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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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“The legging problem” is not my problem

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They are seriously just a pair of pants, get over it

A noteworthy letter was published on March 25 in The Observer, the school newspaper for both the University of Notre Dame and the nearby all-women’s St. Mary’s College. The letter, titled “The legging problem,” was from Maryann White, a self-described Catholic mother of four sons.

In it, she “begs” girls to stop wearing leggings, saying that she’s “ashamed for the young women” who make the choice to wear them. She says that when wearing leggings, looking at “those blackly naked rear ends […] [is] unavoidable. How much more difficult [is it] for young guys to ignore them.”

I’m incredibly offended by White’s letter. In fact, I feel dumber after just having read it. My word limit is too little for me to unpack the entire thing, but I’ll pick out some choice passages.

In one section, White says that mainstream depictions of women as “babes” has made it difficult for “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.” According to her, the media makes it hard for her to teach her sons that women are people. Boo hoo.

She then uses Princess Leia in the Star Wars film “Return of the Jedi” as an example, saying that the revealing outfit she wore when she was enslaved by Jabba the Hutt removed her “personhood.” Newsflash, Maryanne: Princess Leia isn’t real, and she was put into that outfit not by an intergalactic gangster, but by a male screenwriter in an attempt to sexualize her character.

White was trying to use Princess Leia’s “slave girl outfit” as an example of revealing clothes that she was forced into, and she says that no one is forcing young women to wear leggings and expose themselves like Leia. She’s right.

No one’s forcing me or any other woman to wear leggings. I wear them because they’re comfortable, and I don’t need to justify that to some conservative mother with a serious holier-than-thou complex.

According to White, just saying that leggings are comfortable isn’t enough for girls to “expose their nether regions,” since being naked is comfortable too, but “we don’t go around naked because we respect ourselves—we want to be seen as a person, not a body.”

No woman wears leggings because she doesn’t respect herself.  It’s really not that deep.

ILLUSTRATION: OLIVIA HEISTERKAMP ’19/THE HAWK

Additionally, I’m shocked by the way White talks about men “looking at” girls in leggings. She says that she’s “fretting” not only for the “unsavory” guys that will look at girls when we wear leggings, but also for the “nice guys who are doing everything to avoid looking at you.”

If a guy has to “avoid” looking at me, I would not consider him a nice guy. I don’t know what kind of morals White has been instilling in her four sons, but I would not be keen to meet them. White’s inability to teach her sons that women are human beings has nothing to do with my choice of pants.

For me, the issue is not men “looking at” young women like myself. It’s people like White constantly sexualizing every little thing that women choose to do. We don’t need people like White “protecting” us from the eyes of their sons.

Teach your sons to stop sexualizing our pants. Teach your sons to see us as human beings. It’s not my fault that White, a woman, sees women only as sexual beings for her sons and other men to ogle at. That’s not my problem.

The media advertises young girls as “babes” because society has seen women as sexual objects for thousands of years. It’s the patriarchy, not my pants.

I feel bad that no one ever taught White that she’s a whole, real person, and not just a person for men to look at. Honestly, I pity her. But I’m baffled by her audacity to try and tell me and millions of other women and girls what to wear.

A young girl wearing leggings is not asking to be looked at, and how dare White accuse me and other women of dressing to do just that. Leggings are a basic part of people’s wardrobes. They aren’t a statement, they aren’t a “voluntary exposure” of anything. They’re pants.

The letter has gained national exposure and even sparked a sort of revolution: women at the University of Notre Dame protested by wearing leggings, using the hashtag #leggingsdayND. Women and men participated, and multiple clothing brands that sell leggings tweeted their support. I’m glad because I wore leggings at least three times this week.

I hope White has seen the responses to her letter, and I hope she’s read the rebuttals to her ridiculous plea. I hope her sons are embarrassed, because they should be. Their mother is actively fighting against the equality of her own gender.

Hopefully women like White, with such complicated inferiority complexes, can one day see their own worth as more than just a sexual object. I don’t know if that will happen, but I don’t care. I’m going to keep wearing leggings, and if some guy can’t avoid looking at me, then that’s his fault, not mine. And White can kiss my “blackly naked rear end.”

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    UofO StudentApr 10, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    You obviously failed to control your rage which you clearly expressed which I feel weakens your argument. You added in ad hominems by attacking Mrs. White. “Hopefully women like White, with such complicated inferiority complexes, can one day see their own worth as more than just a sexual object.” “I don’t need to justify that to some conservative mother with a serious holier-than-thou complex.” It seems like you wanted to vent and virtue signal. You complain that she is acting self-righteous with a “holier-than-thou complex” but many times throughout the article, you say things such as “I’m incredibly offended by White’s letter. In fact, I feel dumber after just having read it.” and “I’m shocked by the way White talks about men “looking at” girls in leggings.” and “I feel bad that no one ever taught White that she’s a whole, real person, and not just a person for men to look at. Honestly, I pity her. But I’m baffled by her audacity to try and tell me and millions of other women and girls what to wear.” The irony is incredible because you act at least twice as self-righteous as her stating that you are dumber after reading it and you pity her because she doesn’t see herself as a real person. How do you fail to see that you are doing the very thing you claim that she is doing, yet you do it to the extreme by being very smug! Your paragraph about you not liking guys who “avoid” to look at you makes no sense. White is implying that she teaches her sons to avoid looking at women’s butts and women in a sexual way. You’re clueless if you actually think that she is teaching her sons to avoid looking at women entirely. Also, men and women both dress to impress, so although not all women dress to flaunt their body, plenty of women intent to do that very thing and I know many women who do that. You somehow turn White’s point that she was trying to make about putting precautionary measures in place to prevent the objectification of women. You say that you hope she will one day see that women are more than sexual objects, yet that was her entire point by suggesting that women should dress more modestly. I’m trying not to take a stand on this issue. Don’t let your own viewpoint cloud your writing. I hope this helps.

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