Recently, a concerned Catholic mom wrote a letter to the editor of THE OBSERVER. The Observer is a student-run, daily print and online newspaper of Notre Dame and St. Marys. The mom is a brave, well-spoken, balanced and objective parent who has concerns for her four sons and all the girls who dare wear leggings in front of them.
The complete letter is included at the end of this writing. Here is the heart of her appeal to the women choosing to wear skin-tight leggings and how their decision affects her sons. (their ages not mentioned)
As a man with daughter and son I appreciate her letter, though many people, men and women alike, have been highly critical of her words. It seems that she may well have come to a boiling point where the beloved tights/leggings became the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. Because, long before, and along with the leggings, the female dress code has always included “enhancing” fashions and “revealing” features.
Male Country artists wrote songs like, “Baby’s Got Her Bluejeans On”. In the 50’s surfer dudes assured the girls that if they would wear the bikini-they promised to look and compliment. (if not stalk) Try to watch a women’s volleyball game without an education in the finer points of “less is more”. How about the unashamedly sexual overtures and moves of some high school cheerleaders?
As the good Catholic mom noted, even church is no longer a bastion for men’s need to have at least one place to not be bombarded by the scantily-clad female. This is all supposed to be innocent, and because it is popularly accepted it therefore must no longer incite sexual feelings in the male? Not.
The revealing skin tight leggings will be out of style soon, and who knows what may follow. We can be certain that many–many of our girls will be pied pipers in lock-step with the gods of fashion–thus popularity. This reveals my greater concern. Leggings are but a reflection of just how difficult it is to be a woman trying to compete for value, attractiveness and sexual attractiveness, yet maintaining ones integrity.
Women and girls have many conflicting agendas.
1-At the top of the list is the all encompassing human desire to be liked and desired by others. Let the competitions and distraught feelings of rejection begin.
2-Next is the equally human ambition to be respected and to have value beyond physical appearance. A girl who puts beauty before character will lose this battle.
3-Finally, a girl and a woman have naturally occuring female and maternal instincts that may well be ignored, but they will not be denied! Human dignity must be tantamount, preeminent and protected for the value it contains.
ONE OUTCOME FOR GIRLS AND WOMEN WHO USE THEIR BODIES AS THE MECHANISM FOR SELF-VALUE AND PERSONAL-IMPORTANCE IS OBJECTIFICATION
When Hollywood and the music industry serves as the young (and younger) girls role-model for dress and behavior, we begin to understand how we have such a mess. What parent of young children desires to have such competition for their child’s very inner-self? (soul) Well, it matters not your opinion so much any more. MEDIA is king (or should I say QUEEN) You must fight for your child if she is to escape the clutches of this beast of industry clamoring for you child.
ANOTHER OUTCOME IS REJECTION
As this mom so well observes, young men who seek to treat women with honor and dignity are forced to ignore (reject) the young lady by trying not to look. This is a good place to state the obvious– LEGGINGS are certainly not the only type clothing/covering that just happens to reveal the natural attractiveness of the female body.
THE WORST RESULT IS
Women who dress to attract the male (and or female) eyes have no control over which eyes get to look. Not all men will turn away, trying hard not to look and objectify the female. No matter the women’s motive for her choice of dress or how she chooses to present herself, some men are going to assume that all she is wants him.
NO–THIS IS NOT RIGHT and women should not have to suffer this plight. BUT IT IS REAL nonetheless. How nice if only the men they wanted to attract would look and no other. Many females have lost their lives to sick males for this very reason.
GIRLS–YOU DO NOT HAVE THE CHOICE OF WHICH BOY OR MAN LOOKS AT YOU AND WHY THEY LOOK. They will sense your vulnerability and your motive.
WE NEED WISDOM
Is it possible that there is a way for girls and women to get more right than wrong? Is it possible that God really did create women, instilling within them all that makes them uniquely female? Must women lower themselves to the mans standards by objectifying themselves and then complaining when men objectify them? We all need wisdom and honesty.
Wisdom from a man of all people: One of the Disciples of the New Testament, Peter, wrote:
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; ot returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (I Peter 3:3-9)
Wisdom from this man
“You know the commandment which says, “Be faithful in marriage.” But I tell you that if you look at another woman and want her, you are already unfaithful in your thoughts. If your right eye causes you to sin, poke it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to end up in hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, chop it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” —Jesus (Matthew 5:27-30)
Never once did Jesus speak to women about their lust for the male body. They have their own set of intrinsic temptations and allurements. (the tongue–wine–chocolate–power-money–prestige–position–control…)
From the comments that Jesus makes we understand these things:
1-Commandments are made to be kept and sometimes are broken (not without consequence) A natural man will look at the beauty of the female and sometimes allow his desire to move out of bounds. Not all men who notice other women are necessarily lusting to the point of adultery. They are being men as God created man to be.
2-Sex and Marriage is for faithfulness
3-Polygamy is unacceptable
4-Sex before marriage is a destructive sin
5-Unfaithfulness in marriage is destructive sin
6-Unfaithfulness is slanted towards men but does not rule out female unfaithfulness
7-Unfaithfulness does not require that a man sleeps with another woman
8-A man’s eyes must be kept in check
9-How a woman dresses or undresses is no excuse for a man to commit adultery or fornication.
10-How a woman dresses or undresses DOES AFFECT A MAN’S EYES. It reveals her character, or lack thereof. She knows when she is an accessory to his crime by intentionally inciting lust and when she is simply being a beautiful female person.
THE BURQA (full cover) OR HIJAB (eyes uncovered) AS A SOLUTION?
Muslim men have followed Muhammad’s idea (attributed to his alter-ego Allah) of modesty.
Women (4 per man) must cover themselves entirely so as not to cause the man to lust. It is fully her responsibility to dress with modesty, even to the point of covering her face in the company of men other than her husband. A woman’s burqa or hijab supposedly reflects her righteousness and good-standing with her Allah. More covering=more just.
The burqa and hijab should remind all of us that men who are in a position to objectify and abuse a woman will do so no matter what women are wearing–no matter how much of their body they cover or reveal. No matter the woman’s covering, Muslim men in Pakistan are reportedly the #1 world-consumers of pornography with many Muslim female “stars” proudly listed.
Jesus reminds Muslim men and women too that the imagination (especially when fueled by pornography) is a powerful and dangerous enemy to civility and decency.
So to our good Catholic mom, her sons have a future before them that will certainly be fraught with temptations and allurements. It would be nice if all girls would cooperate and dress “appropriately”, but as real life would have it–NOT. If these young men are human, they will struggle, sometimes fail and hopefully become faithful husbands and fathers of daughters and sons. As husbands and fathers, the temptations do not go away. They sometimes rise in fervor. (See the Lord’s Model Prayer–“Deliver us from evil”)
It was Jerry Seinfeld who said, “Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun. You don’t stare at it. It’s too risky. You get a sense of it, then you look away.”
Some other wise soul remarked, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair.” –attributed to Martin Luther
Here is a good foundation for all of us men. We will not survive without the Word of God, the Spirit of God, His people and the congregation where we are accountable. We are never told that women’s fashions can serve as justification for wrong behavior. Women are told to be responsible, chaste and loving.
WE ARE ALL TOLD THAT:
“We must stop acting like children. We must not let deceitful people trick us by their false teachings, which are like winds that toss us around from place to place. Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head of the body. Christ holds it together and makes all of its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love.
The Old Life and the New Life
As a follower of the Lord, I order you to stop living like stupid, godless people. Their minds are in the dark, and they are stubborn and ignorant and have missed out on the life that comes from God. They no longer have any feelings about what is right, and they are so greedy they do all kinds of indecent things.
But this isn’t what you were taught about Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and you heard about him and learned about him. You were told that your foolish desires will destroy you and that you must give up your old way of life with all its bad habits. Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy.” (Ephesians 4:14-24 CEV)
The legging problem
Letter to the Editor | Monday, March 25, 2019
I’ve thought about writing this letter for a long time. I waited, hoping that fashions would change and such a letter would be unnecessary — but that doesn’t seem to be happening. I’m not trying to insult anyone or infringe upon anyone’s rights. I’m just a Catholic mother of four sons with a problem that only girls can solve: leggings.
The emergence of leggings as pants some years ago baffled me. They’re such an unforgiving garment. Last fall, they obtruded painfully on my landscape. I was at Mass at the Basilica with my family. 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.
A world in which women continue to be depicted as “babes” by movies, video games, music videos, etc. makes it hard on Catholic mothers to teach their sons that women are someone’s daughters and sisters. That women should be viewed first as people — and all people should be considered with respect.
I talk to my sons about Princess Leia and how Jabba the Hutt tried to steal her personhood by putting her into a slave girl outfit in which her body became the focus. (That’s the only scene in the whole franchise in which Leia appears in such a way — and it’s forced upon her.)
Leggings are hardly slave girl outfits. And no one is forcing them on the countless young women who wear them. But I wonder why no one thinks it’s strange that the fashion industry has caused women to voluntarily expose their nether regions in this way. 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.
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 (like slave-girl Leia). We don’t go naked because we respect the other people who must see us, whether they would or not. 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. I’m fretting both because of unsavory guys who are looking at you creepily and nice guys who are doing everything to avoid looking at you. 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!
Leggings are so naked, so form fitting, so exposing. Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead? Let Notre Dame girls be the first to turn their backs(ides) on leggings. You have every right to wear them. But you have every right to choose not to. Thanks for listening to the lecture. Catholic moms are good at those!