Women in pants

When I was young, I lived in a village 500km away from Johannesburg and many of the women around me did not wear pants. My mother, bo mmangwane, bo rakgadi, my grandmothers and all my teachers did not wear pants. To this day, most of them still don’t wear pants.

The concept of women who do not wear pants in this day and age is probably mind boggling for people who live in areas where there are women who exclusively wear pants as a fashion choice or for work.

My grandfather’s rule about women and pants

I recall that there was a rule at my grandfather’s house: the rule was that all the women should never ever wear pants in his yard.I was 10 years old or younger and I don’t recall being bothered by this rule; those were my ‘do as I am told’ years so I was observing and learning. My mother would put her 2 little girls in skirts and tops when we were heading to my grandfather’s house, and there seemed to be no worries at all. No one really asked questions about why women were not allowed to wear pants; no one resisted, everyone just accepted the rule. Today, I am fascinated by how much freedom pants mean for most women where I come from.

I started wearing pants young despite my grandfather’s rule about women and pants

My mother did not have a problem with us wearing pants and if my father did we never knew about it. My mom also had relatives from Joni….this meant we were a bit more exposed to a bit more.  Trust me being from Joni then was a big deal! Prior to my grandfather’s rule, I was not aware of any issues with women wearing pants.

Roka Roko Founder, Brigette Mashile in Pants

The history of women and pants

Joan of Arc famously cross-dressed, wearing men’s armor in the 15th century as a deterrent to rape (and was eventually burned at the stake in part because of this).’

Google says women started wearing pants leisurely in the 20s…occasionally. In France, there was a rule that had to be abolished about women wearing pants in Paris. Imagine! There was an entire law about women wearing pants, a whole law. Lawmakers sat somewhere and created a rule that if you are a woman then you may not wear pants. It is fascinating how amongst all the social issues that existed at that time, pants made it to the topics to be discussed in parliament.

So why shouldn’t women where pants?

In 1939, a Los Angeles woman went to jail for wearing slacks to court, the judge citing them as a distraction from the ongoing legal business at hand. According to this judge, The reason given for sending that woman to jail does not make any sense in my head. But that’s a story for another day. We all know that there’s a connection between what a woman wears and the concentration of a man. Today, we speak about the fashion of this whole mess of women not being allowed to wear pants.

Brides and Pants

In 2018, women don’t think twice about wearing pants. Pants are now a normal part of our wardrobes. Some women who have even gone the evolutionary route by introducing pants as part of their wedding attires. Of course, this ends up offending many in the process. My opinion on that is that pants look amazing on a bride on any day.

Concluding remarks

I recognize that pants have been a sign of power and change for many women all over the world. I also recognize how we need to remember the issues we have overcome and celebrate the victories continuously. Sometimes, I really wonder if we have to assign so much power to a 3 pattern piece of clothing. A piece of clothing that can be made in an hour. The same item that gets thrown away when it gets old and worn out. But wait, our freedom is also found in having the RIGHT or privilege to wear pants as easily as we do today. Nowadays, the man you date cannot claim to have a religious or traditional reason for you not to wear pants. Imagine getting a divorced because you wore pants!

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