CTBHHM: The Catch 22

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 202—204

We’re still in the section on modesty, and here we get to the question of pants, which is a heated topic in so many fundamentalist circles. Once we’re through that, we’ll get a taste of what Debi thinks of fat* women, and in getting said taste we’ll touch on an important Catch-22 women face in the purity culture Debi promotes.

What About Pants? 

We cannot leave this subject without dealing with an issue that comes up over and over again. Is it permissible for a woman to wear pants? Deuteronomy 22:5 is cited as a prohibition against a woman wearing pants: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are an abomination unto the LORD they God.”

I did not grow up in a skirts only family. We frequently wore skirts and dresses, but we also frequently wore pants. When I hit my teens I switched to skirts only because of all the messages I was getting about femininity and modesty, but it was my choice, not something forced on me, and I didn’t believe it was commanded in the Bible. That said, I remember going to a camp with other homeschool teenagers, and there was a girl there who quoted this verse as her proof text for only wearing skirts. Even then, I thought it was a bit off, for, weirdly, the reasons Debi provides.

To cite this verse as a prohibition against women wearing pants, one must assume several doubtful concepts. Do pants pertain to men? What verse? According to the Bible, the common garment for a man is a skirt or cloak. Seventeen times the Bible speaks of men wearing skirts, such men as Boaz, King Saul, and Aaron. One time, the Bible speaks of a woman’s skirt, and another time it speaks of God’s skirt. So, even God wears a skirt, as did the Scottis  men and the Roman and Greek men of old. American Indian men wore mini skirts. During Bible times, as far as secular history reveals, the only people who ever wore pants were Eastern women. 

Oh, so, apparently Debi is aware of things like context and history, even if the rest of her book would suggest otherwise. Interesting.

We want the Bible to be strictly our guide, but there is always a danger of reading something into it to suit our personal sense of propriety.

Speak for yourself, Debi, speak for yourself. No really, in the passage we covered last week she jumped to the conclusion that a command to dress “modestly” meant not wearing skimpy clothes when it clearly in context meant not wearing clothes that flaunt your wealth, and in the same passage she said that the verse that says men who look at women with lust commit adultery with them in their hearts meant that it counts against those women as adultery too, even if they don’t know they’re being lustfully watched.

Anyone with an open mind knows that the passage is speaking against transvestism—cross-dressing so as to appear as the opposite sex. The manner of dress would differ form one culture to another and from one era to another.

Come on Debi, say it—standards of “modesty” differ from culture to culture and era to era either. Yes really!

Men and women are not to pervert and besmear the Creator’s designation of their sexuality, which essentially challenges God’s “and it was very good” declaration of the distinctiveness of his crowning “male and female” creation.

I wonder if Debi would be so excited to go with the historically informed interpretation if it didn’t directly support another one of her talking points?

It is disturbing to see women blurring gender distinction in the way they dress, and it is absolutely disgusting to see a man dress effeminately. Males and females dressing out of their gender is clearly troubling to God, which is why he addressed the subject in his Word. It is an abomination to him, an affront to his sovereignty in the creation of mankind. Keep that in mind as you choose your wardrobe.

Ah, here we get it. You don’t have to wear skirts, ladies, but you better dress in a feminine manner or you are blurring gender distinctions, which is an abomination to God. Classic Debi.

Also, we get to see Debi’s visceral hatred for people who are transgender, queer, or otherwise outside of traditional gender constrictions on outward appearance. Her homophobia and transphobia is blatant, and I rather hope she wouldn’t attempt the “oh we love gay people, love the sinner hate the sin” line, because she hasn’t a leg to stand on where that’s concerned.

Modesty is the principal of female dress. If you want to get provocative, do so in private with your husband. In fact, I recommend it, but when you come out of the bedroom and go to church or the local store, dress as you would dress for the Judgement Seat of Christ. 

More classic Debi—but at least she does consistently stress that sex in marriage is a good thing and not something to feel shame about. Not all do stress this. But then, Debi also endorses marital rape and sees sex as something a woman does for her husband, so, I’m not giving her a high five on this one.

Next we get a letter, printed without commentary by Debi. I assume this means Debi agrees with the content of the letter and feels it has an instructive message for her readers.

Dear Pearls,

I am sick of looking at fat. Females dressing with short tops and low-riding pants or skirts with a roll of fat around the middle remind me of “pop and serve” biscuits that busted open. Gross.

Then look away. You do not have the right to dictate fat women’s appearances, and fat women do not dress for your benefit. Really.

I’m a pig farmer, and when I see these “biscuit” females, it makes me see what the Scriptures mean about pigs with jewels in their noses. They are just about as desirable as one of my sows! Ugh!

Okay now wait. If these women were sexually attractive to you, wouldn’t you start going on and on about how they are causing you to stumble and forcing you to commit adultery in your mind? Shouldn’t you be grateful that you do not find these women desirable? I mean, that whole last section was about how women better not dress to be desirable to men, because, lust, sin, and depravity. In fact, Debi flat out said that a woman should dress in a manner that says to men that she has “no interest in him taking pleasure in your appearance.” So why not accept the fact that you find these women appalling as a gift? Less worry about lusting, after all!

It is not so much the fat as it is the way they sport it around—like it’s hot stuff.

Oh, so it bothers you that they are proud of their bodies and don’t act properly ashamed of their fat? And again—it is no business of yours what these women do. The last thing they need is your constant judgement. Have you ever stopped to think that you, rather than they, may be the problem?

I am profoundly thankful my wife dresses like a lady, a virtuous lady. Everytime I go to town, I come back home so glad to have a good woman who knows how to dress like one. sIf you print my letter, be sure to include my name because I want to go on record as a grateful husband.

Jonathan Beachy

Cue the perennial questions regarding the authenticity of these letters.

But here it is, the Catch-22. If women dress in an effort to please random men on the street, they’re wanton whores who are committing adultery with every man who looks at them. But, if women dress without enough care toward pleasing random men on the street, they’re pigs.

And while we’re on the subject, I remembered something I didn’t get to last week. Debi said that if a man looks lustfully at a woman and thinks about having sex with her, it is credited to that woman as committing adultery with that man, regardless of whether she had any idea he was looking at her. But here’s the thing—if this were true, shouldn’t all women be hiding out in their houses trying to stay away from the male gaze? After all, if a man looks at you with lust, regardless of how you dressed, you have just committed adultery. The more I think of it the more I am incredibly glad that I do not remember hearing this interpretation as a teen. If I had, I may well have accepted it and taken it seriously, and the results could have been bad.

Next week we move on to Bad Bob. When I have read this section aloud at dinner parties, I have been told that it reads like pornography. Just wait.

—————

I am using the word “fat” here because it is a preferred term for size acceptance activists.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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