In a letter to the editor published in the University of Notre Dame’s student newspaper, The Observer, this week, one mother pleaded for the women of the world, and of the Notre Dame campus more specifically, to please, please, wear looser pants. “I’m just a Catholic mother of four sons with a problem that only girls can solve,” Maryann White wrote. “Leggings.”
White’s four boys were recently exposed to the troubling image of clothed female butts during Mass at the Basilica on the Notre Dame campus, she explained. A group of young women — three? sixty? who’s to say — “all clad in clingy Spandex and short tops” sat in front of White and her brood, and some of them, “truly looked as though the leggings had been painted on them.” [*sign of the cross*]
And yet, somehow, her four lads did not blow steam out of their ears and scream “Ah-OO-ga,” despite the clear provocation. White wrote:
I was ashamed for the young women at Mass. I thought of all the other men around and behind us who couldn’t help but see their behinds. My sons know better than to ogle a woman’s body — certainly when I’m around (and hopefully, also when I’m not). They didn’t stare, and they didn’t comment afterwards. But you couldn’t help but see those blackly naked rear ends. I didn’t want to see them — but they were unavoidable. How much more difficult for young guys to ignore them.
Indeed, it would be difficult, as a young Catholic gentleman, or anyone, really, to ignore women’s butts when your mother seems so fixated on them.
“Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead?” White pleads.
The letter, predictably, prompted a wave of backlash. The Notre Dame student group Irish 4 Reproductive Health organized a Leggings Pride Day, writing on the event’s Facebook page that “while well-intentioned, White’s viewpoint perpetuates a narrative central to to rape culture in implying that womxn and girls are responsible for the actions and reactions of others.”
White is far from the first person to express concern/outrage at the phenomenon of leggings. Two years ago, a United gate agent prevented young girls from boarding a flight from Denver to Minneapolis because they were wearing leggings. A few months later, a high-school principal in South Carolina was recorded telling her students that they should not wear leggings “unless you are a size 0 or size 2” because it makes them “look fat.”
So far, Maryann White has not come forward and commented on the response to her letter, nor, it seems, have any of her four sons, which means there is a real possibility we are all getting trolled into participating in the tired Leggings Discourse again. The Cut has reached out to several Maryann Whites to confirm whether they are the author of the letter, and will update this post when we hear back.