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Tans or Tights? A Feminist Critique

Illustration by Tennessee Williams

Illustration by Tennessee Williams

OPINION PIECE: 'When is it socially acceptable to wear black tights?'

On Monday 19th October 2015 Jess Cartner-Morley wrote an article for The Guardian entitled: ‘When is it socially acceptable to wear black tights?’ The article questions (or rather condemns) the social acceptability of wearing black tights. In a Katie Hopkins style rant Cartner-Morley manages to alienate all sections of the tight-wearing and non-tight wearing community. Hannah Dixon and Tennessee Williams dissect the article.

“The million-dollar fashion question, the one I’m asked every day without fail from the third week of August for three months, concerns the date from which it is socially acceptable to wear black opaques.”

First of all, are you REALLY asked “every day” about whether it’s socially acceptable to wear black tights? Are there that many women who are so uncertain about putting some fabric on their legs in the morning?

“What’s more, in the era of 6am Barry’s Bootcamp and Brazilian waxes, when being really quite freaking hardcore about pain is – for better or worse, discuss – way more feminine than baking cupcakes, your willingness to go barelegged is, literally, a black-and-white marker of the degree to which you are prepared to forgo comfort in order to achieve the right look.”

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to discuss this matter, because GOD DAMN does this need some discussion. As a woman it seems ridiculous that Cartner-Morley has reduced femininity to being hairless and having the skills of Mary Berry. Speaking from experience, we are neither hairless nor Mary Berry. We can still feel feminine and comfy (in our black tights).

“It is also a matter of cold, hard cash. Or, to put it even more brutally, it’s a bus-stop issue. A bare leg is a luxury that signals you have the funds to pull the ripcord and summon an Uber should the wind chill get too much.”

Cold hard ca$h you say? Like the cold hard ca$h I spend on tights? 8 quid for two pairs in M&S isn’t exactly cheap! Not to mention Wolford.

“Thanks to fake tan, that great social-leveller of our age, having brown legs no longer means you actually go on six holidays a year.”

As two self-proclaimed milk bottles, frankly fake tan would look ridiculous and no amount of holidays to Mykonos will tan us naturally. So are we supposed to wear our black tights in the midst of an August heatwave? Jess Cartner-Morley would probably say yes…

Although we have made light of this poorly written article, it brings up some scarily serious issues so ingrained in our society.

According to Cartner-Morley wearing tights is about “class, and money, and age... It is about your postcode and your mindset, your taxi bill and your holiday schedule.” Female writers on a platform such as The Guardian should be speaking up about the more pressing problems women face within a patriarchal society. However Cartner-Morley reinforces gender stereotypes and incites trivial rivalry between women. The media makes this body-policing and shaming feel like the ‘norm’ and therefore creates internalised anxieties.

Women shouldn’t have to question what they put on in the morning. It’s not about what you wear, but how you feel in what you choose to wear. If you feel good in tights or if you feel good without tights – that’s fine by us.

Editorial note:

Read the original article at or check out the authors on twitter, @hannahmargaretd @sneaky.bacon

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