Women in pants are the cause of much evil in the world

Women in pants are the cause of much evil in the world

Melanie has been regaling me with quotes from some of the blogs where a debate has been raging over whether good Catholic women should ever wear pants. To read the rhetoric from some of them, women in pants is the greatest obstacle to the spread of the Gospel. Think I’m exaggerating?

Genevieve Kineke started a post by disputing the notion that dresses are a moral necessity for women and her comments eventually turned into, well, see for yourself:

BY VIRTUE of how we are wired as men and women, I am convinced that if Christian women return to wearing modest dresses or skirts w/blouse all the time (with an exception to pants for necessity, in cases of extreme weather,certain occupations with heavy machinery ect…)we could weild a powerful force in winning the culture back for JESUS and the salvation of souls.

Riiight! It’s not modesty as an intention or an act that’s important, but the particular cut of clothing. Because you can’t ever have immodest skirts or modest pants.

This nothing less than an American Puritanism. Go look at photos from 50 or 60 years ago from Italy or France and see how the Catholic women dressed. Not that they wore pants, but that they took pleasure in looking beautiful. And isn’t that what this attitude boils down to? Women shouldn’t look too beautiful as it will lead men into sin. In the same thread as the comment above, someone else wrote that she wears dresses because that’s what the Blessed Mother wore and has worn in all her apparitions since the time of Christ. Um yeah. Jesus always appears wearing robes; are men getting a fashion commandment from that fact?

And how is this attitude—that it’s not the intent or the effect, but the black-and-white material condition that signifies holiness and purity—different from the fundamentalist Muslim proposition that women must veil themselves because the men are not responsible for how they react when overpowered by the irresistible force of their sexuality. I could imagine some Taliban imam preaching: “If only all those women were veiled, those infidels would convert.”

In fact, Genevieve later picks up on the point:

I find it shameful that Christian women consider even lightly the idea that dress codes and women staying in the home are part and parcel of our faith. Modesty, dignity and decency must be combined with the God-given gift of free will in order that each person find his or her vocation in the wide constellation of possibilities.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Read her blog entry. She means the Muslim prohibitions against women being able to work outside the home. It’s one thing for a family to decide for themselves that they can afford to have one income. It’s another for that decision to be imposed on you from outside as an absolute.

    As you say, “Unless the financial situation demands it…” There are some who wouldn’t allow even that exception.

  • I was around when ALL women wore only skirts and dresses, so I have been around for the more recent trends.  I think that I understand the psychology behind this.  Part of it has to do with authority and part with chastity.

    Point 1:  Some very devout Catholic women think that, if a woman wears pants/slacks, that is a direct, feminist challenge to men—as if they are saying, “I will not defer to your judgment,” despite St. Paul’s exhortation that spouses should be mutually submissive to each other and that wives should be submissive to their husbands.

    Point 2:  Some very devout women have been told by older women (mothers, religious sisters) that many (or all) men are sexually excited by seeing women in slacks/pants, which (they think) reveal all of the contours of the intimate areas of the body—while skirts/dresses do not reveal these.  Such women (and those who taught them) may be right about some men (who have specific fetishes) … but they are, for some strange reason, unaware of the MUCH LARGER number of men who can be excited by seeing women in skirts/dresses, which reveal skin and sometimes even underwear.

    A happy medium is needed, wherein any Catholic woman can be comfortable (and virtuous) wearing …
    dresses/skirts that are long enough to be modest, and pants/slacks that are loose (and dark) enough to avoid attracting undue attention.

  • What is she saying?  Unless the financial situation demands it, a woman absolutely should stay home with her small children as long as she can.

    Of course, the “demands of the financial situation” are always subjective, aren’t they.

    Note to gsk: SAINT Gianna Molla Canonized
    16 May 2004 by Pope John Paul II

    But of the comment:  I am convinced that if Christian women return to wearing modest dresses or skirts w/blouse all the time … we could weild a powerful force in winning the culture back for JESUS and the salvation of souls

    Dom, your Riiigght!  (notice I didn’t use you’re) is a little off base.  That comment seems to be a call to a type of habit wearing.  Dressing like a Catholic woman, one who BELONGS to GOD.  What is wrong with that?

    P.S.  We had a Bar-B-Q on Monday, and just before the guest arrived, my lovely Jeanne (17.5 weeks expectant) put her shoes on in the kitchen.  I asked her to keep them off so I could show off my perfect wife.
    P.P.S.  gsk.  I’m just guessing that in the picture at http://www.setonhome.org, Mrs. Clark is wearing a skirt.

    So, shouldn’t skirts or dresses be worn to Mass?  If you ladies were meeting the Holy Father or the President, you’s wear one?

    Dom:  Aren’t we a religion of ABSOLUTES?

  • Dressing like a Catholic woman, one who BELONGS to GOD.

    By which you assume that there is an absolute doctrine that wearing a dress is what a Catholic woman does. Says who? Or is it a culturally conditioned idea?

    Dom:  Aren’t we a religion of ABSOLUTES?

    In matters of dogma and divine revelation? Yes.

  • Gee, if it’s all about clothing,  those Stepford Mormon polygamist females in Utah in thier Little House on the Prairie outfits should be our role models.

  • So, where does a mans modesty fit into all of this?  Not to be “too” flippant here but if I have particularly large biceps would it be a scandal to frequently wear short sleeve shirts that accentuate that particular feature of my body? A recommendation to not wear short sleeved shirts is ridiculous as well as impractical.

    Granted, men are wired to be more visual which is why this discussion is focused on the affects a womens dress has on a normal man.

    But from a womans point of view and I guess for the rest of you in this blog what constitutes immodest apparel for a man short of him wearing only a loin cloth? I frequently run and in exceptionally warm weather I remove my shirt but I also run in a very rural environment in the woods and on trails so the only scandal I may be creating is to a few squirrels and a whitetail deer or two. 
    Running shirtless in the middle of the city I could potentially cause scandal.
    An exceptionally obese man taking a leisurely stroll in the park sans his shirt would also cause a scandal but of a different sort and not only to the women but to the public in general.

    I think a lot of this has to be considered in context.  For example: a women stepping out of her apartment in the middle of the day in downtown Chicago wearing only a black bra and panties would certainly cause a great scandal.  This same woman wearing this same attire walking down the beach at Virginia Beach wouldn’t cause any scandal whatsoever.

  • man with black hat: Who Wears The Pants?

    “Someone had to determine that trousers were inherently male clothing, while skirts or dresses were inherently female. No one appears to be taking credit for this decision. Meanwhile, a trip around the planet would show that some parts of Asia, women wear pantaloons that are quite modest, in terms of both form and coverage. And in some other parts of the world, men wear what appear to be dresses every time they wear robes in the Arab world, or a religious habit in the Christian world, or even don cassocks to serve Mass. And what’s up with wearing a lace surplice? Back in my neighborhood, even the altar boys would beat the crap out of a kid who wore lace…”

  • I have said it before and I will say it again. The posting of multiple comments one after another, especially eight of them is an abuse of my good will and of the comments. It will not be tolerated.

    If you can’t make your point in one comment then your point can’t be made. I’m deleting all of the comments from Brian and he can try again in one comment.

  • Jen, this is what I’ve said before, that people seem to have trouble making a distinction between the obviously immodest dress of folks who don’t care they look slutty and in fact don’t care about Christian morality and those Christians who aren’t out to look slutty and in wearing jeans or, gasp, shorts, are fairly confident that a normal healthy male should have the onus on him to keep custody of the eyes and his imagination.

    Note well that the commandment says that a man who covets his neighbor’s wife is the one who sins, not necessarily the woman who was the object of lust.

    Let’s make distinctions, people, between minskirts and visible underwear and women wearing regular cut jeans or a pantsuit.

    Frankly, I have to wonder about men who can’t look at a woman wearing pants without falling into sin.

  • (Putting head down on desk, closing eyes, sighing)

    Just out of curiousity, is there a patron saint of fashion and modesty? Like St. Gucci of Milan or something?

  • midwest mom,

    I think you completely missed Genevieve’‘s point (well and kida made it too): “most of the world” is not American. You are making broad generalizations that simply don’t apply in Africa, Asia, etc. 

    Yet when you say “which is probably 75%” you seem to be only thinking in terms of American housewives.

    You can’t create universal rules based on a reaction to American cultural values.

  • orthodox – heh, heh.

    Carrie – my mother wore the most beautiful (not to mention modest) linen pantsuit to my wedding two years ago. Of course it would have been unthinkable really even ten years before. We joked that morning while dressing that my grandmothers were going to come back from the dead (God rest them) in protest – but that was more about etiquette than “modesty”. My mother looked far nicer than some of her friends who wore skirt suits with skirts at the knee!

    And anyone who’s watched any “Bollywood” movies or walked around a Little India knows how modest and becoming shalwar kameez (sp?) outfits are – we don’t even have to get into saris. Not that Indian grannys with “exposed” midriffs look risque if seen in their culture!

    Just to throw extra fuel on the fire, I’ll add that loose pants on women are far more modest than tight pants on men. Hello, Regency/Empire trousers!

    In short, “sweeping” theological statements on fashion are really bad ideas. Probably why, if Our Lord made any, none are recorded. (Theological fashion is also bad, but that’s another topic . . .)

  • midwestmom: There’s a reason why your costs are so low. If the 75% of working women in America and their families moved to the Midwest, then the air wouldn’t be as clean, the crime wouldn’t be as low, the real estate not as cheap, and the jobs a lot scarcer.

    The major reason why so many families rely on two-incomes is because the current tax system demands it. If 48% of your income ends up in the government’s coffers (and it does, on average), then you’re going to have to work a lot harder. By contrast, in the 1950s, the tax burden was less than half that, I believe. (I don’t have easy access to the actual figure at the moment, but it’s easily found online.)

  • Abigail,

    I know about the Additional Child Tax Credit, but it’s an income tax credit up to the amount of Social Security you paid. It is not a Social Security credit, which may seem like a fine distinction, I agree.