For immediate release: I4RH’s Legging Pride Day Response
On Tuesday, March 26, Irish 4 Reproductive Health held a campus-wide protest in response to an Opinion piece in the Observer titled “The Legging Problem”. In this article, the author perpetuates a narrative central to to rape culture in implying that womxn and girls are responsible for the actions and reactions of others.
In response, Irish 4 Reproductive Health said “We ask White and others offended by leggings to consider the harmful effects of telling people that they bear responsibility for others’ moral choices because of the way they are dressed. We ask you to, in affirmation that policing womxn’s bodies is wrong and that clothing is never justification for sexual abuse, make a conscious choice to wear leggings and thus affirm your right and ability to do so. People of all genders are invited to join us in wearing leggings on Tuesday, March 26.” The event was not scheduled at a particular place or time, but was intended to be a general show of support throughout the day, and had over 1000 responses.
Considering that April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, we must counter harmful narratives that, however well-intentioned, reinforce victim blaming and shaming. Survivors of sexual assault can be retraumatized by receiving blame, directly or indirectly, for “asking for it” based on what they were wearing.
As we reflect on why it is so important to send the message that we should not be shamed for what we wear, we want to acknowledge that those people whose bodies, clothing, and general existence are most often policed—especially in the context of what has, to an extent, devolved into a binaristic conversation specifically about cis-women wearing leggings and men letting them (or not). This particularly pertains to Trans folx, whose gender and presentation are constantly under surveillance and examination.
This also pertains to bodies and clothing of womxn of color that are policed, critiqued, and sexualized to a greater degree than white womxn’s bodies and clothing, and that this disparity has effects for access to education, professional spaces, material privilege, and personal safety. Dismantling patriarchy means dismantling white supremacy.
While I4RH does not have plans for another legging protest at this time, the group welcomes the use of comfort and activism as a springboard for further advocacy at the intersection of racial and gender justice.
March 28, 2019