Maryann White is tired of looking at your “naked” backside.
Still, the burgeoning fashion critic said she thought long and hard before writing her anti-legging letter to The Observer, the University of Notre Dame’s student-run news outlet.
“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,” she writes. “I’m just a Catholic mother of four sons with a problem that only girls can solve: leggings.”
In her lengthy rant, “The Leggings Problem,” White rues the day they “obtruded painfully on my landscape” during a Mass service last fall. She details being overcome with shame over what she viewed as the flaunted female form.
“In front of us was a group of young women, all wearing very snug-fitting leggings and all wearing short-waisted tops,” White whined. “Some of them truly looked as though the leggings had been painted on them … 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?”
It took less than 24 hours before Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a campus nonprofit group, organized as a clap back to the mad mama’s manifesto. The group declared March 26 “Leggings Pride Day,” and encouraged people of all genders to post pics of themselves wearing their skin-tight garments on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“While well-intentioned, White’s viewpoint perpetuates a narrative central to rape culture in implying that womxn [sic] and girls are responsible for the actions and reactions of others,” organizers posted on Facebook. “She argues that ‘girls’ at Notre Dame ought to change the way they dress to avoid attention from ‘unsavory guys who are looking at [people who wear leggings] creepily’ and in order to protect ‘nice guys who are doing everything to avoid looking’ at people wearing leggings.”
“We wanted … to remind people that leggings are absolutely OK, and you’re allowed to dress your body in whatever way you see fit,” Anne Jarrett, who helped organize the protest, told TODAY Style.
While White acknowledged that grown women do have “every right” to wear leggings — she still thinks they should explore other options.
“Let Notre Dame girls be the first to turn their backs(ides) on leggings,” she said. “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!”
Some readers weren’t buying White’s hot take. Notre Dame sophomore Conrad Palor’s “The Legging Problem: A Response” was published Tuesday in The Observer.
“The notion that women should not wear something because men can’t control themselves shifts blame away from the onlooker to the wearer, i.e., that it is the woman’s fault for wearing said clothing but not men’s fault for having these impulses,” writes Palor. “It is this shifting of blame to the wearer that only furthers rape culture and continues the objectification and sexualization of young bodies.”
By Rob Bailey-Millado