In January I experienced a hiatus from the village for the first time in a long time, when we went on an outing to big-city Polokwane for my birthday. Maybe the length of time that I’ve been away from “civilization” will show when I mention my unpleasant surprise at a change I noticed to a long-standing universal symbol for women. For as long as I can remember, everywhere I’ve traveled in the world, you could find the women’s restroom by looking for a symbol of a stick figure wearing a skirt. But when we refreshed ourselves at a restaurant, we sat right by the restrooms, which were marked with new symbols—at least new to me—this:
Now it is true that I am a traditionalist and don’t generally respond to change with ecstasy. But I would like to think that the unpleasantness associated with my surprise at this change was not due merely to disliking change. I actually felt that this change to the universal symbol for women evidences another attack on biblical femininity from the feministic camp.
Them’s fightin’ words, you say? Well, actually, I think that this change is a not-so-subtle essay of fighting feministic propaganda.
It is not that I am in denial about what most women are wearing these days. Yes, I live in Africa, but even over here, pants are becoming very common. (Although I do find it interesting that the restroom signs are changing even over here, where skirts are much more common than in Western civ, and where illiteracy is also more common, making the need for clear signage more important.)
It is not that I think that wearing an article of clothing that has two holes for the legs is inherently more sinful for women than wearing an article of clothing with only one hole for the legs. So don’t put me in that camp, please. That’s not where my argument is headed.
But there is simply no doubt that a skirt is a distinctly woman’s article of clothing, versus pants, which are utilized by both male and female. I’m not arguing that pants can’t be feminine, just that, what woman can’t relate to having enjoyed that beautiful girly feel of a new, pretty, floral, twirl-y skirt? How many of you remember as a girl having spur-of-the-moment twirling competitions with other little girls as to whose skirt could flair out the fastest and highest? So if we need a clear, obvious sign in order to avoid directional confusion for something so important and private as which restroom to enter, a skirt is a clear, noticeable symbol, easily and quickly associated with women. Pragmatically speaking.
Apparently though, the symbol of a woman in a skirt needs eliminating.
Why change it? It’s not as though no one wears skirts anymore. It’s not as though we no longer know what a skirt is, they’re so obsolete. The only motivation I can guess for the change is that some women find the association of skirts with women to be offensive. They feel anger, a bitterness or resentment, towards skirts, or towards the obvious suggestion that women should be wearing them, or are wearing them. “Hey, we live in a modern age! Women can do whatever men can do, and we are doing it, right? So what’s with the skirts?”
I guess that some women associate the symbol of skirts for women as a sign of male domination? Is this like a repeat of the 60s when women were burning their bras, now we burn signs of women in skirts? I can’t think of another reason for the change outside of discomfort and displeasure with the possible suggestion of old-school submission that skirts may have?
Personally, I don’t see the improvement. We went from a subtle, yet clear, symbol for womanhood to a pointed-hippy, fat-thighed symbol. Maybe that’s why women are called broads? At least her legs are ladylike-ly together, unlike her legs-spread male counterpart, which communicates more aggression and male dominance than the outdated symbol.
How has the feministic agenda been helped here? There still has to be a clear difference between the symbols, unless we want to completely erase all differences and just go to unisex restrooms, which I think the majority of the world is not ready for.
This is the issue. The whole point of a restroom sign is to communicate distinction between the genders, which is exactly what the feminist movement is trying to erase! It’s humorous that the feminists can’t stand having the distinctions between the genders placed in front of them all the time, but we all absolutely must have the genders clearly distinguishable at this most-important time. As with so many elements in contemporary society, they’re fighting against nature.
And yes, symbols do matter. But that’s another discussion.
A friend on Facebook describes her “works at” as “I am a happy and full time housewife and mother and wife.” Feminists would not like that. I think they associate skirts with that mindset, and that is why they want to remove skirtish symbolism in an effort to change this mindset of happy submission to patriarchal repression. In fact, I associate skirts with that outdated mindset as well, and that’s why I don’t like the change. If my choice is to submit either to my dear husband or to a domineering woman fighting against the patriarchy, then I am a happy and full time housewife and mother and wife. Wearing skirts! And I don’t feel repressed.