This post has been on my mind for a while. It’s a subject that’s come up before in the Catholic online world, with disparaging little comments on forums, but lately it seems to have become more widespread and the insults have become almost “mainstream” (mainstream in the Catholic blogosphere at least), popping up on blog after blog with a hearty amount of comments following in each combox as skirt-wearing Catholic women are thrown under the bus.
I’d never actually heard the term “Sola Skirtura” until I read it in one of my favorite blogger’s posts on the NCRegister last month. It’s a term used to describe Catholic women who only wear skirts or dresses and is generally used in a negative light. There are other terms that seem to be used as insults as well. Recently I’ve heard “Longskirts” and “traderific Tradity-Cat Catholic who wears denim jumpers” (a quote from one of the blogs I love to read that’s actually on my blogroll… ).
It’s all been a bit disturbing to me. I wear skirts. I wear dresses. I don’t wear pants. But I really don’t care if you wear pants. I don’t believe that skirts and dresses are inherently more modest than pants. In terms of potential for immodesty, dresses and skirts usually are more likely to take the cake.
I have personal reasons for choosing to wear only skirts and dresses. In a way it’s a reminder of my vocation and femininity. Additionally I do find them more comfortable and easy to move in (I know many people will find that hard to believe, but once I got over the general unease I felt in a dress I did feel more comfortable. When I went back to pants after my first month-of-dresses experiment my legs actually felt restricted and uncomfortable… and that is actually my #1 reason!).
And, while it may not be PC to say this, I do find that men treat me with more respect when I’m dressed in a modest dress, than they did when I was dressed in my most modest pair of jeans and a baggy sweatshirt.
I first began noticing the differences in reactions that I got when I lived in Africa. I gave it more thought after I returned from the Middle East. You see, when I was in the Middle East I wore dresses almost every day. One day, when we were going to be swimming and hiking, I wore pants. The difference in reactions was enormous. I can honestly say that, had I been wearing a dress I never would have been picked up and flung onto a camel (now that I think about it, I also had that happen in Africa, if you replace “camel” with “some scary guys shoulder” when I stepped off a bus… the reactions in Africa were actually quite similar… maybe someday I’ll have to write a blog about that particular incident…).
The differences in treatment aren’t as pronounced in the US (although in my experience they certainly do exist) and aren’t actually my primary motivation, but I have found that it does make life considerably simpler for me.
Some of you may have experienced the exact opposite and that’s fine too.
I’ve also noticed that when people get going about the Catholic “Skirt Wars” they almost inevitably have to throw in something about “denim skirts” and “jumpers.” Apparently if you only wear skirts and dresses you must be dowdy and the people who make this argument seem to think that “denim skirt” and “jumper” is the embodiment of dowdiness.
I will admit that I own both denim skirts and a jumper. I wear the jumper when I know we’re going to be getting down to some major Sadie projects because it’s tough and easy to wash (or when it’s really cold! Because it’s warm!) and I wear the denim skirts on days when I feel more casual.
If you’re not into dresses this might help you understand: Do you ever wear sweats or old comfortable jeans? You know they’re not the most fashionable choice in the world, right? But they’re comfortable and some days you don’t feel like going all out? That’s how my favorite denim skirts are. I’m pregnant. Some days I’m tired. And even when I’m not pregnant, some days it’s just nice to throw on a denim skirt and a t-shirt and get going.
I don’t go around the internet telling you not to wear pants. So please, fellow bloggers and Catholic forum members, don’t go around the internet making fun of those of us who do decide to wear dresses. It’s our right too. And it isn’t because I “think I’m better than everyone else” (a frequent claim that gets thrown in). It’s because it’s my choice and it works for me. It makes my life simpler and it reminds me to be gentle.
We don’t like to be lumped into one huge, insulting category any more than you do. And maybe, if you got past the pants, you’d find that we have more in common than you think…