I wore leggings all through high school, often paired with a t-shirt or a short sweatshirt. No one ever accused me of immodesty or immorality. Yet, the year after I left Minnetonka High School, the former principal, David Adney, made national news when he urged students to avoid the spandex that some call pants.
The ensuing leggings battle created quite an uproar, from both those that wholeheartedly agreed with the administration’s words and those who wanted to keep their closets intact.
While I agree that modesty is an important issue to be addressed in schools, I think that discussions like these overlook one of the most important tenants of fashion: different outfits are appropriate for different occasions. Just as a man would never wear a bro tank to an office meeting, a woman shouldn’t wear a crop top to school. In the case of almost every fashion question, the situation determines what is appropriate.
Of course, the issue of what is appropriate can be relative. In my opinion, opaque leggings and yoga pants are wonderful wardrobe staples. Many parents don’t agree with me, however, including Kim Hall, a mother of three boys, who recently addressed the young women of social media in an online letter. The “Mrs. Hall letter” urges young ladies to dress more modestly, thus preventing the distraction of her three sons and young men like them in this world.
Mrs. Hall, like many parents, has admirable goals: she hopes “to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.” To maintain her sons’ integrity, Mrs. Hall goes on to explain that she will personally block the owner of any scantily-clad photos from her sons’ Facebooks.
The Mrs. Hall letter is certainly not the first plea parents have made for the modesty of young women. Like so many of these other pleas, however, I think that this letter misplaces the blame of the modesty issue onto young women who cannot possibly control boys’ thoughts.
Young men are not innocent victims of the supposed immodesty of women. After all, how many times have you heard a man say that a woman is “hot” or seen a pin-up of a scantily-clad female hanging in a guys’ dorm room?
While I hope that young men respect women and their bodies enough to not gawk at one in spandex, I also recognize that many do not want to control their thoughts around the subject. Rather than recognizing young mens’ responsibility in this system, however, letters like Mrs. Hall’s paint them as victims to girls’ immodesty.
I agree with Mrs. Hall on one important point – it would be a better world if men didn’t look lustfully at women. However, Mrs. Hall’s sons, along with every other man in the world, have plenty of opportunities outside of Facebook to see a woman’s body.
By blocking scantily-clad females from Facebook, Mrs. Hall only avoids teaching her sons how to deal with sexual temptation, making them unprepared for the real world and quick to blame the opposite sex for any inappropriate thoughts they may have.
Modesty is an important and controversial issue, but each person can only control so much. Mrs. Hall cannot change how young women dress, and it is unfair of her to blame all of her sons’ impure thoughts on young women.
Rather than targeting the girls she cannot change, Mrs. Hall, and other parents like her, should focus on their sons’ attitudes towards women. By preparing young men for a world where it is common to present a woman’s body in the most sexual way possible, these parents can teach their sons responsibility rather than perpetuate an ultimately meaningless blame game.
Maggie Weiss ’16 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Excelsior, Minn. She majors in history and Spanish.