Today, at our monthly church leadership group, somebody brought up the issue of how to dress. Leaders in the church should set the example, he said. How short should the skirts be for women?
Inwardly, I groaned. This again?! When is it going to end? Why do we keep trying to measure holiness by the length of women’s skirts?
So our pastor’s wife, at the suggester’s urging, jumped up on a chair to demonstrate just how short they could be. To her credit, she was unwilling to set a definite length. I appreciated that. She said she would not police it, and neither would her husband. Fine and good. But, she added, “I may ask some of you ladies to do it.” The group laughed. She stressed we needed to be gracious and think about other ladies and their naiveté as well as the men in our congregation. “Men will be the way God made ’em”, she asserted.
Really? Is that all we are? Just stumbling about in our lusts and urges? I expect more from everyone I know, including myself. How Neanderthal are men, really? Is this a form of reverse sexism, thinking men are uncontrollable animals and we need to save them from themselves?
And of course, the guys got some joking talking to. “No tight shirts. No ratty clothes like you’d paint or clean out the garage with”. Big deal. Women don’t have those kind of “sight” issues, usually, unless said guy is wearing a mesh T-shirt. Eww. Never mind.
I am tired of this sexist kind of legalism. It’s the worst. It’s couched in “we have to be decent, we have to set an example” to the church and the world. I am 5’1″ish. My inseam is 28″. I do not wear any skirts below the knee. I will look Amish, or worse, Pentecostal Holiness. And those denominations aren’t any more holy despite long sleeves, no makeup or, in the case of the Amish, lack of zippers. No thanks. My skirts that are too short I banned when I’m on stage, due to length in relation to the height of the platform. I’m okay with that; the worship pastor did a great job being gracious and informative. But if I am out in the congregation, is it as big a deal? I attended an Assemblies of God Bible college. I am familiar with dress codes. The rule was: no tank tops, shorts or leggings on campus. But it didn’t stop people from sneaking off campus and getting into trouble. Do we legislate what people wear in their off time, too? Where does it end?
I want to look nice. I have no desire to be trampy, seductive or enticing. Not my goal in a public setting, and especially not at church. But I dislike being talked to like I’m a little kid. I don’t sit criss-cross-applesauce while in a skirt. I don’t bend over, showing “London and France”. I am not a tease, merely a woman trying to dress up on a Sunday morning to honor God.
I’m wondering now if it’s worth it, this dressing up. Maybe I should just wear jeans or trousers and be done with it. But I don’t want to be scared off skirts and dresses just because some dude has a problem. I am just now starting to feel feminine and I like wearing said skirts and dresses. I was the classic tomboy growing up – jeans, t-shirts, lots of sports. I felt unattractive and, given my pastimes (bottle cap collecting) it made sense to care less about my appearance.
God has done a lot of healing in me, but this feels like a huge step backward. Shouldn’t the guys have to look at us as sisters in Christ, as we treat them as brothers? Obviously, if a new gal comes in, short skirt and bustier front and center, the guys should know how to behave themselves, right? Shouldn’t a fellow female leader be treated with the same respect and kindness?
What if we take a different approach? What if I told a guy he had to wear button-up shirts every Sunday? No T-shirts, turtlenecks or sweaters. Ever. Shirts must be long-sleeved and always with a collar. Our congregation, and indicative of the town, is an especially inked group. How would that go over? “I’m sorry, but tattoos and body hair really are offensive to a lot of people. We need you to cover up.” Would the thought of purchasing several new shirts at a pretty sizable expense and feeling conspicuous be off-putting to the men?
Ultmately, the idea that we need to have standards for leadership – modesty, propriety – is admirable, even desirable. I think it merits thought and discussion. But putting it into practice is tricky at best. Everyone wants it, but it’s next to impossible to define, as is true holiness.