I don’t own any “church clothes”. This point will become relevant shortly.
It’s been two years since I attended church regularly, which is almost a sin because my husband is a deacon. My work schedule (which I confess I chose) had me in-store during the hours of service. I changed my schedule a little over a month ago, realizing that I needed a dose of Jesus more than that $36 I earned in those few hours.
Because I haven’t been to church in so long and because I have developed a passionate love for cookies, pizza and chocolate in the last two years, I have outgrown all of my “proper” church attire. Depending on what denomination of Christianity one ascribes to, proper attire can run the gamut from boxy dresses, to trouser suits, or even jeans if your house of worship is liberal enough.
This past Sunday I wore jeggings.
Turns out this was a no-no.
Now, for all the members of my church who surreptitiously read my blog and try to act like I don’t know you DO read it, I heard everything else Bishop said about Christ dwelling in our hearts and giving and so forth. But when he pointed out “tight pants” while casting a side glance in my direction, it caused me to think on other things: specifically men’s opinions on women’s fashion.
As a re-converted Christian, I try to draw a little attention to myself as possible while in religious circles. However this Sunday, fate would have me sitting in the very front row of the church – what preachers refer to as ‘spitting distance’ – because one of my friends is an elder and her husband was out of town. She motioned for me to come sit with her on Elders Row. I obeyed.
I have made no bones about my struggle with weight. And with that struggle comes the hardship of how to clothe such a large body frugally. I have recently come to discover jeggings, which are stretchy and very comfortable. Paired with a thigh length tunic (or long sweater as was the case this Sunday) I find that I look respectable enough and am quite comfortable. I know this because I never get second glances from other women. It is the approval of other women that most women seek, which is a point that is missed by most men.
I admire my Bishop, I really do, however like many men he has no clue what influences women’s fashion or tastes, or even what brings a woman pleasure. Oddly, pastors, who overwhelmingly tend to me male, seem to have a conviction that they understand the nuances of the female existence and comment on it liberally. I remember one there was a story of some pastor in Ghana who got on the radio and said that a man should never perform oral sex on a woman because “that is the place she menstruates from”. Yet another American pastor said that oral sex should be forbidden because “you’re putting your mouth on/in an environment where you will later praise God from.” Well, considering that the same hands I’ve used to wipe poo for the last seven years are very often raised in worship to Almighty God, I fail to see the relevance in that line of logic. I need oral stimulation to climax and my babies have all needed thei bums cleaned.
I listened obediently and politely while my Bishop talked about women – and there may some in this church – who follow trends like this tight pants where you can “see all your stuff”. Who are you dressing like that for? Just because a man is old doesn’t mean he doesn’t have eyes to see! And what kind of man do you think you are attracting with that mode of dress?
I stared down the row and looked at the five women seated, two of whom were past their bloom. Both firmly in their 60s, they both had on boxy trouser suits and sensible shoes. The woman following wore a pea green skirt suit with fishnet stockings. My elder friend had on a dress with a jacket and 4 inch black patent leather platform heels. And there was me in my jeggings. I’d wager my first born child that none of us got up that morning wondering what a man would think of what we were wearing.
Here’s how I know, and I invite anyone to tell me why and how I’m wrong.
When a girl in the fourth grade gets dressed for school, she dresses so that other girls won’t tease her and call her names. She wants to fit in with the crowd and be accepted by her female peers. If a boy notices, great! But overall she wants the approval of other girls.
This changes in high school, when girls are more sexually driven and carries on up to about age 25 when a woman thinks she just HAS to have a man.
Thereafter, we go back to dressing for other women and more importantly for OURSELVES. Here is my thought process when I put on clothes in the morning:
- Is it going to be cold/hot?
- Is it comfortable?
- If I have to pee, will I be able to get this thing off in time?
- Is it comfortable?
- Would I look at another woman dressed as I am right now and say “Dag. Didn’t she have a friend to tell her shouldn’t have left the house like that?”
Then I put on my clothes and leave. The idea of what a man might or might not think will never factor into the equation. You know why? Men don’t care about what a woman is wearing. They care about getting her naked. I know this because I have been hit on while dressed in the following attire:
A skirt and blouse
What did any of those outfits have in common? Nothing except some dude saw me in them!
The sermon led me to have a conversation with my husband on what he thought on the matter. He too was of the opinion that women dress to attract me. I also gave birth to an imaginary baby. What utter nonsense!
“The problem is, we live in a culture that infantilizes women,” I growled. “Men, the media, and even some other women think we all as a sex are stuck at the age of 18-25. That our ONE goal in life is to impress and capture some MAN.”
I was pacing and he was nodding.
“I can tell you right now: when I wake up and get my day started, what you think of how I look doesn’t even filter into my head! And furthermore, if a man sees an attractive woman out there ‘advertising’ with whatever she’s wearing and strays, the burden of guilt is on HIM, not her!”
On that point he disagreed. He vehemently holds that women who dress in a certain way bear responsibility for the attention they attract. Whatever, says I.
Why aren’t men held to these same standards, I wonder? Outside of the baggy pants issue, which we all agree is slovenly, men’s fashion and the concept of “decency” is never a topic of discussion. Women have always had to fight this silly battle with regard to clothing, starting from riding a horse astride, which as once considered “vulgar”.
So dear reader: in your view, do women dress to impress other women or for the sole purpose of attracting or pleasing men? When you look at your closet and eventually in the mirror, what makes you pleased with what you see? Are you looking with the eyes of others or do you judge yourself? Discuss!
And yes, I will be wearing jeggings at church in the future. I figure if it’s good enough for work, it’s good enough for worship. Same God who gave me my job doesn’t object when I have to wear jeggings to work and pay my tithes…