Pockets - or the lack thereof - are a political issue for women

Women can't make do with 'mockets' anymore, and pretending otherwise is a form of gender bias, writes Haji Mohamed Dawjee

25 February 2018 - 00:00 By Haji Mohamed Dawjee
Violence against women makes pockets a matter of urgency.
Violence against women makes pockets a matter of urgency.
Image: Keith Tamkei

"Do women even use pockets?" This was a response I got the other day when chatting to a buyer in the fashion industry after I asked him: Why is it, in this day and age, that women's clothing has mockets (fake pockets) instead of the real deal?

My question had come after an hours-long expedition to the mall one sunny Saturday afternoon to buy my wife and me suits.

My brother is getting married, and as an unconventional, feminist, modern male, he has decided to have grooms-humans instead of groomsmen.

We (the women in the group) decided to take the fight against gender norms a step further, so we voted against frilly bridesmaid dresses and agreed to get suited up instead.

My shopping journey started with pockets full of hope and joy - and ended with rage. There were no pockets on the jackets or pants in the women's department of several stores. And so, the interrogation started.

I thought the fashion buyer's response was a joke. But the conversation progressed rather disappointingly: "If there were pockets on women's clothing, the prices would increase." Untrue. Men's clothing has pockets and most of their items are cheaper anyway. Even their T-shirts come with little chest pockets. For what? Storing their brilliant opinions about the fashion industry?

"Women prefer handbags," he said. Oh ... So we won't pay a small amount more for pockets and prefer to pay hundreds of rands more for a handbag?

"Women won't admit it but they don't want bulging pockets," he continued. As a woman who knows lots of women, every single one I asked said this is crap. So my conclusion, obviously was: The Patriarchy.

This historical and factual rationality was batted off, and again in quite a "mansplainy" way: "In South Africa most fashion directors are women ... the reality of the industry is quite different to what you understand it to be. Women play a key role ... they still operate under the patriarchy." They still operate under the patriarchy. Case. Closed.

The non-existence of pockets on women's clothing is sexist BS born in the 17th century. Pockets were for men, hidden little bags were for women - stitched on the inside of clothes, and only accessible when they were basically nude.

Then, of course, fashion changed. Male tailors decided women's dresses should be more form fitting. No space for stitched sachets on the inside of their garments led to little tiny handbags, big enough only to store the crumbs of feminine opinion and maybe a hairpin or two.

You see, pockets are a thing of function. They free up the hands. Men needed their hands. They needed to work, shake hands, make deals ... They also needed pockets to carry weapons. Why would women ever want to use their hands? Did they even know how? Would the world ever find out?

Would women ever want to use their hands?
     Did they even know how? Would the world ever find out?

The answer, my friends, is yes indeed. Because in certain parts of the 20th century, off men went to war and women stayed behind to work, work, work. Fix the stable door Cinderella, plough the field Cinderella, saddle the horse Cinderella. You know ... that sort of thing.

But then, alas, men returned from war and decided women needed to be slim and be squeezed into slim clothing. Pockets were removed and replaced by statements such as this one by designer Christian Dior: "Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration."

If nothing else, violence against women and even cat-calling make pockets for women a matter of urgency because, as it turns out, it's not when men are away that we need weapons, but when they're around.

But like all things gender-biased, the lack of pockets or worse, mockets, on women's clothing is just another form of oppression. Pocket politics is the sperm-infested love child of an inherently sexist industry that is driven by design and how fabric drapes over the female body so that it can make men's objectification experience more pleasing.

A pocket serves us sartorially and has a utilitarian purpose.

I'm not walking down a damn runway all the livelong day. I have no time to carry a purse. I need clothes that function the way I function. I need clothes that work with me and for me.

The suits I bought obviously do not have pockets. I expect a pocket and it's a damn well reasonable thing to demand.