Leggings: Too revealing?
A commonplace look
The stretchy, formfitting tights now regularly worn by millions of American women have again made “the leap from garment to cultural lightning rod,” said Vanessa Friedman in The New York Times. This time, a self-described “Catholic mother of four sons” named Maryann White triggered the furor by writing a letter to the University of Notre Dame’s school newspaper complaining about sitting with her four sons at Mass behind a row of snugly swaddled women’s derrieres. “Leggings are so naked, so formfitting, so exposing,” White wrote. “Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping?” Predictably, a “firestorm of protest” followed, with more than 1,000 Notre Dame students wearing leggings to class. Supporters as far away as France posted leggings selfies to Twitter in solidarity with the oppressed.
This debate has erupted periodically for decades, said Kaitlyn Tiffany in Vox.com. But as leggings have become a standard in young women’s wardrobes, worn to work, school, and nearly everywhere, the backlash has become more intense. Some high schools have banned them, with one North Dakota assistant principal citing Pretty Woman as proof that “leggings are a common uniform for sex workers.” A Montana state representative lobbied to make “yoga pants,” as leggings are sometimes called, illegal in public. In 2017, two leggings-clad teens were booted from a United Airlines flight for indecency. The backlash is all about men—and prudish women—“policing women’s bodies,” said Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian. How ironic that the West bemoans the repression of Muslim women who wear the veil by relying on the same misogynistic argument: Why should men be forced to reckon with the sexual desire engendered by seeing the female form?
“As a former teenage boy myself,” said David Von Drehle in The Washington Post, I’d like to point out that they’ll think about sex no matter what women wear. Perhaps my daughter put it best: “If some boy can’t handle my clothing choices, that’s his problem.” Yes, but men are very visual and easily aroused creatures, said Suzanne Venker in WashingtonExaminer.com. Women are entitled to display their buttocks and nether regions in formfitting spandex, but they shouldn’t act offended when men notice. “If women don’t want to be sexualized, they need to stop sexualizing themselves.” ■