Let’s talk about leggings, shall we? They’re a controversial topic all across America.
The issue has surfaced in Mass., Oklahoma, Calif. and beyond, the debate about leggings, yoga pants, tights or any other snugnitude encasing the lower half of teenage girl strikes fear in the hearts of U.S. school administrators.
Now the debate’s landed in Evanston, Illinois, at Haven Middle School.
I think I’ve heard most arguments about leggings: They’re too distracting to the boys. Inappropriate. Unbecoming. They create a lustful atmosphere infecting society and are, in some countries, considered illegal.
Earlier this week, I learned that Haven Middle School students are planning a protest against a ban on leggings. A Haven parent forwarded this email, sent to Haven Middle School principal Kathy Roberson on Tuesday, March 11th:
Good morning Ms. Roberson,
We are writing with a concern regarding the revised dress policy. Our daughter came home last night upset that in addition to leggings and shorts, the girls are now also not allowed to wear yoga pants at school.
The reason, she explained, is that these items of clothing are "too distracting" for the boys.
This policy clearly shifts the blame for boy's behavior or lack of academic concentration, directly onto the girls.
We are frankly shocked at this antiquated and warped message that is being sent to the kids. Under no circumstances should girls be told that their clothing is responsible for boy's bad behaviors. This kind of message lands itself squarely on a continuum that blames girls and women for assault by men. It also sends the message to boys that their behaviours are excusable, or understandable given what the girls are wearing. And if the sight of a girl's leg is too much for boys at Haven to handle, then your school has a much bigger problem to deal with.
We really hope that you will consider the impact of these policies and how they contribute to rape culture. Girls should be able to feel safe and unashamed about what they wear. And boys need to be corrected and taught when they harass girls.
Certainly comfortable clothing like yoga pants and leggings, which entirely cover up girl's legs, are not the problem but the mindset of girls being responsible for sexual harassment or "distraction" is.
We are including some articles on the topic.
We look forward to your response,
Juliet Bond, LCSW, Professor at Columbia College
Kevin Bond, Teacher at New Trier
Personally, I think this ban is ridiculous. It’s obnoxious. It’s insulting. It’s lazy and it’s offensive.
I have a middle school daughter. She and her friends wear leggings. And yoga pants. And clothes that don’t always please me. Am I a bad mother for letting my daughter out of the house wearing a shirt that doesn’t cover her bottom? Possibly. Does it confound me when young men walk around wearing pants around their knees or when a therapist wears a purple streak in her hair or when a teacher wears a diamond stud in her nose? It does, but only because those aren’t my styles and it’s my issue, not theirs.
What kind of confusing message are we sending to girls – especially young girls who see public figures (including the First Lady) wearing leggings and yoga pants and whose parents are usually the ones purchasing the clothes and whose male counterparts aren’t told how to dress their bodies but only what not to wear on them? Give me a break.
However, my eyes are wide open. I see where the concern comes from. Just imagine you’re a public school principal managing dress code policies. A Google search of leggings just might lead you to this Facebook page, called Leggings Lovers, and BAM: You’ve sent your leggings-banning-letter to parents before you’ve made your morning announcements or time for the Pledge of Allegiance (except, of course, if you’re in Hawaii, Iowa, Oklahoma, Vermont or Wyoming, in which case you’re dealing with a different type of controversy involving personal rights surrounding fabrics of the red-white-blue color scheme).
As the mother of two middle school-aged children I say: If you truly want your students to become successful, respectful members of society, use your time and resources more effectively:
- Fight for causes that actually mean something.
- Figure out a way to notice when a child stops going to the lunchroom because he’s having difficulty navigating the social waters between the “popular” table and the table of friends he’s comfortable with.
- Declare a zero-tolerance policy on bullying behavior and enforce consequences for offenders.
- Assign one dedicated faculty or staff member to each child so someone notices declining self-esteem, withdrawal from favorite activities, multiple absences or uncharacteristic behavior.
- Shore up cracks the kids slip through by rewarding positive behavior and building up self-esteem.
- Spend less time on ridiculous matters like a fashion fad and more time on helping students adjust to the middle school environment.
- Make their academics interesting and rewarding.
- Help kids maintain a healthy focus on their own strengths rather than others’ weaknesses.
- Assist students with the critical transition to high school.
And remember: By the time the ink finally dries on your school district’s approval to ban leggings, your students will be long gone, wearing baggy pants or boxer shorts and wondering why you focused on the outfits rather than the outcome.What do you think? Should schools ban students from wearing tight-fitting leggings and yoga pants?
Connect with freelance columnist Christine Wolf at www.christinewolf.com
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