And, having no common sense whatsoever, I'm feeling the need to chime in on this topic.
Now, don't anybody go and get their dander up!
There are compelling arguments on both sides of the issue, and I'm going to plunk myself squarely down in the middle of them. I mother ten children and if I don't know about diplomacy and how to make the medicine go down, well, I guess nobody does. (I'm smiling; are y'all smiling? That "medicine" part got some of you grimacing a little, I know...)
Don't worry. I've been in the middle of this one and am not in the mood to cram anything down anyone's throats. I think all of us here in the Catholic (and conservative Christian) circles have heard the reasons for wearing dresses exclusively, but there are some very good arguments on the pants side, too. Here's how it generally goes:
- Dresses/skirts are more modest, and eliminate the whole "custody of the eyes" issue for men.
Can be countered with: Properly fitted slacks should not cause this problem in men who are not perverted. Many women are careful to wear long sweaters or tunic length shirts over their slacks to solve the problem, anyway, thus making the outfit doubly modest. If a girl/woman wants to go skiing, bike riding, sledding, mountain climbing, horseback riding (you name the activity), pants are obviously more modest, due to the possiblity of flying skirts. They are also warmer in the winter.
Which can be countered with: But women wore skirts for centuries and it was no problem. The Sisters we know participate in practically every sport known to man or woman in full habit and whup up on us pants-clad women with complete modesty. I expect they wear long johns in the winter.
Which, of course will be countered with: But this is the 21st century and our social mores and customs have evolved. And I'm not a nun.
Main Point #2
- The demise of the social expectation for women to wear skirts reflects the immorality of our time, the disintigration of proper gender roles and the destruction of the family.
Can be countered with: Social customs in all things, including dress, have changed over the centuries. Even though styles may have changed with the times, that doesn't make the styles inherently evil. Those of us who have a moral compass and who lead good Christian lives do not adopt immodest or improper fashions, anyway. Just because I wear jeans doesn't make me a homewrecking feminist. Besides, is it not true that one very prominent non-Christian religion promotes extreme modesty and a certain understanding of women's gender roles? Does it follow that these people lead exemplary lives?
Which can be countered with: Even though the styles are not inherently evil, we can set a good example by our choice of dress. More formal attire bespeaks a better disciplined population. If you appear in public dressed in a modest and feminine fashion, you send out the signal that you are proud to be a woman and to fulfill the role that God gave you. You will also be greeted with a respect different than that given to women who dress casually. And, by the way, a false religion promoting a good practice does not make the practice evil.
Which of course will be countered with: Shouldn't I be setting a good example with my behaviour? Aren't we taught not to judge a book by its cover? How can you say that I am not proud that I am a woman fulfilling my God-given vocation just because I wear slacks? Especially if they're pink slacks worn with a flowered blouse, earrings, a necklace and painted fingernails? You can't get much more feminine than that. And how do you explain kilts?
Anyway, see what I mean? It can go on and on. I've heard it all. But, you know what the bottom line is? There is no Church defined line in the sand on women's wearing or not wearing slacks. It's not against a Commandment or a Precept. and no encyclical pronounces specifically against them. I looked. It is, therefore, not inherently evil to choose to wear slacks. Each family, and then each little girl when she grows up to be a woman, needs to make an informed decision based on the general modesty guidelines given to us by the Church and our own common sense, discerning eyes, and good mirrors.
In our family, we let the activity determine the appropriate attire. If the little girls are going outside to do flips on the jungle gym, they wear modest pants or leggins under their skirts. Same for hiking, tree climbing, bike riding and sledding. If we are going out in deep snow, we wear pants to keep our hems from dragging in it. It just seems prudent to me. Our ancestors, I think, would have been glad of the opportunity to do likewise.
But, if we have no reason to wear slacks, we wear skirts or dresses. We wear dresses pretty much anytime we're doing things inside, or going to a movie, shopping, visiting grandparents, etc. And, of course we give Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament the respect He is due by dressing in our best for Him, even if it's a bit inconvenient; He's worth it we think.
Incidentally, but not insignificantly...
The only argument for wearing dresses exclusively that I have ever heard that has no counter argument is this one:
Give it as a sacrifice out of love for our Blessed Mother and in reparation for all the sins committed against her Immaculate Heart.
How can you argue with that other than to say, "I just don't want to do that."
I'm ashamed of myself because that's what I've been saying a lot lately. I've been wavering on my resolve to make this sacrifice, though I've done it off and on for years. It's not a strict resolution I would force on my daughters, as I think that that kind of sacrifice is something you must choose yourself. But, it's one I'm going to try harder to stick to in 2008.
Except if we go sledding again.