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.