I see a video of women cycling in short dresses talking of how not to flash.
They wide-angled their legs, pull the back of their skirts
and with a coin and a rubber band marry it to the front of their skirts;
it becomes a pant.

I thought of their legs in the sun, delicately agile on swerving bicycles.

In the country where I live, clothes that show leg, armpit, curve of breast invite brutality.
Not postcard beauty.

Veils, purdahs, stoles, dupattas, and leggings are needed to cover up.

Short skirts are not about fashion or suiting body types, but about freedom.

One day we will get there: cycling in the sun on slippery rain-kissed paths
where smaller solutions will be our search
the larger ones done.

We would divide the skirt into a pant. Or maybe not even.

The women in the video talk back.
They turn and smile their gorgeous smiles.
“Yes we wear skirts and show our thighs,” they say.
“But freedom is relative like time, like poverty.”

“We might not get killed but don’t ever think nothing else might happen.”

“Did you know of the woman who walked ten hours
on a social experiment through New York
and collected 108 vile propositions?”

“Your culture compels you to hide, rather than show.
We want that.
So we don’t want to be doll sexy all the time.
… to prove our beauty, femininity.
Our thighs can be. Our anatomy…
We can be.”

“If we wrap ourselves in yards and yards like in your country
we are looked at as regressed and unsexy.”

The women in the video and I turn to you:
Why should the world be telling us what is less and what is more?
How we should wear what we wear in this tug of fabric, fabric of war?
5 centimetres or 9 yards, head naked or covered up,
Waist seen or shown?

Why is the world telling us what to wear? All the time?
Why is this our most silent, daily question:
‘what to wear’?
And is it for ourselves or for someone else that we ask this question?

The featured image accompanying this poem, entitled ‘Pop Tart’, has been used with the permission of Robert Alan, a mixed media artist from New York City.

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