Campus leggings: the argument for

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Two female students wear leggings in the University of Dallas weight room. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

What you wear is between you and your wardrobe.

Recently, the mother of a University of Notre Dame student wrote an article to the university’s paper in which she asked the girls on campus to stop wearing leggings because it attracts the attention of men.

I will not go into the details of her article; however, she does close with an open-ended plea: “You have every right to wear them. But you have every right to choose not to.”

White’s article is just a small part of the larger discussion concerning whether leggings are appropriate to wear in any place but the gym. My concern, however, is that people feel a woman’s wardrobe is a discussion for the public forum and not a choice made solely by the woman who is shopping and dressing herself.

There is certainly a level of appropriate dress expected for different occasions and locations; however, consider that pointing out a fashion faux pas is the job of a close friend, not some random individual writing an opinion piece.

Some may say, “But what about the attention the women are calling to their bodies when they wear leggings? They lead our sons and brothers to sinful thoughts. They leave nothing to the imagination.”

We call attention to our bodies when we move, speak and live. Our bodies are good. They enable us to explore and experience the world through the senses, and they are as much a part of us as our soul is.

The female body, however, has come to be viewed as a sexual object and the attention it gets is sexual in nature, as seen through the attention shown in the leggings debate. The female body receives this attention for being just as it is.

How it looks in and of itself cannot command the thoughts that race through another person’s head. The thoughts that a body elicits are not put there by the woman’s body, but they exist only in the mind of the beholder.

Continuing to treat the female body as taboo, to the point of telling women what they can and cannot wear based only off the thoughts that may cross another person’s mind, only allows her to continue to be treated as a sexual object, something not appropriate to be seen by the public eye.

And if a woman wearing leggings is not as mentally stimulating as imagining what may be up a woman’s skirt, then please consider exercising your mind on other subjects.

I am not saying that the women of UD should attend classes tomorrow as Eve herself was created, but I do think we need to trust women to dress themselves without being criticized for attracting attention. How any man or woman dresses is up to them.

Would there be a discussion plastered across the media criticizing men for wearing too-well-fitting sweatpants or skinny jeans? What does it say about men to say that women should police their wardrobes so as to avoid sexual thoughts crossing men’s minds?  

People need to be mature enough to take responsibility for what crosses their own minds and what they do with those thoughts.

You have every right to wear leggings if you want to.

Do not let people shame you into discomfort if you are comfortable in your Lululemons. People will think whatever they think, but we must still treat one another with charity.

Don’t assume malice where there is none, and trust in people to be able to keep their own thoughts under control. Ultimately there is no way to control either, so shaming people for their wardrobe and excusing it on the potential thoughts of onlookers not only perpetuates the objectification of the human body but also sets the bar concerningly low for our expectations of others.

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