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Calling All Females: Wear the Pants on June 11

Posted: 06/04/10 01:40 PM ET

Next Friday, June 11, wear the pants. Why? Because if you're a female, you can.

Or can you? New Moon Girls, the feisty and fun feminist magazine and online community made by and for girls, wants females to observe "Wear The Pants Day" next Friday because girls and women around the world are still forbidden or discouraged from wearing pants. Yes, it is 2010, and yet:

*Girls and women are beaten, arrested and worse for wearing pants, even loose pants covered by skirts. Just last week, Indonesian women wearing jeans had their pants confiscated and were ordered to don long skirts. Schoolgirls in Sudan were flogged last fall for wearing pants, and while international outrage helped keep flogging at bay for Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein, she must pay a fee for the crime of wearing pants. Last September, some 20 Ugandan women wearing pants were stripped and left to walk home in underwear.

Right here at home, plenty of anti-pants expectations remain. Just two years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported on persistent bias against pants-wearing women in many white-collar professions such as law and finance, and polled readers about whether pants or skirts were more appropriate for women. Readers approved pants, but only by a narrow margin. Female college grads are still warned to stick to skirts to grease the skids to the top in many professions. And girls and women in conservative religious communities face formal and informal proscriptions against pants-wearing. Rules typically cite passages forbidding women to dress like men such as Deuteronomy verses -- which, note manly kilt fans, are attributed to a time when everyone wore skirts.

So why wear the pants on June 11?

New Moon Girls picked this day because on June 11, 1964, the Equal Pay Act was enacted in the U.S., mandating that women receive equal pay for equal work. Now, some 46 years later, pants barriers have largely toppled in the US; however, American women earn just 77 cents to a man's dollar. Wearing pants today keeps us focused on the work that remains ahead to ensure that our daughters enter a workplace that's finally fair.

And we need to remember that it wasn't that long ago that girls and women were restricted from wearing pants. Female senators and congress members broke the pants barrier only in the early 1990s, and California had to verify the right of women to wear pants in the workplace in 1994. Rules at many schools (including many colleges) mandating skirts for girls and women only started changing in the late 1960s, with even liberal Berkeley lagging until 1968. Even today, some schools have skirts-only rules for girls. Particularly for girls who live in cold-weather states, does it make any sense at all to retain these rules?

The good news is that girls can't even fathom that discrimination about something as ridiculous as the act of wearing pants existed so recently. Girls from the New Moon Girls 8- to 14-year-old cohort (full disclosure: I'm pleased to edit New Moon Girl magazine's bimonthly collections of girl wisdom) consistently illustrate the sea change from the days when women of my boomer generation shivered in skirts in blustery playgrounds.

Check out how attitudes have changed on a key girl issue, body image. In this special issue, New Moon Girls reject omnipresent messages to be skinny and sexy to muse instead on their favorite functional body parts; salute the inner beauty of hundreds of female friends and kin in the Beautiful Girls gallery; and throw UnFashion Shows that gets girls sashaying down runways in outfits that reflect their true joys and passions.

And girls salute foremothers such as Amelia Jenks Bloomer, the suffragette who got the stateside pants ball rolling back in the mid-1800s. It's mind-boggling that it took 100 years and decade after decade of pants activism to get females the same basic right as men to don a comfortable clothing option. But it happened here, and when we Wear The Pants this June 11, we affirm that this right belongs to every female on the planet!