Leggings — the most comfortable form of wearable controversy for the modern day female. With the resurgence of the legging look in the late 2000s, the topic regarding whether or not leggings are considered pants has been a constant debate. Many argue that yes, they are in fact pants, and that you may be sexist if you choose to objectify women for wearing them as such. But even with these being the typical conclusions in the legging debate for younger millennials and Generation Z, the argument is nowhere finished being held.
Recently, a University of Notre Dame mother of four sons wrote to the school’s newspaper, The Observer, about her disdain towards the leggings look, a fad she hoped would have faded by now. She complains about the fact that girls on her sons’ college campus have chosen to “expose their nether regions” by wearing the article of clothing and have decided to open themselves up for men to ogle at their bodies. Emphasizing her devout Catholic mother values in this piece, she states that wearing a comfortable pair of leggings is equivalent to walking around naked and that it is disrespectful to have people like her sons, our fathers, our brothers and our male peers and professors look at women’s bodies in such a manner.
Now many news publications have already written about this piece, rebuttals have been crafted and think pieces have already torn this woman's letter to shreds — as they rightfully should. But something that has been consistently missed when discussing this letter from a “good, Catholic mother” are the lesser discussed points — the internalized misogyny of a letter that presents itself as a thinly veiled pro-women piece, as well as the heavy, but subtle coating of jealousy towards young women and their legging-ready bodies.
The movement of women-supporting-women has grown increasingly in the last 20 years, with women standing in solidarity with one another on a variety of women-centric topics like sexual assault and pregnancy in the workplace. However, that does not mean that women of all generations have grown up with the same values. It can be easily seen with this letter to the editor that many women still suffer from the misogyny they have internalized from years of being surrounded by it; whether in their family, their church or general societal pressures. Internalized misogyny is seen with women who shame and belittle other women because they believe the stereotypes about girls and women are true.
In this letter the mom writes as though she is championing for girls, expressing how our culture only depicts women as “babes” in pop culture. She also mentions how she raised her sons to understand that when Princess Leia wore a slave girl outfit that emphasized her body it was a forced choice. But, then she goes on to discuss how girls that wear leggings are making it easier to become victims. Her letter victimizes “nice guys” who don’t want to victimize girls by creepily looking at their bodies (which is a chiasm in psychosis in itself). She gripes about the hardship on Catholic mothers who need to teach their sons that women are in fact people (shocker) when women keep flaunting their bodies in tight “painted on” pants.
Finally, we need to address her jealousy. This woman is deeply jealous of girls’ youth and bodies and she feels that they have “obtrude painfully on [her] landscape.” The entire piece is written as if leggings are a new article of clothing invented by young whippersnappers to expose themselves in public easily. As if Shakespeare and George Washington weren’t walking around wearing leggings (I’ve seen Hamilton and I’m pretty sure that’s 100% accurate). She’s scared of women’s bodies, states how she doesn’t want to see them and how unavoidable they are. Ultimately, it just sounds like someone is projecting her insecurities on this generation.
Her entire argument is flawed and is obviously from a woman who is deeply insecure about herself and her sons’ potential behavior towards women. As she calls on women in her letter to “think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead,” I call on women reading this opinion piece to think of themselves the next time they go shopping and buy whatever you want.
Mila Yoch is a staff writer.