On June 11th, NMG is celebrating Wear The Pants Day! This Tuesday, let’s all wear pants to celebrate what seems like a simple thing - that we can. We take this particular freedom for granted these days, but it’s not as common as we sometimes think. All over the world - even in the US - girls and women are still punished in various ways for wearing pants. Just a few months ago, a federal court ruled against a school that required female students to wear skirts, after several girls brought a lawsuit against it. While it’s gratifying that the court ruled in favor of girls’ freedom to dress as they choose, the fact that it’s still a question now, in 2019, is less than pleasant.
Some places are even less accepting of women wearing pants, even going as far as imprisoning or injuring women who do. Other places don’t officially condone violence against women wearing pants, but instead force them to wear skirts in other ways - such as denying them entry to workplaces and government unless they do. And there’s always the age-old myth that pants are “tempting” or “distracting” to boys, and it’s our “duty” to remove that distraction.
My mother told me a story the other day. When she was in high school and college, she almost always wore skirts, just because she liked them and they were comfortable. When she moved to Uzbekistan as a Peace Corps volunteer in the late 1990s, she quickly learned that it was a lucky habit to be in. “In Tashkent, the capital, women wore pants sometimes, but it was mostly skirts.” she says. “When I moved to Namangan, that was different. Women almost never wore pants. I could have if I really wanted to, but it wasn’t worth the risk of having little boys throw rocks at me as I walked down the street. One of my host-sisters had a beautiful pantsuit, and she would wear that sometimes, but she often got harassed for it.” When my mom moved back to the US after three years in Uzbekistan, she says that she felt almost naked wearing pants, as though she were in her underwear. Over time she readjusted, and she says that she never got back to wearing skirts so often again.
That was a while ago, and my parents haven’t been to Uzbekistan in twenty years. Maybe things have changed there. I live in Kyrgyzstan now, right next door to Uzbekistan, and women wear pants all the time. That could be partly because I live in a big city, but I believe things have also changed in the intervening time. I also believe that things can and must continue to change, because we have much farther to go.
It’s perfectly fine to like wearing skirts. It’s also fine to not like skirts. Or, like me, you could love both skirts and pants. I wear skirts a lot, especially in the summer when it’s hot. But I’ll be wearing my pants this Tuesday, June 11th. Who’s with me?
Namangan is a city in the far eastern corner of Uzbekistan, very close to the border with Kyrgyzstan.