I recently posted about school uniforms and the issue of making girls wear skirts (but then they might be less active because their movements are restricted) or making girls wear shorts or pants so they can play more freely (but then still telling girls what to wear.)
Notably North American readers of our Facebook page were upset with the idea of telling girls what to wear no matter whether it was skirts or pants.
We’ve written lots on the blog about running skirts and cycling in dresses, about pants as a liberatory clothing choice and as a thing to be avoided like the plague.
It’s messy and it’s complicated. Femininity can feel fun, say in the way that make up can feel like artsy self-expression. Or it can feel coercive, say when you wear foundation (which never feels fun or artsy) because people tell you that you look tired and at your age you really need to wear foundation in the winter. That’s not so fun.
It can feel fun when we choose feminine clothes. Not so fun, when you feel that you have no choice.
In the end, we’re all about you do you. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hard stuff to think through.
But I’ve got to say I still find religious feminine modesty an odd concept. Wear skirts and dresses because femininity. Religion likes gender roles, I guess. Exercise for reasons of health. That’s cool with me. But then wear shorts underneath because modesty. The combo of modesty plus femininity plus athleticism is an odd thing.
Why odd? Well, if it’s applied only to women, it’s as if men’s bodies don’t need covering up, as if straight/bi women don’t find men attractive, as if we don’t have sexual agency and desires.
This came home to me when browsing about school uniforms and modesty. I came across this site, Dressing for His Glory, which sells modest athletic skirts. There’s no companion site for modestly dressed sporting men.
I found that once I shook off my reaction to the idea of dressing modestly for God’s glory though, I was just happy to see that athletic values were being accommodated. After all, I’m happy to see Muslim women playing beach volleyball in their full coverage uniforms.
Here on the blog we’ve written positive things about burquinis too.
I think in the end, it’s not dressing a certain way for religious reasons that bothers me. After all, I love these vintage photos of nuns on the beach.
I think it’s just the personal language–“for his glory”–that gets me. Put that aside and I’m happy to have women of all religions outdoors, exercising, having fun.