III. Garments …
C. Modern era…
4. Pockets (denial of)
In the middle of a long thread on a writers’ list-serv, provoked by my post on fashion models, it occurred to me that one of the unrecognized ways women are kept dependent and threatened is simply denying them pockets. This is more important than one might think, right up there with hobbling them with high heels and way more effective than an upper-body-strength advantage.
Consider that a man has at least five pockets in a jacket, four more in his pants, and probably one in his shirt. Coat/parka? two to four more. Even in shorts and a tee, he has four, and a belt strong enough to hang stuff on. Why does this matter? Well, think what autonomous adults do, almost tautologically: they admit themselves to secure locations with keys, show identification, write on paper, start a car, read (think glasses), spend money with cash and credit cards, check mail and talk on their cellphones.
I can do any of those grownup things instantly, almost all with one hand, while walking, and neither miss a step nor look away from my surroundings for a second. With the jacket, I have pockets to spare for an iPod, papers, a candy bar, and even a book. A woman, however, dressed for business in slacks or a skirt and a jacket, or even wearing loose-fitting casual clothes, will have no usable pockets and has to carry a handbag. It takes both her hands and several therbligs to accomplish any adult task, never mind looking and groping inside the bag for the appropriate tool.
The handbag itself is disempowering; it’s prey to a thief just walking on the street unless clutched (there’s one hand occupied), and for sure hanging on a chair in a cafe, while a man only has to worry about a skilled pickpocket or a strongarm mugger. I never have to think to pick up my pockets and bring them with me after doing business at a counter or sitting at my desk.
Furthermore, that handbag has keys and identification together, so the thief (or finder) gets the address the keys go with, and maybe even the car license plate number. Losing a wallet is a nuisance; losing a handbag is a catastrophe and scary. At a formal event, you can’t carry a large enough one to hold anything, so you’re absolutely dependent on an escort just to get home. Care to dance? your clutch is on the table out of sight, but my stuff is safe in my pockets. No pockets is a perfect storm of dependency, insecurity, and risk.
If women ever demand grownup clothes, meaning clothes with pockets, we’re done for, guys. I don’t know how they put up with it, but heaven help us when they catch on.
UPDATE: Obviously these insights are not original with me. A reader points to a page apparently more than a decade old, where the pocket issue is classified as a joke. This reminds me of another oppressive tool, which is to diss reports of injustice with ridicule and condescension (though satire and humor are not out of place in serious political discourse). I don’t think this stuff is a joke.