Pockets and the Patriarchy


By Daniela Gloster, Staff Writer

From Mary Poppins to Hermione Granger, magical purses are a familiar sidekick to powerful women. Men, however, never seem to need a handy place to store their various belongings, perhaps because they’ve been blessed with built-in ones—pockets.

Different sized pockets have been around for a long time, but my eyes were only recently opened to the issue when it affected something near and dear to my heart: my Patagonia sweater.

I had wanted a Patagonia fleece ever since a friend of mine got one and we realized how big the pocket was—she could fit her keys, her phone and even my glasses in her pocket with no difficulty.  And so when I finally got one this winter, my fleece and I became quick friends—we went everywhere together. Not only was it a fun pattern, but it was warm and soft and most of all, had a pocket! And yet, I soon discovered I couldn’t even fit a pen in my pocket. I was baffled—why would two seemingly identical jackets have such different pockets? Until it hit me: my friend’s jacket was a men’s, and mine was a women’s.

Now why, do you ask, are women denied the comfort and convenience of pockets for no apparent reason? There’s a twofold explanation—though neither aspect is a good enough reason to make up for the amount of times I’ve dropped my phone as a result of having nowhere to store it. For one, women’s clothes are generally much tighter fitting than men’s, which leads to weird shapes and bumps whenever the (tiny) pockets are actually used. Curious about the pocket discrepancy, I emailed Patagonia customer service, and a representative answered that she was fairly sure it was because women had requested smaller pockets in order to achieve a less bulky look. Evidently, style is valued over practicality, which is both frustrating and uncomfortable. The second, and infinitely more infuriating, explanation for smaller pockets is that not giving women a place to store belongings has created a major market for the purse industry. It’s understandable why this would be so appealing to the purse industry but it’s quite frustrating from this side. Not only do women’s clothes cost more than men’s, but there’s a whole different industry that profits solely off of them. Essentially, women spend more money on clothes than men do, only to have to spend even more money just to fill the deficit of pocketless pants.

Even more frustrating is that fact that the system is working; unless you’re bizarrely okay with constantly dropping things, you probably own at least a few (or if you’re the average American woman, eight) purses. As someone who is adamantly against purses for no other reason than the (very immature) fact that I just don’t like them, I can tell you how inconvenient it is to try to fit keys, a phone and maybe even some change into pockets designed to carry nothing but air, or maybe just the tip of your finger. The compromise I make means I usually end up walking around carrying my keys, with my phone hanging out of my back pocket and two pennies jangling in the front. On the rare occasions I do manage to stuff my keys into my pockets, it looks comically disproportionate and I end up taking them out. Small pockets are frustrating, no doubt about it, but they pale in comparison to the bane of my existence: fake pockets.

Fake pockets as a concept are just confounding to me, because no girl ever has found a pair of pants, seen that there are fake pockets and thought to herself, “well now I have to buy this!!!” On the contrary, whenever a girl is complimented on a dress or skirt, her first response is invariably: “It has pockets!!!!” The clothing industry could probably benefit just as much as the purse industry currently does off of female consumers just by consistently adding pockets to clothing.

As a teenage girl in 2019, I’m worried all the time. I worry about school, I worry about the future, and I worry every second about what it means to be a woman in today’s world. It’s frustrating to be a woman sometimes, to see the world that’s being handed to us and not know how to fix it. Pockets are just one of the many little things that make being a girl feel like an inconvenience, or a burden, sometimes. There’s no shortage of those little problems, and frankly, there’s an overwhelming number of issues facing our generation, men and women alike. But we have to start somewhere, and I’m starting with pockets. Pockets aren’t a big issue, and certainly not one of the most important ones facing society today, but in a world of mass shootings and political turmoil, it’s something small that gives me a voice, and maybe a place to store my protest signs.