As I noted in Pocket Pouting, feminists accuse men of forcing women to buy clothes without pockets, or with insufficient pockets in size and/or number. This isn’t a new complaint, nor is it just Racked making the accusation. In September of 2014, Tanya Basu at The Atlantic published The Gender Politics of Pockets. Basu claims that women are demanding clothes with more and larger pockets, but the men who design women’s clothes have different priorities and refuse to meet this demand (emphasis mine):
So how can an industry that focuses on women—whether it be models or products created primarily for a female demographic—consistently dodge the very people it markets to? Camilla Olson, creative director of an eponymous high tech fashion firm, points to inherent sexism within the industry. Mid-range fashion is a male dominated business, driven not by form and function, but by design and how fabric best drapes the body.
“I honestly believe the fashion industry is not helping women advance,” Olson said…
This is laughable, because it is women and not men who are demanding clothes with form over function. As the case of Nasty Gal proves, if a designer is meeting a niche they can easily find their target market. Designers who refuse to design what women want to buy will be swiftly punished by the marketplace, just as designers who make the clothes women want will be equally rewarded.
Since designers are clearly responding to the demands of their market, the only other way to blame this on men is to assume men are bullying the women in their lives into forgoing the pockets they crave. But this is equally absurd given our feminist culture. Men aren’t bullying women out of wearing the functional clothing they want to wear. We don’t have husbands mocking their wives for having and using functional pockets, obsessed with the lump a useful and used pocket creates. Nor are husbands sneaking into their wives’ wardrobes and getting rid of clothing they deem having too large, and/or too many pockets. If men were doing this, it would be considered abuse according to the Duluth model.
No, the issue is that women judge their clothing by different standards than men do. This in and of itself isn’t a problem. It is in fact quite natural given the differences between men and women. The problem is when women fester in envy and resentment of men for not being like women. This unbridled resentment is the very foundation of feminism, and it is unquenchable.
One of the ways this festering envy and resentment manifests itself is through a desire to keep men from having what women can’t have. We see this expressed in a myriad of different ways, including with something as petty as pockets. In August Nicole Hong at the Wall Street Journal wrote about this petty obsession by many women in Nice Cargo Shorts! You’re Sleeping on the Sofa (archive). Hong opens with the pettiness of Ashleigh Hansen, who goes through her husband’s wardrobe and gets rid of items of clothing with pockets she doesn’t approve of.
Mr. Hansen’s wife, Ashleigh Hansen, said she sneaks her husband’s cargo shorts off to Goodwill when he’s not around. Mrs. Hansen, 30, no longer throws them out at home because her husband has found them in the trash and fished them out.
“I despise them,” she said. “There were so many good things about the ’90s. Cargo shorts were not one of them.”
As the title suggests, Hong’s article explains that Ashleigh Hanson is just one out of a wave of petty tyrant wives. Another is Jen Anderson, who objects to her husband wearing cargo shorts because the pockets cause the fabric to not drape over her husband’s body the way she wants it to (emphasis mine):
Through what Ms. Anderson described as “strong mocking,” she convinced him to return the shorts. She said she doesn’t like the idea of being seen in public with her husband when he’s wearing cargo shorts, which make him look like “a misshapen lump.”
Yet another envious petty tyrant in Hong’s article is Lyndsay Peters:
…Mr. Lommel, who often works from home, seizes opportunities when his wife is away at work to wear his cargo shorts.
“Every time I put them on, I am conscious of the fact that I am now being disobedient in my marriage,” he said.
Mr. Lommel’s wife, Lyndsay Peters, disputes the idea that he tries to wear cargo shorts only when she’s not around. “I wish that were the truth,” she said. “If he was only wearing them when I could not look at him, that would be perfect.”
Yet while the Wall Street Journal tells us how offended wives are that their husbands wear clothes with large usable pockets, The Atlantic is convinced that it is women who crave big useful pockets, and men who object to the aesthetics of them. According to Basu at the Atlantic, modern women crave pockets big enough to carry all of their technical gadgets:
Our skinny jeans have pockets, but there is no way an object bigger than a standard issue ID card fits in the front, and everyone knows that slipping a phone in your back pocket is an invitation for a treacherous dive into a toilet, or a backflip resulting in heartbreaking shatters…
“More women are expecting and demanding pockets,” Olson said of trends in the industry. “I was hearing more about pockets on the runway in recent shows. Pockets are becoming more interesting, but they aren’t the size to carry around an iPhone, much less an iPhone  Plus.”
…most designers don’t consider pockets as part of the functionality of women’s clothes just yet—they’re still looking at purses as the way for women to carry their smartphones and other technological devices.
Drake Baer at NY Mag may have stumbled onto a piece of clothing that is ready made to hold all of the technology Basu tells us women desperately want to hold in pockets. Baer explains in Anthropologists Analyze the Cargo Short Boom that the desire to carry technical gadgets is what drives their popularity.
The practicality and preparedness that made cargo pockets a military staple inform their popular persistence, she says. Having lots of pockets to put things in and thereby not having to lug around a bag is incredibly convenient.
…don some cargo shorts, throw a charger in the side pocket. And some earbuds, too. Go crazy, there’s plenty of room.
Unfortunately, while Basu explains that women are interested in function over form, and demand clothing with multiple large pockets to carry all of their tech gear, there is one type of clothing she tells us women don’t want:
Cargo pants, however, have been unanimously dissed by the fashion savvy as the solution of choice for the smartphone dilemma women face.
Baer even quotes from Basu’s Atlantic piece, noting that while cargo shorts/pants are the epitome of what Basu says women want, women clearly don’t want them.
This isn’t about women really wanting functional pockets to carry their technology, it is about women resenting the fact that men are perfectly comfortable with functional pockets, even at the expense of how the fabric drapes. Baer inadvertently captures this reality with his closing sentence:
If only, by some working of fashion karma, the excess pockets of men’s non-fashion shorts could migrate to women’s fashion.