About 1,500 people have participated in the Legging Protest following Ms White’s letter. (Supplied: Facebook The Legging Protest)
A mother in the United States who implored young women to stop wearing leggings because it is difficult “for young guys to ignore them” has sparked controversy and protests by female students.
- In her letter Ms White compared wearing leggings to be naked
- She said they caused “unsavoury guys” to stare at women “creepily” while “nice guys” did all they could to avoid looking
- In response, another mother wrote a letter saying leggings were the least important gender issue
Maryann White said she was at mass with her family in Indiana last year when she noticed a group of young women wearing the “snug-fitting” pants, but had stayed quiet, hoping fashion trends would lead to leggings and her concerns going away.
“Some of them truly looked as though the leggings had been painted on them,” the mother of four sons wrote in a letter to the editor of the University of Notre Dame’s The Observer.
“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.”
Geri Walsh tweet: “#leggingsdayND Dear Catholic Mother, Please teach your son the he is responsible for his own actions and that I have exactly the same human rights no matter what I am wearing.”
Ms White said her sons did not stare or comment as they knew better than to leer at women.
“But you couldn’t help but see those blackly naked rear ends,” she wrote in the letter, which was published on Monday.
“I didn’t want to see them, but they were unavoidable.
“How much more difficult for young guys to ignore them.”
Anne-Marie tweet: “a Catholic mom published an opinion in ND’s newspaper that leggings Lead Men Into Sin so we’re protesting our right to not be responsible for men and to not be constantly policed by morals or femininity #LeggingsDayND.”
‘Think of the mothers of sons’
Ms White went on to link the comfort of wearing leggings to wearing pyjamas or being naked.
“We don’t go naked because we respect the other people who must see us, whether they would or not,” she wrote.
“These are not just my sons — they’re the fathers and brothers of your friends, the male students in your classes, the men of every variety who visit campus.”
The Observer tweet: “Notre Dame students protested Maryann White’s op-ed in The Observer by wearing leggings today for #leggingsdayND. Here’s why Nicole Waddick showed up.”
While acknowledging that women at Notre Dame “have every right” to wear leggings, Ms White called on female students to “think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead”.
“I’m fretting, both because of unsavoury guys who are looking at you creepily and nice guys who are doing everything to avoid looking at you,” she wrote.
“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!”
Three days after Ms White’s letter was published, it was brought to the attention of another woman whose daughter is a student at Notre Dame.
“Instead of telling your son that girls are wrong for wearing leggings, instead of sexualising everything, how about raising your son to respect women and view them as valuable beyond their bodies,” Heather Piccone wrote.
“Leggings are the least of this world’s current gender issues.”
In protest against Ms White’s opinions, students at Notre Dame on Wednesday organised The Legging Protest, which was attended by 1,500 people, according to Facebook.
Women have also been posting pictures of themselves wearing leggings with the hashtag #leggingsdayND since Ms White’s letter was circulated.