The same day Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” on national television, a different man in a different city uttered words that generated equal offense.
“To all yoga pant wearers,” wrote Alan Sorrentino, of Rhode Island, in a letter to the editor, “I struggle with my own physicality as I age. I don’t want to struggle with yours.”
Then Sorrentino, 63, boldly declared yoga pants the “absolute worst thing” to happen to women’s fashion since the mini skirt. He said that, like the mini skirt, yoga pants are “adorable” on children and fit young women, but that the exercise ensemble is both “disturbing” and “bizarre” when stretched over the thighs of “mature, adult” ladies.
He insisted that a woman flaunting yoga pants in public is no better than a man wearing a Speedo to the supermarket. He suggested more sensible alternatives, like blue jeans or “a nice pair of tailored slacks.”
He told these women to do themselves a favor. “Grow up,” he wrote in the letter, published in the Barrington Times, “and stop wearing them in public.” As swiftly as the Etsy shop flooded with coffee mugs reading “nasty women vote” following last week’s presidential debate, the Internet seized upon Sorrentino’s words with ferocity.
Critics called them misogynistic and sexist and degrading. They criticized the newspaper for giving him a platform. And they penned impassioned odes to their beloved stretchy pants. “He can kiss my yoga pant wearing @$$,” wrote one woman. “Yoga pants for days!!!!!!!” declared another. “I dread my next birthday when I will be forced to cast my yoga pants into the fire and watch them burn away along with my ‘blessings of youth’ as I join the ranks of ‘mature, adult women’ at the ripe old age of 21,” a different woman confessed.
On Facebook, another reader informed Sorrentino that, as a matter of fact, her “47 year old butt” looks pretty great in yoga pants. “You lift brah?” she asked.
In the face of widespread denunciation and even death threats, Sorrentino told radio station WPRO days later that his letter was intended as a piece of satire, as a comical respite from the hateful political climate.
“I assumed the character of this grumpy old man that was railing about women in yoga pants because he was too tight to just relax and accept himself in his age and his own ways,” Sorrentino told WPRO. “It was meant to sound stupid and creepy.”
But the man’s apparent clarification didn’t stop nearly 300 women Sunday from squeezing into their own pairs of yoga pants — tight and multicolored — and marching through Sorrentino’s Barrington neighborhood.
They came at the call of a Facebook event, “Peaceful Yoga Pants Parade,” which by the weekend had drawn thousands of supporters.
“This a wonderful group of people celebrating our bodies and our right to cover them however we see fit,” organizers wrote in the event description. “And while yoga pants seem to be a silly thing to fight for, they are representative of something much bigger – Misogyny and the history of men policing women’s bodies.”
So on Sunday, at 2 p.m., the women assembled in the street, side by side.
In their hands, photos show, they carried bright pink signs: “PEACEFUL PANTS PARTY!” “WE WEAR WHAT WE WANT.” “LOVE YOURSELF.”
The army of women eventually passed by Sorrentino’s home Sunday afternoon, reported NBC 10, where taped to his siding was a side that said: “FREE SPEECH.”
Letter critiquing women over 20 wearing yoga pants written by Alan Sorrentino. Went to home to speak w/ him, told to leave by someone else pic.twitter.com/QiCYZr1j3o
— Jared Pelletier (@NBC10_Jared) October 23, 2016
Sorrentino told WPRO radio earlier in the week that the death threats and expletive-filled voice mails he’d been left were “vicious and intimidating,” reminder of the hate he’d experienced over the years as an openly gay man.
“The fact that this is seen as an appropriate reaction to something I wrote in the paper is really disgusting,” he told WPRO. On Sunday, he reiterated that his letter was a joke “A joke is designed to fool people,” he told the Providence Journal. “Those people were fooled.”
But those who marched said it didn’t matter what Sorrentino’s intentions were, and that ultimately the pants protest wasn’t even about his specific words — it was about taking a stand against a culture and climate that allows for the restriction of a woman’s free will.
“Women are fed up with the notion that we have to dress for people’s visual pleasure,” Jamie Burke, a parade organizer, told the Associated Press.
As part of their peaceful pants protest, the women collected feminine hygiene and sanitary products to be donated to a local domestic violence shelter. And then at the end of their march, they gathered for a group yoga session. Namaste.