Yoga Pants and Unexamined Assumptions

Noah Brand responds to The Frisky’s criticism of a Good Men Project article.

Over at The Frisky, Amelia McDonell-Parry has some sharp criticism of Nathan Graziano’s piece here at the Good Men Project, “Yoga Pants Nation“. Ms. McDonnell-Parry writes:

Newsflash Nathan Graziano: Not everything women do is done with men in mind. Just because you find someone sexy, doesn’t mean she’s being sexy for you. Just because someone is wearing something you find sexy, doesn’t mean she is wearing that something for you. Your argument that women must be wearing yoga pants in part to appeal to man’s reptilian brains is based on one thing: “Sweats are comfortable too.” So a woman who chooses yoga pants over sweats is choosing the option that happens to be more appealing to men, so that must be her M.O. But maybe they’re more appealing to her because they fit better. Yoga pants are certainly more flattering, but women like to look good for themselves too, you know.

She’s not wrong. Mr. Graziano’s article was mainly about his efforts not to stare in a creepy and unwelcome way at people he’s attracted to, a problem a lot of us face, both men and women. That’s not the cause of the criticism, though; McDonell-Parry objects to Graziano leaping to the conclusion that yoga pants must be a deliberate form of performance for the male gaze. And she’s right to so object.

Graziano’s piece does fall into that trap, not out of malice—he’s clearly doing his best to avoid inappropriately sexualizing women he doesn’t know, despite his libido’s unhelpful suggestions—but because falling into traps like that is so damn easy in our culture.

I’m hardly the first to point out that the male gaze is everywhere in our culture, taken for granted as the default “normal” way of viewing the world. Feminists have been critiquing and unpacking it for decades, but it’s still the way half the images we see in the world are constructed. Nobody ever told Nathan Graziano “women do things just to be looked at” because nobody ever had to. It’s built right into the way we see things as a society. Most of us are guilty of falling into this kind of unexamined assumption at one time or another. I personally bristle when I’m dining out with a woman and the server automatically hands me the check, but I understand why it seems perfectly natural to them to do so.

That’s not to completely excuse the implication in Graziano’s article, of course. One of the things I try to do in my own work is dismantle and examine assumptions and stereotypes about men, so I understand how pervasive and persistent these things can be. It seems clear to me that Graziano’s intentions are good and his mistake understandable, but at the same time, the way we learn from our mistakes is by having them pointed out and criticized, so honestly: fair point, Ms. McDonell-Parry.



About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is a writer and editor, and quite possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.


  1. Here’s a simple fact: Dressing to look nice and dressing to provoke are NOT the same thing. When we buy clothes, yes we want clothes that look good on us. I imagine men want to look, good, too. We are NOT thinking “What can I buy that will drive ALL the men around me into a sexual frenzy!!!” It’s simply NOT the case!
    BTW, Some of us wear underwire bras because we need to. After two kids, and now being in my 40’s, a regular bra ain’t gonna cut it. And yes, I wear yoga pants just about every day. I’m in fairly decent shape because of my job, which I mentioned before (Pilates teacher). If a guy checks me out, fine. If he makes a nasty comment, makes a lewd gesture, tries to touch me, etc., he’s gonna hear about it from me. There is a difference between having a normal reaction and going out on one’s way to harass another person. Just as there’s a difference between having a normal reaction and blaming another person for that normal, human reaction.
    Don’t tell me what I am thinking. I KNOW what I am thinking. When I buy clothes, when I get dressed, etc. you are not in my head.
    What some men need to realize is that harassment and the threat of assault is VERY real. We don’t know you. We don’t know if you are basically a decent guy who is merely taking a look or if there are some creepy thoughts going around in your head. Because WE DON’T KNOW YOU. And the reverse is true. Please don’t make assumptions about us based on what we wear.
    Don’t tell us that if we dress more modestly we won’t be harassed. I can personally attest that that is patently false. Often we are harassed for being female and simply being there. I am speaking from many years of personal experience.
    And I can also say that, when I was younger, living in New York, and basically being verbally (and often physically) harassed from the moment I went out in the morning to the time I got back home, I was VERY angry. To the point where I started to hate men in general. And yes, I lumped them all together. Luckily, I was able to move, to have male friends again, and to change my perspective. I’m older and wiser, and happily married. What I’m trying to say is that our emotions and opinions come from our experience. It helps to see a different perspective.
    And, honestly, it help to get older.
    How about we all try not to feel guilty about finding someone attractive. Or about taking a subtle look. But also try not to be vocal about it, and try not to put the blame on the other person for being there and wanting to be comfortable or even attractive.

  2. ThomasM, I feel compelled to respond to this lovely little bit of sexism: “No compliments, not flirting, no free drinks and diners, no help with your college paper, no one who caries heavy stuff for you and fixes stuff for you, no shoulder to cry on, no sex. Then after four weeks we have this discussion again about men looking too long at women in yoga pants.”

    I don’t need men to make me happy, especially considering I’ve been seeing a wonderful lady for the last ten months. I would just like to put it out there that I buy my own drinks, I write a god damn good paper, and I learned how to fix just about everything on my Honda. See, some people don’t need men to get along happily in their lives. I get along just fine without free dinners and drinks. I will say, however, that I have the most amazing brother and best friend, both of which are better men than some of the ones parading around as a “good men” on this site.

    • High five! You and me are in the same boat with the rest of the male population, (it’s a big boat and very crowded.) We, men, fix our own stuff, buy our own drinks, etc, etc. And on top of that we don’t even expect a cookie for doing all these things.

  3. Here’s a crazy thought. Men as a group should stop showing sexual interest in women for maybe four weeks. No compliments, not flirting, no free drinks and diners, no help with your college paper, no one who caries heavy stuff for you and fixes stuff for you, no shoulder to cry on, no sex. Then after four weeks we have this discussion again about men looking too long at women in yoga pants.

    • Lysistrata strategies don’t ever seem to work. Instead, maybe men and women should keep communicating and actually talk to each other.

      • Or look at sex as less of a fiscal exchange and more a fun playful thing people do when they like and are attracted to each other. Always worked for me.

      • Talking to each other is a good idea, but sometimes a reality check is in order to put things into perspective. I wonder what a teenage girl in some middle east country who gets forcefully married to a 50 year old guy has to say about the issue of men looking a little too long at women in yoga pants.

        Essentially the whole topic is a joke. If anything discussions like this show how far we have come in the West regarding gender equality.

      • Regarding treating sex as a fiscal exchange. Trust me, no one would be happier than men when this stops. When women decided to stop treating sex as their commodity there would be a one week celebration all over the world, with fireworks, free booze and lots of sex.

        To be fair, in a strongly patriarchal societies it makes sense that women trade sex for protection, shelter, food, social advancement. But we don’t live in a strongly patriarchal society anymore. Nonetheless women still follow the same pattern to select their sexual partners. Seeing (heterosexual) sex as a shared, mutual experience is a romantic idea. But in reality I don’t see it. What I see is that women always have a bit of leverage over men. Basically, as a man you have to convince a woman that you’re a suitable sexual partner. As a woman you’re a suitable sexual partner by default.

        • Thomas, I never had any of the things you mentioned above (help with the college papers, free drinks, etc.) When a man DID help me, he was a friend, and he got a non-sexual favor in return (maybe help with HIS college paper). Does this happen? Certainly. Are there women who take advantage? Yup. Here’s my advice to young men: Stop offering. Stop buying the drinks, stop being the shoulder, and start hanging out with women who don’t expect these things from you. They are out there.
          If we look at the young girl in the Middle East, chances are, had she lived there 35 years ago, she would NOT have been forced into that marriage. We see societies going backwards in terms of human rights, and it starts small. With things like, yes, women should not be able to wear certain clothes in public and should dress more modestly. It’s a slippery slope.

  4. To clear this up, NO ONE is saying it is wrong to look at a nice ass. What I specifically stated in my earlier comment is that there is a difference between looking and staring. Staring is always creepy, and it is very much controllable. I look at hotties all the time, considering I live on a college campus. I don’t however, stare at them until they feel uncomfortable, because that is going too far. I don’t believe it’s my place, nor is it anyone’s, to make people feel uncomfortable walking around outside. A friendly smile and a glance is not going to taken as weird or creepy, but if you stare at someone long enough, prepare to be called a creep. Because it’s creepy.

    • No one here, maybe. The idea of “lust” being one of the worst things a person can do has had a central role in the central religion of the western world for hundreds of years. It’s hardly suprising that it will affect peoples’ expectations going into a discussion.

    • I’m sorry, but the standards for creepiness are very different for men and women. As a woman you get away with much more. A friendly smile and a glance can easily be perceived as creepy if they come from the wrong kind of guy.

    • It wouldn’t be “creepy and staring” if the attention was coming from a man you found attractive. You know this is true, and yelling wont change this.

      The amount of control you’re wishing to strangle out of life is an incredibly white, rich (and “priveleged” to use your impossible language) and female phenomenon. You want to dictate to men how, when, where and if they can even exist in your presence.

      I’m not saying sexism doesn’t exist. I’m saying much of this discussion amounts to nothing more than the dishonest machinations of control freaks attempting to gain hand. In EVERY interaction with men. Two year olds do this, not ostensible adults.

  5. OR….

    We could get over the notion that the dreaded Male Gaze is a ‘problem’ that needs ‘fixing,’ and recognize that appreciating someone’s appearance in a noninstrusive way really ISN’T a crime.

    If I see an attractive woman in tight clothes, I’m gonna look. I’m gonna enjoy it. Yes, you can call that ‘sexualizing’ and ‘objectifiction’ and a bunch of other shaming words… but they’re going to just roll off me, because I feel no guilt for a harmless act.

    • Dude, everyone looks. Everyone admires. That’s not the problem.

      • It isn’t? It seems the point of Nathan’s article was that he feels shame about looking at attractive women, and many commentators seem to agree that such interest is something shameful.

        • No, the commenters are upset with the assumption that Nathan makes that women are wearing yoga pants to tempt and tease men, rather than to just go about their day. At least, that’s what I reacted to. I have no idea what my clothes and body do to passers by. Perhaps I turn people on or off. I don’t really care. No one looking at my body and enjoying it should feel shame, likewise if I see a body I like, I shouldn’t feel shame for liking it.

          If I went around blaming men for having sexy butts in jeans and how men probably enjoy teasing women in some age old dynamic and that my discomfort is their fault…then that would be something to take issue with.

          Frankly, I felt sad reading the first part of his article because he seemed to feel so much shame and that would be interesting to discuss and deconstruct. He shouldn’t feel shame for enjoying women’s bodies. But that got lost in the whole….”they are doing this on purpose” trope.

          • Relevant.

            Women have given the whip to each other:

            “Let me offer a contrary position, unpalatable but worth considering: the only appropriate time to wear make up is to look attractive to men. Or women, depending on which genitals you want to lick, hopefully it’s both. “Ugh, women are not objects.” Then why are you painting them? I’m not saying you have to look good for men, I’m saying that if wearing makeup not for men makes you feel better about yourself, you don’t have a strong self, and no, yelling won’t change this. Everyone knows you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, now you’re saying the cover of the book influences how the book feels about itself?

            I am not doubting that in fact you do feel better about yourself, I am saying that that fact is both pathological and totally on purpose. Since this cognitive trick does help you feel better about yourself, by all means go ahead, but at what point will you stop pressuring other women to go along with it? When will you stop “requiring” it, like when you say, “oh, she’s so pretty even without makeup” as if the default was makeup?

            The fraud women now believe is that it is wrong to look good for men only, as an end in itself; the progressive delusion is that looking good for men is synonymous with submissiveness, so while you’re allowed to look good to men, it should always be secondary to looking good for yourself. This is madness. You are enhancing your outward appearance, which is great, but then you pretend it’s for internal reasons?

            How would you like to live in a world where men had to wear make up? “Oh, I love make up on a guy, especially eyeliner.” Of course you do, you’re having a stroke. Ask it this way: how would you like to be in a world where men said,” oh, I feel so much better about myself when I’m wearing makeup.” You’d run for the nearest totalitarian regime.

            The trick to the makeup debate is that it pretends to want to be free of male pressure, yet the pressure to look a certain way is actually much worse from women. So this result is that a “patriarchical”, controlling force, unacceptable if coming directly from men, is maintained by giving the whip to other women. No boss man would survive if he said, “ugh, you should put on some makeup, doll yourself up a little bit” but women say this to other women all the time– especially at work. “You look really tired,” says a woman in MAC Greensmoke to another who isn’t. Just once I wish the reply would be, “I am, your husband kept me up all night.” Not very progressive, but hilarious.

            The evolution from “enhances sexual attractiveness” to “doing it for yourself” is definitely a regressive step, and by regressive I here mean “regressing to age two”, but it’s the next step which reveals the presence of a neurosis: recruiting science as a justification for behavior: “Study finds makeup makes you appear more competent.” Can’t wait to read about that study in a Jonah Lehrer book. Ugh. So here’s the evolution of feminist theory, take notes: “I want to look better” to “I want to feel better about myself” to “I want people to think I am better.” Madness.

          • Perhaps Nathan’s big error, then was in asserting intended consequences where it would have been better to describe them as *expected* consequences. So, a woman wearing yoga pants (or a bikini, or tight jeans…) may not intend to cause men to look in appreciation, but it’s hardly an unexpected consequence. Nathan specifically said “taunt”, so he wasn’t very ambiguous, but some of the following discussion has been. I don’t think women are “doing it on purpose” in the sense of being sexy to men being the primary goal, but I also think it’s disingenuous to act like there’s no reasonable expectation of drawing extra attention for dressing that way, as if yoga pants (or bikinis, or tight jeans…) are strictly practical and responding to them in any other way is piggish. When one does something with entirely expected consequences, that’s also “on purpose” even if it wasn’t their main or desired purpose.

            I don’t think you’re calling anyone piggish, Julie. I agree with every comment of yours I’ve seen so far in this and related threads. I just saw the “on purpose” part and thought maybe there’s more to that part than just a trope.

            • Marcus – well I, for one, did *not* expect yoga pants to be titillating. I was pleasantly surprised, actually, that what has been described by my friends as the “uniform of modern motherhood” (usually with a resigned sigh) is actually also considered sexy. Who knew? Men, apparently.

              • I believe you, but I would find it odd if a woman began wearing yoga pants without that awareness, started attracting an uncomfortable amount of male-gazing attention, and didn’t put two and two together. I’m also surprised (though not unbelieving) that women wouldn’t expect (note the intentional use of “expect” again, and not “intend”) that yoga pants on a fit body would be sexy to men. Because of the material and opacity of yoga pants, they function as pants, but in terms of how form-fitting they are and revealing shape even if skin itself is hidden, they’re not very different from pantyhose. I don’t think many women would go out wearing only pantyhose and be surprised if some men found that titillating.

                • Marcus – you know, I wonder if maybe the fact that yoga pants are so darn comfortable and easy and durable, that’s why they seem like a compromise (to me) instead of an enhancement. Since so much of women’s clothing is or can be pretty uncomfortable (and disfiguring, in some cases) and/or difficult to care for, putting on something stretchy and washable almost seems like a cop-out (to me). Pantyhose, for example, aren’t comfortable (to me) or easily washed or durable so I don’t even think of them in the same way. Although I can totally see how the effect (at least on the butt and upper thighs) is virtually the same.
                  BTW I am totally amused that we’re deconstructing stretch pants!

                  • 100 denier microfiber tights are 20$ a pair, very durable, washable and stretchy. Also pretty comfortable though blood circulation could be affected.

                    I never wear them alone, always with a skirt. I wear them when it’s too cold for bare legs, but not too warm that I’d sweat because of them. Can easily wear them below 0 C if you’re adamant about wearing skirts in winter.

                    Black and opaque, no way you see through them. But they’re the whole length, not just knee-length.

                  • I can recall hearing many complaints about pantyhose (in my life, not in this thread) and no one singing the praises of how comfy they are, so I’m not surprised at all that you or others wouldn’t put them in the same category as yoga pants where comfort is concerned. But yeah, the aesthetic effect differs mainly in opacity, but not in how contours and shapes are accentuated (for both better and worse). The phrase “painted on” comes to mind.

                • wellokaythen says:

                  Also amazing that anyone would be unaware of the possibility of male attention when you wear something so form fitting that the observer can make out the labia majora from ten yards away. If you’re cool with that, I applaud you, but how could you not know?

  6. Here’s a random observation. Every time someone suggests women dress sexy to impress men some feminist will claim this is not true. Women don’t want to look pretty for men, they want to look pretty for themselves. So we, men, are certainly not allowed to look at a woman’s cleavage or rear, because it’s not for us it’s for herself.

    The interesting thing is, when it comes to the negative aspects of looking sexy or rather conforming to the beauty standard suddenly it is men’s fault. For example, I recently learned from a feminist website that the trend of labiaplasty is men’s fault. Because we watch too much porn and expect out sex partners to look like porn stars.

    I think, simultaneously arguing both ways makes no sense. Either it’s men who set the beauty standard and put pressure on women to conform to it, or not. You can’t have it booth ways. Blame men for an oppressive beauty standard when it fits your agenda, but claim that women who conform to this beauty standard don’t do it for the sake of men.

    • Amelia McDonell-Parry says:

      It’s hard to respond to something addressed to “some feminist,” for starters. (And you’re deflecting from responding to the specific criticisms from myself and others on this thread by presenting this vague observation — much of which doesn’t come close to describing my own feminist beliefs or anything I’ve said or written.) And it’s a waste of time to respond to someone who refuses to see that these gendered behaviors — dressing “sexy,” getting labiaplasty, ogling cleavage — don’t happen in a vacuum. That you run a gender issues website and actually believe these issues are that simplistic is embarrassing.

      • Firstly, I suppose there’s a misunderstanding. I’m not Tom Matlack. My name is Thomas Müller (therefore ThomasM) and I’m just a random commenter from Germany. But I take it as a compliment that you mistake me for a native English speaker.

        Secondly, I think the generalization is warranted. I’ve seen plenty of discussion which follow the same pattern. Some dude: “Women wear xy, do xy to attract men”. Some Feminist: “No they don’t. Women wear xy, do xy because reasons. But certainly not to attract men”.

        Obviously gendered behaviors don’t happen in a vacuum, that’s a platitude. But you are not addressing my point. Once again, you feminists can’t blame men for the hardship women have to endure to look attractive (diets, plastic surgeries, uncomfortable shoes, whatever) and simultaneously claim women don’t do all these things to be attractive to men. It makes no sense. Maybe you should specify the category of men. That is, you don’t want to get the attention of the average, slightly overweight, balding, stuck in a dead end job guy. You want to get the attention of the tall, fit, full-haired, overachiever.

        That’s fine and dandy, but as an average, slightly overweight, balding guy please to don’t blame me for the troubles women go through to look attractive to men who are not me.

  7. What is so wrong with-
    Men look at women in yoga pants because that is how men are wired, just looking to pass.on some DNA, thank you, and yoga pants certainly allow for some selection of healthy looks.
    Women look at women in yoga pants to scope the competition, just looking to move that DNA to the front of the line.
    This isn’t entirely the case now- but it ts for 99.999% of the time our evolving genome has existed.
    People wear clothes they dig- it is just that simple.

    Me I love Lycra jogger’s tights, I’m wearing them right now, as I did all day, as I often do in the winter- under a baggy pair of khakis.
    For,years I spent hours each day wrestling in cotton sweat pants with cotton shorts over them- never felt I was kept from any poses, but that’s just me. Today at the gym I stripped off my tights and excercised in sweats- sure I guess it might have been comfortable in tights but…..
    For more years I did manual labor in Levi’s and Carhartts- I don’t know, I could touch my toes, then, in work boots and an 18# tool belt.
    Hell on a hot day I’d like to go commando in a pair of baggy gym shorts but….
    It is just my opinion- if you are walking around in pants with no pockets, you’re wearing pajamas.

  8. As a lady who does yoga on the daily, it’s infuriating to read comments from people stating that yoga pants are worn for attention. Yoga pants are tight because loose-fitting clothes get in the way during yoga. But I also wear them to lecture and work. It’s not because I want my ass to get attention, but it’s because I’m lazy and I love comfort. What people are mistaking here is that legs and ass are attractive, not yoga pants. A lady endowed with a nice pair up top is going to make a baggy tee look sexy, too. Which brings me to my point… Assuming that women care about what men think of their outfit every time they get dressed is straight up chauvinistic. Like I thought we got over this guys.

    And Furiouz, it’s OK to look at women, as it is OK to look at men. It’s not OK to stare at women or men and make them feel uncomfortable, because that’s just creepy. I see men and women on campus all day that are pleasing to the eye, but I don’t make a habit out of staring them into unease while making myself look like a potential rapist. But please, enjoy your pity party.

    And Tom, stahp. “(…) talking about what we as men are to do when women’s choices have unwanted consequences for us as men (…)”

    I’m sorry that a lady’s choice in wearing revealing clothes leads to unwanted consequences for you. It must be hard to contain yourself at a beach where ass and abdomen, and legs (oh my!) are flooding your caveman brain, short circuiting your wires. Do you just wig out and try to dry hump everything you see? Because, as a woman who loves other women as well as men (why can’t I have the best of both worlds?) going to the beach doesn’t wig me out. There are a lot of hotties, but I don’t feel the need to become a beast and blame my beast-like staring on hot ladies in bikinis. They too have the right to not feel like a piece of meat while enjoying the sun and water.

    As a side note, sweat pants are not only the ugliest thing ever, but putting them on makes your life about half as legitimate as it was pre-sweats. Today sweats, tomorrow 50 cats and 200 extra pounds.

    Sorry for the novel. Gotta represent, ya know.

    • Revo Luzione says:

      A couple thoughts on your novel:

      A. it’s condescending. Unless you’ve lived with 1000 ng/dl of testosterone in your bloodstream, you have NO IDEA what it’s like for men to experience our own sex drives. BUT, even thought it’s a wild, untamed stallion, most guys are still in control enough not to let things get out of control. Those that do are lacking in class and self-control. I take no responsibility for those guys. They are clowns.

      B. If you’re wearing something cute, I’m gonna look. I’m not gonna make it super obvious, but I’m definitely gonna check you out. It’s in my DNA. If you have a friendly look on your face, and/or I already know you and know you’re receptive, I might even compliment you on your outfit or some aspect of it. If you’re nice, you’ll take the compliment in the spirit it’s given, that is as an act of unconditional appreciation. Nothing expected in return. If you’re shy, you might blush, and I’ll think that’s cute and kind of sexy. If you’re in a b(tchy mood, you might get all butthurt about it. I will roll my eyes, and probably belly laugh.

      Bottom line, whether you’re the giver or receiver of appreciative looks, don’t make a big deal out of it, appreciate & move on. If you get butthurt about it, on either side of the equation, you deserve whatever feelings of discomfort you’re generating for yourself. You are responsible for your own feelings, not me, especially not over something as trivial as a look. The concept of the “male gaze” as having some sort of mystical rapey power is evidence of clinical paranoia and should be treated by a medical professional.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I agree it’s wrong to jump to the conclusion that women wear something in order to get attention. The most common reasons for women to wear yoga pants are practical reasons more than the way that they look.

      However, the companies selling yoga pants in their catalogs do sometimes market these pants as clothing that’s flattering to women’s figures. For example, “Make your backside your best side!” Maybe the vast majority of the ads talk about comfort and convenience, but these pants are also marketed sometimes as visually flattering. People in these companies are under the impression that SOME women buy these things because of how they look. Are these advertisers totally wrong about that? (It’s possible….)

  9. I don’t even look at women in public anymore and I haven’t given a women a compliment is years. “Hey, you look nice today” is seen as a pickup line or sexual harassment
    I will just keep my head down and concentrate on making money, which seems to be the only thing as a male I am good for.

    • Furiouz, I think you’re missing the message here.

      Have you ever been to a clothing store? Have ever walked down the women’s isle of clothes? You think we really have a choice to dress the way we do? I wear boy’s clothes because it seems in our society, “gender-neutral” clothes means we, men and women alike, need to dress manly as possible. Anything else is inferior, especially clothes that are more fitting to and on women.

      • Did you get the memo?

        Men’s clothing is practical, women’s clothing is usually decorative. Exceptions are few. Allowances even less for men (only special occasions and different subcultures).

        Men are the working class, women are the aristocrats, and their options to dress are set accordingly. Plain, boring stuff for men with no frills. And decorative cute or sexy stuff for women with tons of frills and possibly fragile fabrics that look better but have less durability.

        Since 100 years ago, the class barrier just barged into gender, and created the rugged/manual-labor ideal as something masculine and manly (while it was previously pretty unisex – everyone had to do manual labor to survive, and even homemaking was pretty manual and demanding stuff.

        And now being cultured and a bookworm has connotations of feminity for men, or at least absence of masculinity, and thus uselessness, unless they’re rich (then they’re not seen as “wasting their societal utility”). Women are considered useful because (regardless of actual possibility) reproduction capacity. So they’re not considered a burden unless they get a child as a single parent on welfare instead of making a man pay for it. Childless they’re still considered potentially useful to society. So they can read and get culture, all part of being an aristocrat.

  10. For the record, sweats aren’t necessarily more comfortable for yoga– they can hamper your range of motion in some poses, and gape and bunch in uncomfortable ways in others. I’ve practiced in both, and pants constructed for yoga are a lot more comfortable. Of course, they’re made to be attractive (which can be satisfying to the wearer, worn to impress yoga friends, or to attract sex partners), but they serve a very functional purpose that’s being overlooked here…and that feels insulting to those of us who wear what we wear so we can take our practice deeper!

  11. Nathan gave voice to reality.

    We can’t fix our shit until it’s out in the open. I’m glad it’s out in the open.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      I am with you Josh. I understand what you are saying Noah and it is well written and well intentioned but the reality that women, and girls, are all running around half dressed in yoga pants is a real phenomenon that has a male response, like it or not. We might as well admit it and then work from there. Women can do whatever the hell they please. I read the article as talking about what we as men are to do when women’s choices have unwanted consequences for us as men as we try sincerely to do the right thing.

      • Exactly. It’s a crazy difficult thing, especially when conflicted between the lizard brain that just wants to sneak another look and the higher brain that knows what a problem that is.

        I think we also have to admit that there are varying motivations. Just like there are women who wear the pants because of their utility in practicing yoga, there are also women who wear them for attention. It’s just true.

        It’s a battle to get it right, and not deny very human parts of ourselves.

        • So what’s wrong with looking and admiring and then moving on with your day. Everyone does this. I do this and I don’t blame 25 year old men for wearing next to nothing on a hot Austin day because I have to see their fit hot bodies. I just feel lucky I have eyes. I don’t get what the issue is.

        • Dude, relax. Just look. And then, like Julie said, move on and go about your day. Don’t belittle your sexuality by assigning it to “your lizard brain.” We are all sexual beings, and we all notice people of our preferred sex whom we find attractive.

      • I agree with you both, Tom and Josh. Nate’s clear that men don’t get to tell women what to wear, and that our discomfort is ours to deal with: points I think we all agree with. So if women want to let us go ahead and do that, they can stop shaming us and telling us to “get over it.”

        • Where in all this are women, as a mass movement, telling men not to look at them in yoga pants. This is being blown out of proportion to a point that it’s ludicrous. People wear all kinds of clothes-those clothes have semiotic meaning. Yoga pants usually = working out/casual etc. If someone’s ass looks amazing in the pants, enjoy looking at it. She or he is aware that their ass looks good and is exposed to a certain extent. But to blame women for “tempting” men with their yoga butts is like…what? Should I blame all the men with beautiful mouths out there for tempting me to kiss them? Damn those men and their lovely lips!

          This is just ridiculous.

          Look, I was wearing yoga pants yesterday out and about. If someone saw me and enjoyed what they saw, great! But I didn’t wear the pants because I was hoping to torment anyone. I wore them because I had to go to the gym and then to the store and so forth.

          Go out, enjoy the view, love life and your desire, we do the same. The get over it part isn’t about your desire, it’s about the lines in the article that say women are doing this sort of on purpose to tempt and tease men. There may be women who do that. And there are loads more that don’t. Just like there may be men who charm women to tempt them, and loads more that don’t.

          Is this a “we live in the NE and we rarely see skin most of the year so it’s a huge deal” kind of thing? My friends from Mexico and southward would laugh at this.

      • Amelia McDonell-Parry says:

        Half-dressed? THEY’RE PANTS. The pair I wear the most cover me from waist to ankle. Your description is dripping with judgment even as you say women can wear whatever they want. Also judgmental? Your previous assertion that women wearing yoga pants to, GASP, the movies is “alarming.” And what consequences do you speak of? That men have to find a way of dealing with seeing something they find attractive but can’t possess? How very difficult. I know it would be way easier for you if women just walked around in shapeless burlap sacks, but we’re selfish like that.

      • What? What are these unwanted consequences that we women are responsible for? If I go to the gym in my town, or to the lake, or to pretty much anywhere outside, I’m going to see lots LOTS of young, fit, hot men wearing no shirts, tank tops, shorts, and often yes yoga pants, and would it be fair for me to write an article about how all these hot men should really think about their actions…really consider my natural reactions and perhaps modest up a bit because their dress might have unwanted consequences in me? Or in all the other women and gay men around town?

        This is just the silliest set of articles ever. Bodies can be admired, of course! People can have reactions to pretty bodies, of course! Sometimes people wear clothes to seduce and sometimes they don’t, and sometimes those clothes turn people on and sometimes they don’t and I wish everyone could just damn relax about bodies!!!

        What you men are to do with your reactions is the same as what anyone would do when highly attracted to someone in a particular outfit. Admire, store the image away, smile if he or she makes some eye contact, and go about your damn day. Enjoy the beauty! Just like I enjoy the beauty around me! It’s hot down here, people are half naked a lot. No one seems to really be freaking out. We like it! Go travel in Central and South America!

        And as for “running around half dressed in yoga pants?” Good grief, Tom you sound like a Victorian grandfather. Should we cover our ankles next? Perhaps you should invest in some of those religious Modesty sites for women’s garb! This is the kind of attitude that makes other countries laugh at the US and their attitudes towards sex and the body.

        Bodies are lovely things. Yoga pants and sporty wear allow people to do wonderful things with their bodies that make them strong and supple and powerful. Which makes sex better. Which means we should all wear yoga pants, work out, admire each other, and chill the hell out with the regressive attitudes.

        • Revo Luzione says:

          Exactly. Geez, you prudes & puritans, let people wear what they want, for any reason they want. And if you’re gonna wear the stuff that makes you look good, regardless of the reason, people are gonna look, and you might as well be OK with that. Or even be happy about it.

          As for myself, I am totally enamored of the women wearing yoga pants phenomenon, and I take time to appreciate a nice asset when it’s in my immediate vicinity, in yoga class or on the street, or in the bar (yep, lotsa ladies wear them as evening wear these days, especially in my athletically minded community).

          Men, if you’ve got 16 inch biceps, and you wear tight tees, you’re gonna get looks. Hell, if (when) I wear yoga pants, Ivcomments on my squat-toned glutes. Hey that reminds me–we need more yoga pants for men. Yes, I’ll admit it. I own two pair. They’re made by Prana, a company that technically started rock climbing gear, but all their stuff got co-opted by the yogis, so now they make yoga stuff too. I have a pair of men’s stretchy rock climbing/yogapants that look like dress slacks, they have pockets on the back, but man do they make my glutes look good, or so I”m told, and, well, they do nice things for the “package” as well, since they’re so fitted. I see people looking. I see women ‘miring. Am I objectified? Maybe. If I was, would I be disturbed? Probably not. But even if I was offended, I’m not going to police people’s thoughts nor change my behavior so that other people can feel OK. I’m not going to hide the contours of my body so that other people can be OK, and I don’t think other people should have to either.

          A long time ago, someone asked me a question that changed my life: “At what point did you start being less than who you are, so that other people can feel OK with themselves?” I’m still answering this question, daily, in ever aspect of life, choices of couture included.

          • i dont have yoga pants, however i wear women’s clothing in public, so thumbs up from me man, over wearing yoga pants in public

        • Julie, don’t mind me, but I just fell in love with you a little bit. Thank you.

      • Tom Matlack – I’ve read your comment several times and I get what you’re saying that men need space to explore male responses and I think you’re saying it’s *men* who don’t want the “unwanted consequences” and I think I even agree with you (the “half-dressed” puritanism aside). But I still cringe every time I read your comment and I’m not entirely sure why except for this – several commenters have mentioned in various ways what’s taken me many years in therapy to understand: I am not responsible for any one else’s internal state and nobody else is responsible for mine. Period. I’m an adult and although I’ve been conditioned to have certain responses to certain stimuli I can undo that conditioning. In short, my internal experience is all on me. Stimuli exist, but one’s internal reaction to stimuli is one’s own. It may feel involuntary, but it really isn’t.

  12. While you’re trying to unpack stereotypes, Nathan heaps them on. “Men are pigs”, sniffs Nathan, as if everyone agrees with this and believes it to be true. Maybe it’s just Nathan that’s the pig and he shouldn’t transfer his affliction on to the entire gender. One sentence later he’s accusing all women of being complicit.

  13. It’s easy to imagine that much of what women wear is for the male gaze, because that is exactly what it was designed for. The individual woman who chooses it and wears it might say she wears it for comfort or only for the gaze she specifies, but when we wear clothes in public, it’s for public consumption, and most of us dress with other people’s gazes in mind, because that’s what clothes are for, when they’re not protective. Fashion is for communicating messages about ourselves. When I wear a suit to an interview, it’s for the gazes of everyone who might have a hand in the hiring decision, or who I might work with. When I put on sweats to go to the grocery store, I’m aware of the difference between showing up a sweaty, dirty mess (and so will avoid this to a large degree) or clean and properly fitting clothes, and I care about it because I want to be socially acceptable. That’s normal. What we could talk about, but have missed in feminist circles, is what messages girls and women want to send with their clothing choices. It is, after all, each person’s choice what to wear, and what messages to send. The answer isn’t to proclaim that other people’s opinions of what I look like don’t matter, or shouldn’t, and misses the point of why you put on clothes in the first place.

    • Have you ever done yoga? I think the reason they are called yoga pants, is because there is literally nothing more suited for doing yoga than these. I would imagine any workout would actually be much easier and more comfortable in them. Besides that, men will stare no matter how grubby and or baggy your clothes are, so what does it matter what you wear?

    • I hardly think that what’s missing “in feminist circles” is an understanding of what messages people get from women’s clothing choices.

      If you want to talk about women’s clothing choices, let’s take the advice that women have been giving us for years and stop telling them to do things one way or another and start talking about what men (and society in general) are doing to make the choice of what to wear so fraught in the first place. If anything, the fact that women are comfortable in clothes that for many men provoke an overt sexual response even though that’s not their purpose at all is just confirmation of the pervasive and complete lack of empathy men have for the experience of those we’re gazing upon. You say yourself that you dress the way you dress because you want to be socially acceptable – wouldn’t it suck if people assumed you were trying to attract their sexual gaze by just trying not to look out of place?

      • Dean, if the clothes I was wearing were attracting such gazes, I would start wearing something else, because I don’t want to be stared at. The message young women get is that to be accepted they have to look sexually available. That’s not the message men get. I’m not telling women what to wear. The subject is men’s discomfort.

        • Okay, Justin, so by that logic, if you are being stared at for being affectionate with your hisband, that’s on you, yeah? Same principle would apply. Just don’t hold his hand if you don’t want the public reaction. And if you do hold his hand, then don’t complain when the straight people react to it.

          That’s all a bit of snark, of course.

          • I’m taking you seriously, HeatherN. And yes, the same rules of civility apply. If I take my husband’s hand in public, I know people may see it and have their own emotional responses to it. I expect from other that they’ll behave with good manners, just as I would behave if I found myself walking behind a shapely yoga pants-clad individual. I’d look, not leer, and not be ashamed of my responses. That neither yoga pants nor two men holding hands were common on the street within many of our lifetimes means that we’re having to adjust to new social norms. In the case of fashion pushing the edge of provocation deliberately, some of us are having to adjust more than our social expectations, if you get my meaning.

            • But see, no one’s saying that someone should be ashamed of their responses to an attractive woman (or to two men holding hands). And no one’s saying that looking is a problem. It’s the staring, leering…it’s when it stops being an involuntary reaction to stimuli and becomes a conscious choice to continue to look that there’s a problem.

              And it’s the obsession with that desire to stare that’s at issue. If someone wrote a whole article about how difficult it was not to leer at two men holding hands, I’m willing to bet you’d find that a bit offensive. Hell, I’d find that offensive!

              • I hear you, and the problem with the response to Nate’s article is that he’s not proposing that we leer, or that we should be allowed to stare until it makes someone uncomfortable. He’s saying that he’s just barely looking, glancing as these women pass him, not that he’s seeking them out to burn holes in with his eyes. I can’t talk about what’s actually going on with people who escalate it to something unacceptable and have that straw man argument with me. It’s not about an obsession or staring. It’s about the reactions to seeing these things in the normal course of one’s day when not seeking it out, and even when trying not to look because it causes an uncomfortable amount of sexual response.

                • So far as I can tell, the main negative reaction is that he’s claiming this is a game women are playing on purpose, to wear clothes to tease men and many women are saying, no that’s not what we are doing and that the issue of his arousal is his. Yes the pants are there, but they aren’t part of a burlesque act.

                  Everyone looks and notices.

                  As for not seeking it out, doesn’t he understand this happens to everyone in some way (and not just sexy stuff, as Heather pointed out)? I may see hot men or women that turn me on and if I have a sexual response to it, I might feel distracted or frustrated for part of my day. So what? I don’t get to tell them that they are wearing whatever piece of clothes it is, or hairstyle etc to tease me on purpose.

                  I have to manage my own reactions and actions and weigh that against the rights of individuals that are just going about their daily business with little or no thought to my experience of them.


  1. […] response quickly went up on The Frisky, and even The Good Men Project hastened to publish two more tempered, and less sexist, takes on yoga […]

  2. […] Yoga Pants and Unexamined Assumptions by Noah Brand […]

  3. […] There is a lot to unpack in the assumption that women are wearing something useful to them with an ulterior motive to tempt and tease men. Luckily, Noah Brand began unpacking those assumptions here at this post titled, wonderfully, Yoga Pants and Unexamined Assumptions. […]

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