Oh, Yoga Pants! Sound And Fury And Downward Dog.

Ooh, my yoga pants!

Ooh, my yoga pants!

Speaking of online kerfuffles, this one was so silly and strange I had to get involved.

A day or so ago, The Good Men Project published a post about women wearing yoga pants called Yoga Pants Nation. It was a fun, tongue in cheek-y kind of piece about a man, Nathan Graziano, who has found some frustration in the ubiquity of women in form fitting yoga pants, both at the gym and out and about in the world.

He finds many of these be-panted ladies attractive and he feels doomed, as he put it, because he sees them everywhere and it’s hard to not look.

So far so good, or er, frustrating. I mean, I’ve seen a number of people in yoga pants that look GOOD and I look, of course I do! I get that being surrounded by beauty can get one swept away in fantasy and desire. Nothing wrong with that. Happens to most of us each day, I’d imagine.

Where he lost me, and many other readers was this line here.

And when I ask women about yoga pants—hoping they’ll tell me the trend will pass—most women tell me that it isn’t that yoga pants are fashionable, per se, but they are comfortable to wear. As a claustrophobic guy, I couldn’t imagine being comfortable in anything that tight, but I’m going to suspend my disbelief and assume they are, indeed, comfortable.
But baggy sweatpants are also comfortable, so I can only assume there’s more to it. There is an implicit game here—the age-old tease where women flaunt and men look.

This caused no small amount of consternation in many readers. Lots of comments popped up including mine, noted below.

Other people reacted in print such as Amelia from the Frisky, here, and the nonsequiteuse, here.

First of all, Nathan says he can’t imagine them being comfortable which means we ladies might be joshing with him. Then he tries to compare them to sweatpants which are a completely non-useful pieces of clothing for intense yoga. Because he doesn’t get how comfy yoga pants can be and because he probably finds women in sweatpants unattractive (or less attractive than tight yoga clothes) he decides that women are, in some kind of age-old game, wearing yoga pants to tease men and flaunt their assets, purposefully I assume, to arouse men.

Which is possible in some cases. Cause all things are possible and rockin’ a gorgeous posterior in tight clothes in yoga class is one of the things possible in this world, and thank god for them. I saw several at the gym this morning and it gave me a bit a of a boost!

Likely for all women all the time? No. Not really. He goes on to state that he has a hard time believing women are wearing yoga pants outside the gym due to comfort.

But there are a number of times where people wear clothing for it’s utilitarian value-yoga pants are easy to pull on, easy to throw baggy sweaters or shirts over, soft feeling, comfortable to wear while eating and driving, they don’t bind or cut in, they move with your body so you don’t have to think about them, they wash easily, they are quick and usually in black or neutral colors.

I wear them all the time to drive the kids to school or to do yard work, or to clean the house, or to run to the bank, or to ….well you get the picture.

I also use them to do yoga and work out in because of their comfort and ease.

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, Good Men Project Editor Noah Brand began unpacking those assumptions here at this post titled, wonderfully, Yoga Pants and Unexamined Assumptions.

It seemed to rock a lot of commenters world’s that women might not take men into consideration when they dressed. And that they might. And might not at the same time.

Or that feeling “sexy” by wearing a particular piece of clothing isn’t necessarily about creating “sexy” for the viewer’s interior experience but for the wearer’s internal feeling state. Like me wearing this awesome long flowey hippy skirt that makes ME feel really sexy and like a modern dancer, but my husband does not think is sexy at all.

I commented a lot and even got a Comment of the Day with my statement (which could be the title of a Master’s Thesis, I am not wearing yoga pants to oppress your sexuality or tempt you into sin!

By the way, there are people out there very much against sweatpants! Piper Lime for example put up an ad saying that sweatpants made men want to run away! And this man wants you ladies to take more care in your appearance by NOT wearing baggy ugly clothes but by prettying up for his gaze!

This woman thinks women wear yoga and sweatpants because they don’t want men to look at them cause men aren’t making them feel pretty! Or something.

Lots of other links if you google “women in sweatpants” most of them negative.

So we can’t much win in this case.

I was pretty much ready to step out of it when I saw this comment on Noah’s post by GMP founder Tom Matlack and I kind of lost my cool

“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.”

So I responded in my typical way:

“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.”

It was early and I hadn’t had any coffee. I was grumpy.

People can be vain and liked to be looked at and admired. And sometimes they wear things that they purposefully choose for that admiration. Sometimes they don’t. And sometimes people just want to pull on utilitarian clothes and not wind up on a tumblr being mocked for being lazy or slutty (apparently). And often people lust after each other in their minds and that’s just fine. Sometimes people look at a yoga panted bottom and get turned off. Mostly none of us know what is happening in the minds of others. Which mostly is how it should be.

I just don’t get the blame thing though.

I don’t blame beautiful men for my discomfort and damn, have I ever had some! Er, discomfort I mean.

I mean between being in my 20’s in Seattle with all those slender, long haired wild werewolfy-arty-rock gods running around in combat boots to moving to Austin in my 30’s and seeing much unclothed hipster tatted flesh toned taut by cycling, running, and yes, yoga, there has been plenty for me to look at knowing I’d never touch.

And if that makes me feel frustrated or uncomfortable IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT. I don’t get to police them and make them cut their hair or put on clothes. I don’t get to kiss people who have pretty mouths just cause they are pretty. And I don’t get to blame the owner of the lips for teasing me with them by just walking through the grocery story minding it’s own business. It’s just a mouth. That’s ridiculous.

Articles like this must make our friends in other countries laugh at us, for our Puritanical reactions to sensuality, admiration, physicality and how our bodies simply are ours.

All of this seems (and yes I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again) like sound and fury signifying that we all need a nap, a cookie and a yoga session or ten to just freaking relax about our bodies and how we live in them and actually enjoy them for the sensual, powerful, beautiful, amazing things that they are! And yes, each other’s too for what a gift we can bring each other just by being real and strong.

I’m gonna go put on some yoga pants and have some coffee now.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Oh, Yoga Pants! Sound And Fury And Downward Dog.

  1. I think it’s pretty typical for a man to assume that a woman is doing something intuitively geared towards him. That may be generalizing a bit, but I do believe that patriarchy still rules in our way of thinking – man at the center of the universe and all that nonsense. And that comment about how women’s choices have unwanted consequences … ugh! So much misogyny. I think your comment was spot on.

    My article was mostly about actual sweatpants. The Kmart-style with the elastic at the bottom kind. That said, I have seen some pretty hideous and unflattering yoga pants in my suburb. The point is: if your man isn’t going to make you feel pretty when you get dressed up, why not be comfortable in some hideous Kmart knock-offs?

  2. ergh can we pahlease srop talking about woman’s bodies in terms of men…. By the way love your rant pre coffee!

  3. Kari

    Julie – followed your trackback over here and SO glad I did. Your response to Tom was spot on. I cringed when I read his remark but was too tired or distracted to consider commenting. It’s taken a lot of therapy but I’m finally clear on this – I’m not responsible for other people’s internal reactions and they aren’t responsible for mine. Period.

  4. I won’t comment on the reasons for the proliferation of yoga pants on women in non-yogic spaces, though I will say this about shirtless men: I teach on a campus in the Southwest with lots of incredibly fit and high profile male athletes, and none of them are likely to be head to class or hang out on the mall wearing anything other than baggy sweatsuits and flip flops. The only male students baring a noticeable amount of skin seem to be very aware of and concerned about their appearance, shooting quick little glances down at their biceps or examining the growth or non-growth of treasure trails between catching and throwing the Frisbee. I know. In my younger days I did the same sort of things. For them, it’s all about the attention. Look all you like. They will be thanking you inside.

    • Herschele

      Its different for men. Very few men can expect to be checked out by women. Only the men who are really hot and have perfect bodies.

      But most women can wear yoga pants and appeal to men.

  5. jani

    Are yoga pants comfortable? Of course they are. Do they make your ass look better? Duh … and women know this. Yes, we’re doing that for ourselves more than for men, but let’s not dumb this down and act like the thought never crosses our mind. It’s part of the reason we like wearing yoga pants, because they make us feel good.

    However, are they pants? Nope, still not pants. Of course Lululemon promotes wearing them as part of your everyday wear; they’re trying to sell product. Wearing yoga pants as leggings (socially acceptable) is not the same as wearing them as pants (sorry, not socially acceptable).
    Great post

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