This Isn't About Leggings
United Airlines was thrust into the spotlight this week after a gate agent refused to let two female travelers board an aircraft. Their issue wasn’t concern for passengers’ security or managing inappropriate behavior: The girls were banned from boarding because they were both wearing leggings. United passenger Shannon Watts witnessed the incident at the gate and immediately shared her disappointment to Twitter. “A @united gate agent isn’t letting girls on flight… because spandex is not allowed?” Watts tweeted. The airline quickly found itself in hot water as people—including celebrities such as Patricia Arquette—expressed their disappointment and criticism of the company’s sexist dress code on social media.
United’s dress code is certainly problematic (and ridiculous) in and of itself, but this incident is not just about leggings.
This is about the eighth-grade English teacher who chastised my decision to wear jeans on a field trip because it wasn’t “ladylike,” while every other male student wore denim without question, and my male summer camp director who made me change out of my jean shorts during a heat wave, because apparently a girl’s upper thigh determines her value and worth.
This is about high school dress codes across the country that police teenage girls and demand that they avoid “tempting” their male counterparts instead of educating boys on the importance of consent and respect.
This is about sexist media images that send the message that women’s sexual expression is only appropriate or worthy when deemed convenient and necessary for men.
This is about a society situated in rape culture, in which women who wear short dresses are labeled “provocative” and told they were “asking for it,” whereas longer dresses are identified as “conservative” and “prudish.” Because Heaven forbid women exercise their freedom to wear an outfit for themselves and not for the approval of others.
This is about a country whose government is primarily composed of white, privileged men who determine what women can and cannot do with their own bodies.
This isn’t about the leggings. It never was. This incident is just one example of the many sexist encounters women face every day. This is about outdated and sexist policies or conventions that reserve the right to tell women what they can or cannot wear, what they can or cannot do, or how they can or cannot act. We are exhausted. We are frustrated. And we are so over it.
More articles by Category: Feminism, Misogyny
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Sexism, Gender bias, High school