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viewpoint

The legging problem

| Monday, March 25, 2019

I’ve thought about writing this letter for a long time. I waited, hoping that fashions would change and such a letter would be unnecessary — but 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.

The emergence of leggings as pants some years ago baffled me. They’re such an unforgiving garment. Last fall, they obtruded painfully on my landscape. I was at Mass at the Basilica with my family. In front of us was a group of 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.

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.

I talk to my sons about Princess Leia and how Jabba the Hutt tried to steal her personhood by putting her into a slave girl outfit in which her body became the focus. (That’s the only scene in the whole franchise in which Leia appears in such a way — and it’s forced upon her.)

Leggings are hardly slave girl outfits. And no one is forcing them on the countless young women who wear them. But 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 was ashamed for the young women at Mass. I thought of all the other men around and behind us who couldn’t help but see their behinds. My sons know better than to ogle a woman’s body — certainly when I’m around (and hopefully, also when I’m not). They didn’t stare, and they didn’t comment afterwards. But you couldn’t help but see those blackly naked rear ends. I didn’t want to see them — but they were unavoidable. How much more difficult for young guys to ignore them.

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 (like slave-girl Leia). We don’t go naked because we respect the other people who must see us, whether they would or not. These are not just my sons — they’re the fathers and brothers of your friends, the male students in your classes, the men of every variety who visit campus. 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!

Leggings are so naked, so form fitting, so exposing. Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead? 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!

Maryann White

March 22

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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