Notre Dame Mom Asks Women To Stop Wearing Leggings For The Sake Of Her Sons, Women React

Pei Hua YeapWikimedia Commons(CC BY 2.0 Aaron Homer)

A Catholic mom asked women at Notre Dame University to stop wearing leggings for the sake of her sons, inspiring protests on-campus and outrage nationwide.

In a letter to Notre Dame/St. Mary’s newspaper The Observer, Maryann White, a mother of four sons, says that it behooves Catholic women — indeed, women everywhere — to stop wearing leggings. The skin-tight garments leave little to the imagination, and that’s a problem for men, she ways.

“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.”

You may have already noticed something problematic about White’s viewpoint, which is that she blames the women themselves for how men react to them. It’s a point of view that has, for example, informed dress codes at some schools, blaming girls’ clothing choices for boys’ bad behavior, as The Indianapolis Star points out.

It’s a point of view that does not sit well with feminists and women’s rights activists. It’s certainly not sitting well with some women (and even some men) on-campus at Notre Dame.

As Muncie radio station WBST reports, the South Bend campus was the scene of protests of sorts last week, with about 1,300 students — men and women — showing up to class in leggings in protest of the letter.

Senior Gaby Kluzinski said that she thought society was moving past victim-blaming, but when she read the mom’s letter, she realized there’s a long way to go.

“People still always bring up and objectify women and always victim-blame them and keep doing it and you hope we progress, but you still find articles like this.”

Similarly, graduate student Valeria Mora read the letter to her class; she says that it produced audible gasps.

It’s not just at Notre Dame where White’s letter is causing jaws to drop. In a scathing editorial, Chicago Tribune writer Heidi Stevens points out that men are responsible for controlling their baser instincts; it’s not up to women to control those instincts for them.

“Young men, I’m fairly certain, have been getting turned on by young women since the beginning of time. Since long before leggings were invented.”

It’s not just within Catholicism where leggings, and their cousins, yoga pants, are a matter of controversy. As Slate notes, the garments have been causing controversies in various Christian circles, Catholic and otherwise, ever since they’ve been a thing.