Several people have contacted me in regards to the Pants Question. Should women wear pants? What about cultural and historical differences? They are sincerely weighing the issue of pants, modesty and cultural identification so I would like to offer what I can on the subject.
Cara Michele sent me this link on an article regarding pants and Christian women. Dawn Marie helpfully pointed out that this author comes from a United Pentecostal Church background, who have traditionally maintained a skirts-only requirement for their female members. While the author does an extensive and accurate study into the Greek/Hebrew from key verses, I found that his argumentation may be rooted in trying to undo the more unpleasant aspects of his background. “Tossing Baby with Bathwater” might be a good euphemism to describe the entire article.
He makes a very convincing argument in regards to Deuteronomy verse (22:5) which most skirts-only folks use to justify their position. The context, according to the Hebrew lexicon, is for women to not wear militaristic garb or armor that were singularly male and for men to not wear what was singularly women’s clothing. I wasn’t too clear on what clothing or items was particularly female but I suppose that was clear to the Israelites. Fair enough, I can handle that interpretation.
The author warns against:
It is important that we do not have a knee-jerk reaction to every change in fashion. Clearly, some are indicative of moral decline, but many are not. As with everything, changes in fashion must be weighed against biblical truths to make the determination.
At the same time he thinks there only needs to be a “stylistic” difference between men’s and women’s clothing, with pants being acceptable as long as they look somehow appropriate to each sex. The glaring overlook in the entire article is the issue of Modesty. Yes, those hip-hugger, embroidered jeans may be considered feminine in comparison to loose carpenter pants of men, but they hardly convey sobriety and shame-facedness!
Ok, let’s get down to brass tacks. Do I wear pants? Yes, but not often and under particular circumstances. How do I decide if pants are modest or not? My undergirding principle is to not show my rear or undergarments. When I wear my favorite pair of pants, a loose linen/cotton blend pair, I match it with long button-down blouses that cover that central area. No pantyline woes!
If I go hiking, I wear a set of denim overalls for safety and durability. My husband, the wildlife, and stray hikers are the only others who see me in those. Again, no underwear showing and minimal rear-fitting. I would put my pants wearing at about 10% of my daily wear, with skirts and dresses in the remainder.
Does this mean that I give wholesale approbation to pants-wearing amongst the Christian female populace? Nope. I say this because the pants and the style in which they are worn are not modest. If you have the time, try cruising around some of the cultural boutiques of Modest Clothes. When you generally see pants in these shops, they are paired with long shirts, vests, dusters, or jackets. My favorite are Salwar Kameezes. [Spelling is fluid on that one!] Indian women wear loose cotton or silk paints with a long tunic over top, embroidered and well-sequined!
My second argument with dresses/skirts being more modest than pants is also culturally-based. Most of my readers, I’m guessing, are from Western European heritage, like it or not. There is still ingrained in our common psyche the model of a flowing dress and long hair as singularly feminine and modest. Catholics use Mary as their model, many protestant folks might think of Puritans, Laura Ingalls Wilder, or another stereotype.
Well, you might say, you’re just living up to a stereotype. Yes and No. Yes, because I would like to emulate holy, chaste, and humble women of the past. No, because I think I can turn the stereotypes to my favor. People can use their caricatures to identify me as a religious nut, as they often do, but when they get to know me, the wires get all crossed in their minds. “She’s not acting like a zealot….she’s funny, she gets angry sometimes, she’s not leaving tracts on my desk, she answers my questions without preaching…”
Religious stereotypes only help people remember there may be a fundamental difference in our outlooks. Think of Amish Christians. Think of hijab-wearing Muslim women. Wearing dresses in a non-dresses predominant but still within cultural memory climate is a way of being openly religious in a non-threatening way. People will accept you as you as a Christian, not as necessarily “one of the girls.” You may be surprised at how well strangers will respect you because you respect yourself enough to not give away your body to their gaze.