Ah… modesty. It’s a topic that has graced my blogs many times in the past. Now I have a new blog, and I haven’t yet written about modesty on this one. So here goes…
Many people are of the opinion that leggings are not pants. Some people think leggings are indecent and immodest. Some people think people with certain body types have no business wearing skin tight, stretchy fabric that shows every crease and roll. And some people are hyper-religious and sexually repressed and they worry that the sight of a pretty young woman in leggings will cause moral decay.
Catholic mom, Maryann White, recently wrote a letter to the editor of The Observer, a student run newspaper that serves The University of Notre-Dame and other local colleges. White’s letter has caused a stir which caused so much commotion that the story was featured on Today.com. White, who is the mother of four sons, writes:
“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.”
White goes on to explain that in the Star Wars movie franchise, Princess Leia was forced by Jabba the Hutt to wear a revealing slave girl outfit that “steals her personhood”. She explained to her sons that the slave girl outfit is demeaning, especially since it’s forced upon Princess Leia. Then, she writes that no one forces women and girls to wear leggings, except maybe the “fashion industry”, which has created these damnable garments that allow women to display their “nether regions” in such a way that males can’t look away from them.
White is very distressed about this. She’s so distressed that she writes:
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 then goes on to suggest that girls and women “choose jeans” instead. She admits that we have the right to wear leggings if we want to, but choosing to wear leggings is, in her opinion, indecent and disrespectful on many levels. And oh, can’t we please think of the males who will be either tempted or disgusted by the sight of female bodies and their long suffering Catholic mothers?
I haven’t worn leggings in many years. There was a brief time in the early 90s when they were popular. I wore them then because they were more comfortable than jeans. I’m short and curvy– okay fat– and it’s hard to find jeans that fit properly without actually going to a store and trying on a whole lot of them. I also find jeans uncomfortable. The heavy seams and stiff fabric are not pleasant to me, so it’s not so often you’ll catch me wearing them these days. I particularly dislike how jeans have that low rise fly, which just accentuates my beer gut. Leggings can just be pulled on and stretch to accommodate everything. I don’t wear them today, but I can see why some women like them. I do think it’s wise to use good judgment and discernment when dressing. I wouldn’t wear them to church, which is one scenario White complains about in her letter. But then, I don’t often go to church anymore. I’m sure a lot of ministers/priests/holy people are less concerned about what a person wears to church and more concerned that they have butts in the pews and money in the offering plates.
I do understand Ms. White’s angst about leggings. They aren’t always a good fashion choice for everyone, at least in terms of aesthetics. However, that’s the kind of thing that is in the eye of the beholder. What may be offensive to one set of eyes is pleasurable to another. And it’s very difficult for people to please everyone. I run into that concept a lot as a blogger. I get snippy comments from people who don’t like what I write and complain, while others continue to read and even praise me. Women and girls can certainly eliminate leggings from their wardrobes, but then still offend people by wearing jeans or short skirts.
I think that it’s up to the “Catholic moms” (and all the other parents) to teach their children that people are worthy of basic respect no matter what they’re wearing. Maryann White says it’s hard to teach her sons that all women are someone’s wives, mothers, daughters, etc. What she doesn’t seem to grasp is the fact that women are not merely “someone’s anything”. Women are “someones” in and of themselves.
Chances are excellent that male hormones will surge regardless of what women choose to wear. Furthermore, it’s exhausting for females to keep trying to figure out which rules they should follow in order to be “respectable” in the eyes of people like Maryann White. It’s not up to girls and women to protect boys and men from their “lustful” thoughts. It’s up to everyone to exercise self-control of their own thoughts and actions.
I don’t think Maryann White’s letter has done much to convince anyone not to wear leggings anymore. People have become so up in arms about White’s comments that she’s inspired people to host “Leggings Pride Days”. They’re posting pictures of themselves in leggings all over social media. So, instead of shaming women back into long skirts and jeans, White has probably made the situation more acute.
The point is– what a person wears doesn’t define his or her worth. The human body is beautiful and complex and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. So, Maryann White, don’t “slut shame” girls and women for wearing leggings. Teach your sons that women and girls are people worthy of respect and self-determination. I’m sure that such a caring “Catholic mother” such as yourself is up to the challenge.