Female Privilege and Reclaiming Our Dignity



By Veronica Johnson

I have been reading quite a few articles in response to a letter that a concerned mother wrote about “the legging problem.” She basically asked the female students of Notre Dame to consider, prior to putting leggings on as pants, that there will be men striving for virtue who will stumble at the sight of this wardrobe choice. The students and the world responded in offended protest. How dare someone suggest to women that what they wear affects people other than themselves?! This mother was merely trying to open the eyes of the female students at Notre Dame to the consequences that their clothing choices have on those around them. Yet the responses she received echoed: How dare she?!

I saw today that someone defined privilege as: “when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.” Interesting. While this certainly is not the traditional meaning of the word, it is a connotation that the word has acquired in recent years. I could not help but think that men are getting an awful lot of blame for being the privileged ones in our society. In my experience, I would say that it is the women these days who are acting with the most “privilege.”

You see, as women (and men) fight against the “restraints” of masculinity and femininity for the god of Equality, they are overlooking nature and any sense of the common good. For now I am specifically writing regarding dress. Today, women say that they should be able to wear whatever they want whenever they want around whomever they want. However, they do not want anyone to objectify or sexualize them (or even look at them - if the one looking is not an attractive and desirable man). Most importantly, women do not want to be responsible for men’s problems with lust. I cannot count the number of times I have seen the claim “if they can’t control themselves, it’s their problem!”

Sister, men are wired differently than you are. Men are visual. They do not even have to consent to their biological responses to beauty for such responses to occur. This is what we as women must understand. We must respect this natural order. We are acting like spoiled, privileged children when we say that a man’s lust over us (when we wear revealing attire) is entirely his problem.

They deserve reverence.

I am not going to say that men have free reign to say, feel, and do whatever they want when they are attracted to a woman. Yes, men do need to treat women as human beings - equal to them in dignity, created to be partners in the Image of God. But ladies, we are so beautiful. Why do you think there are so many pieces of art depicting the female form? Why did God create us last in the garden? We are the Crown of Creation. We are the Holy of Holies in which God’s creative power brings about new life. Our bodies are so good. They deserve respect. They deserve reverence. This is why we need to veil our bodies appropriately. A man can never house human life the way a woman can. This is why the womb deserves more coverage than a man’s torso.

Girl, I understand that those buttery soft leggings are the most comfortable thing in the world to wear on your legs. Wear them! Wear them in the privacy of your home, wear them under a tunic or long sweater. But let’s think bigger than just leggings here. Let’s think about all of the things that are cut in such a way that show off so much of that gorgeous body, that they distract from the person (Daughter!) you are. I am not trying to stifle fashion and promote a culture of women wearing potato sacks. I am trying to open eyes and hearts to the fact that sons, brothers, and husbands are struggling with the way things are right now.

The men in my life refrain from going to beaches, gyms, and pools because there is temptation at every angle. This makes me so sad. I cannot go to these places (and the beach is probably my favorite place on earth) with my husband because he does not want to be around women clad in what is essentially (and usually less than!) underwear. He also doesn’t want other men seeing me in such garments! So oppressive and controlling! To my sister who is thinking that right now, I say the opposite. This man is defending my dignity and demanding other men respect me by not allowing me out of the house in something he deems immodest. Guess what, he is my husband and I belong to him. Is that taboo for me to say? Well shoot, he also belongs to me, so we are even. I don’t let him wear certain things in public either. Marriage is a beautiful thing - built-in accountability partners and permanent belonging, I could go on.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
— 1 Corinthians 6:19-2

Sister, I am not here to condemn. I am not here to boss anyone around. I write this as a wife, as a future mother, as a sister, as a daughter, as a friend who is trying to get to heaven, and trying to help those around her get to heaven too. Sister, these men already have smut thrown at them on the TV, internet, and every media outlet in existence. Please, help them in their daily lives to see you as the Daughters of the King you are. You may be surprised by the way men treat you when you dress differently too. The mystery that surrounds a woman who veils her body can only improve respect and deepen genuine relationships with men. Let’s stop giving all men a view of all the goods. Let’s save it for the man who is willing to commit his whole life, and his whole self - body and soul - to us in marriage. Let’s stop using our privilege as women to dangle the fruit of our physiques in front of men and start using it to call them to the respect and reverence we deserve as Daughters of the King.

We are all on this journey together. I’m rooting for you, sis. May God Bless and keep us.