“What is your opinion about girls wearing pants to church. Does it differ if it’s youth service?”
To my readers who have a background other than Christian fundamentalism, this question may seem a bit odd, or even silly, however, there are plenty of Christian groups that do make a big deal out of women wearing pants. I spent my whole life in churches where there was an extreme amount of fascination and fixation with clothes, with the things that are external and can be seen. There were a long discourse in the culture, and often good points were mentioned such as sexual promiscuity and women or men dressing in ways that highlighted sensuality and revealed the body generously. However, much of the time, the argument were superfluous, ignorant, and promoted legalism by letting the “holy” Christians (who lived by certain man-made rules) compare themselves to other faithful believers who didn’t.
I once heard of a European pastor who was flying on an airplane (as opposed to superman style) with his wife, and when the people next seat over found out he was a Christian, they were shocked that his wife wasn’t wearing a long skirt. In his re-telling of the story, they quizzically asked him “aren’t Christians those strange people who wear really long skirts?” The cultural mandate that some Christian groups have enforced, has pushed people away from the Gospel. In the eyes of outsiders it has minimalized Christianity to a strange dress code. In the eyes of many church members it has reduced salvation to a matter of obeying church rules, such as the wearing of certain clothes. Of course wearing skirts, or ties (or v-necks for that matter) is probably not evil, and a church can certainly decide to enforce such a policy, however, there will be a price to pay, starting from the rebellious teenagers who can’t understand why an “Unbiblical” rule is being enforced, ending with the nonbeliever who is afraid to seek help within the church because of the strange dress code.
Below are the three main issues that are argued where women are forbidden to wear pants.
1. The Bible says so?
It had often been touted that the Bible specifically teaches that women can only wear skirts or dresses and any alternative is an abomination. The proponents of such a (fantastic) view use Deut 22:5 to argue their point. And indeed upon first glance, it almost appears that the Bible does forbid men to wear women’s clothing, and vice versa. So the argument would conclude, men wear pants, so women must wear skirts. Not so fast. Who said pants are for me? In fact who invented pants? And did the people of the Bible actually had or wore pants? A lot of these question need to set the background before we can start understanding what the Bible teaches. First, pants were not worn by the people of the Bible. That includes Jesus. Actually, the Son of God wore a robe, in our culture one might call it a dress. Second, the first use of pants in history, worn by some Central Asian and Iranian people of 6 BCE, were a clothing item for both sexes (Lever, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. Thames and Hudson, 1995, 2010. p. 15). Thirdly, the Bible does not speak of pants at all! The passage in Deut 22:5 speaks of cross dressing, men wearing “women’s” clothing in an attempt to look like a woman. If a man wore some women’s jeans, he would actually be guilty of the sin referenced in Deut 22:5. Interesting, while women who wear pants are called “cross-dressers” by some men/groups, if those men put on women’s jeans, they would also be “cross-dressers” by their own rules. How they came up with this, I wont even venture.
2. Culturally not Feminine?
Clothes are important, and they have many functions. If you take a sociocultural/antropological class, you will find clothes have served a very strong purpose in maintaining order and identifying people in primitive societies. Even today your dress reflects the person you are, the culture you belong to, and very importantly, the gender you are. It has often been argued that women who wear pants look very masculine and therefore pants are sin. (I usually think “well that escalated quickly” and hope they don’t look at me and make the jump from “we don’t like your hair” to “your hair is sin”). God gifted male and female bodies with differences in shape and appearances, so thankfully its easy enough to tell who’s who without clothes. And yet, clothing in every society reflects the feminine and the masculine, whatever shape or style it is. Irish men wear kilts (skirts) while Indian women wear pants. However, in both cultures, the way these items are worn, the way they are designed (dark manly kilts vs flowery feminine pants), and the standards, known by all, differentiate between the sexes. To conclude, as long as clothes serve to differentiate between the sexes and everyone knows where the difference is, the pants vs skirts argument fails as it depends merely on a persons perception.
3. Not very modest?
This is the most pressing part of the issue. It is alleged that pants are always more immodest than skirts. First off I will say both pants and skirts have the potential of being immodest (for details please see The Modesty Survey), however, to claim that pants are always worse, is simply hogwash. So lets look at one picture, see the picture below and consider which woman is likely to reveal more of her body? Which woman is likely to be more immodest? The one in pants, on the left? Uh-huh and I am Einstein’s grandson.
I sumbit to you that there are most definitely cases where pants are much more modest than skirts.