Can we talk about that Rhode Island yoga pants protest for a moment?

This was one of those throwaway stories which cable news uses for a lighter break between the pressing coverage of politics and war, but it represents a disturbing trend which is getting completely out of hand. In case you missed it, a man in Rhode Island named Alan Sorrentino recently penned a letter to the editor of his local paper on the pressing subject of women wearing yoga pants. Alan sent in his largely tongue in cheek missive to The Barrington Times (a newspaper with a circulation of 5,000), complaining that the workout apparel was tacky and ridiculous, best suited for the confines of a yoga studio, and not something to be worn by women over the age of twenty.

The result? Death threats, vulgar voice mail and a wave of outrage on local social media accounts which resulted in hundreds of women showing up in front of his house to protest. (Fox News)

Hundreds of women, girls and other supporters proudly donned their yogapants Sunday as they peacefully paraded around the Rhode Island neighborhood of a man who derided the attire as tacky and ridiculous.

Alan Sorrentino said the response to his letter to the editor, printed in The Barrington Times on Wednesday, has been “vicious” and that he’s received death threats. He maintained the letter was meant to be humorous.

But organizers said even if Sorrentino’s letter was meant to be a joke, the message is clear.

“Women are fed up with the notion that we have to dress for people’s visual pleasure,” said Jamie Burke, parade organizer.

Pretty funny, huh? It’s the sort of popcorn story which gives cable news anchors a reason to chuckle and guffaw, play interviews with the activists and make a few fashion jokes. But Sorrentino took it pretty seriously. His life was disrupted and he’s been turned into a villain, all over a note which he admits he wrote as, “a humorous break from the current political campaign rhetoric.” Now he’s become a symbol of female oppression. And to top it off, Alan is gay and owns yoga pants himself.

You might wonder how such a letter made it into print in the first place. I’m friends with some people who work at small town newspapers around here and it’s the sort of decision which gets made when all the letters are about Trump and Hillary day after day and they’re just looking for something to break up the tedium. But the dark side of this story is how quickly social media was used to generate a campaign of outrage and assemble literally hundreds of people to disrupt Sorrentino’s life and hold him up as a talisman representing the oppression of women.

This is happening everywhere and on much larger scales than what Mr. Sorrentino experienced. It’s how we wound up with Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the battle against toothpaste manufacturers whose products are actually making your teeth more dull so they can sell you whitening products. (Okay, that last one isn’t out there yet, but trust me… it’s coming.) So why should we be bothered by all of this social media manufactured outrage?

Perhaps this has nothing to do with yoga pants or phobias or any of the other topics which seem to occupy our time. Here’s one question we might want to be asking: is life simply too easy these days? Seriously. How did that many people manage to find time in their schedules to gin up a social media campaign and organize a protest over this guy’s letter to the editor? Is the country really in such great shape that we have nothing else to occupy our waking hours? Don’t you people have jobs? And if not, don’t you need jobs?

Mark this down as entry number 3,729 in my ongoing series about how the internet is ruining everything. When everything is a crisis, then nothing is a crisis, but there always seems to be time to flush somebody’s life down the social media sewer drain. Perhaps that big electromagnetic pulse everyone is expecting wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.


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