think they’re making a fashion choice I wouldn’t.

  • Charlotte Bobby Derrick

    I agree that we need to sop slut shaming. Absolutely. But I’m still not convinced by leggings. I find them way less comfortable than tights or jeans, and yes, camel toe is something that concerns me!
    Also, I’ve seen alot of ladies backsides as they walk up the escalators from the London Underground and I’ve seen waaay to many grotty knickers through leggings! I’ve even seen blue tampon string through some very opaque leggings! Now I don’t think that these women are sluts or even sluttily dressed, but I do think that they should wear nicer knickers before they leave the house!

  • doc__holliday

    lol @ comparing corsets to Chinese foot-binding.

    • buri103

      You do know they were usually made to be tight enough to break ribs, shift organs, and cause miscarriages, right? Lol@your lack of research.

  • Pixx

    “Now I don’t think that these women are sluts or even sluttily dressed, but I do think that they should wear nicer knickers before they leave the house!”

    You’re missing the point. You wear what you want to wear. You let others wear what they want to wear. If a grown adult decides to wear leggings in public, she doesn’t need your permission on whether or not her underwear is up to your standards. She’s an autonomous person and can pick out her underwear herself. It’s not hurting you, so it shouldn’t bother you. If you think that other women’s bodies are somehow hurting you or making you uncomfortable–well. That’s kind of the point of this article, isn’t it?

    • Charlotte Bobby Derrick

      Hahaha!! I don’t think that they need to dress up for me by any means! But since I can see their underwear I’d rather it wasn’t almost transparent or stained!
      I’d think the same about someone wearing a jumper with food stains down it. It’s just a bit gross! I don’t give a monkeys that I can see their underwear, you can see mine half the time, but I throw away knickers with holes in the crotch rather than wearing them under transparent leggings!

      • yeah…

        why does it bother you so much? that is the point. your judgements about other peoples’ clothing being gross is superficial.

    • WMPlem

      No one asserted that women needed to ask permission to wear leggings as pants. It’s just a shame that a few who refuse to do so with tact ruin it for everyone else. The same can be said for any fashion trend, male or female.

  • Athena

    It isn’t wrong to wear leggings as pants AS LONG AS your ass is covered and we can’t see your camel toe. I don’t care what kind of woman you are– feminist, soccer mom, model– ain’t nobody got time for that.

  • Athena

    You are DEAD wrong. Google it, there are plenty of examples where women go out in public with short shirts on with their leggings, and you can see every single bump and wrinkle of their cellulite, leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. It doesn’t imspire “feminism.” it inspires complete strangers to dart their eyes or outright make fun of the woman. Sorry, that’s not making us any stronger.

    • Mart

      Who cares if other people have cellulite? I don’t, and if you are repulsed by something as natural as a body then it sounds like you have a personal problem.

    • Amused

      So it isn’t people wearing leggings as pants- its FAT people doing this that bugs you. Fat people shouldn’t be allowed to be comfortable. They need to be reminded of the diet and exercise they are lacking by the constricting waistband of denim trousers. How about just accepting people are going to wear and not wear what they want and get over judging them because as we all know fat= horrible person. *eye-roll*

  • Athena

    Oh girl parts are external as well, the clitoris just doesn’t stick out as far as the penis. But the existence of camel toe proves that either can be seen through thin leggings, and that no one who isn’t intimate with you WANTS to see those private bits and pieces through those leggings no matter how proud of them you are. And also, in reference to the person you were responding to, throwing around big words you don’t fully understand like “misogynistic” doesn’t make you any more right.

  • Cherry

    Lol I literally don’t give a damn what others want me to wear. I personally HATE jeans because they’re restricting like nothing else. As lone as I’m not walking buck-naked down the street, y’all can be as “uncomfortable” as you damn well want. If you hate it so much, ignore my presence. No one’s begging you to look at me hahaha.

  • Ryanisinallofus

    Perception altered for sure.

  • Ashford Wyrd

    Erm no, not usually. It was a minority who wore them that tight, even when they were the height of fashion. No, ribs were not broken either. They were re-shaped during the time that they were still flexible, to be able to take being squeezed a bit more. Organs however were distorted, and rearranged a little inside the womens bodies who were tight lacing to that extreme.

  • Hill

    I think as long as the top worn with leggings covers the crotch, leggings as pants can be really cute!

    If the top ends above the crotch, usually only a few people can wear that and still look good, not have camel toe or issues. Also, flesh colored, too tight, or too sheer are just not very flatering- but most people tend to get it right! :)

    Out of the right material and color leggings are wonderful! I much prefer them to jeans. Way more comfortable, and actually WAY less prone towards camel toe, and super flattering to my legs.

  • Lauren

    I just don’t like seeing camel toe and every other detail of a strange woman’s genitals when she wears leggings as pants

  • Curtis Penfold

    As a male bodied individual who loves wearing leggings, thank you.

    Screw the fashion police. I’m all for fashion anarchy. Everybody should just wear what they want.

    • Kimberly


  • Abby

    Awesome piece. Very well written, bravo!

  • ana manea

    the only sad thing about leggings is that their are deemed unworthy of male power. a man would look like a sissy in them, but he would be cute to me, anyway.
    whats sad about women looks is that they need to fit with masculine norm to be credible professionally, and then depart from it to fit with a more glamourous night event. If they could wear the same outfit for having fun as for working, like men do, that would make them look more friendly and approachable, less severe when working. In other words, I hope it was ok for women to wear pants at the oscars and glamour dresses at work, as they wish.

  • Kristin Marie Callaghan

    I have to say, Fashion wise, they are not supposed to be pants, but something worn with other things. Fashion wise is why they were created.

    And the whole “ass crack showing in pants” shows in leggings too, a lot. because they make leggins shoter in the butt area than in some pants.

    And there are sizing for a reason, use it. dont ignore it, Things are made for a certain width for the material to act the way it should.

    I’m not calling anyone a “Slut” *unless they hit on my husband, then beware >>*
    But i’m calling you ignorant to the person who designed the item you are wearing. Sure you can wear it anyway you want, but that’s disregarding who made it and for it’s true purpose. Bottoms should be bottom weight, thicker, Becuase, thin rips and tears, and just doesn’t work well, *reason why tights can suck* but to Thick should be for cold weather.

    I dont care if you wear them as pants, but make sure you get the ones made to be worn simmilary to pants. Meaning a bit higher in the back and the right width for your width, *no falling leggins, no ass crack. and no croch outline. Still confortable but correct. because how can too small shit feel good? seriously, if i wear something even a few centimeters to small i get the worse wear line ever and it itches to high heaven.

    And if we really wanted to stop the world from any shaming, then we just all need to be naked 24/7 and then no one will care.

    But i love PJ’s, which are much more confortable than leggings, no hugging here, but those are seen worse than leggings, Which is why i’m glad i have a toddler, and we have PJ day >> << But if i'm going out with out the kiddo or to somewher where i know i'll get dirty looks id much rather avoid the drama and wear leggings with a simple dress that goes to my knees, *So if i need to bend over i'm not flashing the outline of my crotch to everyone. BUt that's me, I like to respect people in certain situations because conflix all the time is horrible.

    But im also a hipocrite so whatevs.

  • MoseyM

    I hate leggings as pants*, but I couldn’t agree with this article more. I’m SO glad to read this. Yes, leggings look “unflattering” in the current Hollywood sense on many/most bodies. Yes, they are tight. Therefore seeing thin lycra stretched over butt and/or camel toe makes me very slightly displeased for roughly 0.6 seconds. Seeing leggings on the “wrong” bodies makes me briefly aware for an instant that a person has a different body type than Cara Delevigne (which needn’t be, btw, a negative thought). And… there you have it. I have experienced a brief moment of mild reaction to leggings and somehow managed to survive. Just like the other day, I saw some butt cheeks flapping in the breeze just below some short-shorts (it’s still warm here), and life went on. For both me and the person attached to the buttocks.

    I also (inexplicably) experience this in reaction to men of a certain age wearing collarless shirts. It just makes me super-uncomfortable– for, like, a full second before life distracts me. And I cannot imagine why any of those men, or anyone else, would give a flying flip about my thoughts on their neck-gear. Even if I chose to stew over it, even if I started loudly proclaiming it, and even if Joan Rivers then started a syndicated TV show lampooning mature male wearers of collarless shirts, I doubt that those men would care. And no one would expect them to care. No one would wonder if the those men were holding back men, as a gender. In fact Joan Rivers would probably get some strange reactions and intense blowback from the show. Because those men are not the sex class and are not the designated receptacles of society’s psychological projection. In other words, you can judge others but you’re not a court of law. But Kyriarchy absurdly, and chillingly, teaches you that you are, as long as you pick on the right people.

    Thinking, “Oh I’d wear that differently” or “hey look it’s a body minding its own business” is just not that bad of an experience. It’s only social myths that tell us that if other people think those things about us it’s the end of the world. And it’s only social myths that tell us that if we think those things about others we need to ruminate on it. To feel defied. To become angry. To make that someone else’s problem. To never notice or to claim it’s a coincidence that we only feel entitled to take it that far regarding someone low(er} on the kyriarchical pyramid. Or that we feel entitled to rope in a bunch of others who agree with us so we can let those leggings-wearers know that they have been warned by The Group, darnit! Feeling this stuff about others is guaranteed to come back around to bite us in the ass whenever we’re worried about our own body/social images. After all, how can you tell yourself no one else thinks those nasty things about you, and if they do it doesn’t matter, if you know full well that you think those nasty things about others and that it does have an effect? Sure, it’s a vicious cycle where you likely only policed others because you feel policed yourself, but it doesn’t have to be.

    *Yeah, I’ll wear them sometimes and it’s super-comfy. I don’t know what the hell happened to their quality between 1991 and today, though! Messing up simple stretchy leg-tubes is like messing up a PB&J. And yet….

  • Christian

    Seriously? Leggings are now a gender issue? People can wear whatever they like (I’m not unconfortable, nor do I feel people need to conform to my tastes), but does it really need to be a political issue?

    It’s just a matter of taste. This is akin to saying that it’d be cool if I (as a dude) would start wandering around in long johns and a tee. Tacky.

    Think People of Walmart.

  • Dorothy

    I think it depends on your outlook on “feminism.” Some people’s definition of feminism is to be regarded as equal to men in most ways. In that respect, women should look to a day where it is acceptable to have FEWER clothing options as opposed to MORE.

    To clarify: the majority of men only wear pants or shorts. These pants and shorts are typically looser (and presumably more comfortable) than the female equivalents. It is also a fact that in the military, politics, and our economy men hold more power than women and have for centuries. While I know it is a correlation only, it seems as though if one has FEWER clothing options, they have MORE power.

    Perhaps another way of looking at it, is that men spend less time “getting ready” than women do. Part of this is the ease of clothing choice: fewer options and also more outfits that can be “worn again” without any scrutiny. By saving time getting ready everyday, or spending less time shopping, men have more time to do other things–probably, MORE IMPORTANT THINGS. The societal expectation that women should be “made up” everyday and have a variety of clothes suggests that society places a higher priority on women spending time beautifying themselves than women doing other, more important, things.

    So unless you are suggesting that we replace all of our other clothing options (including professionally) with leggings, I have some disagreements with your arguments. I’m not entirely sure that liking leggings or accepting them makes you a better feminist, but it seems in your case it does make you a nicer person in general.

    • TattooedLittleMiss

      Maybe men need more clothing choices. Because I have way too much fun with my clothes to cut back, but I know quite a few guys who would love to wear their kilts out but feel weird.

  • Emily D

    I appreciate this article, but I’m irked by the fact that the photo at the top of the article is one of legs that conform tot hte legging standard. Women with “those” legs are acceptable in our culture when they wear leggings. Its all the other women who have lumpy “this” or too big “that” who are criticized for wearing leggings.

  • BMlover

    Reading through the comments, some of you need to sit there and actually think about what you’re saying. TIGHTS AREN’T SEE THROUGH. If they’re see-through, they’re most likely wearing very cheap crap or are wearing tights that are too small. But, that is not the tights fault. People buy what they want to wear. Regardless how see-through their tights are, wearing underwear is a very common practise. So seriously, stop hating on tights. If you see a camel toe, feel bad for her, she may not know! ALSO AS IF YOU CAN SEE MORE THAN THE OUTLINE ANYWAY. Get the fuck over it/look away. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean you should hate on other people for it. – from a girl who wears very pretty, very comfortable, NON SEE-THROUGH, BREATHABLE tights all the time.

  • Mari Adkins

    i look awful in them and tend to mostly wear them around the house. but gosh, they’re so comfortable!

  • tallulah

    I was around for the first legging trend, and I liked them, but always with a skirt or shorts over. They were great for extending shorts season several more months, and as the shorts I wore then were typically flannel with cows on them you can tell I am not taking this position from a high fashion sense!

    But I didn’t like wearing them alone and I don’t like seeing women wear them alone. There are plenty of comfortable pants, shorts and skirts out there. You don’t need to choose leggings if you’re looking for comfort.

    What about sweat pants? Yoga pants? Any of those California pants with a drawstring waist? Take your pick, there are many comfy pants out there (hello, pajama pants) and they don’t have to cling to your butt and legs. If you choose leggings, that is what you’re choosing.

    And I’ve seen too many women wearing leggings with expensive equestrian boots (that will never see the inside of a stable) or with expensive rain boots, and with fancy jackets and other outfit parts that indicate to me, and to the world, that leggings are thought to be part of this fashionable outfit. If she were going for comfy, she’d have on slippers or flip flops, two shoe choices I have never seen with leggings.

    • TattooedLittleMiss

      So? Why can’t fashion be comfortable? I’m forced into khakis and men’s polos eight-ten hours a day, 5-7 days a week. When I’m NOT at work, I want to be comfortable, but I want to remind myself that I’m cute, too. A lot of times, especially in the winter, leggings do that for me, either under a skirt or dress or with a sweater. Yoga pants are cut too low and sweatpants are what I put on after I’ve been on my feet at work since 5 am.

  • TattooedLittleMiss

    I hated leggings for a while, too. Then I realized that they’re WARM and they move with you and they’re lovely. And unlike jeans that bunch and pinch and leave marks, they fit into the tops of boots and thus don’t get cold and wet and terrible in the rain and snow that plagues every part of every country I have ever lived in. I’m not always super comfortable wearing leggings because I’m a curvy girl, but as long as my sweater/shirt covers my junk-filled trunk, I’m happy.

  • Bri

    I still can’t do them. As a college student, I’ve kinda accepted them being worn to class. It still irks me, but I can’t do anything about it…plus it’s not an inappropriate setting. What really bothers me is when girls wear these (or yoga pants) in a workplace setting. It is inappropriate, yet some people can’t see the line between “comfortable casual wear” and “professional.” And honestly, the girls on campus partially wear them because they’re comfy, but mainly wear them “because it makes the guys look at their ass” yes, I have heard many girls on campus say that. Most girls wear them for the attention it brings to their ass. Personally, I’d rather not see camel toes and thong lines (and I’ve yet to see a pair that does not make one or the other or both happen.) I think leggings are cute when worn with a shirt/skirt that covers the ass/crotch, but not otherwise. They’re multifunctional too. if you wear a pair of leggings with a nice skirt and top, THEN it can be office appropriate….but not on their own. Not as pants.

    • Chloe

      Why does it matter if they’re wearing them to get attention from guys? So what?

  • Stephanie

    I am a raging feminist and I wear leggings because I like my legs.

  • Alex

    If accepting, wearing, and embracing clothes that are mass-produced overseas in unsafe conditions, primarily by women, often for slave wages–all in support of a global economic system that systematically oppresses women and non-white people–is a grand feminist gesture now… we might really need to rethink feminism.

    Me? I’m going naked.

  • WMPlem

    Actually, it does. I didn’t realize it before, but evidently you felt threatened by what I wrote, and would rather I not share my thoughts. Unfortunately, the internet is no place for those who cannot handle a voice of dissent (especially a civil one), so I’d advise that you learn to cope with that reality more constructively.

    The reason I commented is because I think it’s important for those discussing the “silent judgments of others” to understand that those judgments don’t always come from a place of malice or “slut shaming”, but possibly from a more innocuous place of projective insecurity.

    Next time, I’ll be sure to talk about that in the abstract, so as not to open myself up to petty, judgmental, personal attacks when I was simply offering an alternative perspective.

  • Chris Landers
  • ana manea

    why is “tact in clothing” an important thing. I wished we would not be so negative about how we look at all times.

  • delia

    i think a lot of women (and people of all genders) judge non-skinny women who wear leggins-as-pants more harshly than skinny women who do the same. in a “does she think she looks good?” “does she think she’s pulling that off?” “who does she think she is?” “that’s so inappropriate” kind of way. if something is ok for skinny ladies, it’s okay for all ladies, and it’s time we examined the role of weight in our determination of what is and is not appropriate clothing

  • ajkeating

    I love you and I feel the same way. I only came around to legging in 2013 and am ashamed of cruelty toward my legging-wearing sisters in the past 7 years.

    You’re spot on: this is a matter of FEELING good, not looking good. Don’t know why I didn’t see the light sooner and I’m proud of women for figuring this out…even thought it took me a long time to get on the bandwagon.

  • Helen Razer

    I want and need to die.

    This, truly, is the nadir of popular writing about feminism.

    Not only is any kind of critical thinking absent in this
    text so too has its authoress dispensed with the need for any sort of pretence
    of an argument or, indeed, the need to spell Simone (not Simon_ de Beauvoir’s name

    If this was the work of a fifteen-year-old and not, as it is
    putatively, of a female human adult who was permitted to synthesise ideas in an
    elite house of learning, I may have some patience with its silliness. Moreover,
    if this squalid little half-thought hasn’t been pressed into my timeline fifty
    times by people I have now un-friended for their idiocy (thanks, at least, for
    providing such a reliable filter of poor judgement) I wouldn’t pay t much mind.

    As it is, a reeking idea with all the self-awareness of a
    Camembert past its Best Before date has been elevated to “inspiring” status.
    And what, here is the source of the “inspiration”?

    Apparently, some gross misreading of feminism that reduces
    it from a complex understanding of gender to a piss-weak rationale for fashion

    You know, not everything is a “text”. You’re permitted to
    flirt with the idea that everything, including overpriced bits of spandex made
    by women in Bangladesh (or, some fucker from Massachusetts on Etsy; obviously, the
    method of production is unimportant to the author) is relevant as an
    undergraduate but not as a Masters student.

    If you genuinely believe that clothing has a static meaning
    that comes from its comfort or design and can, thereby, be said to be more “subversive”
    than another piece of clothing, then you have failed miserably in your
    semiotics studies.

    And if any of you tits believe that drivel like this has any
    value beyond upholding the You Go Girl™ poison of liberal feminism that is more
    interested in it its own “right” to feel pretty than in actually changing the
    shape of gender, I hate you.

    This is the worst thing ever.

  • Christa Terry

    have never understood this – mainly because it’s not like leggings/yoga
    pants are some new thing. Back in grade school in the 80s we called
    them stretch pants and they were a completely normal thing to wear.

  • stardreamer42

    I would just like to point out that jeans don’t have to be ugly or constricting. You’re more likely to find properly-fitting ones in the Goodwill store than at the mall, though. My thrift-store Gloria Vanderbilts have the waistline AT my waist, and are cut to fit my curves — I don’t have to choose between “too tight in the hips” and “2-inch gap in the back of the waist”. And as a bonus, they cost $7 a pair.

    The main reason I don’t wear leggings more often is very simple: POCKETS. Or the lack thereof, when I’m in leggings. But if you don’t keep stuff in your pockets, there’s no reason not to wear a pair of leggings with a T-shirt.

  • defender of good taste

    and before I’m accused of being a anti-feminist, judgemental hater, let me say that I put this trend right up there with guys wearing their pants around their knees. I do not, need not, see every contour of you a$$ or the color, shape and pattern of your underwear! There is such a think as class and this ISN’T IT!

  • Mandy

    What about leggings in the workplace? Can leggings be professional attire? I have a really comfy pair that I always think twice about before wearing to the office–and if I do, it’s always with a long shirt or dress. Haven’t been brave enough to wear them as pants…

  • Erin

    This is a great article. Honestly, leggings and yoga pants are the best pants for my body type. No other pants fit my body type of being a curvaceous woman. Any other woman with an hourglass body can understand that after years of pants not fitting and pulling up jeans because belts don’t fit, it’s a relief to have pants that actually fit me and my body type. Honestly, I don’t see why the argument should go further than that. I am going to wear the pants that make me feel comfortable. You can wear pants that make you feel comfortable, case closed.

  • Joanna Wanfried

    I have a theory that part of the rise in popularity of leggings is due in part to the decline in the quality and construction of pants basically industry wide. The poorly drafted patterns and cutting and construction methods result in an epidemic of camel toe, odd proportions, waistbands that both gap and pinch, and pancake butt. Is it any wonder that many women have decided to forgo traditional pants in favor of softer, stretchier alternatives? At least with leggings and yoga pants, the stretch fabric is forgiving enough to make up for any shortcomings in the pattern.

  • Meh

    Eh. I think people should still be careful about which leggings they wear.

    Sometimes they’re not leggings. They literally are footless tights. Because they’re made out of a thinner material than you think. (Not all leggings. Some leggings. And I suspect this one girl honestly had bought a nylon-spandex blend pair of tights and pulled them on without thinking- and you could see EVERYTHING, including her wedgie)

    Also, major disadvantage to leggings: The baggy knee! I correct this in winter by wearing a pair of tights underneath. (They seem to grip to the tights)

    ….I just cover up anything that is more than a like, a hand below my bum, personally. But that’s also cause I don’t like the way leggings look higher up. They can have just as long waists as tights, too!

  • Guest

    Not convinced, why? Because these are more tights than pants. See through tights. And no I don’t embrace the but crack sharing tights, or the camel toe tights in lieu of pants. They are gross. And yes a skirt, shorts, long shirt of oversized sweater ARE required.

  • Lex

    I struggle with the whole ‘leggings-instead-of-or-as-pants’ thing. I’m a hardcore, radical feminist, but I’m 17, and have only identified as such for about a year or two. While I always have opposed blatant sexism, feminism made me realize that I was thinking in a way that was sexist too. Feminism has helped me learn to not judge people for what they wear. The one thing where I can’t quite come around is leggings. I get that they’re comfy, flattering, and easy. I totally do. But why not yoga pants? They’re practically the same thing, and they’re REAL pants. I think it’s just that I don’t like things not being used for their originally designated purpose. But this article is food for thought, so thanks!