After an op-ed written to The Observer, Notre Dame University’s student newspaper, women and men alike showed up to the university wearing leggings in support of #leggingsdayND.
Maryann White, a mother of male students at the university, wrote to The Observer on March 24th, lamenting the garment she describes as being “so naked, so form fitting, so exposing.”
The Catholic mother of four claimed that leggings made it “difficult for young guys to ignore them,” and that they either garnered unwarranted attention from creepy men or forced “nice guys” to avert their gaze. She asked female customers to think of the mothers of sons and buy jeans instead. A mother’s duty is to protect her children—but women’s fashion is not the enemy.
“Leggings aren’t distracting. It’s an article of clothing that covers all of your legs,” Lizzy Carpenter (’21) said.
White acknowledges the right to wear whatever one chooses, but she urges Notre Dame girls to be the first to stop wearing leggings. This issue has been permeating the news regarding schools, workplaces, and now the general public.
The letter reads almost like satire. White goes against the modern-day gender equality movement by claiming that women ought to dress a certain way in order to not distract men. Her letter sparked major backlash and ended up becoming a trending topic on the web and amongst students.
Clothing is up to the discretion of the wearer. It is not a woman’s job to make sure that men don’t get distracted by what she is wearing. Being a woman herself, White ought to advocate for equality, rather than subject other women to appease to the scrutiny of society.
Furthermore, the notion that men are inherently lustful or need to control themselves around “distractions” such as leggings is demeaning. Instead of teaching her sons that women are not objects, White propagates the idea that girls should be more careful around men, and dress in consideration of them.
Additionally, she is degrading her sons by saying that they must be drawn to “naked rear ends,” because they are males, and leggings make it “difficult for young men to ignore them.”
“She is inadvertently stating that men’s comfort is superior to women’s,” Divya Gada (‘20) said. “The mother is sexualizing girls by saying that leggings are naked.”
Women should not have to give up comfort in order for someone else to be more comfortable, and men should not be considered lustful creatures whose gaze simply cannot stray from female bodies. The “leggings are not pants” controversy has been re-awakened, but regardless, clothing decisions are up to the wearer.
“I don’t think wearing leggings is anything crazy. It’s like me wearing sweatpants or jeans. Who cares?” Gabe Schmidt (’20) said.