You don't have to signal a social conscience by looking like a frump. Lace knickers won't hasten the holocaust, you can ban the bomb in a feather boa just as well as without, and a mild interest in the length of hemlines doesn't necessarily disqualify you from reading Das Kapital and agreeing with every word. --Elizabeth Bibesco

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What God Wants Me to Wear, Part 1

Okay so, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Amish, Mennonites, Mormons, Fundamentalist Mormons, Catholics (that's approximately 2,339,803,500 people)... everybody thinks God has an opinion on what I wear. Many of them disagree about the specifics, but all those people think God is pro-dress-code. This makes me wonder, does God care what I wear? So, in the next couple of posts, I'm going to look at the rationale behind religiously-motivated dress codes and re-think some of my own ideas about God and clothing.

One of the reasons I picked tzniut (versus, say, following Muslim dress code rules or Mormon dress code ruels) is because of the reasoning behind it. Of course, they have the obligatory women-should-cover-up-so-men-don't-succumb-to-temptation clause (more on that another time). However, they also say that the reason there are clothing rules for b'nei Ysrael (children of Israel) and there aren't for b'nei Noach (children of Noah-- ie. the rest of us), is because Jewish people, as God's chosen people, should be dressed like royalty. I like that, but it runs contrary to many other beliefs about clothing and religion.

Often, the goal of Christian modesty rules, at least as far as I can tell, is so girls and women don't draw attention to themselves. Hence why many denominations insist their women dress the same way. I've never bought this explanation. Of course, that's certainly one way to learn humility, but it's always rubbed me the wrong way. God made us unique for a reason. We all stand out in God's eyes, don't we? So I think if we're trying to "blend in" it ends up being more about shame than humility. Shame about our bodies brings us back to the Fall-- Adam and Eve at the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and their eyes were opened, they saw they were naked and they were ashamed. That shame about our bodies was the first result of our Fall. I don't think Christianity should aim to replicate that in it's clothing.

So what about this "royalty" concept?
This reminds me of when I was writing health curricula.One of my tasks was to create a lesson about sexual abuse/"where no one has the right to touch us"/Good Touch-Bad Touch. Well, we know the Good Touch-Bad Touch curriculum  was a failure. If you have any doubts about this, feel free to ask my Woman-- she'll tell you about how some of the 5th and 6th graders at the summer camp she worked at last year developed a game called Bad Touch Tag.
So I was looking for better models than that and I found a lesson from a Christian curriculum that I liked. The day before, you asked the children to bring in an object that was valuable to them. When they brought it in, everyone had the chance to show it off in front of the class. Then, you asked questions like, "Do any of you keep these in a special place?", "Do you only take these out on certain days or for certain things?" and finally, "Are only certain people allowed to touch these?" After that last question, ask them why. Maybe prompt them with an example: Ask if anyone has a younger sibling. Pick someone and ask, "[Annie] is your [sister] allowed to [wear] your [locket]?" When the answer is no ask why. Inevitably, you will hear at least somewhere in this something like, "Because it's mine and it's special to me." Then you say: "Our bodies are like that. Our bodies belong to us and God and they are special to God." You go on from there about the who/where/how/when of touching.

Maybe, this dressing like royalty is simply a way of saying, "My body belongs to me and God and it is special to God." Just like Annie might keep her locket in a special compartment in her jewelry box, I'd keep my body in special clothes, be they tzniut or hijab or temple garments or what-have-you. Does that make any sense?


Poop said...

Just a thought, but the picture of yourself in your "about me" is breaking at least two of your clothing rules that I can see. I think it may be more appropriate to cover your head and your collarbones, if you really are serious about these standards.

Allie said...

Like I said, I'm doing this for Lent. My blogger account has existed for years and that photo is several years old. You're right, though-- it would be appropriate to cover my collarbones. I'd love to change it but the camera on my computer isn't working and until it does, you will have to deal with my clavicles.

As for the head, I have already mentioned that I am not married and so I am not requiring myself to cover my hair during Lent-- although I end up doing it a lot anyway.

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