There was one great comment I found on Facebook though that shed a lot of light and insight into this discussion. It was made by Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney on her FB page where she'd reposted my blog post. Prior to this I'd gotten an angry-unfriending email from someone who thought I was expecting him to take blame for something (as he pointed out) he had no knowledge of nor any control over. Which is one of the reasons that I hesitate to throw around words like "patriarchy" because it does seem to suggest that if you're a guy, you're, somehow at fault.
Kristen explains this really well and I wanted to share it.
When something is referred to as "patriarchal," it doesn't necessarily mean that it is only heterosexual men perpetrating it. Women contribute unthinkingly or even wholeheartedly to practices that are inherently patriarchal -- to take an example somewhat more serious than pockets, women definitely contribute to restricting other women's access to birth control, or to shoring up practices that result in lower wages for female workers.
One of the interesting things about fashion is that it tends to enshrine certain things far past the point that they are useful or even that their purpose is understood. A gender-based example might be the tradition of having women's and men's shirts button in opposite directions -- at this point, no one is even positive that the explanations for why this is so are even accurate. Another example might be the vestigial "watch pocket" still found in pants and even jeans, when very few people carry pocket watches.
I think Kyle Cassidy's modest proposal is that designers should ask themselves, "Have I put pockets in this clothing? Why not? What are my expectations for the person wearing it? Are they consistent with reality?" What Kyle has noted is that most men's clothing is designed with pockets as a matter of course, whereas most women's clothing is not, and the reasons given for this (when reasons are given at all) are pretty weak. Did someone set out to deprive women of agency by taking away their pockets? Probably not, no. But there are a set of assumptions that have led to women's clothing being designed the way it is (including but not limited to: "women always carry purses" and "the man carries the wallet anyway") that deserve to be interrogated.
Thanks for all the discussion, and the sharing of links for places that make womens clothes with pockets. I like to think that if enough people bang their cups on the bars, the people who make buying decisions for large retailers and who make design decisions will wrinkle their brows and ponder ... wait, why are we doing this?
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