It’s always a low point on my Sunday when a pastor or Bishop or Archbishop goes into a tirade about hemlines at some point in his message. This happens week after week at Any Church, globally. My own house of worship is not immune to this scourge. Nevertheless, as a “devoted” member of my congregation, I manage to stoically sit through the man of God’s admonishment of women’s fashion choices which include – but is not limited to – shorts, jeggings, heels, or certain types of deodorant. Can you imagine my horror when I discovered that these sessions that I had relegated to white noise had taken root in my mind and managed to cloud my perception?
There is a woman in my church who is 15 years my senior. She is gorgeous. She has a beautiful family. Her three daughters are intelligent and are as unique in their personalities as they are in their outward attractiveness. The eldest is boho chic, the second born always looks like she stepped out of a Marie Claire photo shoot, and the youngest has adopted an urban fashion vibe for her look. Each, as I said before, is stunning in her own way. I’ve watched them grow and was dismayed to discover that they drive, go to the mall, and engage in all of the mundane pursuits (like working and looking for their first apartment) that women of ages 18-22 should engage in. Their advancement in age is an indicator of my own.
Marveling at how focused and accomplished her children were, I told my friend what a great job she had done in raising her girls. However her second born, Denise*, outshines her sisters in wit and beauty. She’s always been my favorite.
“You’re going to have to put a decoy ring on Denise for when she goes out,” I joked. “I used to wear one when I started riding MARTA.”
My friend snickered. “Yeah. I know what you mean,” she said wryly. “Rachel has to wear one every time she heads out to the grocery store with her little brother. I’m thinking of getting her a fake wedding band.”
I looked at Rachel’s hand and she was indeed wearing a tiny cubic zirconia “engagement ring”. Rachel nodded with upturned lips as her mother described the onslaught of men who approached her daughter at the oddest and most inconvenient times.
“They look at them as see prey,” she concluded. “Even the engagement ring and the sight of her baby brother whom they assume is her child isn’t enough to keep these rascals away. They have no respect. None.”
Her three girls were silent, possibly because each was recalling a time they had been “holla’d at” by some dude and had to find a polite/aggressive/passive way to rebuff unwanted overtures. Their plight, and that of millions of women globally, is why I have very little patience for preachers whose sole focus on morality begins and ends with the conduct of women or the ways in which they dress. God’s anointed generally – and wrongly – assume that dressing like a harlot attracts a certain type of attention, or even that these women are hunting for the attentions of men. I have never put on a whore’s uniform, but I can tell you with certainty that I have been requested to share my phone number after coming out of the gym, in the meat aisle at Publix after leaving church, or while waiting for my train in the dead of winter while being completely covered in a wool coat and boots. Do I think that any of these men wanted my number so that they could pray with me? No. The request for my number and my personal information was in the pursuit of sex.
Ahhh. But no one ever talks about the lusts of men in church.
I came across Candice Benbow’s status on Facebook recently. Her query encapsulates the precarious situations that many women have to navigate just to get through the day and conduct normal business.
She wants to know where women can go and be safe. I would add to that question: Why doesn’t the Church make it a priority for women to feel safe? Why are so few messages aimed at the conduct of men? Your pastor and Any Church probably doesn’t fashion himself a chauvinist, but I divine that either 1) He hasn’t devoted much time to thinking about the pervasive lusts of men or 2) He doesn’t see anything wrong with it.
It’s easier to tell women not to wear high heels or tight skirts and all will be right with the world, you see?
Even the Bible illustrates a ubiquitous rape culture that we have not managed to suppress since humanity began keeping written records. The story of Ruth is one that pastors and pastors’ wives love to use to exhort (older, unmarried) women who have not yet found their Boaz to come rescue them. But even as Boaz rode in to save the day (literally on a horse in this chapter), he revealed something about the nature of men in his locality.
For Boaz to have to have issue a decree telling the young men NOT to touch Ruth means that these dudes had made it a habit of taking liberties with women’s bodies…liberties that Boaz knew Ruth would not appreciate. He was protecting her. Where is the theology that teaches men to protect and honor women’s bodies?
This is where many people who devalue women get stuck. It would be argued by these unexceptional minds that Ruth deserved Boaz’s protection because she was a good woman, not a ho like these female outchea today. Really? And did you know that Jesus was descended from a prostitute and that it was a ho who washed the Son of God’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair while in full on whore regalia? The value of a woman is not in the way she dresses or even how she has to feed herself or her family.
Many of the struggles that the Church has devoted much prayer and head shaking to can be overcome through changing the hearts of men, and particularly changing their attitudes towards women.
You want to stem the tide of abortion? Exhort men to be more holy. After all, there can be no unwanted pregnancy without a penis. If men spent more time honoring their own bodies than trying to break into somebody else’s the abortion center at Planned Parenthood would go out of business.
You want to lift families out of poverty? Encourage men to save and stop wasting money or foolish pursuits like new kicks or cars they can’t afford to fuel.
You want women to be “submissive”? Well then give women something to worthy submit to! I will never council a woman to make herself appear less capable or intelligent than she is just to be a poultice to a man’s ego.
The list is endless. And the work is plenty. Go and talk to your men so that my young friends can browse at the mall in peace. Christ be with you!
Do you attend a progressive church? Does the gospel of morality seem to have more to do with how feminine attire and behavior than anything else? Have you ever had to wear decoy ring? Discuss!