When you think of clothing that would inspire women to take to the streets (and social media) and you probably won’t think yoga pants.
But yoga pants have been making headlines around the world after hundreds of women donned their comfy active wear and marched along the streets in Rhode Island in the United States.
“It’s always been about more than yoga pants,” said Jamie Burke, organiser of the Peaceful Yoga Pants Parade.
“I wear them, but I’m not passionate about my yoga pants. I am passionate about my freedom to wear whatever the hell I want,” she told RN Breakfast.
Ms Burke was dismayed to find a letter to the editor in her local paper last week pleading for “mature, adult women” to stop wearing yoga pants in public for they are, according to the author, “disturbing”, “tacky”, and “do nothing to compliment a woman”.
“Not since the mini-skirt has there been something worn by so many women who should never have it on in the first place,” the letter read.
She responded by taking a photo of the comments and posting them to Facebook.
“My friends, far and wide, all responded immediately saying … that’s ridiculous, this is horrible … we need to do something,” Ms Burke said.
So she posted an event online inviting people to join her for a “Peaceful Yoga Pants Parade” in the neighbourhood where the author of the letter, 63-year-old Alan Sorrentino, lives.
The Facebook event read:
“This is NOT a hateful protest against Alan. This a wonderful group of people celebrating our bodies and our right to cover them however we see fit.
“And while yoga pants seem to be a silly thing to fight for, they are representative of something much bigger — misogyny and the history of men policing women’s bodies.”
Several days later, hundreds of women proudly donning yoga pants marched through the streets of Rhode Island passing Mr Sorrentino’s home with signs that read “WE WEAR WHAT WE WANT” and “LOVE YOURSELF”.
There’s at least one more parade scheduled for this weekend in Portland, Oregon. And the conversation is continuing on social media #YogaPantsParade.
“The national and worldwide attention that this has received clearly speaks to the need for us to stand up for our rights,” Ms Burke said.
Letter to editor ‘just a joke’
Following the backlash to the letter, Mr Sorrentino said that the letter was intended as a joke that was “meant to sound stupid and creepy”, and that the response — including the parade — was a “totally disproportionate reaction”.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) October 24, 2016
“I assumed the character of this grumpy old man that was railing about women in yoga pants because he was too uptight to just relax and accept himself in his age and his own ways,” Mr Sorrentino told WPRO radio.
But Ms Burke said that body-shaming and the policing of women’s bodies had been “going on for ages”, and that in 2016, “we should be way beyond it”.
“I’ve been reached by women all across the globe, thanking me for this, telling their own stories of groping and cat calling and sexism and body shaming,” she said.
“That’s why it’s received so much response – because we’ve all experienced it.”
Following the parade, the yoga pants-wearing women “filled a bus full” of feminine hygiene products and raised $800 to be donated to a local domestic violence shelter.
“The event did great with giving everyone a sense of pride in their bodies, but it did great on a local level too,” Ms Burke said.
– Olivia Willis