Monday, December 20, 2004

Women and Modesty

The discussion on my Biblewives List lately has been on the issue of modesty and whether or not this requires women to wear dresses only. A number of links were put forward that make the case that a woman who wears pants is a scandalous and immodest woman.

The automatic assumption of the authors is that pants or trousers are an item of clothing that automatically belong to men as a cultural universal. The Chinese women took to wearing them precisely for reasons of modesty when working in the rice paddies because a dress could float up around them and expose them as they work. Pakistani women wear trousers under their long tunics (which are identical to those the men wear except in detail) as a means of being modest. To demand that they forgo using them would be to offend their conscience and cause a scandal in their culture.

Another thing that stands out to me is that the forbidding of women of wearing that which pertains to a man seens to work only in one direction. When men and women wear clothing that is relatively similar (as the robes and tunics of Biblical times were), then we might as well accuse the men of being feminine in their attire as accuse the women of trying to cross dress if they wear something that is similar to a man's item of clothing. The authors draw their conclusions far beyond what was the actual *uncondemned* practice of men and women wearing similar items of clothing that existed in the times of the OT and the apostles!

Many of these articles use the "argument from abuse" to make their point. IOW, because a thing *may* be used to the point of abuse, if we forbid its use altogether, then we eliminate its abuse as well. I also find them to be somewhat confusing. On the one hand women are not to dress in a way that is explicit in terms of being sexually alluring to men, and with this I agree. But some of them seem to take it to the extreme that women are to totally disguise their feminine form so that we do not appear to be women, but do so in such a way that we are maintaining a feminine form of dress so that people don't think we are men. One is almost tempted to take issue with the Maker for making women's bodies in such a way as makes it difficult to disguise!!!!

We are responsible to dress in a way that is modest and not designed to attract men sexually. However, that doesn' t make us guilty of causing every wayward thought that a man has. To the pure all things are pure. The converse is true as well. In my youth I was a member of a Canadian forces Service Battalion and some of the men there could turn anything and everything into something with a sexual twist, including a modestly dressed neck-to-knees clad woman with a kerchief on her head.

Articles like the ones I read help to drive the feminist engine. Nearly all the responsibility for preventing men from sinning appears to rest on the shoulders of Christian women in how they dress. Very little is said about the responsibility Christian men have for making a covenant with their eyes not to look where they shouldn't be looking. After all, the temptations are all around us in the way that ungodly women dress and the magazine covers that abound. Modestly dressed Christian women won't prevent a man from lusting in his heart if he is freely looking at the cover of Cosmopolitan or ogling the babe in the tight skirt on the corner.

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