Yoga pants: it seems we can’t live with them or without them. Many women and girls practically live in leggings, though, even when they’re not doing yoga — and why not? They’re comfortable, stylish, and versatile. But yoga pants are fast becoming one of the most controversial articles of clothing of our time — especially among school officials, lawmakers, and at least one ornery old man.
The latest debate is taking place at Lance Middle School in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, where parents and even one board member are calling for officials to lift a ban that prohibits young girls from wearing the spandex pants to class, according to Kenosha News. Specifically, the district’s policy states that girls are not allowed to wear yoga pants and leggings as standalone bottoms, but may don them “beneath dresses, skirts, skorts, shorts, and tunics.”
One mother, Kate Trudell, whose 11-year-old son attends the school, claims the rule discriminates against young women. She declared this in front of the Unified School Board, according to the publication, and received a round of applause of other parents in attendance.
Trudell shared part of her speech with Yahoo Style on Wednesday. It reads:
“While the yoga pants ban seems harmless, it is a micro aggression against a vulnerable demographic that propagates institutionalized slut-shaming that has dangerous long-term consequences. It lays the foundation for the idea that women must wear modest clothing to protect themselves from being raped or sexually assaulted instead of teaching men to respect women’s physical dignity.”
Trudell is particularly invested because, in addition to parenting a preteen boy, she is also the mother of two young girls. She tells Yahoo Style, “I have two young daughters so part of this passion is practical and proactive. My number one concern in dressing them is that everything they wear is as comfortable as it is cute … A lot of times this involves stretchy spandex material. The idea that they would be prohibited from wearing yoga pants or leggings once they hit middle school seemed arbitrary and unfair at a time when I imagine they might start feeling sensitive about their growing bodies.”
She adds that she was at first hesitant to speak up about the issue, even as she was writing a speech to bring before the Unified School Board. But a conversation with a fellow mom gave her the perspective and incentive to persevere. Trudell had sent a draft of the speech to the woman, who promised to look at it later, saying she was off work that day, Trudell told Yahoo Style. But immediately after that, the woman texted her again to justify herself. She wrote, “Well, I’m a stay-at-home mom today so I am technically working but I’m not teaching today. I have to be better about how I talk about working in the home.”
Trudell says this “sealed the deal” for her. “The way women are programmed to talk and feel about the things that we do, feel, and wear needs to change. We need to work to affect that change,” she told Yahoo Style. “I’m privileged with the ability to advocate for those who cannot and I feel compelled to use that privilege to our collective advantage.”
But Trudell’s message did not only resonate with parents. Unified School Board member Rebecca Stevens agreed, according to Kenosha News, and said she is committed to changing the dress code. “I have asked in the past that this policy come up for dress code, and I’ve been ignored. I will not be ignored anymore,” Stevens said, according to the publication, calling it “a very old policy” that “needs to be looked at again.”
Lance Middle School is not alone, of course. Plenty of academic institutions prohibit girls from wearing yoga pants, essentially shifting the responsibility to girls to avoid “tempting” their male peers. In October 2014, an assistant principal at Devils Lake High School in North Dakota prohibited leggings at school as “a way to prevent distracting teachers and other students,” according to a local Fox affiliate.
In an incredibly bold move, the assistant principal even had the female students watch clips from the movie Pretty Woman — in which Julia Roberts plays the role of a prostitute — and proceeded to compare the girls’ clothing to the main character’s, says the publication. Again, the assistant principal sent a clear message that it is a girl’s responsibility not to give men “impure” thoughts simply by wearing clothes that cling to her body. She explained that the rule was “not meant to objectify girls, but to stop boys from focusing on something other than class work.”