When Cornelius Walker observed his son’s particular interest in a girl wearing yoga pants, he realized it was time to discuss respecting the right of women to feel safe and secure.
I like women in yoga pants. If I see a woman with her yoga mat slung across her back, stainless water bottle in hand, rocking a pair of lululemon crops my eye might linger perhaps a half-second longer than usual. The first time I noticed them was at a coffee shop, where a young student (I presume, living in a college town as I do) came in for a chai latte. At first I thought it an odd fashion choice for the bitter New England winters until my companion alerted me to the yoga studio across the parking lot. Since then yoga pants appear to be everywhere: at the gym, the home improvement center, the DMV. It certainly doesn’t hurt that yoga practitioners are often young and fit. It’s clear these women spend time working on their bodies, and if they didn’t want others to take notice they wouldn’t wear such revealing clothing.
At least that’s what I’ve heard, but not from women. Because when I ask women—and I have—they universally say they wear yoga pants for comfort. I’m sure there are women out there who do want you to look, who derive some pleasure at the titillation caused by the sight of their shapely rears in pants that appear designed to aid those who suffer from a deficit in imagination. The problem is, those women are rare and they’re indistinguishable from the women who are simply out and about during their day, whether on the way to a Hot Power Vinyasa session or just to the corner store to pick up a pack of smokes. A pair of yoga pants is not an invitation to ogle, let alone comment.
I was reminded of this the other day when picking my seventh grader up from school. There was a cute girl a few yards away wearing yoga pants and I noticed my son looking a bit too long. When I was his age the boys thought it was all good fun to go around pinching and slapping the girls’ butts. “Of course the girls enjoy the attention,” they rationalized, but anyone who cared could tell the difference between enjoyment and the look of horror that crossed many of those faces. The boys weren’t pinching and slapping butts because the girls wanted it, they were doing it for their own enjoyment. If there was a girl or two that did enjoy it, that’s of little comfort to the many who were violated.
I turned to my son, “you know, even if the girl chose those pants to make her butt look cute, you still shouldn’t stare or comment. Her wanting her butt to look cute is not the same as her wanting you to comment about her butt. And staring is just rude, and makes some people uncomfortable.” He paused for a second, while the words sunk in. It was clear he hadn’t ever thought about what she wanted. In fact, I doubt he was even aware that his staring had any impact on her.
“But what if she does want you to comment?” he asked, always looking for the loophole. “She’ll let you know,” I replied. I thought to add, “and if you’re married to her, the answer is always ‘you look great’” But there’s no need to perpetuate that tired stereotype…
Photo: Flickr/lululemon athletica