Trousers are a badge of equality between the sexes. When I was at primary school girls weren’t allowed to wear trousers and I spent many a winter shivering in my tights on the way to school, woolly though they may have been. At secondary school girls were at least allowed to wear trousers, or slacks as my Nan would have called them, during the winter but not in the summer. While this undoubtedly made for more comfortable cold weather journeys to and from school it seemed somehow more sexist to me. It was as if they were saying, “Let the little girlies wear trousers while it’s too cold for them but let’s put them back in their place once the sun’s out again.” It infuriated me then and it still does now.
By the time I reached adulthood and started to learn about feminism and campaigns against sex discrimination I was hopeful that the easy-to-do sexism of forcing women to be stereotypically feminine by wearing skirts was if not a thing of the past, then at least on its way out. Alas no. Call it staunch feminist politics or being middle class enough to be able to do so, but I actually turned down work where the employer insisted female workers wore skirts. It was a catering job, but not a waitressing role where perhaps an argument (a flawed one in my opinion) could have been made for a betrousered woman looking less smart than a skirt-wearing one; no this was a job washing up. For which I was told to ensure I was wearing thick tights as the employer was concerned that bare legs would be more at risk from hot water spillages than covered legs. What a lot of twaddle! Trousers, trousers, trousers you damn fools. Trousers are practical, more protective than skirts and tights, can be as smart as you like and are a physical demonstration of somewhere where there is at least a little bit of equality for women.
Just in case you’re thinking about piping up about how men should be allowed to wear skirts, I’d like to say: “Why on earth would they want to – given the above – but that if they find skirts suitable attire then why the hell not?”
I can think of at least two examples off the top of my head of skirt-wearing men, both of whom wore it well. The first was roundhouse-builder Tony Wrench, whom I interviewed when I was a reporter for the Western Telegraph.
Pembrokeshire National Park planners had discovered and disapproved of a beautiful, ecologically sound and sustainable roundhouse that Tony had naughtily built without planning permission in the middle of the countryside. Not that anyone could see it to complain about it. It took someone flying overhead in a plane and spotting his solar panels glinting in the sun to bring it to the attention of the authorities! But I digress, Tony was wearing a lovely rust-coloured skirt when I went to visit him and his partner at said roundhouse. He did not want to sit down to have his photo taken, lest he reveal anything he shouldn’t! But he looked cracking, and very manly I might add, in his skirt and I’ve never forgotten it.
Another skirt-wearing male is former Oysterband drummer Lee Partis. If you’ve ever seen a rock, or in this case an energetic folk band, perform then you’ll appreciate just what a physical job drumming is. Just look at how sweaty they get. More so than the rest of the band I reckon and so I’m sure that skirt of his kept him nice and cool and he looked good in it. Not girly, not freakish, but like a man wearing a skirt.
So, men can wear skirts if they want to and so can women. I’m not anti skirt full stop, I’ve got a few skirts in my wardrobe, but I believe it is discrimination to insist someone wear one just because they are female.
So what has prompted this ranting? My stepdaughter’s mother’s comment that she was “trying to get T to wear skirts”. Oh, please! T is 10 years old, a whirlwind crossed with a juggernaut moving at breakneck speed through life with little interest in wearing skirts – and why should she at her age?
It made my blood boil at the thought of tomboy T being moulded into a ‘nice little girl’ and brought my anger at enforced skirt wearing all those years ago back to the surface.
Trousers have been and continue to be important, perhaps even vital, to the emancipation of women. To deny or discourage a girl or a woman from wearing trousers is a sexist act and something to be frowned upon if not openly condemned.
Women and girls, wear your trousers with pride! And don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do so.