I was ecstatic when I opened up the fedex box to find it there: all soft brown leather and brass and laces and (most importantly) pockets. I’d ordered it from an artist in Asheville, NC, a city with nearly as many skilled artisans as San Francisco but with the added benefit of fewer vegans…and hence, skilled leatherwork. It was a utility belt, and I bought it because I was sick of not having a vial or a ziplock to put the occasional interesting spider or butterfly in.
My utility belt fits the following: wallet, cellphone, chap-stick, keys, a half dozen vials of varying sizes, a few ziplocks, a knife, and two loups (16x and 10x magnefication). I could fit more in if I squeezed, but it basically amounts to the general contents of what would fit in most men’s pants. What’s important is that it’s enough for me to have the tools I need with me all the time, even if I choose to put on a pretty dress.
Picture a child, playing on the edge of a pond, catching salamanders or tadpoles. Is the child a boy or a girl? Now, I think few in their right minds would argue that a six or seven year old girl has any less interest in capturing the local fauna than a boy, but the fact remains that it is far easier for one gender to actually do anything with that frog or lizard. If a child intends to set up an aquarium full of local organisms, watch tadpoles transform into frogs, or bring back that beautiful iridescent beetle for her bug collection, she needs something to carry them in. If our young scientist happens to shop in the women’s or girl’s aisle, then odds are she either has no pockets or pockets that exist primarily for show.
Can we pause to recognize how ridiculous this is? We have entire industries devoted to making purses and bags specifically because women’s clothing is intentionally designed to rob us of the ability to store our own belongings. We store our IDs, credit card, and a few twenties in our boots, or (if we’re wearing those nice strappy heels that make our calves look so shapely) shove them down our cleavage. Entire companies exist to create more convenient ways of shoving cell phones into our bras. The fashion industry would rather we shove our personal belongings under our sweaty boobs or stinky feet than give us actual pockets that work. Heaven forbid we ruin the smooth lines and perfect curves with a place to store a pocket knife.
Meanwhile, where are the little girls with magnifying glasses in their back pocket, ready to observe the trichobothria on a spider’s legs? Which of them is going to catch a honey bee in a vial and take it home to look at its pollen baskets? How are we to make young scientists out of these girls if we deny them the ability to carry the tools of science?
I don’t know what the solution to this is. I don’t know what to tell those of you who are parents of little girls aside from this: be mindful of what you buy your daughters. Girl’s clothing with pockets is rare, but it does exist. Pay attention when you’re choosing what to buy them, and whenever possible try to ensure they aren’t hobbled from the beginning.