Students at the University of Notre Dame hosted “Leggings Day” on Tuesday in protest of a Catholic mother who wrote a letter to the editor suggesting that the young women have more respect for their own bodies, especially while attending Mass on campus.
One mother, Maryann White, was visiting the University of Notre Dame when she saw young women wearing what she described as “an unforgiving garment” while attending Mass at the Basilica. White wrote a letter to the editor on Monday, entitled, “The legging problem,” in which she criticized the students’ choice in attire and suggested that they have more respect for their bodies.
“The emergence of leggings as pants some years ago baffled me,” wrote the White, “I was at Mass at the Basilica — in front of us was a group of young women, all wearing very snug-fitting leggings and all wearing short-waisted tops (so that the lower body was uncovered except for the leggings). Some of them truly looked as though the leggings had been painted on them.”
The mother added that while women are free to wear what they want, they should also consider the impact that the fashion industry may have on them, and how it may cause young women “to voluntarily expose their nether regions in this way.”
“I was ashamed for the young women at Mass,” continued White in her letter, “I thought of all the other men around and behind us who couldn’t help but see their behinds.”
“I’ve heard women say that they like leggings because they’re ‘comfortable.’ So are pajamas. So is nakedness. And the human body is a beautiful thing. But we don’t go around naked because we respect ourselves — we want to be seen as a person, not a body,” said the concerned mother.
White concluded her letter by reminding young women that while they do “have every right to wear them,” that they also “have every right to choose not to.”
The mother’s letter then circulated on campus in the following days, sparking outrage among students, which promoted students to host protests calling on women to wear leggings on campus.
“So in this class, we actually had a whole discussion about it,” said student Kaitlyn Wong, who organized one of the protests, according to The Observer, “As an American Studies major, we talk a lot about changing this narrative that really marginalizes a lot of people, and everyone in my class was so upset about it.”
“I was just like, ‘Well, I can’t sit around and not do anything about it,’ so I created a Facebook event,” said the student.
“Maryann attacks women for living the way that they do, living casually in leggings,” added Wong, “I wanted to stir conversation about like why this is a problem — Even if it’s not a ‘protest,’ having people talk about it is better than sitting around and doing nothing.”
Another student, Tatiana Pernetti, expressed her concerns about having old-fashioned perspectives.
“It’s crazy to me that some people are still so stuck in the past,” said Pernetti, adding that while White may be entitled to her own opinion, “some people need to consider the root cause of their concerns more — especially societal norms — before putting the blame on individuals or an entire gender.”
“Keep going, keep pushing. Push for social activism, and if you think that something’s wrong, do something about it, say something about it, and have a conversation about it,” said Wong, “Anything you can do is better than sitting idly and accepting it.”