Last Monday, a Catholic mother of four sons wrote a letter to The Observer, a student-run, daily print and online newspaper serving Notre Dame University, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross, asking for women to consider not wearing leggings because they cling to the body and leave little to the imagination. Reaction to her plea for modesty was furious; on Wednesday, WBST reported:
Around 1,300 students are participating [in] “The Leggings Protest” on Notre Dame’s campus today. … The protest has two main objectives: for women and men to wear leggings in protest and to encourage conversations about female equality. PhD student Valeria Mora decided to discuss the letter with her class. She wanted her students to know that they can talk to her about issues like this. “The first thing I got was a huge gasp,” said Mora. “They were like ‘Yes! Yeah, I saw it too.’”
On Friday, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune expressed her outrage thus:
Let’s think about the sons, rather than their mothers, for a moment. … I wonder about what kind of pressure these four sons feel to “ignore” the young women around them. How do they handle swimming pools? Beaches? The checkout line at Target when Women’s Health magazine is on display?
Do they feel like failures, on some level, if they experience a sexual urge? Are they ashamed when they feel attracted to someone? Have they let down their mom, who’s working so hard to protect them from the temptations of female flesh that she’d write an open letter to the female half of Notre Dame, a university of more than 12,000 students?
White started her letter by writing that she had hoped fashion would change, adding, “that doesn’t seem to be happening. I’m not trying to insult anyone or infringe upon anyone’s rights. I’m just a Catholic mother of four sons with a problem that only girls can solve: leggings.”
White recalled going to church with her family and witnessing “young women, all wearing very snug-fitting leggings and all wearing short-waisted tops (so that the lower body was uncovered except for the leggings). Some of them truly looked as though the leggings had been painted on them.”
She continued: “A world in which women continue to be depicted as ‘babes’ by movies, video games, music videos, etc. makes it hard on Catholic mothers to teach their sons that women are someone’s daughters and sisters. That women should be viewed first as people — and all people should be considered with respect.”
White wrote, “I wonder why no one thinks it’s strange that the fashion industry has caused women to voluntarily expose their nether regions in this way. I’ve heard women say that they like leggings because they’re ‘comfortable.’ So are pajamas. So is nakedness. And the human body is a beautiful thing. But we don’t go around naked because we respect ourselves — we want to be seen as a person, not a body.”
White commented, “I’m fretting both because of unsavory guys who are looking at you creepily and nice guys who are doing everything to avoid looking at you. For the Catholic mothers who want to find a blanket to lovingly cover your nakedness and protect you — and to find scarves to tie over the eyes of their sons to protect them from you!”
She concluded, “Let Notre Dame girls be the first to turn their backs(ides) on leggings. You have every right to wear them. But you have every right to choose not to. Thanks for listening to the lecture. Catholic moms are good at those!”