The Great Pants Debate

In response to a certain missive making the rounds in reference to ladies’ fashion — and, more specifically, why dresses and skirts should be the norm for Catholic women — Simcha Fisher has one word: pants.

A few selections from her Pantifesto:

1.  I live in NH, where winter happens.  Pants.

4. Motherhood is a blue collar job.  I don’t care what style of dress or skirt you’re wearing, there is no way to be modest while dealing efficiently with the routine emergencies that normal children engender –  children who, as a normal mode of expression, flail their limbs around like some kind of oversized, malevolent eggbeater, right at your hemline.  Today, I had to lunge halfway across the room to rescue my toddler, who had launched herself from an armchair at a glass gerbil tank.  I was able to lunge without pausing to consider whether my movements were graceful and feminine; and I didn’t worry, while lunging, about flashing the men in the room.  Pants.

9.  If you are so concerned about how I think about myself, then why don’t you ask me what I actually think, instead of telling me what you know I will think if I only listen to you?  Not that you asked, but I’ll tell you how I think about myself:  I think that my life got a lot better when I started making reasonable decisions for myself, instead of always wondering if I’m going to disappoint some hypothetical man.  I care profoundly what my husband thinks about me, and naturally that affects how I feel about myself.  Pants.

You must read the entire hilarious thing.

Speaking as someone who loves a good skirt, that there even is such a thing as a serious “Say No to Lady Pants” argument makes me giggle. For those women who find skirts and dresses to be more flattering, more feminine, more comfortable, etc., I say great! Wear them with pride. (But only the pride becoming to a virtuous Catholic woman, of course.) Same goes for the pant-wearers. Surely we can happily coexist without disparaging one another’s reasonable choices.

Modesty is absolutely a moral issue, but as Simcha points out, pants are not. To say otherwise is to veer dangerously close to “You Must Have X Number of Children to Be Really Catholic” territory. Do what works for you, and let others do the same.

Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

  • Marthe L

    It has always surprised me that some people still think that if men are allowed to see that women walk on two legs like them, this can be a disturbing sight, and even a source of temptation, for men… Actually I think that that kind of opinion is just another way of looking at women as sex objects… What a woman (or a man)wears should be a matter of personal choice and of practicality (within the limits of basic decency, of course).

  • Brennan

    I read both articles. As a man, I can say I identified with the original article (for skirts) when the author states “2. Do this for us, the minority of chaste men who merit the gift of enjoying your beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation. Make it so it is good for men to look upon you, rather than requiring us to look away (which is a tragedy).” I have noticed that one is able to appreciate a woman’s beauty without it being lustful more easily when the woman is in a skirt or a dress. A dress tends to highlight the overall beauty and femininity of a woman while most pants tend to draw attention to specific body parts. At the very least, hopefully discussions like this will get the younger generation of woman thinking more about what they wear. As of now it seems that many are oblivious to the effect of what they wear has on men.

  • Brian Mershon

    Wow! What a really well-reasoned and thought out response. {SARC ON}

  • Marthe L

    Is not it about time that we begin to teach boys self-control and respect, so they can interact with women as human beings? I am extremely tired of hearing men blaming women for their lustful thoughts. In addition, in the course of my life, I have met some men who will be even more lustfully interested in a woman the more she has covered herself; apparently, for some, it is more fun for them as they try to imagine what is under the clothing (believe me, I am not making it up). A man who chooses to entertain lustful thoughts is responsible for his own choice.

  • Sally

    So turn it around. Should women admire the successful, handsome, dapper Wall Street banker type in a Savile Row suit? What a beautiful object that man is -in his well made, handsome suit, how masculine, how successful, what a provider he must be! I bet he makes a lot of money!
    The men that objectify women by either looking at them lustfully because they are wearing pants or wishing that they were wearing a sack cloth are no different than gold digging women. They objectify the person.

  • Mrs. F

    I generally consider myself to be pretty traditional, but after reading both articles, I’m not sure the author who is pushing for a pantless female society is in touch with reality. Finding modest skirts can be hard, and though wearing the skirt might not be uncomfortable, wouldn’t the same idea of modesty require soemthing like nylons or tights (no bare ankles, under there, please). He may have worn a kilt (and I bet not day-in and day-out) but he’s never had to deal with panty hose.
    I never feel as modest in a skirt as I do in pants. I feel covered in pants. In a skirt, even an ankle-length skirt, I feel bare under there. I’ll choose jeans or slacks almost anyday over a skirt. Skirts are for special occasions (Dresses are right-out, since I’m still breastfeeding. Try finding dresses with tops that are breastfeeding friendly anywhere. They don’t sell them at Sears, I’m pretty sure.)
    My husband does chime in on clothes, pretty often. He has good taste, for both of us, but he wouldn’t dream of choosing everything that I wear.
    And I agree with Simcha’s #1. Here, winter means ten below with forty-mph wind. If my husband is at work, I clear the driveway, haul in groceries and walk the dog in that weather. Pants.
    I do know what immodest pants he’s talking about. They’re usually found on teens and twenty-somethings. They’re too tight, cut so low that bending over gives a peek of panty and/or crack, and no, they aren’t flattering or modest. I doubt most Christian women who are thoughtful about modesty are wearing these. On the other hand, ther are lots of teeny skirts out there for the wearing, low skirts, high hemline skirts, skirts that show off knees and ankles and quite a bit of thigh once someone sits down. Those who wish to dress modestly will find modest dresses, skirts, and pants. Those who do not will find something immodest no matter what piece of clothing is worn.

  • Brennan

    Brian Mershon,

    Was your Sarc On comment in regard to my post? If so, maybe you could elaborate on the reason for your sarcasm.

  • Tony Esolen

    I don’t feel strongly about this; my daughter has worn nothing but skirts since she was five, and my wife wears pants every day but Sunday.

    One thing bothers me: Women who say it’s about time for men to grow up and stop thinking of women as sex objects. That is precisely why we’d like you all to be modest in your dress. I once asked my wife about how many times in an hour she supposed some thought about sex would enter my mind (this was in my 30’s; thank God for middle age). She said, “Maybe four or five times?” I said, “How about once a minute?” Remember, dear ladies, our fallen nature. We are weak in this respect. You are weak in other respects. The rule by Saint Paul must hold sway: Do not put a stumbling-block in the path of your brother.

  • Simcha Fisher

    Tony, I agree with you. The anti-pants stuff is stupid, but even stupider is the “My eyes are up HERE, buddy” attitude when you’re wearing a skin-tight shirt. Men are men, and I actually like them that way.

    My husband doesn’t even think that it’s a sign of fallen nature — it’s just what men are like (and the fallen-ness comes in when they act inappropriately on that nature).

    As I said elsewhere: I fully agree that women should think carefully about their dress, and about the effect their appearance has on men

  • David

    One thing bothers me: Women who say it’s about time for men to grow up and stop thinking of women as sex objects. That is precisely why we’d like you all to be modest in your dress. I once asked my wife about how many times in an hour she supposed some thought about sex would enter my mind (this was in my 30’s; thank God for middle age). She said, “Maybe four or five times?” I said, “How about once a minute?” Remember, dear ladies, our fallen nature. We are weak in this respect. You are weak in other respects. The rule by Saint Paul must hold sway: Do not put a stumbling-block in the path of your brother.

    What bothers me is when men assume that all other men think about sex constantly. I’m a normal guy married to a gorgeous woman who I adore. While it has always been a challenge to stay pure in my thoughts, after I left my teenage days I left the stage where I was thinking about sex constantly. That doesn’t mean I never think about it, or don’t get annoyed when women are completely inappropriate in how they act or dress.

    If you’re a guy who’s thinking about sex once a minute, or even once every five minutes, it has nothing to do with how a woman is dressed, it has to do with something in you. Men seem to struggle more with visual images, but this excuse that all men are on the verge of sexual thoughts 24-7 is way off-base. I had this discussion with men’s group and while some were more sexually-obsessed than others, we admitted that we are often reluctant to admit to problems in ourselves and like to blame women. Some of us may like sex but that doesn’t mean we are sex-mongers who constantly think about sex when we look at women.

  • Margaret

    Yes, the post was amusing but I don’t think you should send people to that website. Other posts on the front page of her blog include videos of drag queens. Who wants to look at something like that? Not me…

  • smf

    Strangely, at one point in history men’s fashion involved rather form fitting clothing, while women’s fashion was generally somewhat less form fitting. Check these trends and reversals from at least the 18th century till now. Recently it swung around the other way and at its extreme boys were wearing pants 7 sizes to large, T-shirts that could serve as roman tunics if worn with a belt, and the like. Now there is something of a counter trend again. Maybe we should all just wear long flowing robes, togas, saris and the like that don’t reveal anything much on anyone. What exactly makes pants masculine anyways? They certainly aren’t feminine per se, but I am not convinced they are masculine either. More like unisex, or un-sexed, ungendered or hermaphrodite.

  • smf

    Also, the mini skirt isn’t much of an issue in the day to day world, at least around here. Tiny athletic type shorts have largely replaced the mini skirt in the place of “highly revealing day to day wear” among girlds and young women.

    I don’t think most people want to be immodest, or anything like that. I think it is combination of following cultural norms, modeling their peers, lack of thought, and the desire to at times either fit in or stand out.

    At my home parish there was a great to-do about the youth group and their clothing choices at mass not long ago. It was particularly an issue with the youth who had roles at the mass that made them rather visible. Both the boys and the girls needed tips on more respectable clothing. Now they tend to still dress very casual, but at least the the worst of the immodest, or the grungy, or the innapropriate (think T-shirts with slogans and images, and girls with things written on their shorts, etc.) has been corrected, even if only just.

    I don’t always set the perfect example in all things myself, that is most certainly the truth. Yet we do seem to have a particular duty to set good examples for others and reinforce the positive in what others are doing. This can set the tone for appropriate dress in most setting without creating some kind of repressive environment with lots of ruls.

  • Sherry

    Appropriateness is key. Although I prefer skirts or dresses, especially for church, pants are more appropriate for many situations. However, whether skirts or pants, they should be modest. In a lot of cases, the problem is one of style and/or fit. So often in church, especially, (because you stand behind people for periods of time), you see pants on both men and women that are too small and bunched up. Not only is it unattractive but it can also be unduly revealing. If it’s a matter of having gained weight without adjusting one’s wardrobe, one can wear a top that covers the problem area. Speaking of tops, these days it seems that it is difficult to shop for tops as so many are extremely low cut. My sister, a teacher, said they have a real problem with inappropriate clothing that is overly distracting. And yes, “man”s” fallen nature is a factor – immodest clothing – whether on men or women – can be a problem that need not be.

  • KyPerson

    I am an active woman. I love to hike and you simply can’t do that in a skirt. I wear long pants in the winter – it’s cold here. I wear bermuda shorts and capris in the summer – it’s hot here. I am neat and modest and that’s enough for me.

  • Abby

    …it’s about how Catholic ultra-traditionalist men have wounded the women they’ve influenced. That’s why the CatholiCity article hit a nerve, and that’s why so many people were relieved to read Simcha’s post.

  • ddent

    Has anyone else noticed that the overarching frame of reference of the female respondents on this pants debate is, “it’s all about me!” Most of the responses defending the wearing of pants by women are uncharitable in content, if not intent. “I don’t care that the pants thingee is feminist, theatric, industrialist in its origins, in other words, the culture of death, and maybe on that count alone deserves reconsideration. I don’t care that I am presenting a near occasion of sin to my brothers in Christ, in Church, as well as in society, forget about the other males in the area who are not Christian, and are not likely to be given my behavior. I don’t care that women wearing pants is a prime example of double standard, that I want men and the culture around me to respect my virtue, my femininity and my child-bearing responsibilities but I’m going to dress “Lindsey Lohan” anyway. I don’t care because this is all about me. You men must uphold your traditional responsibilities and your Christian charity towards me and my daughters but I can do anything I want to just plain avoid taking responsibility for anything my dress and my behavior generate.” To that kind of Hollywood thinking (or not-thinking), quote (horrors) St. Paul. Was it not he that said something to the effect that as a Christian all things were licit to him, but if his eating of meat caused his weakened brother to sin, while the world standeth, he should eat no meat lest he caused his brother to sin. I see precious little of any concern in this debate for sin, precious little concern for brothers in Christ struggling in a culture of death against sin themselves; precious little concern for being a party to another’s sin, especially if the other is requesting charity and understanding.

  • MRA

    So I take it we have Mr. Bud McFarlane to thank for the original jewel of a piece? Hmph. I thought he’d dropped out of the Catholic marriage and gender role advice business.

    I find it interesting that he can’t seem to make up his mind whether he’s against pants because they’re too sexy (“almost every style of pants reveals private information about your figure (by way of contour”) or not sexy enough (” the attractiveness of your female figure is virtually always enhanced” by skirts).

    But perhaps the very creepiest bit was the part where he said that although choosing his womenfolk’s clothes is properly a man’s job, he may of course sometimes choose to “delegate” it.

    You really can’t make this stuff up.

  • Becca Balmes

    ddent & others: you’re right. It’s all about me. It’s all about how I’m not willing to wear a burqa or a denim jumper (same thing, in my opinion) because you think the vision of me herding my kids through the grocery store or hanging around the playground in my baggy mom-jeans is causing men lustful thoughts. If that’s the case, you’ve got bigger problems with the sin of lust than I, and I do not hold myself responsible for your issues.

  • Donna

    about how pants should never be worn by women because they are temptation to men, etc., I think of a news incident I heard about on the radio some years ago. A young woman was on a 12 hour plane flight. Sensibly enough, she fell asleep. She awoke to find a male fellow passenger attempting to sexually assault her. He had not managed because the zipper on her jeans had jammed, and his tugging had awakened her.
    Horrific as that poor girl’s experience was, it probably would have been worse if the sicko had been able to gently slide up a skirt.

  • Donna

    do these people who are so vehement about women not wearing ‘men’s clothing’ condemn St. Jeanne d’Arc ? smilies/grin.gif

  • Michelle

    I stopped reading after reason #1. We’re to wear skirts and dresses because it’s more pleasing to the menfolk as our figures are better enhanced.

    If the rest is all about how women are all evil temptresses luring those saintly, holy, virtuous men to a firey eternity, that would only confirm my suspicion this dude is NOT someone it would be safe to be alone with.

  • Marthe L

    I wonder if all these men who like to condemn anything a woman does that does not meet the traditional men-serving pattern are realizing that they are the ones to claim: me-me, while the women are asking: me-too?
    And to those who claim that skirts always enhance a woman’s natural beauty: What about the older ones, like myself, who actually prefer trying to hide swollen, varicosed ankles and calves? In addition to wearing comfortable clothes that make it easier to do such things as getting on and off city buses… particularly on a windy day. And I was about to mention that it is definitely easier to rape a woman wearing a skirt, but Donna has done it first…

  • Aaron

    Points against Mr. MacFarlane:
    1) The man is obviously discredited by disgraceful treatment of his family.
    2) He takes the paterfamilias’ monarchy to risible extremes (I am responsible for every decision this family makes, unless I delegate it to one of my underlings).
    3) He greatly overreaches in an attempt to make a point (sorry ladies, denim jumpers may make you more recognizably feminine, but they do not accentuate your beauty).

    Points against Mrs. Fischer:
    1)She dismisses the case against pants wholesale because it is presented poorly.
    2)Like most women, she greatly underestimates the degree to which women’s attire affects men (even if we back off Dr. Esolen’s “once a minute” number, the plain fact is that women really tend not to understand how visual and physical men are).
    3)Most importantly, I feel, to the whole discussion, she uses today’s culture as a baseline for both feminine attire and modesty, which need not be incorrect but is dangerous when done entirely on assumption.

    It’s that last point that stands at the heart of not simply the great pants debate but, I believe, all of our modern intra-Catholic discussions of modesty. We probably all agree that what is modest is determined situationally/culturally (C.S. Lewis and John Paul II both opined, IIRC, that in some contexts it is not immodest for a woman to walk around bare-chested, for instance), and I think we also agree that standards of what clothing counts as masculine and feminine are similarly relative (there have been plenty of cultures throughout time and space where men have worn what today’s manly-men would disparage as dresses – including MacFarlane’s beloved kilt). But even with those stipulations on the table, we cannot get around the fact that today’s forms and standards of female dress are the result not of gradual evolutions in fashion but of conscious revolution against societal norms. That revolution sought, among other things, to transgress against gender differentiation and sexual mores. In other words, the fashion we have to day is the direct ancestor of women trying to prove they were just as manly as the guys while simultaneously advertising themselves as the village bicycle. I don’t care how much we grant to shifting cultural norms, that’s a change in dress that MUST be questioned seriously by thinking Catholics. I don’t think the conclusions of that thinking are clear at this point – the cat is, after all, out of the bag, and we have developed women’s pants that are both recognizably feminine and, in some though not all cases, decently modest – but we can’t just assume that because good Catholic women now wear pants all the time that the status quo ought to remain unchallenged.

  • Michelle

    Aaron, the guy is completely discredited because the words he wrote reflect the mentality of a rapist.

    End of story.

    And if all these delicate little flowers who are passing themselves off as men would man up, grow a pair, and take some responsibility for themselves, this wouldn’t be an issue. This schmuck is such a loon he basically wants women to wear clothes that turn him on and also make it easier for him to, at the same time, rape them and then blame them for his crime.

    This discussion is disgusting and no decent human being lends credence to this kind of thinking by taking it even remotely seriously.

  • Kamilla

    Waking up to find a pervert fiddling with the zipper on your jeans is hardly an argument for women wearing pants. On a 12-hour plane flight, *I’d* have had an entirely different problem if my zip had gotten stuck smilies/wink.gif Someone once tried that little trick wtih me (on the subway in London). I simply threatened to break his instep with my well-healed foot raise over his and he slunk away at the next stop.

    Let’s face it, ladies, we find pants a convenience and let’s admit that on Saturday mornings there is little so comfortable as slipping into an old pair of jeans for a trip to the supermarket. While pants are undeniably comfortable and sometimes unduly sexy, they are never (and especially now with the return of that hideous garment known as the stirrup pant) attractively feminine.

    I am sure to be misunderstood here, and please note that I am *not* advocating a return to bustles and corsets, and certainly not arguing we should completely hide our feminine form under burquas or denim jumpers. The point is to strike an attractive middle between being unduly revealing and flour-sack concealing. If you can’t tell who is under the garment it may be more concealing than necessary. On the other hand, if your wardrobe requires special undergarments (or, indeed, none at all), then you probably should consider it too revealing.

    Thanks to Tony Esolen for getting the point of the argument (as he invariably does on these matters). Men and women are different and I don’t intend to return to my past of jeans (and short hair) — I’ll stick with my skirts because I rather like the way I get treated when men notice that difference.


  • Michelle

    Kamilla, the animal who wrote that letter clearly wants the women in his purview to have clearly defined “feminine” figures (as in he wants to make sure he can see their breasts and hips outlined) in order to be pleasng to HIM.

    I’m sorry, but when I go to Mass, I am there for God, not to be pleasing to some sexually perverted creep.

    This notion that a clearly feminine and figure defining skirt or dress is more modest than clearly feminine and figure defining pants or jeans is ludicrous.

    Some of us, too, Kamilla, don’t require “special undergarments” to wear a pair of pants OR a dress without looking like the Pilsbury Doughboy.

    Personally, I think anyone here who thinks they have the right to dictate what other people wear based on their very subjective (and perhaps criminally inclined…) tastes should post their picture in one of their perfect little outfits so everyone can judge them and their figure and their appeal.

    Also, the most frumpily dressed man or woman in the world can be guilty of terrible sexual sins regardless.

    Yes, dress appropriately for every occasion, but to think pants are de facto inappropriate on a woman for Mass is beyond stupid.

  • Mark

    Here is a photo of the young lady who was a victim of an inordinate amount of attention from the New York Jets during a recent practice.

  • Michelle

    Mark — your point being she deserved it?

    If so, then you’ve only affirmed my belief that the guy who wrote this letter and every man who supports it in any way is a rapist at heart.

  • Sarah S

    While it’s undeniably true that articles Mr. MacFarlane’s fill me with an almost irresistable urge to jump into a pair of Wranglers and ride me a horse down Main Street, I do have the following bones to pick with Simcha and some of the commenters…

    1) I live in the Rocky Mountains. I have shovelled snow, and walked to Mass in sub-zero temperatures. I have even been frostbitten. All in a skirt…(and no, pants would not have prevented the frostbite, although gloves may have. Ah, for the days when true ladies never ventured out of the house without their daint gloves securely in place…)

    2) I have five children, almost six, and most of them are small and naughty. I have yet to worry about being too revealing when chasing them down, or even when hoisting my six foot, pregnant frame up off the floor (my most common location). I have, however, found it tricky to achieve these feats modestly in pants. Maybe I’m an aberration, but there you go.

    3) I have hiked in the afore mentioned Rockies, as well as the Cascades of the Northwest and the coastal ranges of California in skirts. Without difficulty.

    Okay, bone picking over. I do love reading Simcha, thanks for posting it! Now, where’s my horse….

  • Margaret

    I completely understand the concept of women taking into consideration the lustful nature of men. I also understand the concept of women who think they should be allowed to walk around nearly naked and not feel threatened. Both concepts exist within the boundaries of a perfect world but both are somewhat juvenile in their reasoning.

    And as a woman, I too, am often put off by how some women dress. A woman with a plunging neckline is as distracting to me as I’m sure it is to a man, albeit for different reasons. It’s very difficult for me to have a serious conversation with a woman who is falling out of her shirt, so I can only imagine how distracting it must be for a man! Don’t wear plunging necklines and then complain when people have a hard time looking you in the eye. I find it hard to take any woman seriously when she obviously has so little self-respect or respect for others. I mean, if you think about it, who other than a man, really wants to see your breasts on display? Then to complain when men notice is beyond reprehensible.
    Men should be able to manage their thoughts and certainly their actions, and women should dress with some modesty. But both should be done for their own self-respect, while having some regard and responsibility for how the other sex might perceive your attire. But for someone to have the temerity to commit a whole article stating that women should forgo pants for skirts, and then his stated reasons are first and foremost, for his benefit, is sadly laughable, extremely self-centered, and offensive.

  • Donna

    >Waking up to find a pervert fiddling with the zipper on your jeans is hardly >an argument for women wearing pants

    Why not ?

    The point is it was his fiddling that woke her up. If he had been able to gently slide up a skirt, she might not have woken up until he had actually completed his assault.

    BTW, this is not a new tack. St. Jeanne d’Arc kept wore men’s clothes in prison because they provided more protection from her lecherous guards. When criticized for this, she stated that she would happily wear skirts if she were guarded by women.

    >I’ll stick with my skirts because I rather like the way I get treated when men >notice that difference.

    That’s fine. So, if I find the comfort of pants more than worth whatever reaction somebody else has to them, is that fine ?

    Dorothy Sayers, while listening to a man griping about how women in pants are ‘so unattractive’, shot back, ‘Well, maybe they are thinking about other things than attracting you. ‘

  • meg

    I took Kamilla’s “special undergarments” to mean thongs and bras meant to be on view, etc., which I tend to agree with. Are you still out there, Kamilla?

  • Margaret

    I forgot to add this one thought – leave it to a man to tell me I should wear a skirt. When that same man forgoes his pants for skirts, and is still of the opinion that skirts are better than pants, I actually might listen to what he has to say on the matter.

  • Michelle

    I took it to mean double pairs of Spanx required to squeeze the skin-tight clothing over all the rolls of sploogy cellulite. Same difference, though.

  • Mrs. F

    Am I the only woman who gets really creeped out when men start talking about how they think about sex once a minute (even once every five minutes–that’s twelve times and hour)? How do men concentrate on anything? I’m not knocking the concept of fallen nature, tempation and near occasions of sin caused by a scantily clan woman, but where does my responsibility not to lead a man into sin through my wardrobe end and his responsibility to pray, fast and fight against that sinful nature start? I think everyone who has posted here can agree that clothing that is excessivly tight, shorts or skirts with very high hemlines, tops with plunging necklines and outfits that show the middrift are immodest, but gentlemen, what are the limits of modest? What do we need to cover to lower your sexual thoughts per minute count?
    1. Is a skirt or shorts that show any skin above the knee immodest? IS the knee immodest or modest to show?
    2. What about ankles? Are ankles modest or immodest?
    3. We agree that cleavage is immodest, but what about shoulders and upper arms? Is a sleeveless shirt with a high neckline modest or immodest? If shoulders aren’t okay, what about elbows?
    4. Is a womanly silhouette modest or immodest (Even if it is, like mine, a rather full one)? Pants that show the shape of my waist, hips, bottom and thighs is immodest, but wearing tops that show I have a chest are okay (Because I personally would need to wear a burka to cover my whole shape)?
    It is so incredibly frustrating to try and find the balance, to feel like we have to evaluate every guy out there and make sure that, by golly, we don’t tempt him. What is modest enough not to tempt the average man, who stuggles with concupiscence due to original sin? And if the arguement is that skirts are more womanly and pleasing to men, um, well, I don’t think it’s my responsibility for any man to be pleased with my wardrobe than my father, my husband, my brothers and my sons.

  • Kamilla


    You are right – I was thinking of just those things. If you have to wear a thong to avoid “VPL” or because you like having a whale tale – you need a serious re-think about your wardrobe and values. Same goes for a plunge bra to accommodate a plunging neckline, etc. etc.

    Michelle, I am afraid you are falling into the trap I feared some would fall into – reading into what I wrote and taking needless offense.

    Donna, I can assure you I get much more than you think. I have been subject to sexual harrassment and been the victim of attempted sexual assault – both while wearing jeans. And do you know what? I have never once been treated inappropriately by a man while I was wearing a skirt – even during my extensive travels to large cities. Oh, and I also “get” DLS a good deal more thoroughly than do you.

    And, to answer Donna’s question – no it is not ok. To be treated like just one of the guys is not ok because you are not a guy.

    Sarah, I live in the Denver area and completely agree with you – the only thing I haven’t quite managed to learn is the unobtrusive art of holding my skirt down during a wind storm!


  • Michelle

    And a man who thinks all women must dress in order to please HIM at Mass also needs to seriously reconsider his values.

    The point is there is room for both pants and skirts when it comes to appropriate attire.

    Also, women and men can wear the most drab, shapeless clothes and still behave immodestly and unchastely.

    To focus on dress and to assert that one form of dress is automatically better than anther is ridiculous.

    I have known frumpy, dumpy, plain Janes and Joes who engage in disgusting sexual behavior. To focus only on dress is to omit to focus on what matters, which is what is in our hearts.

  • sibyl

    Oh my word, what a contentious issue.

    I’m a skirt-wearing woman with a jeans past. My reasons are two, but neither have to do with the gross MacFarlane guy or his version of modest dress for women.

    First, and most trivial: women seem prettier and more feminine in modest skirts or dresses, IMHO. We have a large number of Somali women in our area, and while I don’t dress like them, I admire their grace and beauty. Even the ones with short, tubby figures look queenly. And I for sure look nicer in a skirt, esp. now that I’ve had a number of kids. But this is just a question of taste, and I’d never require anyone else to share it. I don’t require my four daughters to wear dresses or skirts except for Mass. OK, and for weddings. Also, my husband likes me better in skirts, although he wouldn’t care if I went back to jeans, I don’t think.

    The second reason which actually involves principle is that I detest the way gender differences have been deliberately and hatefully erased. Someone above mentioned this briefly. Our culture went through a huge convulsion in the 20th century, and much that was worthwhile got destroyed or dismantled. We can agree or disagree that gender-distinctive dress falls in that category.

    Have gender differences, and inequalities, been manipulated, exaggerated, and capitalized upon in times past? Of course. But that doesn’t mean the external expressions of them should be wiped out. Rather, we should try to reinvigorate healthy expressions of gender differences, in many areas of life. So although it’s execrable for some nut-job like MacFarlane to be laying down rules of dress for women, I think it can be healthy and in fact hopeful that many women today are seriously considering what kind of public marks of married, or single, femininity they want to bear. And I think it’s just fine for Simcha to decide for pants and for me to decide for skirts, because we have freedom in the Lord. He knows my heart, and he knows I’m honestly trying to please Him in what I wear, as in how I spend my time, how I speak to and about others, how I pray, etc.

    For the record, it doesn’t seem to me at all to be a matter of modesty, since as others have so aptly said, pants can cover you more completely and reliably in some cases. Also, since pants on women is the status quo, it seems to me less noticeable for a woman to wear jeans than to wear even a casual, modest skirt. I completely agree that it isn’t a matter of morality, and thus I don’t judge my friends and family who do wear pants.

    Finally, it seems to me that in order to avoid the cultural convulsions that go into heavy-handed attempts at change, if there is to be a cultural change, it has to be from the ground up, with individuals making decisions for themselves. If I wish that women didn’t dress just the same as men all the time, then the thing for me to do is dress differently. The only person I can direct is myself.

    P.S. I live in Minnesota. You really can be warm in a skirt, but it involves long underwear. That’s in the special-garment category, so I don’t know if it’s allowable…


  • Ann

    I really liked Simcha’s article. It was smart of course. But it was also FUNNY. I was rolling on the floor laughing.


  • Zoe

    I loved Simcha’s post because it was entertaining… a way to take some air out of a hot balloon of a topic (for a small segment of Catholics).

    Frankly, I’m amazed this even needs to be a conversation. Modesty has nothing to do with pants or skirts per se. Most thoughtful people, it seems to me, would recognize that clothing choices throughout history are dictated by cultural norms, social roles, geographical location, class/wealth, ideas of beauty, and practicality. Any type of clothing can be worn immodestly and inappropriately. Some skirts make women look feminine, some make them look frumpy. Some men look good in skirts, too — kilts, that is.

    The pants debate makes me snore. And I’ll keep my Seven jeans, thank you very much.

  • Richard A

    Sibyl, thank you for the only helpful contribution to this discussion. The issue isn’t modesty, it’s the deliberate confusion of sexual identity. I don’t “completely agree that it isn’t a matter of morality”; I’m pretty sure there is a moral question at issue here, although you are absolutely right at this point not to judge the individual (modest) clothing decisions of 21st century American women. With the (perhaps laudable) exception of the Highland Scots, since the barbarian invasions of the 4th-5th centuries, Western men have worn some form of breeches and Western women have worn some form of skirts (from the waist down). It seems to me that if we are to agree that it is alright for modern Western women to wear pants, there should be something obvious about the way they are made that no self-respecting man would wear them.

  • Michelle

    If the only way you can tell the difference between a man and a woman is by the cut of their pants, you’ve got some issues.

  • Ken

    Here is perhaps the best writing on the subject, by the cardinal who almost became pope:

  • Anushree

    I am perplexed that this is even an issue even for a small segment of the Catholic world. Do we not have enough problems in the Church and the world to pray about rather than fixate on whether pants are leading the modern world into hell? (Does this mean that pajamas are also an occasion of sin?). On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed the discussion mostly because I think our language is humorously enriched by the terms that have been recently coined: pantifesto, sola skirtura, etc.

  • Richard A

    Thanks, Michelle, for the insightful corrective to my troglodyte perspective.

    Usually I can tell the difference between men and women regardless of what they’re wearing. The issue, though, as all you careful readers of Scripture know, is whether a woman is wearing “men’s” clothing, or a man is wearing “women’s” clothing, not whether the intended deception is successful on me. My intention was to suggest that some kinds of pants may be obviously “men’s” or obviously “women’s”, and that the difference would somehow lie in how they were cut (or “fashioned” or “designed” or whatever the right word is).

  • Michelle

    Well, Richard, don’t give up your day job for a stint on Project Runway anytime soon, ‘k? /rolleyes

    What are men’s pants and what are women’s pants, since apparently God will send me straight to hell for choosing the wrong cut…?

    This is the kind of nonsense that makes people totally reject Christianity, and justifiably so.

    If salvation hangs on, well, a hanger, count me out. Me and my pants are happy to go to hell…an eternity with such a prissy-minded, petty little god would be far worse than hanging out with Satan grilling burgers and drinking beer around the fire…

  • Richard A

    Major point, the real point of the entire debate: Men should dress like men, and women should dress like women. The Bible even has an abomination to back it up.

    Minor point, which is clearly my fault for not being more clear about: I will not categorically state that for all women for all times they should never wear garments you and I would categorize as “pants”. For all I know, there is a society out there where the men wear long flowing robes that look to me like dresses, and the women wear legging-type thingies that I would call pants, and if the Gospel is preached to that society then the men should dress like men and the women like women – see the major point, about which there is even a prohibition in Scripture. That would NOT, by the way, be the society you and I are a part of. Moreover, I am open to the possibility that there may be garments which are generally catagorized as “pants” that are obviously feminine (such as my wife wears) and which a woman can wear and not be wearing “men’s” clothing.

    There are hundreds of routine immoralities with which we acquiesce every day without even thinking about them, like our willingness to co-operate in an economic system based on usury. Women dressing like men is one of them, or at least the possibility that it is should not be dismissed as some “kind of nonsense that makes people totally reject Christianity”.

  • Michelle

    Ya, blahblahblah, whatever…give me an example of a woman wearing men’s clothing with the intent to deceive, as you put it earlier, Richard. Outside of the sex industry, that is, in which case the attire is the least of the problems.

    Which pants, which cut, is specifically exclusive to men, and which is exclusive to women?

    Or is this really all about you getting the women you want to ogle to wear the stuff that turns you on the most?

    Personally, I suspect the latter.

  • Mark

    “Mark — your point being she deserved it? … If so, then you’ve only affirmed my belief that the guy who wrote this letter and every man who supports it in any way is a rapist at heart.” – Michelle

    Actually Michelle, I honestly couldn’t care less what you wear. I merely saw the woman interviewed by Meredith Vieira on the

  • Richard A

    Michelle, I don’t know “which pants, which cuts”. That would be the probem, wouldn’t it? Most men couldn’t tell the difference.

    “Blahblahblah, whatever”. Care to elucidate? I THINK it’s your way of saying “look buddy, I want to wear pants and I don’t care what you or Deuteronomy have to say about it”, even if it turns out that pants are “men’s clothing” in this society.
    “Or is this really all about you getting the women you want to ogle to wear the stuff that turns you on the most?

    Personally, I suspect the latter.”

    Maybe, but since I’m a Christian, and more importantly, since YOU’RE a Christian, you’re not at liberty to “suspect the latter.”

  • Richard A

    Michelle, But again, I don’t want to make any uncharitable assumptions about your point of view.

  • Michelle

    Richard, if I’m a woman who is threatened by a creepy attitude, I can indeed suspect the latter and act accordingly.

    The thing is, you keep going on about this women dressing like men, and then go on to include cultural qualifiers, but you still can’t give an example of a woman dressing like a man in today’s society — and the intent to deceive — the desire to be seen “as” a man — is key here.

    In the society *I* live in, women wear all kinds of clothing that fall into the “pants” category, and they do so without any intent to deceive others into thinking they are men. These pants include athletic/gym wear, jeans, tailored trousers, formal attire, sleepwear, and so on.

    So which of these are the pants you’re referring to? Give me an example.

  • Michelle

    Mark, that link had nothing to do with the Today Show. You kinda had to go out of your way to find that image…and, in all fairness, she comes from a Latino culture and overt sexuality in dress is not all that abnormal. Plus, she looks awesome! Good for her.

  • Mark

    “Mark, that link had nothing to do with the Today Show. You kinda had to go out of your way to find that image”

    The image was shown on another network, but they specifically said that the photo was taken the day in question at the Jets practice. — and it was very easy to find.

    I haven’t made any judgements, why are you so defensive?

  • Michelle

    I’m not being defensive — I think she looks fabulous! I don’t have a problem with bikinis, wear one myself. I do think you’re being a little disingenous, though.

  • Kamilla

    Richard, thank you for your contribution. Sybil did indeed say much of what I was trying to convey, but with more grace. Although I do have to disagree with her about long underwear being in the special garment category – being a Minnesota native myself.

    There is a danger on one hand, of cleaning the outside of the cup while leaving the inside filthy while on the other hand, declaring that our outward adornment is a matter of complete liberty. There is also the need to discern between the legalist (McFarlane) and the weaker brother whom Tony has reminded us to consider. Let each be convinced in his own mind.

    I can only repeat what I (a former feminst) have observed and experienced, which is also the experience of a friend who is a former lesbian – whether by conscious intent or by unconscious attitude changes, we are treated differently when we wear skirts and dresses (both of us are quite modest). As a jeans-wearer, I was subject to cat-calls, indecent propositions and attempted sexual assault. Since I began to wear skirts, even though I have also travelled extensively to large cities — I have never once been treated in a sexually inappropriate manner by a man.

    While outter adornment is no guarantee of the heart’s attitude, I have certainly found that, not only do I change when I dress in a distinctively feminine manner, but people react differently to me. Sybil is right, that any changes cannot be made in a heavy, top-down manner, but must rise up from the ranks. I just keep telling my story, hoping somewhere out there someone uderstands.


    P.S. In an even more scandalous move, I also wear a headcovering during church services.

  • Richard A

    Michelle, the society *I* live has been engaged, for the last, oh, lifetime (of me) in deliberately blurring the differences between men and women, to the extent at this point of seriously organizing itself around the notion that men and women are utterly interchangeable cogs in the social mechanism. And this has almost completely taken the form of women acting like men, and assuming (what they think are) male attitudes toward things. Dressing like men is one aspect of that. That is the background of the “intent to deceive” comment, which I will back away from the harshness of it if necessary because at this point most men and women dress the way they do without any conscious reference to any kind of wider social goal (i.e., the project of blurring male/female distinctives).

    What I will NOT back away from, though, is this. Men should dress like men and women should dress like women. This has been an obvious natural fact in every society that has developed clothing (and even then …). Christians, moreover, know this to be a fact embedded in our nature by God’s desire, which He reveals, almost in passing, in Scripture. But then, why keep harping on it, since it’s embedded in our nature anyway, and no society, until now, has managed to embark on a social project to disobey it in any systematic way?

    Natural law, and Scripture, do not say women should not wear leggings as their outer garments. In 21st century Western society, for all practical purposes, women not dressing like men means that women should not wear trousers. Face it, men are not going to start wearing garments in public that look like dresses or skirts (except the occasional Scottish kilt).

    That is the long and short of it. If modern Western Christians want to dress modestly in public and KNOW they are obeying nature and nature’s God, the men will wear trouser-like things on their legs and the women will wear skirt-like things.

    I will concede the possibility that an obviously feminine trouser-like outer garment exists, but I will not be pressed to provide any definition of what would make such a thing obviously feminine next to something that is just as obviously masculine. My concession is based solely on the fact that I have a female mother, a female wife, female sisters and female daughters, all of whom I don’t want to antagonize unduly, and who, moreover, manage to wear “trouser-like” garments that don’t look like anything I or any respectable man would wear. But what makes them so I cannot say. I will not say that I know categorically that they are disobeying the Scriptural command, but nor will I state categorically that I know they are obeying it. If they, or you, or any other female wants to know categorically that she is obeying the Scriptural command, I would have to say “don’t wear pants, wear a skirt or a dress”. Mark Shea, a sometime contributor to this blog, has waxed eloquent on the motivations to do the bare minimum of Christian life. Read him.

    With regard to the larger project of opposing a godless society’s assault on true humanity, specifically male/female distinctives in this case, obviously, Christian women will need more and more to wear skirts and dresses and eschew pants.

    The dim bulb who started this whole controversy, placing the issue in modesty instead of where it belongs in male/female distinctives, had a creepy attitude. I’ll leave it to your best judgement whether to be threatened by it or not. I do not share, nor have I manifest in anything I have written above, that same creepy attitude. Please be more charitable about my motivations. Or avoid speculating about them altogether and confine yourself to the topic at hand.

  • Michelle

    So what should I wear during my next marathon? An ankle length skirt? How about a tri? 1920’s style swimming dress?

    While men and women aren’t interchangeable, men and women can engage in similar careers outside the home, and it is more comfortable, practical and appropriate for women to wear trousers/pants/jeans/whatever while they’re doing their job.

    Plus, I just plain ‘ol like jeans. They’re comfortable, practical, and I look great in ’em, and in my neck of the woods, jeans are worn everywhere. Culturally, in northern California, I’d look like an idiot if I started walking around in a fussy dress. Mostly only the trannies wear those around here, anyway. So…like you say, it’s all so subjective and cultural and all.

    But if you’re one of those guys who thinks women can only ever be nuns or barefoot and pregnant and in the home 24/7, I have nothing but contempt for you so who cares what you think.


  • Michelle

    Kamilla, I’ve worn jeans almost all of my life, I look great, I have a very fit figure in spite of having five kids (I’ve been an athlete almost all my life, too), and I can rock a pair of Louboutins like nobody’s business. I wear a bikini, and when I wear dresses, they tend to be of the trendy cocktail variety, and the only time I was ever sexually assaulted, mistreated or cat-called was when I had to wear my Catholic school uniform through the subway system to high school. Talk about dressing girls up in every creepy male’s pet fantasy outfit! We would have been better off in pants.

    So maybe I just associate with better men — maybe I associate with men who don’t objectify women, who don’t limit them to the role of barefoot and pregnant and chained to the kitchen stove, who respect them becaue of their accomplishments and who they are as people rather than as walking baby incubators and/or blow up sex dolls (depending on the time of the month, I guess…).

    What’s your point about wearing a mantilla? I wear one, too. So do most of the women at my parish. Is that really unusual where you go to Church?

  • meg

    Ah, can we get a moderator in here at some point?

  • Admin

    Meg is right: Let’s stick to the discussion at hand, please, and leave speculation about other commenters’ character, motivations, etc., out of it. Refer to the Rules if you need a refresher — particularly about assuming the goodwill of the other person in disagreements. Thanks, all.

  • Anna

    Strangely enough, the only Papal statement ever made on this issue of women in pants is usually ignored, while Our Lady of Fatima’s admonition on modesty is stretched far beyond her actual words.
    On 13 November 866, Pope Nicholas I wrote to King Boris I of Bulgaria: ‘Whether you or your women wear or do not wear trousers neither impedes your salvation nor leads to any increase of your virtue’ (‘sive vos, sive feminae vestrae, sive deponatis, sive induatis femoralia, nec saluti officit, nec ad virtutum vestrarum proficit incrementum’ – Patrologia Latina, CXIX, 1002

  • Richard A

    Well, what can I say? Men and women can engage in the same athletic activities, engage in similar careers outside the home, and dress in similar attire. But they’re not interchangeable?

    Publicly, which is what dressing is about, what distinctives are left? Maintaining or restoring these distinctives is clearly not a high priority for you. We have reason to think, though, that it’s a high priority for God (higher, anyway, than it is for modern Americans).

    “But if you’re one of those guys who thinks women can only ever be nuns or barefoot and pregnant and in the home 24/7 …”

    So those are my only choices? If I don’t think women should wear pants, then I must want them barefoot and pregnant 24/7?

    You really have a hard time avoiding demonizing your debating opponents, don’t you?

  • Kamilla

    Words of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917:

    “Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much… ”

  • Marthe L

    I cannot believe that,in the 21st century, such a debate can actually take place! Could it be, maybe,a counter point to the “great burka debate”? I cannot see how one can argue that pants worn by a woman are too “masculine”. Whatever else is worn with the pants will in most cases make it obvious that the wearer is a woman, in addition to the very obvious fact that any blouse, shirt or sweater on a woman, in most cases, will give a very clear clue, that young men at least will certainly not miss, whether the top is tightly adjusted or loose. All human beings, if they are normally shaped, do walk on two legs. Why should women necessarily wear clothing that hide that fact? As I said before, whatever one wears should be a personal choice, based on taste and practicality, limited only by basic decency, according to current cultural norms (by this I mean that there may still be rather primitive tribes in far away places wearing next to nothing without people being condemned for doing it, while other countries, for example Islamic countries, do have much stricter norms).

  • Michelle

    Richard — I can run a race as a woman, and my husband can run a race as a man — we were both endowed with functioning legs and lungs by the good Lord. We are not interchangeable — he is still a man and I am still a woman. Yet we can do the same things.

    Men and women can be engineers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, city planners, toll booth clerks, investment bankers, yet they are still distinctly men and distinctly women.

    In carrying out their jobs, it is often culturally more appropriate to wear pants of some sort, or more modest, or just more comfortable, or, hey, even just more to the individual woman’s taste.

    You seem to take issue for me demonizing you as the thing you ultimately claim you are — a man who cannot allow women to engage in the same activities and jobs as men because she is a woman.

    What jobs and activities, then, is she “allowed” (as if it’s up to you in the first place)?

    You’re doing a lot of dancing around actually owning what you believe with your “cannot say” and “will not say”, all qualified with “but…”.

    What do you think woman can and can not do and why does attire have anything to do with it?

    Explain to me how a woman who is a first responder is somehow a bad Christian if she doesn’t wear a skirt at best or some diaphanous pair of harem pants at worst? Why can’t she wear the regulation navy blue plain trouser emergency responders tend to wear?

    Or is she just precluded from being a first responder because she’s female?

    Can you not say or will you not say and why?

  • Michelle

    You know, forget it, Richard — these discussions make want to run far, far away from the Catholic Church. There is nothing remotely Catholic or of God in any, of this — it is exactly what my gut instinct tells me — it’s all about some deeply, deeply disturbed, sexually immature and sexually dysfunctional men wanting to infantalize, objectify and control women.

    Between the sex abuse scandal and this kind of fundie, ignorant, dysfunctional garabage, the Church is not a safe place for women and children anymore.

    Fine, I’m out. You can keep your stinking church — I’ll go with God. I don’t want what you have — it’s ugly and hateful and creepy beyond belief. Think your dirty thoughts all you want. No decent woman is going to stick around to subject herself to your sort of stomach-turning mentality.

  • Michelle

    Kamilla, I saw your picture — I find it hard to believe anyone cat-called you. Maybe you mistook their jeers for sexual come-ons? No guy is so hard up he’s gonna go out of his way to cat-call a fat ugly pig like you.

    No wonder you’re all alone and single. Duh.

  • Kamilla


    While you correctly point out that I am fat, I am also going to note that you are the one who introduced claims of “class” into this discussion. As for being alone? I may be single but I am not alone, most definitely not alone. I have a veritable round table of men who a friend calls my “knights in shining armour”.

    But even if I did not, none of us who has God as Father is ever truly alone.


  • Richard A

    “A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use women’s apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God.” Deuteronomy 22:5 (Douay-Rheims) There is also a pretty solid natural law argument that can be made to support the view that in ordering social life, men and women should present themselves (dress, among other things) in a manner that reinforces the fact of that distinction. So,

    1. You could argue that this is one of those ambiguous commands that doesn’t really mean what it seems to mean. Of course, no Christian up through, say 1950, has thought that or, in general, acted as if it were ambiguous (not that Christian teaching is a matter of popular vote, exactly. Cue Vincent of Lerins).
    2. Perhaps this prohibition is like the dietary and Levitical laws that were abrogated under the New Covenant. Again, historically Christians haven’t acted as if they thought that.
    3. Perhaps modern America, or modern Christianity, is such that that prohibition no longer applies to us.
    4. Perhaps it means what it means, and still applies, but not with regard to pants. So I guess that we can agree that in public, modern American men should not wear dresses or brassieres, and women should not wear – what, athletic supporters?

    So, which is it?

    By the way, both Pius XI and Pius XII publicly taught that women should avoid athletic competition that promotes immodest dress in the guise of practicality (not that modesty is the issue in cross-dressing). But hey, they weren’t women and they weren’t athletes, so what did they know?

  • gb

    ANY thought that objectifies another person (male or female) is wrong. Jesus was clear about that.

    ANY husband who thinks he can ‘delegate’ to his spouse re: her clothing is assuming an authority he does not have unless he has died for her (cf: “…as Christ loved the Church”) which obviously a dad who has left his wife & 5 boys has not.

    ANY woman who thinks she can wear what she wants/when she wants & no one is supposed to think anything about it is clueless.

  • Criffton

    We need definitions in this discussions:

    1. What do we mean by pants?
    2. What do we mean by dress / skirt?

    Pants can mean anything from sweatpants and slacks to skin-tight jeans. Shorts open up an entire other level of discussion, for some of them are no more concealing than undergarments while others are quite loose and concealing.

    Skirts and dresses can be very revealing, or they can be very modest.

    Also, another distinction is what modest clothing is. In the realm of sexual characteristics, it means concealing them. Others, like some forms of Islamic dress, which cover the face can also serve to conceal the person. Concealment of the body and concealment of the person are two different things and to equate them is a mistake.

    So, I think it would help for the pro-skirt folks (with whom I ally myself) not to assume that pants = low-rider skin-tight jeans. Also, when we talk about skirts, we mean at least knee-length and modest dresses.

    Other needed distinctions have to do with modesty of coverage and modesty of form. Culture should be considered. In a society with very distinct dress for each sex, wearing the opposite gender’s clothing will mean more than in our society.

    However, culture should also be transformed by Catholic ideals. And we do not live in a culture motivated by Catholic ideas or morals.

    One way of saying it is that modesty is meant to conceal what should be concealed in order to better reveal the person. It is much easier to interact with a modestly dressed woman than with one dressed in a revealing manner.

    In general, we need to start with the abstract questions like “What is Modesty”, and “What is the purpose for clothing.”

    After having an understanding of the universals, then you can make application to particulars. If you try to start making particulars before knowing the universal, we return to the murkiness of style, situation, and personality.

    Personally, I favor modest dresses and skirts over pants, in general. That is, I find them more attractive in a general sense while less, you could say, sexually attractive.

    I think we could all agree that a chaste culture is best. And in a chaste culture, both genders have their parts to play. Men are weaker in the visual and physical sense. Therefore, women have a duty to help men stay chaste. That is, because of concupiscence (and, contra West, it is always lurking), the sexual characteristics of women attract the attention of a man like a splash of safety orange. This isn’t due to their level of virtue, but the effects of Original Sin. What men do next is their part. Hopefully, they practice modesty of eyes, and control where they allow their eyes to go. Next, they need to practice chastity by controlling that reflex and looking away both in body, mind, and heart.

    So while men do have a duty to practice purity, women have a duty to dress in such a way that reduces the amount of sexual stimuli available. Now, there will always be enough for men to have to practice virtue, and there will always be enough in case a man doesn’t want to practice virtue. However, this doesn’t negate the duty.

    It would be the opposite offense for a man to play with the emotions of women. We have the duty to be considerate of the weakness of our brother.

    Two final considerations:

    If Our Lady or Our Lord walked into the room right now, how would you feel about what your wearing? This applies to both men and women.

    The holy man, Padre Pio, would refuse to hear confessions of men wearing short sleeves or shorts. He would also refuse to hear the confessions of women in dresses that weren’t eight inches below the knee, in pants, or with revealing tops.

    Here are some fruitful talks and articles:
    Alice von Hildebrand:
    Woman as Guardian of Purity:

    Fr. Wolfe F.S.S.P.
    Errors of Russia:

    Zmirak on Concupiscence:…index.html

  • Elaine


    Two things.

    I am unfamiliar with our lady talking about clothing to the children at Fatima. Is thi quote from the official release of the Vatican?
    I find it a great leap to pull a quote like that and context it to mean the blessed mother is talking about pants!

    I can’t relate to the cyclone of emotions about this.

    Pants are not the problem, men who can’t and won’t learn how to discipline their minds is the problem. Catholic women serious about their duy to avoid turning on the equipment of men are not acountable for thoughts men have when they are respectfully wearing pants!

    Women aare beautiful. Their faces and hair and eyes and demeanor are very attractive.

    Putting the onus on men that they shouldn’t wear pants is enabling men from the real solution to their wild libidos. Discipline.So long as we dress modestly, that is, some of us are so attractive there is nothing short of a burka that would keep your hormones in check. We are not accpountable for your thoughts and have no duty to wear a sack. Discipline yur minds.

    On the other hand,there are clearly men who have expressed that they have a problem with our pants. What is it to us if other women want to to acquiese if that is their spirituality? If they want to carry that sensitivity outside of their home in case other men have the same problem, so what.

    Some men have problems with cookies and ice cream. If a wife wants to give up keeping them in the house, rather than asking the man to discipline himself, so what, right?
    It is a big diverse world.

    The planet should not have to eradicate cookies and ice cream from restaurants and supermarkets.

  • Kate

    I can see and understand the various points of view that have been raised by all the discussants here. For me, the greatest difficulty is finding well-fitting, classy modest attire where I don’t have to break my budget or do through mail order (I like to try things on because how things look in a picture or hanger can be quite different than how they look on me). I have found some of the biggest issues having to do with tops that are not long enough to keep the mid section covered during typical wear and after a wash. It’s very frustrating. Some years it’s impossible to find well-fitting generously cut skirts. It’s not just about miniskirts. Pencil and a-line skirts can be way too revealing on my figure, plus they aren’t comfortable and practical to wear too tight. Obviously, the same goes for those low cut, too tight jeans. Finding jeans and slacks that sit at the waist has also been a challenge for the last few years. Ugh. I do the best that I can with what I have. It’s very frustrating and challenging though.

    I’ve learned that the key to modest dressing is wearing clothes that actually fit. Wearing things that are too tight or don’t appropriately cover certain parts of our figures are not well-fitting clothes. Then there is the matter of dressing properly for a given situation. Being fully covered on a beach draws far more attention than someone in a properly fitted bathing suit. It’s the same kind of thing with mantillas in church. That is clothing that is generally acceptable in church. It’s not attention drawing, it’s customary dress for some women and frankly it’s not noticeable after a while.

    The issue of not being a temptation to men (or women) by what you’re wearing is another matter entirely. The only true locus of control lies within each of us. It is a matter of self-knowledge and discipline. As human beings surely we can take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings and not put the onus solely on an outside influence. I certainly don’t suggest that anyone here does, it’s just something I’ve noticed in discussions like this one and others among adherents of various branches of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Wearing a hijab or dressing halachically or modestly unfortunately does not guarantee that a woman will not be sexually assaulted or treated like an object instead of a person. Even in places where modest dressing is enforced legally, like Saudi Arabia or Iran, rape and other sexual crimes still occur. Dressing can only take this so far. It is up to each one of us to be self-disciplined enough to master the impurity and immodesty that lies within each of us. Even the distinctiveness discussion can find a place here. To be very honest, I have never failed to be able to distinguish men and women in typical dress, pants or not. Of course, cross-dressers and transvestites are a different matter entirely, but that’s not what this discussion is really about either.

    Take what you like and leave the rest. It certainly has been an interesting, informative, and entertaining discussion, with much food for thought. What has been most interesting to me is how self-revelatory people’s comments have been in this discussion. I have certainly been given much to think about in that regard.

  • Marthe L

    As a comment to Kate about how hard it is to find clothes sometimes, I have a little story. One day in early Summer ago, I was looking for a top to purchase for my birthday. Every place where I looked in the mall, the tops were very low cut. I think that I looked into about 20 stores. And suddenly I saw a top with a very attractive square neckline, and quite modest. I went in and the clerk told me that they were completely out of them, in every colour, and that she was wondering why they sold so fast. I was tempted to tell her that I certainly knew the reason, since it was the only decent style in the entire mall. Maybe I should have.

  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    “The issue isn’t modesty, it’s the deliberate confusion of sexual identity.” -Richard

    Yes, I think this is the nub of the thing.

    If the “uber-Catholic creeps” want to make a modesty argument, and if the Legionettes of Pants want to have a street-fight over it, more power to them all. But that can only be a sideshow. Seems pretty obvious that both trousers and skirts, depending on their style, cut, length, etc, can be more modest or less modest. And it also seems there are some deep-seated issues here — both on the part of the creeps and the anti-creeps — that go WAY beyond the question of dress.

    I think that the more important question, and the better argument for skirts, is sexual differentation, and the witness we can (or ought to) make to an increasingly gender-neutralized world. (The reply that one can usually distinguish the sex even of pants-wearing females is, as Richard points out, a red herring.)

    The real question is whether dress should bespeak sexual distinctions that are at the heart of Christian personhood; male and female He created them, and all that. Seems to me that when dress becomes less sexually distinctive, when it expresses the sex of the person less aptly, it (whether wittingly or unwittingly, intentionally or unintentionally, on the part of the dresser) abets gender-neutralization, which is part of the sexual revolution’s drive to make sex not a natural characteristic with its own distinct natural traits, with which we’re endowed by God, but a social construct subject to endless mutability.

    I think there’s room here for a very good conversation about what clothes mean, within the realm of Christian anthropology.

  • Marthe L

    I am sorry, but I am not, and never will be, well disposed towards a man who tries to dictate what is necessary to make gender differences obvious. In many things I have read over the year, it has been said, for example, that skirts, particularly long skirts, will make it, and have made it, more difficult for a woman to escape an attack, either physical or sexual. The burka, in particular, if I can believe a diaporama distributed widely on the Internet, is actually designed to make it more difficult for a woman to even walk fast. Threfore, in some very clear circumstances, skirts ARE being used to keep women in an inferior and dependent position. Once at a retreat I had a conversation with the priest in charge, as well as with another layperson who was writing in Catholic publications, and one thing that I remember from the replies to some questions I had about some discussions I had been having with some Protestant friends was that it was not a good idea to try to use the Old Testament to explain the New Testament… This seems to apply quite well to using arguments from Deuteronomy to justify opinions about women wearing skirts in order to make a “Christian” statement! Maybe this has been an old habit of some of the new converts who are posting here, but I would suggest they should look into it.

  • Elaine

    Unless you are saying our pants are causing homosexual atraction in otherwise pure and chaste men, you can’t have it both ways.

    I have looked up the apparition of Fatima on the Vatican website and according to. The people with whom our lady spoke, she said no such thing.

    I did find the quote on the fatima crusader website known for claiming messages were given to the children which they repeatedly said were false. I don’t understand how people fall for a supposed conspiracy to keep the content of ‘the real secret’ because it is too frightening. I am not afraid of our lady telling me not to wear pants. If she said I and wanted us to know it, why would the vatican keep it in a secret vault and ask the children to lie about it?

    Further, there is nothing more terrifying than the Book of Revelation in terms of ~what’s going to happen to us”. There is no need to hide things from us when the ending, as ugly as it will be symbolically, is in every Bible ever published.

    I am glad to know that I should be more careful with my pants so as not to cause men lustful thoughts and I thank those who brought this to my attention. Even when and if somebody asks me to do something unreasonable, frankly, I don’t think we need to get defensive about it as women.

  • Annie

    So if I wear pants and they can’t tell I am female and it bothers them aren’t they expressing a desire to objectify me? Why would it be necessary to always be able to immediately tell what sex somebody is if you are not intending to objectify them? Are male O.P.’s in their distinctive habit really wearing dresses? Is not this whole discussion a waste of electrons?

  • Elaine

    I don’t get any of it either Annie.

    Do we look like men in pants and they can’t tell our gender but they are so sexually attracted to us we must not wear them? Isn’t this paradoxical for heterosexuals?

    Wouldn’t wearing pants be helping heterosexuals from having lustful thoughts if they can’t figure out our gender?

    They don’t seem to have any problems figuring out we are women when we wear pajamas that have pants so there you go.


  • buckyinky

    This discussion has been helpful for me, not so much in swaying my opinion about divided garments, but in illustrating that a man had better keep to himself his general opinion about what women should or should not do, that is, unless the women to whom he addresses his opinion agree with him. If they do not agree with him, and he shares his opinion anyway, he will be skewered, whether justified or not.

  • Brian Edward Miles

    Well said Todd:

    Clothing may indeed either express or distort both masculinity and femininity, and although I had a hearty chuckle at Simcha’s article, it seems that most of her criteria tend toward the practical advantages of pants. This is too bad. Clothing choices should never be just about their utility; presentation is always important, and so is the message that any given garment communicates to the world. And frankly, skirts and dresses are far more feminine than any pair of pants ever could be, and despite all of Simcha’s practical arguments in favor of pants, the gentility and dignity of the feminine aspect (which dresses communicate par excellence) is something that women have treasured for ages, and consequently something they once would have been loathe to give up for the sake of convenience. Thus the scarcity of skirts and dresses in today’s world is, I fear, just another unconscious embrace of the banal and utilitarian impulse of modernity.

    The same principle applies to our church buildings and liturgy. It is certainly far more comfortable and convenient (not to mention economical) to have carpet, and folding chairs, and fluorescent votives, and walls made of fiber reinforced plastic (after all they clean up so easily!); but sadly, none of those things–in either their forms or their structures–signify in the least the content our Faith is meant to express. The same is true of britches. They fall far short of what God meant to express when creation reached its climax, and He said: “Woman”.

    And when it comes dresses in particular here is what one of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration at our Lady of the Angels monastery had to say:

    “But of all apparel, I have to say, there was something extra special about ‘the dress’. There comes a moment in every female’s life when this particular garment wields a power far beyond that of the colored threads of which it is woven. The mystic moment may occur early, while yet a little miss hopping about in Easter finest or at first Holy Communion veiled in angelic white. It may come later, at a dance, or on a date, during a holiday, or simply on a warm and breezy day. Whatever the occasion something extraordinary happens. She knows it, and so does everyone else. A transformation takes place in a glimpse into a reality beyond the ordinary is seen. A certain glow rests on young lady or woman. And deep within, she perceives it radiates the incredible truth–that to be female–is to be a queen. She is springtime and summer, lilies and roses, sunshine and light all at once. Such is the power of a dress. Is this a supernatural power like that of the sacraments? Certainly not. But like the sacraments and sacamentals, a mere material substance is used to lift the spirits of the awesome awareness of God’s work in creation. In this case, God’s crowning piece, woman.”

    In light of these reflections, it may be true as Simcha says that “dresses won’t change the world”. Perhaps not, but the modern disinterest (and even disdain) for dresses–in favor of practical pants–certainly reveals that the world has already undergone a change for the worse. And no, I do not believe that whether or not a woman chooses to wear a dress is a moral consideration. However, it is clearly a theological consideration, a perspective which should never be lost in our pursuit for what is most convenient.

  • Kate

    Okay. I’ve been doing some reading and wondering of my own about the theological underpinnings to the discussion here. Now, I am not trying to be facetious here, but I am sure we can agree that a human (no matter how divinely inspired) wrote Deutronomy. I make note of this because I can imagine said limited human not really imagining or conceiving anything beyond the cultural norms for dress for men and women at the time he wrote his divinely-inspired words down. Now, based on all the cultural, anthropological and historical understandings of how people in that time and place dressed, both men and women wore long, flowing gowns as normal dress. Maybe there were pants-like undergarments, but the most visible dress would have been, well a dress. So obviously calling the comment about being able to distinguish between male and female in pants a “red herring” doesn’t quite wash. Perhaps the differences were in visible shape differences due to anatomy, or in head gear, or color. Anyway, I honestly believe it’s a bit of a stretch to take those words in Deutronomy to be really talking about 20th and 21st century pants, skirts and dresses. The person who quote a 20th century cardinal’s comments and those mentioning Our Lady of Fatima in their posts are more to the point.

    Now, I love wearing feminine clothing. The last poster who quoted one of Mother Angelica’s nuns about “the dress” is one I definitely agree with, from personal experience. Like I said, there’s something wonderful in well-fitting, feminine, modest clothing. I still see Mrs. Fischer’s point about practicality and it makes sense. I can respect and understand those who’ve raised theological points, but somehow those arguments seem to be a bit of a stretch.

    I get the sense that the real issue that caused those words to be written is rooted in the false advertising a male dressing as a female and the threat that posed to males who would sense their masculinity being threatened by being successfully duped by such a ruse. Of course I could be totally wrong here too.

    Anyway, I’m really sorry guys, but I really get the sense that this entire debate (starting with the original post that kicked it all off – written by a guy) is couched in such a way as to make it possible for men to have it cut both ways. Like I said in my earlier post, modest dressing does not prevent sexual crimes and lust in people’s hearts. I humbly submit that the real battle is not about what people wear (especially as we realistically are only speaking about a small number of people who will follow such precepts really; I don’t see this changing for the wider culture) but the interior battle for self-mastery and discipline.

    Again, your mileage may vary. Take what you like and leave the rest. I need to get my priorities correct. Arguing points that pretty much are the equivalent of how many angels fit on the head of a pin is not productive, as my hovering child is reminding me now.

  • Marthe L

    Gentility and objectification… It seems that, all through history, there have been a lot of abuses done because of women’s gentility, for example rape has only recently been recognized as a war crime, so it seems that it was considered normal beforehand? And wearing a dress (easy to slide under) that also impedes the woman’s flight is certainly not working to the advantage of a woman in such a situation!
    In my case, as I said before, practicality is certainly important, but most of the time I look frumpy in a dress, because of aforementioned swollen ankles and heavy varicosed calves… I do feel much more feminine with such things hidden under pants, while wearing an attractive top, plus an attractive hairdo (that certainly distinguishes me as a woman) and attractive jewellery… Despite a nun’s poetic description of the wearing of a dress! And: I do agree with both Elaine’s and buckyinky’s and Annie’s latest posts, no need to repeat here.

  • Richard A

    Perhaps a really simple syllogism will help, since syllogisms don’t really care about the sex of the person proposing them. One can just engage the syllogism and avoid speculating about the motivations of the one who advances them. And this is done in a spirit of Christian fellowship, because we all want to know God’s will so that we can more closely conform our lives to it.

    Premise 1: God’s word (and nature) clearly teach that women should not wear men’s clothing. (Subpremise to 1: Men should not wear women’s clothing either, but that’s not at issue here.)
    Premise 2: In Western society, pants are men’s clothing.
    Conclusion: Women in Western society should not wear pants.

    It really will not help to reiterate that one really, really wants to wear pants. Or that we can still tell the boys and girls apart even if they all are wearing pants. The (clumsily presented) initial post was to propose that women who care about God’s will will avoid wearing pants. (He cleverly disguised God’s will as something he would really really like to see happen for reasons that sometimes appeared to be … something less in conformity with God’s will, shall we say.)

    So, is premise 1 false, or premise 2? Or does it not matter, because we’re going to wear the pants anyway, and we don’t care who says otherwise?

  • Brian Edward Miles

    Hi Kate,

    I enjoyed your thoughtful comments, and thoroughly agree that the individual purity of any particular person is indeed a matter of self-mastery. Yet with that said, when you say that “modest dressing does not prevent sexual crimes in people’s hearts”, I must disagree. Certainly you are correct when it comes to the man who is already interiorly determined to lust; he will find a way no matter what a woman may be wearing.

    However when it comes to men such as myself–men striving to be chaste–the clothing a woman wears can either help or hinder my efforts to advance in this virtue. Brain science reveals that the masculine mind is hardwired for visual imagery, and that a man’s brain–upon encountering an erotic image–is far more likely to release a potent supply of norepinethrine than a woman’s. The upshot of this is that norepinethrine is a chemical which imprints images into the neural network of the brain with a twofold effect; namely, when norepinethrine is involved, it is much more difficult to eliminate erotic images from the mind, and moreover norepinethrine makes a man much more likely to recall an erotic image–seemingly out of the blue–which he has seen at some time in the past.

    Now don’t get me wrong, norepinethrine is a wonderful thing. God created it to be released during sexual activity between a husband and wife so that each would establish a powerful store of positive and pleasurable images of the other.

    But the reality of the matter is that modest dress is far less provocative, and therefore far less likely to trigger this INVOLUNTARY and PRE-MORAL response in men. Now having said that, I recognize that what a man does after this initial physiological reaction is where his choice either to lust or resist enters the equation. However, when a man encounters a woman’s tight or revealing clothing–even if he averts his eyes immediately–not only will it be difficult for him to forget that image, but it is also very likely that it will come back at a later time, reigniting the battle all over again.

    I realize that this phenomena may sound completely alien to you as a woman, but I can assure that this is the ordinary experience of men, and one that is verified by scientific data. I do appreciate your position, and I certainly exhort men to take responsibility for themselves, but it truly does make things more difficult for us when we are being bombarded by flesh at every turn.

    In short, modest dress makes a difference matter.

  • Chrissy G

    Richard A,
    Premise 2 is false. I do not speak for the West, but in American fashion and every day usage, women’s clothes include pants/shorts, dresses, and skirts. This is an established cultural norm. If one were to present images of females to an American and ask them to select whether they are wearing men’s or women’s clothes, I am certain that images of women wearing pants sold in the women’s department of stores would not be misclassified as men’s clothing.

  • Richard A

    If it be truly the case that there are obviously men’s pants which a woman, of course, would never wear, and obviously women’s pants that a man, of course, would never wear, and no indeterminate pants, except perhaps for small children, then probably it would be time to revise any categorical “no pants on women” rule. Social rules can be pretty amorphous things, and as a practical matter, with regard to the women in my life I’m pretty much doing this already.
    Remaining concerns I would have with abandoning a “no pants on women” project, assuming the truth in our society of the above, are twofold. Firstly, that our fashion industry and other influential sources seem to me to be resolutely determined to blur any distinctive forms that may be momentarily established. Secondly, and related somewhat to the previous point, is that in a society that is unwilling to enforce a social norm that football and wrestling are obviously “boys only” high school activities, there will be girls and women, for whatever reason, who will steadfastly insist on wearing the “men’s” pants. They will insist that there is no difference between men’s and women’s pants worth enforcing – enforcing!? (how to enforce that) -, or pretend not to be able to see the difference, or insist that it’s their right to wear whatever pants they want for whatever reason they want. Tell me that can’t, won’t happen. I bet it is already.

  • Richard A

    And, assuming the experiment you propose above, all the images would be of women wearing pants from the women’s department, because no woman would be caught dead – let alone photographed – wearing pants from the men’s deparment. Right?

  • Richard A

    Oops, “department”. Sorry

  • sallie parker

    There is an antiquated reason for women wearing skirts and men wearing trousers (or “pants” in the vulgate). In the old days people didn’t wear underwear. You can see this in the medieval illustrations. Skirts (with no underwear) were simply more sanitary for women, but wouldn’t have made much sense for men unless they were short (like togas and kilts). There you have it. Nowadays women wear skirts primarily for social and fashion reasons–to demonstrate status in the social environment or workplace (women in skirts always outrank women in pants).

  • Kate

    Many thanks, Brian, for your response. I can appreciate your perspective and see your point. Certainly, that’s why I do dress modestly. We indeed do need to help each other along the path. I am grateful that you can also see my perspective as well. I’m responding because I wanted you let you know I’ve read your response.

    Richard A.,

    Okay, I’ll bite. Here’s your proposed syllogism:

    “Premise 1: God’s word (and nature) clearly teach that women should not wear men’s clothing. (Subpremise to 1: Men should not wear women’s clothing either, but that’s not at issue here.)
    Premise 2: In Western society, pants are men’s clothing.
    Conclusion: Women in Western society should not wear pants.”

    I hold your first premise to be false. Here’s why. Understanding that the primary basis for discerning God’s will to be God’s word and nature, here’s why premise 1 does not hold true. God created man and woman without clothes. In fact, clothes only appear after man and woman disobeyed God by eating of the tree. Assuming that free will was already in operation, the putting on of coverings to hide their nakedness due to shame, was their choice, not God’s. So, I humbly submit, clothing choice and design is a social convention, not a divine one.

    Now, here’s the rest of your response following your syllogism.

    “It really will not help to reiterate that one really, really wants to wear pants. Or that we can still tell the boys and girls apart even if they all are wearing pants. The (clumsily presented) initial post was to propose that women who care about God’s will will avoid wearing pants. (He cleverly disguised God’s will as something he would really really like to see happen for reasons that sometimes appeared to be … something less in conformity with God’s will, shall we say.)

    So, is premise 1 false, or premise 2? Or does it not matter, because we’re going to wear the pants anyway, and we don’t care who says otherwise?”

    Pants wearing is now a non-issue or has nothing really to do with God’s will, but man’s, by your own argumentation, because your second premise is also demonstrably false, because pants are made and designed for both men and women. And, yes, they are actually made and styled differently, even if you don’t see the differences.

    So, if we get down to brass tacks here, we’re really talking about man’s will and desire, dressed up if you will, as God’s will. With all respect, I’m really sorry, but I just don’t see it from any of the comments you and other like-minded gentlemen (for the most part) have made here.

  • bill bannon

    would be offending the Old Testament law. Any men here can try on female cut slacks and go to the workplace and see what happens. You’ll not be invited by your old friends to any football games. You’ll gain new friends….who’ll invite you to a Broadway musical. I wish the Bishops would mandate female cut slacks for all Catholic school females….the skirts are easily hiked up to mini level and in some cities, that is the thing ( I waged that war with a female orphan I sent to Catholic school for years.)
    The Post Office and some police departments have dressed women in male cut slacks and they look depressive of any temptation…sort of like Birkenstock sandals. The OT law is not about sexual temptation but at the deep level is about each gender taking on the inclinations os the other. For example, the OT says…. ” the severity of a man is better than a woman’s indulgence”…(context is child rearing). So when males lack all severity in situations where they should have it, they are wearing “the things of a woman”.

  • Annie

    In my case I have to wear men’s jeans because the women’s jeans have hips that are so baggy on me they look like shoplifting pants!smilies/cheesy.gif

    I am definitely tree-shaped, straight all the way down. My neat look is Dickie’s twill pants and twill shirt of a different color. Both in dark blue make me look like I work at Tuffy.

  • Mercury

    Isn’t Catholic morality based not on Old Testament prohibitions, but on the practice of virtue and Natural Law? Otherwise, we’d have to worry about all the other “abominations” like eating pork, combining fabrics, sex during menstruation (which may be icky but not a sin), etc. I mean, there’s a reason why Catholics don’t only base our condemnation of homosexual behavior on the fact that Leviticus calls it an abomination, we base it on Natural Law arguments about the purpose and meaning of human sexuality.

    That said, it is certainly wrong for a man to dress as a woman, and a woman as a man, but in 2010 in America, no one can seriously say that pants to not belong to a woman’s wardrobe as much as skirts do. Women just happen to have more clothing choices than men do. Have you ever been to a department store? Most of us have been born into a culture where women wear pants as well as dresses. And by the arguments some on here keep putting forth, we’d have to forbid t-shirts and polo shirts on women as well. Women should also never wear baseball caps. I’m sorry but that way leads to legalism, to the worst parts of the Old Law.

  • Mercury

    Oh, and the idea that Catholic women were following the Deuteronomy prohibitions all these years, and somehow our aberrant generation has gone off track is laughable. Most people never heard of that prohibition, and wore skirts because that’s what women wore all the time in those days. Just because it happened to correspond to what certain people think Deuteronomy is trying to say doesn’t mean that’s what they were doing. I mean, people who live where there are no pigs don’t eat pork either.

  • Melinda T

    ddent: you have completely missed the point – men are responsible for their issues and do not exist to control women or their fashion choices – on the other hand Catholic women are responsible to dress modestly whether in pants or skirt – pretty simple stuff and only complicated if you twist the meaning of the above article into a feminist diatribe which it is NOT – it is an appeal to reason and the wearing of clothes appropriate for the hard work of running a household and child rearing – ddent – why don’t you try all that in a dress sometime and see how it works out for you – I predict you would become a pants advocate lickty split…

  • Dust

    If it was good enough for Donna Reed, June Cleaver, Lucy Ricardo, and Hazel …


  • Mike

    typical arrogant feminist attitude of westernized women. attacking motherhood calling it a blue collar job, attacking the authority of her husband, attacking modesty. There is a reason why the divorce rate is so high in the western world.

    “thou shall not wear what pertaineth unto a man, all that do so are an abomination to the Lord thy God”

  • Mercury

    They were honoring motherhood by calling it a blue collar job (implying difficult, full-time job), they were not attacking the authority of a husband (which is not the same as the authority of a dictator), but the authority of strange men who presume to tell them what to do and then call them feminists and godless for not obeying, and NO one has attacked modesty, but only some people’s standards of modesty and rationale for it (“so I can chastely ogle you”). If someone said “Mike, you must always wear a frock coat, otherwise you’re being immodest”, would you be attacking modesty to say “I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous?” Why don’t you read the conversation.

    And where do some men get the idea that the authority of the husband means he has the right to dictate everything to the wife? Because if a man does that, he seems to be neglecting his role as husband.

    Prove to me that pants in 2010 in the US “pertaineth to a man.” So you think an old lady at church wearing loose mauve slacks is cross-dressing? A woman at Adoration in a woman’s pantsuit is displeasing to the Lord? Or maybe, just maybe, to slacks belong to a typical female wardrobe of our time and place.

  • Her husband

    Try developing some critical reading skills. No where in my wife’s writing did she state anything you accused her of.
    Since so many men seem to want my wife to obey their wishes, allow my to offer all women my permission to wear whatever you want. I promise not to ogle you.

  • Mercury

    I think another thought is:

    Men, imagine if the women were telling us we had to do all our day to day stuff in an ankle-length skirt … we *could* do it, no doubt, but most things we do’d be a lot easier to do in pants, right? Women’s tasks are just as difficult, so if they want to wear pants, even for *gasp* sitting around the house and enjoying the day, why must they have to justify it to self-appointed popes of godly fashion?

    And yes, women have done those tasks in long skirts for hundreds of years, so it’s not *impossible*. So what? Men started to wear pants because they are practical. Monks have done hard labor in ankle-length robes, but no man would say we should dress like that … Jesus wore ankle-length robes, too. But WE wear pants because they are practical, because they make our day-to-day tasks easier. So please, quit denigrating women who make this point.

  • Simcha Fisher

    Nice try, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to get divorced now, and it’s all my fault. It’s a shame, since we get along so well, have so many children, and are about to celebrate our 13th anniversary. Why, oh why did I put on those pants? Why didn’t you, or some other man very much like you, stop me? Why didn’t we move to a different, non-western hemisphere, for the sake of our marriage? Oh well. I’ll miss you. But least my legs will be warm.

  • Mike

    mercury don’t make this a semantics issue. Women’s pants today, if you haven’t noticed, hug and accentuate the bottom, legs, hips and thighs. This creates a stumbling block for others both in the parish and in normal society. Long skirts and loose dresses don’t accentuate the curves and legs of the womans body. Maybe modesty is so dead in western society that the people are unable to even discern correctly. Goto eastern Europe, Armenia, India, and parts of the middle east and south America and you will see what true modesty is. . The women don’t take their marriages, motherhood, or modesty in such a flagrant arrogant fashion as this woman does. There are modest women in the US like Michelle Duggar, who seems to take care of her children perfectly in modest long skirts and loose clothing. Funny how she seems to never complain. But like I said before, she portrays the values of western feminism, which is drilled into womens heads in school, media, and college. That fact that she has to rebuttal an article on christian modesty shows this impulse..

  • MRA

    Mike, women in Eastern Europe and South America dress more modestly than Americans? Seriously? Have you ever seen one?

  • Simcha Fisher

    Mike, you said (emphasis mine) “Women’s pants today, if you haven’t noticed, hug and accentuate the bottom, legs, hips and thighs. . . modesty is so dead in western society that the people are unable to even discern correctly. ”

    If other people “haven’t noticed” this putative immodesty, and are “unable to discern” when a piece of clothing is troublesome. . . doesn’t that mean that other people have moved on? You’re fixated on “bottoms, legs, hips, and thighs”; the rest of us have better things to think about.

    How about this: next time, before you leave the house, pray for the courage to think about something besides modesty. After a certain point, thinking about modesty all the time is just a way of thinking about sex all the time. I and my husband don’t. Unless, of course, I’m wearing a skirt.

    Also, I appreciate your concern about my marriage — it’s really touching. It’s true that my husband suffers intensely through my arrogance, but the good news is that he totally deserves to be married to someone like me.

  • Her husband

    I don’t deserve this.

  • Mercury

    Mike, you make a joke out of the virtue of modesty, and sexualize women’s bodies in the extreme. A woman’s blouse or dress normally reveals that she has breasts under there, and even a skirt or dress accentuates a woman’s form (which the article even mentioned). The only types of garments that regularly hide her figure completely are Muslim ones.

    And women in Eastern Europe and Christian women in the Middle East typically do wear pants, though not tight jeans and the like. They do dress more modestly on average, but they don’t reject pants. But then again they may not be “real Catholics” because they celebrate the Maronite and Byzantine liturgies, which don’t use Latin I’m afraid.

    And as a man who formerly lived very unchastely, like many men in this country do, I can assure you that pants were NEVER a trigger to lust unless they were very very tight. And I think most men in our day do not have their lusts aroused by a woman in slacks. In fact, I had never heard of this “issue” until I found out via the internet that some people take issue with this.

    But you know what I think? I think some men sit around and try to find how certain women’s garments can excite lust. I think they sit around and say “well, if you look at it this way, you can see the woman’s bottom, upper things, and hips in outline.” But we can lust at ANYTHING a woman wears and it CAN incite lust if we let it. Then that’s not a modesty issue.

    This whole issue has mad me sick to my stomach. You say you respect women, but you sound like you’re talking about cattle.

  • Mercury

    I mean, Simcha’s right. I DIDN’T notice until people started saying I should notice. Now my head is filled with crap like “hmm, I wonder if what she’s wearing is modest enough”. Thanks, rad trads!

  • Richard A

    Kate, et al,

    My premise 1 is not false. We do not unfortunately, live in the paradaisal state in which God created us, so the fact that we need to wear clothes to protect bodily health and modesty is part of our condition. This would seem to be instinctive and natural, since Genesis depicts Adam and Eve as having fabricated some kind of garments, and then God Himself providint them with coverings as well.

    If we walked around au natural the sexual distinctives would of course be evident. Natural law likewise proposes that adults commonly present themselves publicly in attire that reinforces the distinctions of the sexes. Many (most?) of the prohibitions in the Bible in fact are points of morality knowable through human reason, although often only with difficulty. The fact, if true, that most people haven’t heard of the proscription in Deuteronomy and yet have followed it proves, if anything, that this is a natural tendency in us.

    If it cannot be said of pants that they “pertain to a man”, of what article of clothing can it be said? You would have to propose for consideration that modern Western society has gotten itself into the happy place of being so ordered that it CANNOT violate some point of morality, which is way less likely than the alternative, that this point of morality is so routinely violated that hardly anyone even thinks morality has anything to do with the question.
    (The moral point, by the way, is not that of modesty but of presenting oneself as what one is not, i.e., a man if one is a woman or a woman if one is a man; and this on a point which is socially important. It is not analogous to presenting oneself as, for instance, a carpenter if one is not a carpenter, or in painter pants if one is not a painter.)

  • Mercury

    “If it cannot be said of pants that they “pertain to a man”, of what article of clothing can it be said?”

    It could have been said of pants about 80 years ago, maybe even more recently, but not today. But, MEN’s pants pertain to men, WOMEN’s pants pertain to women. Only a very manly woman would wear pants from the men’s section at the department store. You argument would also bar woman from ever wearing t-shirts, baseball caps, blazers, button-down shirts, athletic socks, athletic shoes, polo shirts, etc. since all these items originally “pertained to men” but were ADAPTED for use by women. Even an idiot can tell the difference between a woman’s white button-down blouse and a man’s white button-down the shirt. Why does the same axiom not work with pants in some people’s worlds?

    So, women can only wear full-length dresses, since separate shirts were also a men’s clothing item until they were adapted.

    Why do some people insist on making up more sins than there already are? Why do some people seem intent on piling on rule after rule? Didn’t St. Paul warn against such a mindset? Isn’t there a daner in placing WAAAY too much emphasis on what is essentially and external, neutral, item?

    A woman who wears pants is not dressing as a man. Period. We’ve all seen enough butchy lesbians to know what that actually looks like.

  • Mercury

    If a woman were sinning by wearing pants, why does the Catechism say nothing? Why does the Church never produce a statement on the issue? If it were such an important issue touching on eternal salvation, wouldn’t the Church have something to say? Wouldn’t someone besides guys on fringe traditionalist websites say something?

    I mean, even Cardinal Siri’s letter didn’t say women were sinning or being immoral, only that he thought the trend could be damaging in the long term. And that was his opinion, and is not binding in any way.

  • Kate

    Oh…that’s what those guys who talk about defrauding meant… I see. I’ve heard the Duggars and like minded folks speak of this, so I guess I finally figured out what they were really talking about there.

    Richard, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. You still haven’t proven your point to me, nor that your desire that women differentiate themselves by wearing only skirts and dresses is really divinely ordained, and not just your will dressed up as God’s. As for Natural Law, you really do not want to travel that road, because as Natural Law is understood and expressed by Catholic Tradition, comes from a very particular school of Greek Pagan and Philosophical thought. Plato and Aristotle are all too human, as is “Natural Law.” A sociological and anthropological examination focused strictly on dress variation between the sexes will show that your argument does not hold.

    Clearly, nothing I say will change your mind, and I’ve tried to find the logic and truth in your words, but all I see is a Pharisee-like mindset that wants to lay heavy burdens on people other than yourself and call it divinely ordained instead of the legalism it appears to be. That’s fine. I will still dress appropriately and modestly, in a way attractive and pleasing to my loving spouse. He and everyone I’ve ever encountered have never failed to see me as the woman I am, so this defrauding idea just… I don’t have words for it.

    It’s been a good discussion, but it’s time to walk away now. Mrs. Fischer, thanks for the topic and God bless you and your spouse. It’s been great to have the both of you participate and give your perspectives here. Many thanks!

  • Kate

    I’ve really appreciated your words in the last few days. You’ve said some things much better than I could have and I very much appreciate it. Another reason I’m walking away from this discussion is I’ve very much hit my creeped out meter. Modesty, I can relate to, but defrauding? None of the men in my life I’ve asked about this topic have any sense of that idea at all. It just strikes me as more about Man than God. The arrogance I have encountered is just astonishing. It’s also sad.

  • Simcha

    to Kate and Mercury and others who have slogged through this silly conversation with great civility and consistency.

  • buckyinky

    Clearly, this conversation and all conversations like it would be silly if the only substance to them was whether it is appropriate for women to wear pants. However, there is much more to the conversations than merely that, which I see as accounting for the volumes of commentary that have been generated on all the blogs. The underlying issue, which is much more important than pants or no pants, is whether a woman should take seriously a man’s idea of what women in general ought to do. I deny that it is about some men trying to control all women, as Mark Shea and others have asserted. It does not appear that the original article on CatholiCity, which opens thus, “Consider the following food for thought, rather than a hard-and-fast directive…,” shows a delusion that the writer is trying to assert anything remotely resembling control over women. Even if some men were trying to do that, the thought that they might succeed by posting a manifesto on a blog about it is laughable, as all they would receive would be virtual spittle in the face as demonstrated here and in Mr. Shea’s combox toward men who weren’t even doing anything nearly so bold as posting a manifesto on the topic. With a few possible exceptions, the only thing any male commenters were doing was sharing their opinion of why they think it is better for women to wear skirts rather than pants. I am hard-pressed to find any comments that betray a belief that pants on women is innately evil, though many comments show strong opinion that pants should not be worn by women, even if they aren’t necessarily sinning in wearing them.

    As to the question of whether it is acceptable for a man to share an opinion of what he believes women in general ought to do, the overall verdict, judging by a sampling of the comments, is no.* Not only will his opinion not be taken seriously, it will also be ridiculed and belittled and his motives will be suspected as being driven by psychosexual aberrations or even the “mentality of a rapist.” Clearly the general consensus is that the only consideration to be taken seriously in determining what a woman should wear, is what she chooses to wear.

    *that is to say unless, as I have pointed out above, women generally agree with the opinion shared

  • Mercury

    Men have a right to say general things like that to women, just as women do to men. But there is a tendency among some people to believe that women as a gender must be submissive to men as a gender. I agree that wives must be submissive to their husbands as the head of the family (this does not give anyone the right to be a tyrant), but some take that far beyond what’s directed and come up with the idea that women should listen to their betters. As if there is a general hierarchy that goes God -> men -> women -> children.

    That is crap and not Catholic teaching. Though it’s exactly what Muhammad taught. But the submissiveness of women to men is within the context of a family, not in general.

  • buckyinky

    I don’t understand enough about the scenario you describe to say whether it is crap or not, but I understand it well enough to know that it doesn’t describe the tone of most, if not all, of the comments of those who posited opinions against women wearing pants. Who, among the men that have commented, appear to be expecting women to obey their direct and arbitrary command? Who, among the men that commented, appear to expect women to refrain from wearing pants solely because he desires to see it so? Yet this is the scenario you describe, and thus imply that the men who argued that women should not wear pants are doing so only because it is a personal preference that these men have, and that since they think themselves superior to women, they have a right to see it put in place. I see no evidence for this in any comments I have encountered on this subject.

  • Mercury

    You may not. But remember that this battle has been raging on about four different blogs, with many of the same commentors (I myself was on Simcha’s, Mark Shea’s, and this one, among others). People may be reacting to people not necessarily in this thread here.

    It could also be that those who reacted were reacting against a certain personality type, and the men who commented may have been unfairly characterized into this group. If so, then that is not right. But for instance, there’s one guy on this post who keeps commenting that women are sinfully disobeying Scripture by wearing pants, and he was not presenting it as merely a preference on an opinion. That’s not right.

  • Richard A

    That men and women differentiate themselves in their apparel is divinely ordained, plainly stated in divine revelation and also discoverable through reason and the general observation that every society sophisticated enough to produce more than the most rudimentary bodily coverings has done so, so there must be something in us that wants to do it.

    That the differentiation take the form of men/pants, women/skirts is NOT divinely ordained, but one (fairly large and influential) cultural application of what is a natural human tendency.

    So you don’t like the philosophical approach of the Angelic Doctor (I can’t say I know whether he spoke to this issue specifically)? I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Have fun defending heterosexual-only marriage on non-religious grounds.

    I’ve read the Scriptures, applied some reasoning, observed that in the life of the Church this has actually been done consistently up through around 1950. But hey, maybe I am just a Pharisee who is looking for ways to make life harder for women. I’ll stay off that new thread that’s going on about tithing. Giving a full 10 percent of gross income has got to be a lot easier than wearing skirts.

  • Kate

    I find it amazing that this entire discussion has crossed not only this site, but several other blogs. I spent some time reading not only the blogs, but the comments and discussion that resulted.

    I see I need to make some things clear.

    Basically, I see this discussion as a tempest in a teapot. The issue, the wearing of pants, is not really the issue. Your last post here, Richard, makes that clear, if the other comments here and elsewhere haven’t already.smilies/smiley.gif

    Frankly, I love wearing skirts, dresses, and pants. I wear what is most appropriate for the given situation. I have no problem whatsoever with what the discussants in this and the other discussions cross the blogosphere wear. I know that people who generally frequent these places are for the most part, decent, serious Catholics who strive to live out their faith as best as they can.

    It’s those issues that underlie the named issue that create all sorts of problems.

    Richard, you’re right. I’ve read the Angelic Doctor. He has many good things to say. Some of what he says doesn’t make sense or ring true with my experience. I certainly respect him, but he is not God. He, like me, canonized Saint or not, is all too human. As I understand my Catholic faith, only Jesus and Mary are without sin. St. Thomas Aquinas is not on that list. I certainly treat his views with respect, but I don’t have to nor do I actually agree with everything he says. I love and use one of his soliloquies on the Eucharist as a prayer quite frequently. But he and some of the other Church fathers and the like have said some pretty ugly things about women that have gotten used to demean and justify some less than reasonable treatment of them. Heck, I’ve seen St. Paul taken out of context and used in a very similar way. All too human, a product of their times and culture. Understandable.

    What has seemed to be the real issues here are the following:

    Men can’t help their fallen nature. Women need to dress in a certain prescribed way so that it’s easier for men to keep their minds in a good place. It’s not about women as people, it’s about what they become in men’s minds. I see this as partly a reasonable request for modesty, and partly as an excuse. It’s hard to exercise self mastery and discipline. It’s hard for women too at times. That’s not come up here, but has elsewhere.

    The whole men “headship” business. The divine right bestowed on men by Ephesians 5 that gets twisted in practice into an exercise of the divine right of men to exercise power and control over wives, children and I guess even other women not of their family. Reads and comes across as some fundgelical Protestant diktat to me. I notice that others in all the discussions on this issue feel the same way. Again, human not divine. I’m married. The mutual love between my husband and I is one of love and respect, not “you do what I tell you to.” I love pleasing my husband. It gives me great joy to do so. For his part, he loves pleasing me. We serve each other, not lord it over each other. Marriage is not a power and control game. Relationships between men and women are not a power and control game. Discussions like this one seem to say differently. God gave every person a brain and ability to discern what is essential and what may be a good thing, but not essential.

    The whole defrauding thing. Another icky Protestant notion that has come out due more to inferences than anything explicitly stated, your words and views not withstanding, Richard. I’d be very willing to bet that you have not taken every word, commandment, or rule in the Bible completely literally, or equally. I’d bet you haven’t sold everything and given it to the poor, taken up a cross to follow Jesus. I’m sure you have a perfectly reasonable, understandable reason for not taking His words literally. So, in reality, we have cherry picking of various commandments and words of Holy Writ to fit our concept of what a “real” Catholic and/or Christian is supposed to be and how they are supposed to live their faith. I fail to see an equivalence between the great commandments and the sinfulness of breaking them with the wearing of pants. I’d bet you’re wearing mixed fibers right now, don’t follow prescribed ritual cleanliness vis a vis menstruation (if you’re married) prescribed in the Torah, don’t have facial hair meeting the requirements, and eat pork and other non-kosher foods. That’s just the Old Testament. Never mind the glaring challenges to some of those very rules in the New Testament, and the matter of actually living by and following Jesus’ literal words. There are reasonable explanations and caveats for some of those, like plucking out your sinful eyes, or cutting off your sinful hand.

    The whole defrauding thing, which you again bring up in your most recent post, and then make a throwaway remark regarding homosexuality and same sex “marriage” indicates the real issue. I’ve grown up with brothers and have seen this phenomenon for myself. Heterosexual men fear being attracted to gay men and conversely fear being attractive to them in turn. That’s the nub of the defrauding concern and issue. I really appreciate you bringing it up.

    To get down to brass tacks here, the pants issue is not about women wearing pants at all. It is about sexual hang ups and peccadillos, fears and insecurities, and power and control. God is the excuse, and you’ve further revealed your hand in saying “good luck with nonreligious arguments against same sex marriage.” That has nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with women. At all. The problem in these discussions turns out not to be women at all. It’s about men and their issues. Pants, and women, are really just an excuse.

    Gentlemen, really. Please deal with your issues and leave women out of it. This entire sham of musical chairs has really turned out to be about you men.


  • Kamilla


    I do have to say here that the defrauding issue is a problem in fact, if not in conscious intent, around this part of the country. When so many outdoorsy types with weathered faces use REI as their primary wardrobe source — it is sometimes hard to tell the boys from the girls.

    When you plead for the gentlemen to deal with their own issue, you ignore the instruction of Holy Scripture which teaches us to discern the difference between a weaker brother and a pharisee. Finally, when you write, “I wear what is most appropriate for the given situation.” That’s begging the question, Karen. Silly me, but I thought what is appropriate for women to wear was what we are discussing.

    Since our culture does have a different practice regarding women in pants than has existed anywhere in Christendom in past generations – is it really unreasonable to question the wearing of pants by women?

    Just wondering,


  • buckyinky

    Thanks Kamilla, I appreciate your thoughts.

  • Kate

    I see your point. Honestly, I had been talking about the issue of women’s dress until it seemed to me that that was only a cover for other issues, at least from the particular poster I had been addressing. As for your comment about the weaker brother and the pharisee, I’m honestly having trouble distinguishing between the two anymore. I think it’s a both/and and a problem on all sides, including mine. I just wish we could civilly agree to disagree. I assure you, my bet is that Richard and others concerned about defrauding would have no trouble telling the females participating in this and the other blog discussions on this topic from men.

    Frankly, the only person I truly have control over in mind, body and spirit, is myself. I cannot do a thing about the non-Catholic, non-Christian women out there who dress differently. I certainly guide my children, because I do have a measure of control over their choices and what I and my husband permit them to wear. I seek input from and offer input to my husband on such matters as we seek it from each other. That’s my true locus of responsibility. I understand the general observations made on all sides and certainly respect the people engaged in this discussion. I realize that we all want to do what is most pleasing to God, and what will help each of us on our faith path.

    I don’t defraud in my dress, even in pants. I am female and I show my feminine side in my attire. I certainly help with those within my purview and sphere of influence. I still think modesty is the greater issue and that pants truly have nothing to do with it. It’s not a sin for a woman to wear pants. There has been nothing, even with some of the historical, sociological and anthropological arguments that has honestly, in my heart of hearts, convinced me. Wearing skirts as a preference? Strongly desired and recommended? Piously worthy? Yes, yes, and yes. Asking the question, sure, why not? There’s just no resolution to be really found, and certainly there is no consensus on the issue. So, maybe, just maybe, this is one of those differences we can respect in charity, while remaining united on the essentials.

    Again, this has been a really good and very helpful discussion. I have learned a great deal from so many people and it has been a wonderful experience to really engage with some of the regulars I read here regularly, like you Kamilla. It’s been a pleasure.

  • Mercury

    This whole idea that Catholic women followed Deuteronomy until the 1950s is ridiculous. I guarantee you 99% of women have never even known that passage nor have they “followed” it, the merely adhered to it accidentally by following the fashions of their times.

    But there are men’s pants and women’s pants. I really fail to see why the Deuteronomy passage applies to pants, but not to t-shirts, button-down shirts, polo shirts, athletic shoes, baseball caps, sweaters, blazers, etc., all of which were originally men’s clothing items. Can’t we easily tell the difference between men’s pants and women’s pants just as easily as you can between a men’s white oxford shirt and a woman’s white oxford shirt?

    Most of us were born into a culture where women wear pants. Most of our pious grandmothers wear pants regularly. If the Church were really concerned, they would say something about it.

    Natural law seems to intend that woman and men differentiate according to dress … but any moron who walks into a store can see that although the particular ITEM of clothing may be the same, the cut, the material, the color can usually distinguish. Just like in the ancient world.

    This is all legalism anyway. Why should we worry about this directive in Deuteronomy and not the ones about mixed fabrics and pork, etc.? So if a man lets his daughter play softball, she has to wear a dress and no cap on her head. Perhaps a bonnet …

  • Richard A


    You specifically disparaged “natural law” philosophy as a sometimes suspect pagan import. It was in that context in which I alluded to the current societal dispute about same sex marriage. Sorry for the choice of examples. Forget that. Since “natural law” philosophizing is so suspect, have fun opposing embryonic stem cell research on non-religious grounds. Or is even human embryology so close to SEX that this example too demonstrates that the whole issue, for me, is sex?

    It’s not. Wearing clothes is a practical response to some consequences of the fall. In nature, the sexes are obviously distinguished from each other. Since human society is established by the biology of that distinction, it makes sense that when those distinctives are obscured by being covered up (for the sake of modesty, given our fallen nature, or physical necessity), we continue to wear coverings that let others know “I am a man; I am a woman.”

    “Defrauding” is an unfortunate term which I have not used, although in the specific sense in which you are using it, I guess I have alluded to a similar concept, which relates to decisions to wear clothing pertaining to a sex not one’s own. “Defrauding” however, is used in some translations of I Cor 7 to refer to the refusal of a spouse to grant conjugal rights, and so it seems to import the whole sex as sex issue (modesty) back into the discussion, when it’s not really about that.

    It seems to me that a thoughtful Christian would ask himself, “Is this an area of life that God cares about, and about which I could know His will?” Quickly it would be clear – it seems to me – that we should dress modestly (whatever that may mean in the situation), and that we would at least ask ourselves, “is it still binding (or “recommended”, or “a good idea”, or even “don’t dismiss it out of hand”) on Christians today, given the New Covenant? I don’t see how one could decide anything other than, “yes, this is still something that Christians should do today.” What does that mean for me, then? It means that if I’m a man, I dress like a man, and if I’m a woman I dress like a woman. What does THAT mean? I guess that’s what this discussion is about. Or is it about the previous question, whether it’s still binding under the New Covenant? Or have we decided that, past modesty, I know for certain that God doesn’t have a knowable will in this area?

    I eat pork and clams and shrimp, and I don’t worship under the rubrics of the Old Law, because the dietary and worship laws have been abrogated in Christ in the New Covenant, as we know from the book of Acts. I shun mediums and witches (although I don’t hang them) and occasionally I reprimand disobedient children (although I don’t stone them), because even though these are specific prohibitions under the Old Covenant, they are still binding in the New, being based on the moral law. Am I supposed to refrain from offering any opinions on any subjects until I perfectly adhere to every command in the Bible or can demonstrate flawlessly that they do not apply in a literal sense?

    Good question about the monthly cycle. It’s been many years since that’s been an issue for us, although if memory serves we did tend to refrain at that time. Didn’t usually wait the full eight days before resuming, though. Given what we know today, it seems evident, doesn’t it, that God really intends sex to be fertile, doesn’t He? And, given the prominence of blood in both the Old and New Testaments, perhaps there’s more going on for Christians to consider than just the “ick” factor that was mentioned above?

    I think there are Christian women who agree with the lines of argumentation that I have laid out, but what do I know? I don’t think like a woman. I suspect that all this is just a smokescreen for the fact, obvious to women but not to me, that I’m one of those Ephesians 5 brutalists who think all women should be subject to all men.

  • Kate


    You win. I bow to your superior wisdom, knowledge, theology and irrefutable logic. Good luck making it work.

    I’m walking away from this discussion, website, and church before the door can hit me on the way out. Clearly there’s no room here. I’m done. I’m sick of trying to understand and fit in where I clearly don’t belong. Please don’t bother wasting your time responding. I promise not to darken this door again.

  • Richard A

    No luck needed. It already doesn’t work.

  • Mercury

    I’m bowing out of the discussion too. Kate, I hope you don’t mean you’d leave the Church over something so trivial. Talk to a priest if you have to, the Church requires this of no one.

    Richard, I’m outta here. No, you don’t “win”, but I just don’t think this debate is remotely spiritually healthy for any of us involved. We talk ad talk as nauseam and end up thinking bad thought about brothers and sisters, and reprimanding them for legitimate differences in opinion and lifestyle. We sound like one of the churches St. Paul constantly had to reprimand.

  • Marthe L

    I think that the matter has been discussed enough here that we are now going around in circles. However I did enjoy the discussion, as well as reading the various opinions, and having to think about what I might reply has had the good effect of making me come back to other matters in my own life that needed healing. So, thanks. Let’s all meet again in another discussion…

  • Micha Elyi

    Women laugh at us men when studies show that we think about sex several times per hour. We could get a bigger laugh if anyone ever did a study of how often women think about being sexy.

    Jack Kammer, If Men Have All the Power How Come Women Make the Rules (1999)

    Mr. Kammer’s remark is the Rosetta Stone for decoding why so many women in these comments are responding with defensive indignation.

    Women’s pants today, if you haven’t noticed, hug and accentuate the bottom, legs, hips and thighs. . . modesty is so dead in western society that the people are unable to even discern correctly.

    Mike, as quoted by Simcha Fisher (emphasis hers)

    Mike is correct. If the large majority of people were able to “discern correctly” then the angry feminist “My eyes are up HERE, buddy” shaming ploy Ms. Fisher herself noted early on in the comments wouldn’t work at all. Even if one is unaware of how one is stomping on the libidos of others (or having ones own stomped on) doesn’t mean it’s not having an effect.

    Just look around you; in the supermarket checkout aisle ‘sexy’ is in a pitched battle with ‘gossip’ for the covers of the women’s interest magazines sold there. College girls in Northern California garb themselves to tempt exposure even on a frosty February. Pay attention to the commenters here who can’t discern any meaning to the word ‘attractive’ other than ‘sexually attractive’ or who can’t see anything other than ‘sexy’ except as ‘idiot.’ Notice how the word ‘sexy’ has been made so commonplace in pop culture that the word ‘hot’ has been grabbed out of the phrase ‘hot and bothered’ and pressed into service as a substitute.

    Culturally, in northern California, I’d look like an idiot if I started walking around in a fussy dress.


    In Northern California many other women wear what Michelle deplores as “a fussy dress” every day and none of them “look like an idiot.” One can choose not to participate in the sex-besotted culture bleeding out of San Francisco and Los Angeles without moving out of Northern California.