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Right to free speech… and yoga pants

Posted on November 3, 2016 by Vauxhall Advance

By Nikki Jamieson
Taber Times

These past few weeks — especially with the end of the train-wreck that is the US election in sight — my Facebook feed has been dominated by the Obamas slamming Trump and Bernie Sanders urging his supports to vote Hillary Clinton, while Donald Trump says one offensive thing after another.

So when something un-election related pops up, I take interest. This time a friend had shared a snippet from a Rhode Island the Barrington Times, an Oct. 19 letter to the editor from one Alan Sorrentino. The letter went on about the “worst thing” to happen to women’s fashion, and that “not since the mini-skirt” has there been something that so many women should not wear.

He further complained that women wore them everywhere, that no one over 20 years old looks good in them, and pleads for women to stop wearing them. My initial reaction? Wow, he really must not have a life, and he is missing out.

The next time I heard about it, hundreds of women in Rhode Island had organized a parade to celebrate yoga pants — in which they all wore yoga pants. My thoughts; good on you, you show that jerk he can’t dictate what you wear. Besides, yoga pants are comfortable.

I thought it would be the end of that, but then read a CBC article last week that gave me pause.

It turns out that some yoga-pant lovers had begun to protest his letter outside his house, and reportably, he’s received death threats about it.

He is now saying the letter was written in jest, as a satire, while parade organizer Jamie Burk said the protest was for their “right” to wear yoga pants, and he was invited to join them. Sorrentino has compared the harassment he’s receiving over this to the harassment he has received over the years as an openly gay man.

In recent years, never has there been an article of clothing embroiled in so many controversies as yoga pants. Defined as stretchy, form-fitting pants designed for movement in activities such as yoga, they have become a staple of most women’s wardrobes, with many wearing them in everyday life out side of physical activity. According to product data base Indix, there are over 2,700 different types of yoga pants available.

Yet, there seems to be a lot of hate for them. From Lulu Lemon founder Chip Wilson infamously telling people that yoga pants “don’t work” on some boy types after the brand had to recall pants after they began wearing out between the thighs, to Montana Senator David Moore trying to introduce a bill banning yoga pants, to schools sending girls home for wearing them, yoga pant controversies have blown up over social media, with many women being quick to defend their right to wear them while blasting the nay-sayers.

A big appeal of yoga pants is that they are comfortable. You can basically slip them on and you are ready to go. In a world where some items of women’s’ fashion may not be the most practical thing to slip on, being able to throw on a pair of pants that are designed to go with the flow is a blessing.

I enjoy yoga pants. I find them comfortable and practical, and I can wear them with most things. To the haters out there who say that I shouldn’t be wearing them for whatever reason, I dare you to slip on a pair and go about your day — fewer things are more comfortable, especially if you’ve got the right pair.

Women’s fashion has always been a challenge. While we may not be squeezed into corsets anymore, we still contend with the challenge of looking suitable/professional/made up/appropriate for any occasion. While I may throw a tunic or flowey blouse over yoga pants — something I must note Sorrentino had said in his letter was a “disaster” — someone else might throw a t-shirt and sneakers on with them and run errands, or a fun dress and go to dinner with friends. The possibilities are endless.

I disagree with what Sorrentino says in his letter; I say every woman, no matter their age, have the right to wear yoga pants if they so choose.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to express his opinion.

As Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote in her book Friends of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Like in Canada, our American neighbours have the right to free speech. As much as I disagree with his viewpoint on yoga pants, he does have the right to voice it, and satire or not, if he wanted t to be i a letter to the editor in a community paper, that is his choice.

The protestors have the same right to assemble, put on a yoga pants parade and host a big yoga class in celebration of yoga pants. But death threats is taking it too far. Organizers have urged participants to not engage with Sorrentino or any other resident over this, and the parade did pass by his house, but actively picketing outside his house brings to mind images of protestors in front of an abortion clinic.

The organizers of the protest have said that their fight isn’t with Sorrentino, but rather part of a bigger movement against misogyny, and the idea that men can dictate how women dress.

Both sides have the right to voice their own opinion, and they have done so. So please, don’t be disrespectful. Keep things civil or move on. Free speech is a right, but there are limits.

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