At this point, I’m guessing that all of you have heard of the hullabaloo surrounding the women-only screening of Wonder Woman at the Alamo Drafthouse. This isn’t the first time there’s been a backlash like this, nor are we likely to stop seeing such responses any time soon. Something happens or is done specifically for women — you know, a screening, feminism, making it so birth control is actually covered by health insurance — and all of a sudden its, “Why are they getting special treatment? If we did something like this for men only, you’d have a hissy fit!”
So I thought today, I’d take a moment and try to explain, for those who don’t get it, why groups and events created specifically for people who identify as female, and perhaps feminism in general (for the truly clueless or perhaps just young and stupid), are necessary. And I’d like to use as my primary example a phenomenon that uniquely affects us: girl pockets.
I was at work the other day wearing a pair of pants that I typically wear to work. I like them because they fit well, plus they’re twill and not jeans but not shorts. Thus I know that if I end up on a set that’s been overheated by lights, I won’t get too hot, but if the air-conditioning on a stage is pumping, I also won’t freeze to death if I accompany it with sweatshirt, which I always do. Basically, I need to show up for work prepared for a variety of situations, and this is also reflected in the fact that my work clothes require pockets, in order that I can keep my phone (I get all of my jobs via text these days), my sides (these are the miniaturized versions of the script pages that we’ll be shooting for the day that production hands out), and my gloves (for booming, carrying heavy cases and coiling cable) on me at all times, and also be able to shove in them things like lavaliere microphones, scissors, tape, foot foam, and other items which might be necessary for one of the many tasks that my work on set entails. Well, this pair of pants has four pockets, two front and two back, so you’d think, “perfect.” In reality, though, I was dropping stuff everywhere I went all day long. The problem? They’re girl pockets, meaning that they are small and shallow and completely impractical for keeping in anything you might need to keep on your person. I used to be able to fit a phone into a front pocket, but while phones have grown, girl pockets haven’t, so a large corner to a whole half the thing inevitably sticks out. Trying to get a wallet into one of these — yeah, I occasionally do that, even though I’m a woman. Crazy! — is just a joke, or an invitation for it to drop out or get grabbed by someone. I know from experience that even a small pair of thin gloves falls out of both the front pockets and the equally-if-not-more lame back pockets, unless you really ball them up and shove them down there. So why don’t I wear a different pair of pants to work, you’re asking? Well, because it’s not just these pants that have these stupid pockets, it’s just about everything I own.
Exhibit A: jeans:
See what I mean?
Exhibit B: shorts.
To add insult to injury, these shorts add on to these useless regular pockets a bizarre tiny pocket that is good for absolutely nothing, but I guess is supposed to look…cute? Why would anyone want a pocket to be cute?
Yeah, clearly this is just a design element, not an actual pocket.
What’s the big deal, you might say? Don’t women just carry purses everywhere anyway? Well, yes, but for a lot of us, that’s only because we don’t have decent pockets. I’m obviously not going to carry a purse around with me at work on set because it would get in the way of basically everything I have to do – and to be honest, that’s also how I feel about them in general every day life. This is why I pretty much spent the first 25 years of mine trying to avoid carrying one: because having to hang this stupid bag on your person at all times in an absurd pain in the ass and also makes you more of an easy target for theft. One of the few reasons I like winter is that I can wear jackets with pockets and therefore don’t have to carry a purse (women’s jacket pockets are still lame compared to men’s jacket pockets – for example, there are almost never inside pockets in women’s coats or jackets, unless they’re performance outerwear, and even then they’re fewer and smaller – but they are still bigger than normal girl pockets). I know many women consider purses a “fashion accessory,” but that’s only because once we were forced to have them, the fashion industry (created and mostly run by men) decided to capitalize on it. And I know, there’s this whole image of women needing to carry so much shit around that they have to have a bag with them at all times, but let’s break that down. What supposedly goes into a purse? In my case, Tylenol, antacid, tissues, pens, hand-sanitizer, sunglasses, and a sweater? We could fit some of those in our pockets if we had decent ones, some we could wear around waists or necks, and the rest, we could borrow — like guys do. Binkies, snacks, water, and other things we think we “need” to carry for other people, such as our kids? Well, why are we expected to be the ones who have to carry those things? That’s what diaper bags and backpacks are for, and dads can carry those too. Make-up, or a hairbrush? If the world didn’t think we needed to touch up our appearances every hour, we wouldn’t need those things — and I, in fact, don’t need and don’t carry them, because I don’t care if my one coat of mascara and whatever’s going on with my hair when I leave the house doesn’t last through the day, and neither does my husband, or anyone who’s ever been my friend.
Which brings me to why pockets on women’s clothing are so incredibly lame as a rule: because for us, in a nutshell, it’s considered more important that we look good than that we can function. No, really. You see it reflected literally everywhere, from the fact that the media thinks it’s more important to talk about our clothes or our hair or our make-up than about our ideas — and the way we are said to be bitchy or shrill or talk too much when we try to make those ideas heard — to that we are often only mentioned as the wife of so-and-so, like we exist solely to be decoration or enhancement of their personhood, rather than people ourselves. I’ve dealt with this so much at work I can’t even tell you (although I actually have told you), and I’ve also, like most women, completely internalized it too (see here, here, and here), so that my appearance matters to me way more than it would ever matter to a man of my similar age and occupation/education, even though I grew up a feminist, with a feminist mother, and am pretty freaking self-aware. No, despite our best intentions, the prioritization of our having to look good, often at the expense of anything and everything else, is a consistent state of being for women. And I haven’t even gotten into how complicated the concept of “looking good” is for us — because you also have to look good in just the appropriate way, too, and you’re expected to know what that is at all times. You can’t look too businessy or too casual or too dressed up; too slutty or too buttoned up or too dowdy or too cheap; too young or too old, too hip or too retro. Sure, guys can make these mistakes too, but the consequences of them for women tend to be much, much greater; everything from being denied a tip or a job to public vilification to deserving to get raped is routinely blamed on how women dress. And just like those girl pockets, or purses, that’s a perpetual disadvantage that we are so accustomed to wearing around every day that we just come to accept it, and are expected, even — or perhaps most of all — by other women, to work around.
Realistically, I know there’s no easy solution to the problem of girl pockets. We can’t just wear men’s clothes, because they’re not made for most of us and won’t fit our bodies, making them both non-functional and unattractive. We can’t change the way all women’s clothes are made, because the fashion industry, as well as most men and women — who, again, have 100% internalized that they’d rather look good than have convenience, in the same way that they’d rather wear undergarments that hurt and shoes that destroy their knees, back and ankles, not to mention inject toxins into or chop up and insert toxic foreign objects into their faces and bodies, than not conform to the current standard of “looking their best” — have decided that truly functional pockets would alter the shape of women’s clothes, and would therefore freak the fuck out and basically bring our entire culture to its knees if we tried. Again: no, really. I am not exaggerating about this. The fact is, women looking a certain way is so deeply important to nearly all of us, on some level, that making the kind of changes that would make women’s clothing as practical and useful to women as men’s clothing is to men could never ever happen.
So what’s my point? Well guys (and especially white, straight, non-disabled, and of course cis-gender guys), if you want to understand how important it is to have something that’s actually made for you in a society in which basically everything is built to satisfy the needs, desires and convenience of someone who is not you; in a culture where many of those someones say it’s fine for you to have your comfort only as long as it doesn’t threaten theirs in any way – comfort about which they are so sensitive that even something so small as a woman talking about gender in video games makes them angry enough to send death threats; then try not walking a mile in my shoes (because I can choose not to wear heels, and so my shoes are comfortable), but wearing my pants for a week. Maybe the day you get girl pockets is the day you at least maybe kinda sorta begin to understand what it’s like to be a woman in our culture. Until then, you and your real-pocket pants can just go sit somewhere else.