February 5, 2013 2:02 pm
On January 31, France’s minister of women’s rights made if officially impossible to arrest a woman for wearing pants in Paris, the Telegraph reports. Previously, the law required women to ask police for special permission to “dress as men.” If fashionable French ladies ignored this rule, they risked being taken into custody.
The rule originally came into being just after the French Revolution, in the early 19th century. As anyone who watched Les Miserables will recall, rebellious ladies often donned pants in defiance of the bourgeoisie. This anti pants-wearing movement was dubbed sans-culottes, or without the knee-breeches (“cullottes”) of the high class.
In 1892, the legislation changed to allow women to wear pants only if she “is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.” That latest ordinance stayed in place until today, despite multiple attempts to get rid of it. Officials said the unenforced rule as not a problem so they didn’t want to waste time amending “legal archaeology.”
But politicians last July argued of the law’s “symbolic importance” and its potential impact on modern perspectives surrounding women’s rights. The minister then got on board, declaring:
This ordinance is incompatible with the principles of equality between women and men, which are listed in the Constitution, and in France’s European commitments.
From that incompatibility follows the implicit abrogation of the ordinance.
The Chanel-wearing fashionatas of Paris have paid no mind to this rule for decades, but it’s nice to know that France has finally sorted out its laws to reflect women’s hard-earned pursuit of equality.
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