08 May 2011

Wearing Shorts

I've decided to ignore the social convention of covering my legs, at least while I'm running during the summer. It's not a religious thing here, aside from a few Muslim women who wear burqas. It's just a very conservative society and women should be covered from their shoulders to their knees -- or preferably ankles -- unless they want to be victims of staring or harassment by men.

Let me be clear, I feel perfectly safe. I would not be wearing shorts if I thought they put me in any danger whatsoever.

Here's the thing, though. People stare at me anyway. Men and women. Children laugh. I'm a hilarious freakshow. I'm white. I'm a woman (who's often not escorted by a man). I'm often running or walking for pleasure rather than transportation. And I often have a funny little baby with me, too. I've accepted the fact that I stand out. If I'm going to be stared at for all of these reasons anyway, I may as well be comfortable in shorts rather than leggings.

First I started wearing shorts around our yard, outside. I figured that if the neighbors were offended, well, they didn't have to look over the wall and watch me. Then one morning, bleary-eyed from my 5:15 alarm (I have to be on the road by 6:00 during this hot weather), I automatically reached for shorts, just like the old days, instead of leggings. I was already out the door by the time I realized my faux pas and I decided to go with it. That early in the morning there are few people on the road and they were already staring at me regularly. The shorts didn't seem to attract any additional attention.

I'm generally not one to have the attitude that being an American gives me the right to disrespect local customs because they're inconvenient to the lifestyle I'm used to. But it's true that Western women can get away with being less conservative, maybe because of the "we're being stared at anyway" phenomena. What really cemented my decision to continue wearing shorts though was seeing a young Indian woman out for a walk one morning, wearing the same color shorts and t-shirt as I was. If she has the confidence to do it, I should too. (And it's already in the 80s at six in the morning. My legs were burning up, being swathed in spandex.)


Liz Jones said...

Good for you, Stephanie! I fully support your decision and your reasoning. I have just started wearing shorts in the gym within my apartment complex, and even that was a big decision! People stare at me, but it might be because i am the only one who knows how to use the machines!

Liz Jones said...

Good for you, Stephanie! I support your bare legs! I just started wearing shorts in the gym inside my apartment complex, and even that is a big deal! People stare at me but maybe it's because I am the only one who knows how to use the machines...

derien said...

I'm surprised you'd go with leggings, just seems the hottest possible choice. I'd have thought some loose pants of a light material might be better.

Caitlin said...

I say go for the shorts...leggings get so hot so fast and it's not as if you are doing it to intentionally bother anyone...it's just common sense for the circumstances!


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