Long live leggings!

13 Sep

Shero and pants-pioneer Coco Chanel once said: “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.” And if there’s no dress, there’s nothing to talk about. This week, I’ll be speaking at a Women Inc talk show with Lubna Hussein, the Sudanese journalist and writer who was arrested last year for wearing pants. Thank God I can wear mine without having to fear running into the law. But how free are we really to wear what we want?
In 2007, a Dutch reformed pastor wrote an article in which he condemned leggings for girls and women. Basing himself on the “physical, mental and social differences which God created between men and women”, he concluded that leggings were a masculine (!!) garment and therefore not suitable for the female sex. Christian school boards in the Veluwe area, the Dutch Bible Belt, immediately responded with a full-on ban on leggings.
In other parts of this country, the covered woman sparks fierce protests. The covered Muslim woman, to be precise. From all sides of the political arena, the hijab is being criticized. Only a few years ago, feminist magazine Opzij did not accept a woman wearing a head scarf to join their editorial team. A public swimming pool banned the “burkini”. And rabid right winger Wilders (just back from NYC where he spoke at an anti-Park 51 rally and currently in coalition talks with the Christian Democrats and Liberal Democrats, a crying shame!) even suggested introducing a head scarf tax for women wearing a veil. Do those non-Muslims really think they are actually helping the emancipation of Muslim women by imposing patronizing tutelage? Granted, I could imagine a government speaking out against full facial coverage, but a head scarf? My elderly neighbors back home in the village where I grew up wear one too, to cover their curlers! Would they be paying head scarf tax too?
On the opposite end of the specter, a Muslim woman who didn’t wear a head scarf was refused a job at the Islamic College of Amsterdam. Interestingly enough, non-Muslim female colleagues did not have to cover their heads, but her being an unveiled Muslim meant she was not welcome to teach at the institution. The Dutch Commission for Equal Opportunities ruled that the woman’s refusal was unjustified.
But maybe women amongst each other are the worst of all. At weddings, at work or simply in the street, the bitches bitch on.. Sisterhood? Forget it! A woman is wearing too sexy an outfit? Then she must be asking for it. Raped while wearing a short skirt? Figures!
Recent research in the UK indicates that more than half of women believe rape victims are partly responsible for what happened to them. And that, to use an old Dutch expression, makes my pants drop.
Coco was right after all. We should look for the woman in the dress. Or the leggings, for that matter. Vive la difference!

PS: speaking about dresses and leggings: I will be hosting MAFB Fashion Battle Saturday the 18th.

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