Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sadie Frown of the Week: A Headcovering Issue

Something's been disturbing me on the headcovering front lately. Actually it bothers me all-around on the modesty front too. I've heard from far too many women lately who want to cover and who want to dress in a way that they feel is modest ask how to convince husbands who absolutely and completely oppose the idea. I'll begin by admitting that I have no idea how to answer the question (suggestions on that front are greatly appreciated)! Paul was always supportive of my decision either way. But it absolutely infuriates me when I hear over and over again of husbands who've told their wives they need to dress "modernly" or they won't be leaving the house with them (or whatever other threat is thrown in).

I frequently hear the argument (and have been asked myself whether it's true in my case) that women who cover are obviously being forced to do so by their oppressive, domineering husbands (I guess that's just an extension of this attitude). I have yet to meet or hear from a Catholic woman who covers for this reason. Usually the reasons sound more like this.

Yet over and over again I've heard stories from women who's husbands have forbidden them from wearing headcoverings because of "how it would look." Long skirts seem to fall into the same category from the complaints that I've heard.

And I guess this brings me back to the same semi-rant... I think it's extremely hypocritical to say that one believes that women should be able to do whatever they want to do, that they should be equal in every way with men and then deny them the right to express their femininity in a way that they feel is modest and respectable.

If my husband, as the spiritual head of our home, told me I was absolutely not allowed to cover, I would listen. But I know it would feel unjust to be commanded to ignore the tug upon my heart that I feel from God by the person who is supposed to be helping me towards heaven. I am thankful that I'm not in that position. And I offer a prayer for those who have been commanded to ignore this calling by someone they would hope would be supportive and understanding.

Edited to Add: This post is about covering during Mass and women who's husbands forbid them covering during Mass specifically.


  1. I think though that our call to the vocation of marriage is always more important than a call to dress a certain way. If a desire to cover is causing tension in a marriage and a husband is not requiring a woman to sin in any way by his preference, than it aught to be a thing easily given up. By "easily", I mean that we aught not be so attached to a piece of cloth to cause us to lose our peace and to become angry and unsettled in married life.

    If we marry man and he has never known us to cover our hair and he loves to see our hair, I think it would demonstrate a lack of charity for him if a woman were to insist on it at all times. There are gentler ways of doing these things... covering during the day when he is not home and taking delight in pleasing him by doing our hair nicely for him before he comes home is one example.

    I agree with you that it is unfortunate that there is conflict in homes over this. I just think we aught to be careful not to cling too tightly to our preferences when it is not a matter of sin. The Church does not require it or even ask it. There are ways to compromise; becoming more feminine and modest outwardly while still pleasing our husbands. And in the meantime, if a woman feels that strongly about this matter, she can continue to pray that her husband will understand. I doubt most Catholic husbands are monsters who order their wives about callously. Sometimes, we women forget that our husbands already take quite a bit of heat out in the world for being different, having large families, not going out with the guys, homeschooling, etc. They love their families and most of them married their wives with visible hair. I think making a concession for them on this matter would actually be a great kindness since it is one less challenge for them.

    It is not sinful to expose one's head. Therefore, it is not offensive to God to honor the husband's preference to do so. In fact, I would argue that it is pleasing to God to put set our preferences aside for love of another. I think my husband would object if I started covering my head and wearing dowdy clothing while he was home. And I don't think it would be fair to categorize him as hypocritical or unkind for expressing that to me. Many of us have good men... let's not force an issue with them. Hopefully, we are in mature enough marriages where we can sit down and talk respectfully about it and hear... "Honey... I love your hair and I would like to see your calves once in a while. You are so beautiful to me regardless of what you wear. But please don't cover it everything up. I am asking you not to do it." I would think that any decent woman would, at that point, not have to be ordered to please her husband!

    Many saints gave up their preferences out of obedience. St. Faustina gave obedience to her superiors by not following God's direct commands... and our Lord was pleased with her and would not allow her to proceed unless her superiors conceded. And all things worked out according to the will of God in His time.

    You speak of men hurting their wives by denying their desires to cover. But it is also very likely that the men are hurt and confused by the woman's incorrect attitude. You are fortunate to be one with Paul on this... but most women are not. Please don't start a crusade against anti-headcovering husbands. Let us build each other up. That includes the menfolk.

  2. Hi Anonymous-

    I'm not starting a crusade. I'm asking for advice for these women and prayer. You gave advice. Not necessarily advice I agree with entirely (although I did say that I would submit if it were asked of me), but advice.

    I do resent one thing you said, strongly: that dressing modestly is necessarily equated with being "dowdy." Look at my pictures. Look at my blog A Year of Dresses. There are ways of dressing modestly without being dowdy.

    Secondly, I wasn't talking about covering full time here. I was talking about covering at Mass. Hence the "reasons" link. Most women feel called to cover at Mass (far fewer feel called "all the time").

    And no where did I suggest that husbands were "monsters" (I'm sorry, it's hard not to be annoyed when readers, who hide behind "anonymous" project their own thoughts upon me). I suggested that they needed prayer and I hoped that this post would help women who's husbands deny them this.

    I also have a hard time supporting denying a woman the right to do something with a strong Biblical basis.

    We all take "heat" out in the world. Men and women. It's because we're not supposed to be "of this world."

    I don't think it's too much to ask that a husband support his wife's Biblically supported calling. But that's just me.

    But in the future if you could possibly abstain from putting words in my mouth that I didn't say and other grand dramatic gestures ("crusade!" Really?) I'd really appreciate it.

  3. Anon,

    How is any man going to get hurt by finding out that his wife wants to cover her head? How is this an "incorrect attitude" if St. Paul asks of it Corinthians? Honestly, I know of no man who would be "hurt" (ever) or "confused" (after it was explained) by his wife wanting to wear a head covering.

    For a man to get hurt and confused by this he would either have to be: A. a pansy/member of the castrati, or B. so thoroughly mentally unsound that he should probably seek counseling.


  4. Like you I'm lucky... my husband is equally supportive of me being modest or totally immodest, which is a problem all of its own ;-)

    Anyways, I don't think I've ever heard someone say that their husband asked/told them to do it... I have heard people assume that and like you it annoys me to no end.

    As for the rest... Maybe you could have specified that you were talking about covering at Mass beyond the link, honestly I missed that too. I'm grateful my husband is ok with me covering in or out of Mass (for those who don't know: I don't cover full time, I have started covering at Mass... but about half time elsewhere) I can kinda see the arguments about husbands being uncomfortable in general public situations (though the comment makes it sound as if women want to cover full time at home, husband never see hair lol) but Mass? At that point its between you & God. Yes husband = head of household and very important consideration but I don't see how it would hurt him to give that up for an hour or two a week (or even daily if you do that). I don't blame you for getting annoyed at that... because I just don't get it either. Of course I'm coming from a situation where, like you, I have a very supportive husband who's confident about himself. Maybe that makes it hard to see the other side, I don't know...

  5. Hi Cam, I agree dressing modestly doesn't have to mean 'dowdy'. I think my new dresses are beautiful and modest ( I DO think that a lot of women who want to cover and be modest take it to extremes. I've seen a lot of women out (not you) there wearing little more than a sack for a dress and large white kerchiefs that scream 'religious covering'.

    I think women that want to dress modestly should just start doing it, but gradually, i.e., slightly longer skirts and higher necklines. Try to stay fashionable but modest. If they can sew this is easier. Also with covering, why not a hat? If husbands see there is a middle ground, where women can look like women but still look good, maybe they wouldn't mind.

    "I think it's extremely hypocritical to say that one believes that women should be able to do whatever they want to do, that they should be equal in every way with men and then deny them the right to express their femininity in a way that they feel is modest and respectable. " It's the same with feminism. Supposedly they freed us to be who we want to be, so long as it isn't a feminine stay at home mom!

    Like you I am lucky and my husband loves that I dress like a woman (lady). He also loves the coverings I wear. Mine are Cecily style from Garlands of Grace and blend in with my outfits. I also love to wear hats to church. BTW I think that blue snood is beautiful.


  6. You know, this post raises another issue that I'd love to see addressed on your blog: devotion to God and devotion to spouse.

    Of course, we know that ultimately, we must follow God and if a husband is asking something of a wife that goes against God, a woman should follow God first. But I'd love to see a post on some of the more "gray" issues in this area.... That is, where, exactly, is that line? When is devotion to spouse to be put first? When is devotion to God?

  7. I am glad I found your blog through Circle of Moms. This is a topic I've been thinking about for a while. My daughter, who is 8, started veiling at Mass a few years ago. She noticed one of the women in our former parish, also a member of our homeschool group, who wore a mantilla and asked her about it. The woman was very kind and explained to my daughter why she wore it; and then offered to let her have a couple of child-sized mantillas her daughter no longer wore. That was all it took and now she wears one at every Mass. She has asked why I don't wear one; and I have to admit I don't have an answer. I've read the Biblical passage which discusses headcoverings and I've read the Catholic Knight's post about it as well. So it is something I've seriously been considering doing. I appreciate your posts on this topic.

  8. I am in the process of becoming Catholic. My husband was raised Catholic by parents who believe in the many ways of the Catholic Church, except a few- they don't believe in breastfeeding and they don't believe in head covering. I decided to cover my hair whenever I was out of the house during Lent, and they were appalled. However, my husband supported my decision and thought that it was a good way for me to gauge my devotion to God and His Church. He defended my choice to cover, and went so far as to contact the priest at his parents church to discuss the issue with them and their priest.

    Covering was difficult, and I actually resented it a few times when my baby boy decided it was fun to take it off. I was extremely conscious of it the first week. However, it did more for me than just cover my head. It helped me dress more modest (because who likes wearing immodest clothing with a modest head covering?) and it taught me a lot about my own Lutheran family. They were actually more receptive to the idea and encouraged me more than my Catholic in-laws.

    Do I still cover full-time? No. Do I still feel called to cover during Mass? Yes. Does my husband support and defend my decision? Most definitely. He supports all of my decisions that are not sinful, why wouldn't he support my decision to cover? My body is his as well as mine, and if he forbid me cover, I would pray about it, but because it is his as well as mine, it also means in the privacy of our home he can see it in a way other people do not. That is what he finds truly special about head covering and dressing modestly- in his eyes, it is encouraged by God to not only protect women from the world, it also makes him unique. He is the only person (when I cover full-time) who sees me uncovered.

    I see this as a blessing!

  9. Lou Lou,
    I couldn't have said it better myself. I wonder what is wrong with the husband who does not like his wife to be modest. What does that say about the way he sees her? And other women for that matter.

  10. There are many different ways to cover one's head. I live in a rather hippyish area, and many women cover their heads, many with dreads, who tie them up beautifully with tichels and scarves. I could easily do the same (and actually had dreads myself for a while), and 'blend in', so to speak. There are hats, berets, 'normal' ways to cover ones head (in non-hippyish areas ;) ) that don't stand out, if that concerns someone, and that make the husband-burdening argument obsolete, in my opinion. Of course, that's not to say you're trying to be of the world by keeping one's head covering less noticeable. :)

  11. I read this post before and was unable to offer a comment. I think, in your other posts, you've hit some of what I wanted to say on the head.

    My husband isn't a Catholic. I really don't know how to describe him (a non-practicing Baptist?, agnostic?, we really don't know how to explain his beliefs to people especially since he's not really sure of them himself). So the idea of him being the spiritual head of my household doesn't work. He's finding his way to faith and therefore the spiritual stuff is really my department, my call.

    I explain all this because as you mentioned concupiscence does rear it's ugly head. For others it's not so in your face. In my household, you don't escape it. I spend a lot of time debating spiritual matters with my husband and do some nice admonishing (sometimes it doesn't go over so well). So you could say since I'm the stronger one spiritually, I'm the spiritual head. Wish it were more balanced, but I guess because of my upbringing I'm used to it.

    So if my husband doesn't like something that I do for religious reasons, he does realize that he doesn't really have the right to say. Sure he can disagree, but he's not the spiritual head at the moment. Mostly he just picks-on me about it and then tells me later that he thinks it's odd, but again he's not going to tell me what to do.

    So it lines up a little with husband's who are spiritual heads allowing their wives freedom of decision.

    Therefore, I'm not really sure why a man would object to it. If my wayward husband thinks it's odd, but has a "what's the harm" attitude, why do people get so impassioned by it? Maybe there's some truth in what anonymous says about society playing a big role and men (as well as women) feel like they're trying to swim through the waves of it.

    But then I'm reminded of Lady Gaga. If she can wear a dress made out of meat to make a statement, what's the big deal about wearing a snood in public? Isn't she the biggest influence on the world right now (according to public opinion of course)? And doesn't she say to embrace who you are? Why can't you embrace being different in a conservative way?

    But hey that's my two cents. I suppose my advice would be to figure out the reasons why the person's opposed and dig deep to find the answer. My husband fully admits sometimes that his motives are purely selfish and that's something that we all have to work on. Doesn't concupiscence totally suck.

  12. Slightly off topic..

    The photo you use, of the blue headscarf, is absolutely fantastic! Lovely color and style for you and for the jacket you've paired it with!

    I do like the thoughts you're expressing as well, it's an interesting topic: men, wanting their wives to be emancipated, until emanicipation becomes uncomfortably "old-school". I guess it ends up being a similar issue to a man insisting his wife cover at mass to please him, either way it's about controlling, in a sense, her relationship with God, and that's an issue, because spiritual "head" shouldn't be interchangeable with "dictator" and while they're trying to get each other to heaven, they're still individuals in relation to God, if her calling is to cover before God, his sanctification may in part come from loving that devotion and supporting it inspite of his personal feelings towards it. I hope I'm being clear.

    Fortunately, I'm blessed with a husband who loves my scarves, it's my mother who thinks I look "just off the boat" and wishes I'd stop. :)

  13. Hi I have just found your blog and I am a headcovering christian wife from Australia where it is not very common in churches for women to cover their heads.
    I have been covering now for for 5 years and married for 9 with my husbands ok. When I first talked with him about it he did ask that when I am out with him that I leave my head uncovered, I think that he was unsure about my commitment and he does like to see my hair so we came to a compromise. However as time has gone often on Sundays I will put on my scarf or vail and it will stay on all day and he doesn't coment about it so there is hope for the women out there whose husbands are oposed to them following Gods call for them to cover sometimes we do need to compromise with our husbands


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