Of Leggings and Lustful Men
I have been reading with interest about a woman who used her blog to announce (literally to THE WORLD, though I doubt she realised it at the time) that she would no longer be wearing leggings. The reason is NOT because they conjure up unwelcome memories that 90’s “fashion” of chunky knit sweaters, printed tights and hiking boots. It’s NOT because sometimes they get a bit thin with wear and show off the pattern on your knickers in certain a light. It’s not even because they rarely look good on anyone or because she believes they should be restricted to exercise wear only.
It’s because they are MAN-MAGNETS. Apparently men cannot look at women in leggings without “lusting” so she made the decision to stop wearing them in public because it entices men with no self-control, and even those WITH self control, to look at women lustfully. According to her own husband it is really hard to not look lustfully at strangers in leggings even when you try not to. And that, apparently, is a woman’s responsibility.
I’m finding this really hard to write about seriously. Honestly, I am. There is a gleefully savage part of me that wants to rip shreds off this whole idea because it seems so arrogant and ridiculous. However, I can tell the writer is actually very sincere and genuine in her belief- she really does see this issue as closely tied in with her faith and religious morals. Her blog post has been shared over 80,000 times on social media and it’s this that concerns me- not all of those shares have been people like me saying “Um…Seriously?!?!”
Some people are sharing it because they’re all “Right on! Sign me up to the No More Leggings Pledge!”
There are a few concerns I have with the “Right on!” crowd and the author of this piece.
The post in question states it is in no way advising others what to do, merely detailing the choice and reasoning of the author.
Thing is, that’s not really true. This piece says very clearly that women have a responsibility to dress modestly in an effort to minimise the lustful thoughts of men- especially those with little self-control. The implication being that men simply cannot help themselves- they see Lycra-clad limbs and are instantly reduced to licentious, slobbering creatures no longer capable of rational thought. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how backwards and insulting that assumption is.
This attitude, though, has a wider implication. If women must dress a certain way to stop men lusting after them… What does this say when viewed through the lens of rape culture? Does this reinforce the notion that women are somehow responsible, even in part, for being attacked if they were wearing a certain outfit? I think it does exactly that and I think it implies that men cannot always be held responsible for their actions.
Veronica got a pretty big response to this piece- it went viral and she has since written a follow up post in which she addresses the idea of blaming women. She says that, as a Christian, it is her responsibility to do what she can to prevent other people “stumbling”; so in this context, she must dress modestly to help preserve the purity of men’s thoughts and, by extension, their actions. I strongly disagree with this. I believe men are more than capable of policing their own thoughts and actions.
She then likens the wearing of leggings to a woman going topless in a park, saying that if a woman did so would men be expected to simply not look? Veronica says no, but I say: Why not? It’s what I always tell people who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding: Makes you uncomfortable? Don’t look. It’s not rocket science. Part of going out in public is the knowledge that people will see you. If you are comfortable in leggings, who am I to judge your fashion choices? If you want to go topless, by the same token, go for it (so long as it’s legal where you are of course, #freethenipple and all that!)
Veronica also speaks about being “individually minded” vs “community minded”. “Individually minded”, she explains, is the attitude of “I should be able to wear whatever I want!” whereas being “community minded” means you realise that just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Essentially, wearing whatever you like? That’s selfish. Selfish and rude. Because a man or a teen boy may look at you lustfully. Or a girl might look at you enviously. And you will NOT be helping the poor sex-addicted bus driver (her example, not mine!)
To that I ask- what about individual and community responsibility? Should we not be teaching our young men what to do with such thoughts- what is and is not appropriate? It’s not right to police all women on their clothing just in case a teenage boy or man cannot direct his own thoughts, let alone actions. Let’s address it with them, instead. That basic level of self-control will surely serve them in many areas of life, not only when confronted by a passing woman in her gym gear. That is something we can teach our boys that will benefit our community. As for young women that might be struggling with their shape, is hiding my shape or your shape really going to help with that? Or is education and support more important there? Discussions about the way women are portrayed in advertising, for example, and how unrealistic those ideals are are surely far more important than half the population forsaking their lycra.
And the sex-addicted bus driver? He needs far more help than a passenger switching to sweatpants can offer, I’m sorry. If he is in a state where a passing woman in tights is enough to tip him over the edge of reason perhaps he should take the day off and go see his therapist.
All in all, it seems that Veronica was saying this no-leggings gig is her personal choice, not something she thinks everyone should have to do. But you know, if you don’t… you’re kinda selfish. Discourteous. Not community-minded. She doesn’t directly SAY you’ll burn in the pits of hell for your stretchy leg wear…but it seems pretty clear to me that some feel it just isn’t worth the risk!
Personally, I wear them under tunics and stuff but not usually as pants- purely because mine are a bit thin and old and I like a bit of mystery when it comes to my knicker print and the general public.
Even Ryan is confused about this divisive wardrobe staple.
Where do YOU stand? Leggings- yay or nay? What’s your answer to the age old question: Are leggings pants?!
Flogging my blog With Some Grace and linking up for Weekend Rewind at Maxabella Loves and Brilliant Blog Posts at Honest Mom.