Mother’s controversial letter starts discourse about college dress codes

Maddy Haberberger

Maryann White, a self-proclaimed “Catholic mother of four sons,” wrote a controversial letter to a college newspaper last week that is now starting a conversation about college students’ dress codes.

In a letter to The Observer, the school newspaper for the University of Notre Dame, Holy Cross College and St. Mary’s College, White voiced her concerns about women wearing leggings to public events such as church services, asking female students to “think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead.”

White’s letter sparked debates across all three campuses, and this week is making waves across the country. Saint Mary’s student, Olivia Wentroble, was present on Notre Dame’s campus last week during the student-organized “Legging Pride Day” event.

Wentroble says, “The next day after the article was released I was at Notre Dame and there was a lot of Facebook groups created that were called, ‘The Leggings Protests’, so I was on Notre Dame’s campus that day wearing leggings myself and there was a ton of people wearing leggings.”

According to Wentroble, seeing students wearing leggings to class is not uncommon on Saint Mary’s all-girl campus or at co-ed Notre Dame. The impact White’s letter had on male and female students alike can be felt on both campuses as well.

“The boys on Notre Dame’s campus, they’ve responded saying that they believe this article is ridiculous, male professors have said that they think that it’s stupid that this even has to be brought up,” says Wentroble.

As word of White’s contentious statements spread, college students and faculty across America are now joining the discussion about student dress – Cassie Pegg-Kirby, the director of the Kent State women’s center, believes the letter initiated an important conversation.

“It brings up a lot of other issues that we really need to be aware of, and should be sort-of watching and paying attention to. So, although it may seem, ‘it’s just about leggings…’ it’s about more than that,” says Pegg-Kirby. She thinks this discourse may be controversial, but, “women’s issues are issues that impact women but they’re issues for everybody to be engaged in.”

Maddy Haberberger is a TV2 correspondent. Contact her at [email protected]