Cross-country skiing in a skirt / Courtesy of youcandoitinaskirt.wordpress.com
As someone who identifies as an Orthodox feminist but still (mostly) follows the dictates of tznius, or modesty, I often find myself feeling marginalized. Among the women who dress the way I do, I am judged for my progressive views; among those with views more like mine, I am judged for the way I dress.
Consequently, when someone in an Orthodox feminist forum linked to the website You Can Do It In A Skirt, I was one of its few supporters. “Anything you can do, I can do it in a skirt,” the site’s tagline proclaims. It features photos of skirt wearing Orthodox girls and women doing physical activities that most would do in pants: riding a horse, swimming, cartwheeling, running a marathon, hanging upside down on monkey bars, and jet skiing.
Although other Jewish feminists on the Internet (or on that particular forum, at least) seem to be unimpressed with this website and its accompanying message, I think You Can Do It In A Skirt is important. It debunks the myths that Orthodox women are coerced into wearing skirts, and that their garb prevents them from living life to the fullest.
I know many, many Orthodox women who exclusively wear skirts (myself included), and I have yet to meet one who has held herself back from doing something because of her wardrobe. The creator of You Can Do It In A Skirt, who prefers to remain unnamed, related to my experience in an email interview. “My blog…[is] a response to all the people out there who doubt the versatility of the skirt. It is definitely also a support for all the women who do insist on doing everything in a skirt (like I do). But it’s mostly about a proving a point,” she said.
I’ve seen her point proven in real life on numerous occasions. Thinking back to the trips that I went on with my ultra-Orthodox, all-girls high school (which mandated that students wear skirts and tights or knee socks at all times), I don’t remember anyone ever having a problem, whether at a beach, amusement park, ropes course, zip line, or ice-skating rink.
“Are you going to be okay wearing a skirt here?” a friend asked me once when my campus Hillel made an outing to a trampoline park. I appreciated his concern, but I had planned my outfit in accordance with the schedule of the day: a flowy skirt that would give me physical freedom, with leggings underneath.
Would it have been easier for me to jump around the trampolines only wearing leggings? Probably. But wearing a skirt did not diminish my fun in the slightest. Even if it had, I would not have shed that extra layer. I wear skirts because I feel that it is the right thing for me to do, and I would not compromise on my personal standards just to go on a trampoline. You Can Do It In A Skirt’s creator had a similar experience: “While huddling in a bit of shade with a couple of other women at the Spartan Sprint, I said I was wearing the skirt ‘because I can and because I always wear skirts, so why stop now?’”