Women's pants hung out to dry

2008-05-06 00:00

RECENTLY Sunday World’s Charmza was Durban equity court magistrate Louis Radyn. The good deed? Ruling against the banning of women wearing pants in Umlazi’s T Section.

Why some men have a problem with women wearing pants and feel that it’s a direct challenge to their masculinity is lost on me. What would they have us wear — dresses and skirts, the length approved by taxi men, of course. Some indefensible and weak excuses for those men who don’t favour women in pants are that it’s not in our culture or in the Bible.

These very pants that some black men now hate us to wear came with pale-skinned people in a boat. Before then, men and women in Africa used to wear skirts (think the Zulu’s ibheshu, the Swati’s hhiya over ijobo, the Xhosa’s umbhaco and the Venda’s tsindi).

It would seem that our black brothers not only borrowed the white man’s pants, but also their primitive bad attitude they possessed in the 19th century.

Tired of wearing those awfully restrictive Victorian dresses, the white sisters had to fight for their rights to wear pants (well, a close resemblance to them) so that they could get on with something a tad more interesting than hosting tea parties.

Women in the 20th century flouted the man-made rule again when they donned trousers and overalls during World War 1 and replaced men in factories and in the fields.

Even in the nineties, California in the United States had some dusty decree that did not allow women to wear pants to work — they subsequently changed that laughable law.

So the war that is being waged against women who dare to wear one of man’s most precious clothing items is not a new one, although it’s one that continues to this very day.

Most men would never dream of humiliating a woman by stripping off her pants and her dignity in broad daylight. However, many are comfortable with snickering snide comments, like how big your vagina looks in trousers. Many black cultures view women who wear pants as disrespectful, defiant and deviant.

Umlazi T Section isn’t the only community that has outlawed pants. Years ago a similar rule existed in a Newcastle’s Madadeni township in section seven. Women who wore jeans were seen to be in the mood for sex and were often threatened with rape and were sexually harassed.

In the rural areas chiefs used their power to bar women from wearing this apparel. My mother used to prefer that we wear skirts while visiting gran because the “king” had warned that he would slash and burn those trousers.

Principals and governing bodies of some schools dilly-dallied (and still do) on taking a decision to allow girl pupils to wear greys.

In my school it was seen as unladylike and we were restricted to wearing pantyhose, which did very little to protect our pubescent legs from the chilly climes.

And in churches it is still a debate whether Christian women who wear pants will see the doors of heaven. It seems many of us will be keeping the devil company. I can only hazard a guess as to why some men still want to control what women wear in the year 2008.

Could it be that they are resentful or jealous of the progress we have made in assuming what was traditionally their roles? Oh well, who cares what their reasons are.

It’s a free country where we can choose what to put over our bodies, miniskirts and pants included.

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