Thursday, 25 August 2011

One Guy's Eye View

I know, I know. Another piece on modesty. I don't know why I'm being so apologetic, though. I think modesty is very cool, and I look forward to the day the women of the western world decide that "body-skimming" beats "body-hugging" every day of the week. Slender girls will look willowy rather than skeletal, and plump girls will look soft and cuddly rather than porcine. Beautiful pumps will be worn with ankle-skimming skirts and snazzy flats will be paired with mid-knee length dresses. Beauty will return to our streets, buses and trains, and men will sob with joy into the flowers and chocolates they bestow on us for being just so gosh-darned pretty.

Incidentally, the church organist made sharp remarks about the outfit I wore to church on Sunday. I was wearing a mantilla, a roomy white blouse, a tight white T-shirt under the big white blouse, a pink below-knee length skirt, nylon stockings, moderately high heels and a shawl. However, despite all this fabric, the organist could still see the back of my neck and apparently part of my upper back. The naked expanse of flesh, he made known to me, was at ironic variance with with my black mantilla. This goes to show that you can't be too careful and that I might have had a chance with the church organist had I not so immediately married B.A.

The amusing thing about the post to which I have linked is that it touches upon power. There is a certain kind of theologian who is obsessed with power. This is why I am wary of anyone who cites the "hermeneutic of suspicion". The "hermeneutic of suspicion" is all about who has the power and who doesn't have the power and how can my group have some power? Power, power, power!

Anyway, the poster posits the power of femininity against the power of semi-naked sexuality. He doesn't mention how the power of femininity can be terribly, terribly abusive. There's a marvellous young lady back home who apparently told her husband that if he had the chance to become a jihadi and he didn't take it, she would divorce him. Okay, you just know this chick dresses modestly.

For about three thousand years or so, women have been given the impression that they have a sell-by date, and after that sad day, no man will ever pay them attention again. This is, actually, totally untrue. I have been dumped TWICE by men in their twenties for women over 30. ("I forget how really young you are," was the second one's valedictory remark. I was twenty-freaking-nine.) And I have had no problem talking with men in their 20s since I turned 30.

And why is this, eh? It is because youth isn't everything. People want what they don't have, and young men already have youth. They look up to older women who have other stuff. Sometimes the other stuff is a kind of quiet, even scornful, confidence Mr. Twenty-something can only dream of having one day. Sometimes it is success in a career he'd like to be successful in. Sometimes it's just being a PhD student, and don't laugh. Seriously, when I studied in Germany, I talked daily to young German men who wanted to talk to me because I was (A) Foreign and (B) a Ph.D. student. They also wanted to be Foreign. They also wanted to be PhD students.

Where AM I going with this? Oh yes---power. The power of a tight shirt is amazingly stupid and banal. There are so many other kinds of power, if power is your thing, and you get more of it the older, smarter and more confident you get. Really, power shouldn't be your thing, but you probably have some, so use it well.

UPDATE ON PANTS/TROUSERS: Berenike has reminded me that the Queen of the Pants Controversy is Simcha Fisher. Grr! Grr! I am so envious of Simcha Fisher, I may quit blogging. 300 comments! I ask you!

Okay, I did not know anti-trouser hysteria had reached such heights in the USA. As far as I know, we don't have it in the UK. Various women in my parish trundle innocently around Edinburgh in trousers and can even pray in trousers without being accosted by pop-eyed strangers who were distracted by their bottoms.

Personally, I don't like wearing trousers because trousers remind me that I am no longer the 117 pound amateur boxer who could wear a Club Monaco Size 2. Trousers make me feel chunky and blah. If, however, like Simcha I had three kids, I bet I'd just swallow my pride and get the darned things. There are perfectly nice trousers in perfectly respectable fabrics like wool.

Incidentally, does anyone know how to ride a bicycle while wearing a skirt these days? If I get a bicycle, I might have to grit my teeth and put on some jeans.

Men who tell women-in-general not to wear trousers (or "pants") are creepy. The one exception to this rule is the cranky pastor who tacks up the "Women Must Not Wear Pants In Church" sign that makes UK Trids giggle so much. It's his church, so if the men who go to his church have a real problem with staring at women's behinds instead of concentrating on Holy Mass, Father Cranky must know.

And, hey, at least Father Cranky isn't making the women pray at the back.


Anonymous said...

Seraphic said...

Hey, I can't stand totally anonymous comments. However, I guess the article is somewhat pertinent...

Jam said...

There are a lot of very stylish women who ride bikes in skirts and dresses in Chicago. Whenever I see them it makes me burn with desire for a bike, but then I remember that I'm terrified just riding in a car in city traffic and could never get up the gumption to bike.

Anyway, I toyed with the idea for a while and there is a whole movement among lady-cyclists who like to ride in style (and skirts). Try googling "skirts and bicycles" or "biking in normal clothes" or so on. Here are a couple of links to start you, from some good blogs for this topic:

Let's Go Ride a Bike: The Best Skirts for Cycling

Bike Style Spokane: Women's Clothing for Biking that Doesn't Look Like It's for Biking

Thwarted Throne said...

One of the issues is differentiating beautiful, feminine and flattering clothes, on the one hand, from sexy. I think sexy should be reserved for when you're alone with your husband and have a reasonable expectation of privacy. An illustration: I have two one-piece swimsuits, one made I believe in the 1950s or early 60s, the other from the 1990s or later. The newer one is low cut and really, a visual come-on. I was concerned about the vintage one because it has a plunging neckline, but when looking at myself in it, I can honestly say that is not immodest (for beachwear). Why? It's subtle, but it is clearly cut for a woman's figure and designed to be flattering. It doesn't taunt or startle the viewer. If I were a clothing designer or artist I could probably say exactly why, but there it is.

berenike said...

I ride a bike in skirts all the time. Well, a lot, obviously I'm not doing it now. Bit harder in a pencil skirt, and I imagine one of those button saddles would be good for that. It doesn't make any difference, except for having to pull the dratted things down most of the time (the longer heavier ones stay down okay, and a silly knees-in pedalling movement helps). Ditto high heels. Shoulder bags are more of a problem, as they can get in the way of the inside elbow when doing a turn - a sharp one or at slow speed - relying on turning the handle bars more than leaning.

And now to knock off the last page of sub-Hegelian gobbledygook!

margaret said...

"It's his church, so if the men who go to his church have a real problem with staring at women's behinds...." Haha, thanks for the giggle.

I can guess (reasonably) where you live and riding a bike around there is probably okay but, please dear Seraphic, be very careful about riding a bike in Edinburgh. Compared to other places I've lived and ridden bikes, eg Cambridge, Denver, Verona, we seem to have a much higher proportion of idiots both driving cars and leaning out of cars doing things like grabbing baskets, etc.

kozz said...

I don't get the whole brouhaha about pants. It borders on the absurd. What about pant-styled outfits (salwars) that are a staple among Indians, or even the Vietnamese traditional wear? I personally don’t wear both too often and stick to my traditional Indian wear. It’s comfortable and modest and not too frumpy. However, I wear skirts and pants all the time when abroad. I confess that a big part of the reason is that I have a terrible hatred of being stared/glanced at (at instances where my chest is being mistaken for my face). By dressing modestly, I hope to alleviate that. I honestly don’t care two hoots for the “soul” of the “staring” person. I just care for me and the fact that it makes me extremely uncomfortable, and puts my soul in peril by the contemplation of violent actions 
Having said that, I feel a rant coming on.
< rant> I find it really amusing that the men are portrayed as hapless creatures subject to the vagaries of pant-wearing jezebels. What really this is, is the shifting the blame and responsibility onto someone else. Temptations will always be around. The choices you make and the sins you commits are your own and no one else’s
A local charismatic publication had carried out an article that urged parents to never dress their baby girls in pants, as pants might eventually lead to SSA, as they grow up. Enough said.


Shiraz said...

Esther, you voiced my thoughts EXACTLY: "What really this is, is the shifting the blame and responsibility onto someone else. Temptations will always be around. The choices you make and the sins you commit are your own and no one else’s".

I just CAN'T STAND the attitude that blames women for any shortcoming of men. Really. This makes me mental! And what's really insane is that I've heard from some the same people who basically blame women's attire for the fact that they are having lustful thoughts tut-tuttings when a woman's husband had an affair (not endorsing his behaviour, mind you, but there were certainly undercurrents of blame!) that this was no surprise as she was dowdy and had 'let herself go!' Sheesh. You can't win with some people. So that is my BLARG for today.

Shiraz said...

Actually, oops, sorry folks, but I haven't done ranting yet :-)

The other thing about the whole 'pants' thing that drives me barmy is the people who use "historical"/"biblical wear" arguments regarding skirts = femininity; pants = masculinity. Ummmm, actually blokes back in those days wore pretty voluminous skirts. (Or not so voluminous: see centurions. Phwoar.) Maybe the mean who think all the women should be in skirts because it's "historically" or "biblically" what they should wear should also pop on a blooming great robe/toga/skirt themselves then. Pfffft. Although, to be fair, I've heard a lot more of this utter rubbish from Evangelical types, rather than Catholics (maybe because we do Tradition, we're more likely to have a better idea of history?) but still...

MaryMargaret said...

Not sure exactly when Simcha posted the pants manifesto, but she has 9 children (1 still in utero). She is one of the funniest Catholic bloggers. Can't remember if she came up with "sola skirtura" or if that was a commenter, but that one really made me laugh out loud.

sciencegirl said...

The thing is, I get the whole "custody of the eyes thing," and that men shouldn't blame women for their short-comings, but there are some outfits women wear that lead to ME staring at their cleavage/thong/skin. I don't approve of the undergrad girls who come in & work in my lab in bar clothes (sparkly, low back/midriff + visible thong), because it's just unprofessional. I don't lust after these women, but sometimes I just think "WOAH! Hi, Sandra. Hello, Sandra's boobs." If it's a distraction for me, how much more so for a guy, who may already be fighting the urge to check out all the ladies. There are clothes that are normal, but some weird guys hate. Then there are clothes that are designed to be attention-grabbing, and they work. Weirdos obsessing over women's clothes on the Internet don't really bug me because I've never encountered them in real life, whereas I've run into a lot of inappropriately dressed women. Mostly, though, I'd have to say I'm tired of seeing men who can afford nicer clothing or who are older & should know better wear ratty outfits, flipflops, slogan t-shirts, and shorts to Mass. And sometimes baseball caps. Very tired. Me, I'd personally rather see a big old bosom parade than this deliberate shabbiness.

kozz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kozz said...

Science girl, you are hilarious. Your comment had me chuckling.
I don't really get the custody of the eye thing. At all. This Panta"Loon" thing just an another twist of what Adam told God after he got busted eating the fruit from the tree of life---She made me do it!


some guy on the street said...

Well, there are trousers and trousers. Some trousers are what Chesterton described as "two skirts". Some others are actually stockings made of heavy cloth, and the heavy cloth serves as an excuse to forego a skirt altogether.

There was a time (peri-Georgian, was it? For some reason the name "Byron" jumps to mind...) when men committed this same fashion blunder, and there were diatribes written against clothes that do much to keep the weather off but nothing to conceal form, diatribes against flashy codpieces, etc.

This just to console all concerned that it's not a "men's problem" or "women's problem"; it's just a problem that floats around.

sciencegirl said...

Are you talking about the "tights/leggings as pants" fad that has recurred? Yes, I now see girls wearing opaque tights and leggings about now, but unlike in the 80's they are not wearing a giant, kneelength sweater over them. Tsk!

theobromophile said...

Esther, you voiced my thoughts EXACTLY: "What really this is, is the shifting the blame and responsibility onto someone else. Temptations will always be around. The choices you make and the sins you commit are your own and no one else’s".

There are some whackadoodle men who think themselves inherently pure and unlustful, and when they have lustful thoughts (being human males and all), blame them on anyone else but their own darling Purenesses. Hence, the screams for women to be more modest, as if there is anything on this earth that women can do to eliminate men's attraction for us - and as if the human race would make it through another generation if we did that.

Incidentally, some people say that I dress too modestly, but it's not because I don't want to tempt men (they are responsible for themselves), but that I don't want strangers drooling over my body. As Seraphic often points out, just because we don't notice/aren't attracted to old men, doesn't mean they don't notice us.

rhinemouse said...

I think the best comment about modesty I ever heard was from Simcha Fischer (in a column not specifically about pants): "It’s true that women have a responsibility to dress decently so as not to deliberately provoke lust in men. But they do not have a responsibility to make it impossible for men to lust after them."

Shell said...

I love this discussion!