Pockets are Feminist

Every year in the spring I see the city embark on a shopping spree for new clothes, new phones (!) and ice coffee. Just like everyone else, I also shed my spring coat and any other unnecessary clothing so I can float around freely in the warm, comforting summer weather. But hold on. Everything I’ve kept in my coat’s pockets are suddenly homeless. After an awkward moment at the local coffee shop and and a hurried trip home for the forgotten money I finally dig out a tote bag and throw my phone, subway pass, change and keys at the bottom. What a drag. Being able to afford not to carry a bag around all day is liberating and exhilarating. It’s empowering, and I feel robbed of that By the end of the summer I ache for the fall, when I can wear my rare, big-pocketed coat again.

Skirts, dresses, skinny pants, usual summer wear and feminine clothes all lack something that men’s clothes take for granted: usable-sized pockets. On a daily basis I ask myself: what is it with the tiny or fake pockets on jeans? What is this conspiracy against me living an efficient and functional life, where having functional pockets is not special treat? Sometimes I go as far as to think that it’s a conspiracy to ensure that women’s butts are unobscured for the enjoyment of bypassing men. But what I know for sure is that the lack of pockets is not feminist.

As far back as 1851, feminists have been speaking up for clothes that allow for free movement, independence and comfort as a significant part of gender equality. Pockets have been part of women’s clothing longer that you would think. In “Pockets of History: The Secret Life of an Everyday Object” fashion historian Barbara Burman explains that even in the 1600s dresses had inner bags that could be accessed through slits of the dress. These old half-bags/half-pockets were highly appreciated and often prepared with a lot of care and time.

LACMA/Wikimedia Commons
LACMA/Wikimedia Commons

On the turn of the 19th century most pockets on dresses disappeared. Women were not supposed to carry money and the sleeker silhouette of the time allowed for no under-clothes bag-pockets. As Burman says “the frustrations and limitations of women’s access to money and ownership of property were neatly mirrored in the restricted scope of their pockets.”

Pockets became a men’s thing. Portraits of the time often depict men with their hands in their pockets. As in many other ways it was World War II that out of necessity gave back some power, and pockets, to women. Women wore men’s pants, with men’s pockets, and although the pants stayed after the war too, the pockets magically disappeared, along with the jobs. And around this time handbags became a thing.

A lack of pockets pushed women to accessorize, a.k.a. purses, handbags, etc.. Of course bags can be a great accessory, but sometimes they just feel like a ball and chain. Mostly metaphorically, but sometimes for real:

altMaya Luz design on Project Runway

“I honestly believe the fashion industry is not helping women advance,” says Camilla Olson, creative director of a fashion firm. “We [women] know clearly we need pockets to carry technology and I think it’s expected we are going to carry a purse. When we’re working we don’t carry purses around. A pocket is a reasonable thing.” Olson shared with The Atlantic that she believes the industry is inherently misogynistic today. “Fashion looks selectively at who they let in and keeps women at a certain place. It’s not helping women move forward in the workplace.”

I usually wear a backpack, not because I like it, but because I could not survive my busy day as a working, running, on-my-feet life with something like a Birkin bag, not that I could afford one anyway. Women who dress feminine (which in this case often translates to clothes with zero pockets) sometimes have to carry 2-3 bags with them. What is that if not a disadvantage? Is it possible that women’s supposed obsession with bags is actually another twisted manifestation of sexism imposed upon us?

Masculine bags (i.e. briefcases) and unisex bags (laptop bags or backpacks) are usually well organized. Inside they have little compartments, places for everything. They are great for carrying around your important papers, because of course they assume the owner is a working person, with important things to do.

In contrast, most women’s bags are just a pit that dooms you to carry around your stuff entangled in a ball of chaos. Carrying paperwork? Forget about it. Feminine bags are not ergonomical. They are not good for your back, they often can’t hold a laptop and of course your paperwork will come out crumpled on the corners, humiliating you at work. I mean seriously, boyfriends are ashamed to even hold one.


Of course, everyone can carry around a briefcase or wear those military pants with the many pockets. The point is that there are tons of limitations and disadvantages paired with feminine clothing. Did you ever notice that women’s blazers don’t have an inner breast pocket? What is the reason beside making sure our boobs look appealing to others? Or maybe we should all wear our aprons, which have pockets, but then why even bother, since the kitchen has a lot of drawers, we can keep things in there.

Why does the fashion industry want us to carry around bags instead of putting pockets on our clothes? Why can’t we have pockets that our phones fit into? The industry’s answer is that it is “still being evaluated.” Probably they want to make sure the female figure is not obscured by bumpy keys or a wallet because pockets and feminine tailoring is just not compatible.

Of course not all clothes need to have pockets. But there needs to be a choice. It’s not the pockets that deforms the clothes, it’s what we could put in them. Please trust us women that we will not stuff our pockets till they burst (and even if we did, who cares? It’s our choice). Stop infantilizing us, it’s time give us the chance to make decisions about our own body, what we wear and where we put our iPhone 6.


What other things are baffling about women’s clothes?
Find out here!


Tin Can Telephone | Issue 1

Welcome to a brand new aspect of The Tree House, something somewhat inspired in part by the tradition of personal letters, blameful post-mortems and newsletters. News from the Tin Can Telephone is going to be something of a weekly or every-other-week blog post, filled with local and not-so-local tidbits about going-ons in the artistic universe (or sometimes other universes) that intrepid ambassadors from the Tree House (or sometimes just myself) want to bring attention to. As with everything from The Tree House, it is highly experimental and likely to morph whenever we need it to.

This week’s inaugural post on Tin Can Telephone features a beautiful illustration by Tara Ogaick. Thank you so much Tara! It’s a beauty.

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Pronouns, sexual attraction, bodies, parental acceptance, privilege and passing, these are some of the topics in the conversation between Quark and Lex in the videogameConversations We Have In My Head by Squinky. Quark and Lex are former lovers, who broke up over ten years ago, but Lex is also a figment of Quark’s imagination.

The first time I played Conversations I forgot about even checking if the game accepted user input. I had recently played Squinky’s game Interruption Junction at Princess of Arcade, and that game’s primary player mechanic is to allow the player to abruptly interrupt the ongoing dialogue. But unlike Interruption Junction, where the text of the game is too convoluted to really keep track of (think Simspeak), Conversations pulls the focus from the interruption mechanic to the content of the text itself.

It’s speaks to the quality of the writing and the concept that the game is greatly worth listening to at least once without trying to affect the outcome of the conversation. What really made the monologues and the back-and-forths compelling during my playthroughs was the intimacy of the conversation. The emotional closure available (and simultaneously unavailable) throughout the introspection of Conversations is paradoxical but also immensely desirable. That closure, which Quark finds in their conversation with Lex, can either feel like it is giving Quark a deeper understanding, and closeness, to Lex and Quark’s past (and present) selves, or it can feel distancing, the distance that becomes undeniable after ten years of silence post-breakup.

Squinky’s Interruption Junction and Conversations We Have In My Head rely on the player deciding to interrupt or not interrupt. Both games contain a character who gradually fades away, and both those characters are the self (or aspects of the self). Junction is a game about alienation while trying to participate in a social situation that may not have space for you, or what you have to say. Conversations takes that loneliness even further, exploring our need for closeness and closure within ourselves. With the same mechanic, Squinky is able to explore different emotional landscapes, as well as intimacy, loneliness and social interactions from two very different perspectives.

To find out more about Squinky and their games:

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Bloom by Caelyn Sandel is a serial fiction about a transwoman named Cordelia who comes to terms with her identity. Featuring illustrations by Kiva Bay and soft melodies on the piano (a few written by Caelyn herself), Bloom is striking, not only as an example of how beautiful Twine games can be, but also because of the sheer quality of the writing. Writing for Twine (and interactive fiction in general) is as unique a writing methodology as writing for the stage or for national radio – and Bloom delivers one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had with videogames writing.

Bloom is also technically superb. Betraying here my own admiration for aesthetically pleasing hypertext, it is often mesmerizing to watch Bloom‘s javascript deliver the lines (sometimes even taking them back for a moment).

Spoilers, and perhaps rampant speculation, ahead. If you have not playedBloom I highly recommend you go play it right now first.

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This apartment space becomes really familiar over the course of the prologue and five episodes. A large part of Bloom is played by investigating Cordelia’s most intimate and personal spaces – her apartment, her work – though we also follow Cordy to meet her family and on the metro.

I have to admit that last sentence on the page featured on the screenshot above – “The front door is intact and currently closed.” fills me with dread. The sentence is counterbalanced by the state of the kitchen door, but I look at that intact front door and still wonder what lies ahead.

Cordelia’s story, as Caelyn Sandel explains, is a “realistic depiction of midlife gender transition” and is extremely moving even if often distressing. I can’t wait for Episode 5.

To find out more about Caelyn Sandel and her work:

Some really good writing from Mattie Brice was published right at the end of July. I’ve always found Mattie Brice to be an incredibly thoughtful writer, and Passing and Self-Identification: Managing the Power and Visibility of the Closet is a very interesting piece on the difficulties of self-identification, power, and relationships, and some of the problems inherent in queer identitification.

I don’t think many people were ready for the messiness of queerness as a political identity. In effect, most people involved in the LGBT are fighting to be ‘normal,’ to be treated exactly as straight people are and to have those two groups live harmoniously with their owned houses, 2.5 children, and laberdoodle [sic]. Yet the pervasive adoption of queerness instead of LGBT is completely at odds with that vision, instead trying to move beyond straight vs gay, where straightness inherently contains queerness by the very virtue of defining them against each other. Heteronormativity is prevalent in LGBT communities, with straight- and cis-passing people being valued as inherently more attractive and sought-after. Queerness can’t hold a straight vs gay paradigm, but it will definitely let you get off to it.

Queerness is a concept in revolt – it always seeks to position itself as the “other” to any standard of normalcy. Queer itself is a word that was formed in retaliation (to a perceived, but some would argue very real) conservatism developing in gay communities, but for something that always defines itself as subverting heteronormativity, it can sure be easy to fall back into the pitfalls of the binary. Ideas like queerness are built to work as solutions – but we’re often unequipped to deal with the problems that these solutions create.

Embracing the messiness that queerness is means embracing what can go wrong, what has gone wrong, and taking responsibility for that. That’s part of the reason it’s messy.

To find out more about Mattie Brice’s website and Patreon.


by Gersande