Walking down the hall while being judged by a panel of guys for your clothing choices is the stuff of middle school nightmares. But a recent Fox News segment reminded women everywhere that this nightmare is reality — and not just for teens.
“Leggins ain’t britches. They’re not pant-pants!” It was the leggings rant heard ‘round the world when a Tennessee woman went viral for saying (in the cutest accent possible) that leggings-wearing ladies need to be modest with the way they wear the tight pants. This alone wasn’t overly controversial, and she’s certainly not the first person to make the argument, but then Fox News had to take it one step further when Fox and Friends invited three famous dads to critique the trend.
Fox News analyst Arthur Aidala, Andrew Sansone (husband of Fox News‘ Julie Banderas) and Duck Dynasty‘s Willie Robertson made up the Very Serious Leggings Panel — ironic considering that Robertson is basically famous for wearing very ugly pants.
At first the men tried to keep it lighthearted and funny: Aidala said he wouldn’t let his daughters leave the house in anything they couldn’t wear in a monastery, while Robertson said they’re all good as long as they’re worn with a shirt that covers all “the lady parts,” but Fox host Steve Doocy could let the leggings lie.
So they brought out three young female models, all wearing leggings, to gauge the men’s responses. Despite the fact that all three women were similarly sized and basically wearing the same tight bottoms — just in different colors — the men had widely varying opinions from butt to butt.
Kelly, the first victim, er, woman, was told she’s in the clear since her spandex pants are thick enough that “you can’t see a tattoo on her leg.” When Doocy asks her if she does actually have any tattoos down there, she laughs and says no… after which he offers to validate her parking in one of the weirdest examples of quid pro quo I’ve ever seen on live television.
The second model, Amanda, is clad in head-to-toe black, similar to what one sees the trendy moms wearing at the school pickup, and was praised for her modesty. “It’s all black. You could wear that to church,” Aidala said. Plus, her long top mostly covered her butt and lady bits.
But then came poor Paige, an athletic woman in purple yoga leggings and a black tank top. Whether it was the bright color of her bottoms or the fact that they were paired with a tight top, she drew all the eyes and the comments.
“Obviously her physique, God bless you, you’ve worked out, you’ve earned that,” Aidala said while laughing uncomfortably and making a show of trying to avert his eyes. The audience hooted and, while not shown on camera, I’m sure several men grew cartoon wolf heads and howled.
To say it was confusing and awkward would be an understatement. But Paige handled the public scrutiny of her privates like a pro, saying she is indeed comfortable wearing her Pilates outfit anywhere. Mercifully the segment ended there.
To be clear: The problem here isn’t the discussion about leggings (or leggin’s, depending on where you live). Plenty of women don’t like them as pants and won’t wear them out of the gym or without a long top, and that’s totally fine. The problem is that even though the men on the panel valiantly tried to be funny and nice, it was what it was: the lining up of women for the purpose of having their bodies, and “lady parts” in particular, judged by a panel of ogling men and then told what was OK for them to wear based on how men feel about their bodies.
Being a woman in public is hard enough. Between catcalls on the street to shootings in gyms, we are constantly reminded that we always have to be on guard and be aware of how men are perceiving us. We’re left with the job of assessing who’s dangerous, who’s a jerk and who’s just a clueless “nice” guy, and to add up whether or not the situation will end up with us humiliated or even dead. This isn’t the type of math we should be teaching our daughters. We should feel safe no matter what we’re wearing.
So, thanks for making that just a little bit harder.