A little while ago, Rose C’est La Vie made mention on this site of her interest in female masculinity, and lamented the demise of trousers’ significance as symbols of feminine defiance. One of the lamentable things about throwing out all the rules is that it becomes much more difficult to act subversively. Absolute freedom might, so it seems, come at the price of being dull.
I’m not actually sure I buy that last thought, for complacency is the biggest risk to the freedoms attained. We must remain vigilant. Last night I saw some BBC News footage from Banda Aceh about the stiffening of Sharia Law in that unfortunate place. It is a story of gendered segregation, invidious policing, and a slew of strictures that prescribe what it is moral and immoral to wear. Naturally, the BBC took a left-leaning – or should that be Occidental – perspective, and sought out those brave womanly souls refusing to don headscarves, who cling desperately to long pants. Indeed, the new clamp down includes a ban on women wearing tight trousers. A bewildered trouser seller exclaimed: ‘what we wear doesn’t reflect our morality’. No, but in that setting trousers remain politically dangerous.
We are not given to think about these things any more, but that is a sign of how far we have come in the West. It is worth reminding ourselves from time to time that the matter-of-fact ubiquity of women in ‘men’s clothing’ is an emblem of our liberality. These things are matter-of-fact only after significant struggle; they represent other struggles of greater weight, about which we are also now dangerously blasé. Indeed, trouser wearing is the thin end of the wedge. That is precisely what the Aceh authorities are afraid of. And it is precisely why we should not cease to celebrate the history embodied by all women who don their slacks without a second thought.
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