There is a common theme in who has been selected to be nominated for the Al Copeland Humanitarian of the Year Award. For the most part, the nominees have, like Al Copeland, done something to improve the human condition by improving our material pleasure. Steven Henson gave us delicious ranch dressing. Debrilla M. Ratchford saved our aching backs by developing the roller bag. Ralph Teetor gave us the smooth ride of cruise control. Only Fasi Zaka distinguishes himself from the other nominees in that he was nominated primarily for his contribution to liberty by ridiculing tyrants.
Our next nominee, Mary Quant, has improved the human condition both by adding to our material pleasure and by promoting liberty. Quant is credited with the invention of the miniskirt. She also popularized hotpants and patterned leggings.
The contribution of these inventions to material pleasure requires no explanation. But unlike Henson, Ratchford, and Teetor who primarily sought to improve material pleasure, Quant was also seeking to expand liberty. Women’s clothing has often been designed to confine women — to limit their liberty by limiting their ability to function in the world.
Quant wanted to do more than decorate women, she also wanted to liberate women to be able to participate fully in the world. As the Wikipedia entry puts it, Quant saw the miniskirt as “practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus.”
And if you don’t think women’s clothing can be an assault on liberty, how about the requirement in many Islamic societies that women wear burkas? Imagine running for the bus in this.
(edited for clarity)
Well, you might be able to design a burka that would allow you to run and catch a bus, but there’s still that vision obstruction thing to work out.
Suddenly, I’m feeling less confident about my roller-bag nomination…
Well Matt, what has a mini skirt ever done for you?
…wait, don’t answer.