Leggings at The Gate
We, my family and I, rarely fly. We only fly when there is no other alternative, and when we fly, we don’t take the kids because this day and age flying is an NC17 adventure.
Even without the TSA air travel would be a miserable experience. To quote my darling husband, there is no glamour left in the sky. An airplane is but a winged Greyhound bus, a stinky, allergen-infested claustrophobic capsule shuttling between three-letter destinations. (And he said this before the latest United event, the forced removal.)
The airlines should just give in, he, my darling husband, likes to say, and embrace their low-class destiny. If passengers are willing to put up with jet lag, luggage carousels and, most of all, the security regime, surely we can soldier through a few hours of cramped sitting.
This brings me to the group of 10-year-old girls in leggings who thought they were set to fly for free on a United Airlines pass. Turns out, the leggings were against United employees dress code, and the girls were denied entry. (One of them was admitted, but only after she put on a dress.) The incident ignited nationwide controversy with many an eager feminists, celebrities and feminist celebrities jumping to the girls’ defense.
If we find leggings to be so contentious, the controversy is probably not about the leggings. It’s about, IMHO, in order of reverse importance:
1. Yes, we are slobs, proud slobs, and we will teach our daughters to be slobs too.
Nothing new here, except for a new low. We Americans are notorious for keeping our dwellings and personal appearances a cluttered mess. Over the last half a century we’ve been continuously hitting the rock bottom of presentability, and digging.
We used to look different, of course. Fashion models of the 40’s and 50’s projected a sensual and sophisticated look. They looked mature by design. A fifty-something once appeared on the cover of the British Vogue, an occasion which describes (hat tip Leslie Loftis):
Introduced in the late 1940s, Mrs. Exeter taught older women how to dress. “Mrs. Exeter knows what she likes — result of a thorough knowledge of herself,” wrote Vogue in the October/November 1958 issue. Her advanced age gave her an edge over flighty younger women who hadn’t zeroed in on their sense of self. She appears secure in dresses made from sturdy fabrics not seen as much today, like wool crepe or tweed.
Contrast this to the current fashion plate, a girl I’d like to call a comfy slut. Aside from occasional splattering of flowing chiffon, she’s all about layers of knits tucked inside Uggs — comfy. She dressed in knits all her childhood; occasionally she wore pajamas to school, why I don’t know, pretty much every item of clothing in her wardrobe was more or less like pjs.
Now that she’s all grown up, she is reluctant to let go of her sartorial habits, but still feels it’s necessary to mark herself as an adult. So on the bottom she wears the prepubescent leggings or a variation on leggings, such as yoga pants or, if we are lucky, stretchy skinny jeans. She tops it off with loose knits of which various parts cut out for erotic appeal (this season’s hot take are the bare shoulders). Full disclosure: I’m guilty of partaking in parts of this trend.
The late 20th century American college student uniform of blue jeans and t-shirt was interpreted (by whom I forgot) to reveal our egalitarian individualism. The bottom half of an outfit reveals one’s animal nature, the top half — one’s social self. Near-uniform blue jeans stand for our firmly held belief that all men are created equal, and the color blue signifies freedom. But the top part is where we express our individuality, where we advertise bands, colleges — what have you. By this reasoning the millenial young lady in her childish tights, puppyish boots and sexualizes tops is a hot mess.
She herself probably believes she’s a true feminist comfortable in her wears and comfortable in her sexuality.
I suspect some segments of Amazon Twitter simply can’t imagine a fifth grader who might want to explore other sartorial options, let alone that it might actually be a good idea to do so. They simply assume that all girls are like them, that all they want from air travel is to be cozy cute in their j’s.
Plenty of tasks that seem onerous to us are merely a game to kids. Moving to another house for instance, or getting car towed by AAA. We got stuck on I80 once, and, boy, was my son proud to tell his friends that he got to ride in the cabin of a tow truck for an hour and a half!
We dread air travel and feel exhausted at the mere thought of the revving jet engine, but a fifth grader might actually savor an opportunity to dress up as a jet setter or a vintage stewardess. Are we not forcing our assumptions of gender on them if we assume all girls naturally prefer leggings?
Because young women who are most outraged by the United’s refusal to board the leggings girls are also the most partisan ones, I suspect they were equally scandalized by Ivanka Trump’s State of The Union dress. I, too, thought the red frock with a black bra stripe was inappropriate. And, for the record, I thought that Michelle Obama showing a bra stripe was equally inappropriate.
Ivanka, of course, didn’t pioneer underwear as outwear. I suspect she was channeling Madonna (whom her daddy desired in the early 90's?) channeling Punk Rock. At this rate 30 years from now we’ll have First Ladies attending high level functions in sweats — and, depending on party affiliation, being called brave for doing so.
If our schools, symphony halls and places of worship are not in business of requiring attendants to dress for the occasion, it leaves some, though most certainly not all, employers like United Airlines as the last refuge of respectable attire.
2. If all forms of clothing (short of pjs, maybe) are oppressive, no clothing is oppressive.
Leggingsarmy complains loudly about sexualization of young girls. If United asked a 10-year-old to put on a skirt, the reasoning goes, it must be because they are perves who feel aroused by little girls. Guess what, I see girls in my town, girls in middle schools, girls in elementary schools who cover their heads in restrictive folds of synthetic hijabs. Are they sexualized?
Leggingsgate rather surreally coincided with #MuslimWomensDay on Twitter. To be sure, Muslim Women’s Day is a good idea, not only because women of Islamic world face unique challenges, and these challenges should be highlighted, but also because women are uniquely positioned to bring the Islamic world into modernity: The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
However, it seems like the whole enterprise was dedicated to telling non-Muslims that that lady in a headpiece over there is really a true feminist. Many of them are quite “active”, to be sure, but that’s usually on behalf of their tribe or religion, as is the case with feminist belles de jure Ramsea Odeh and Linda Sarsour.
Being an easy tool to mark a Muslim woman, hijab became an object of fixation for Westerners. The so-called “feminists” and the so-called “liberals” are rushing to defend a woman’s right to wear hijab on the assumption that if one wears said article, it must be because she wants to. Look at the hideous rugs Western women drape around their hips: if we can done onesies and be proud of it, surely our Eastern sisters can dig a babushka. Do we care that women in Tehran risk bodily damage for refusing to wear religious head covering?
They, the modern, freedom-loving women of the Muslim world, are precisely the women we should be championing. And yet, the above-mentioned Sarsour, the Hamas-connected lady who headlined the Women’s March in January and served as a centerpiece of the #MuslimWomensDay, once tweeted that she’d like to take away vagina of feminist and genital mutilation victim Ayaan Hirsi Ali. To that Ali responded that Sarsour is a Sharia activist and a fake feminist.
Mainstream feminism gives legitimacy to the symbol of female oppression because it’s just an item of clothing while sidelining brave women who put their lives on the line to be able to live free.
3. TSA is the airport pervert.
Everyone knows that on the way to the terminal the girls were scanned and/or groped. Everyone knows that toddlers, nuns, people with disabilities are assaulted and/or get hysterical at airport checkpoints. Everyone knows that it’s all for nothing because TSA’s own stings reveal that weapons can be smuggled on the planes.
Everyone knows and does nothing because it’s one thing to confront a private company vulnerable to public opinion and market pressure and another — a federal bureaucracy. And sure, United seems a slow learner; it stepped into another controversy yesterday when it dragged a passenger off an overbooked flight. It will learn, though. TSA — not so sure.