Commentary by Jessica Nickel
Ah, fall. The time of year when the leaves change, the pumpkin spice lattes flow and females everywhere break out the yoga pants and leggings. Well, most females. Students at a North Dakota high school have recently been denied this autumn privilege.
Devils Lake High School, in North Dakota, is just the latest school to declare war on the comfy legwear. They have, however, taken things one step further by also banning female students from wearing skinny jeans, and any other tight-fitting legwear, to school. You would think such a drastic measure would have a sound logical argument backing it up. In this case, you would be wrong. The school stated that the ban was put in place because tight-fitting pants were too much of a distraction to both the male students and the male teachers within the school.
There are many things that I could say to respond to this, however I will chose to stick with those that omit vulgarities.
First of all, it both appalls and enrages me that the school uses the “distraction” argument in their justification of the ban. It seems to me that the problem at hand is more so the school’s misconception that male students and male teachers would be distracted by girls in tight-fitting pants. How about instead of forbidding girls from wearing certain articles of clothing, the school focuses its energy on preventing the next generation of men from objectifying women and stops sending the message that men deserve a free pass because “they can’t control themselves”? I find this to be not so far removed from victim blaming in instances of sexual assault: the girl was dressed provocatively and the boy just couldn’t help himself. Not only does it degrade the women involved in this situation, but it also diminishes the morality of the men as a group by assuming that they are completely incapable of exhibiting self-control and of respecting their female counterparts.
Second, the school and general public seem to be forgetting that leggings are not a new phenomenon. Women have been wearing them as pants since the 1960s. I personally can remember wearing them on multiple occasions throughout my childhood. School administrators are treating this as an epidemic that came from nowhere when it is actually just a part of the cyclical pattern of clothing trends. Leggings and yoga pants are comfortable options for everyday wear and can be dressed up considerably when partnered with sweaters, scarves and boots.
My final reflection upon this topic brings the issue closer to home. As I strolled down the Commons going to class the other day, I decided to actually take a look at how many girls were wearing leggings or yoga pants. I then proceeded to abandon the endeavor after thirty seconds because I immediately lost count. This prompted me to ponder the possible consequences if The University decided to forbid female students from wearing tight pants to class. Judging by the sheer number for students wearing them, I came to the conclusion that there would be a serious uprising.
The frequency with which female students choose to don yoga pants for class speaks to the ridiculousness of this action. I do not mean this in a “well everyone’s doing it” manner, but rather one that exemplifies the benefits perceived by those involved. Students are more comfortable during class and are still appropriately “covered up” so as not to be seen as “indecent.”
And honestly, more people wear leggings and yoga pants than jeans to class, making the experience for male students somewhat old hat. In my travels down the commons I took note of male students’ reactions to the females in tight pants and a vast majority were far too concerned with their iPhones or conversations to even glance in a girl’s direction. Perhaps the situation is different in other schools in other places of the country, but in my experience and opinion, this “war on yoga pants” is a colossal waste of everyone’s time.