The fight against the feminine

27 05 2010

This post linked to by the Ochlophobist for brought back a lot of memories for me. When I went off to join the Lefebvrists when I was twenty, their women were not allowed to wear pants, and of course they were supposed to shun most modern fashions. Even when I go to “official” Latin Masses now, you can always tell the “die hard” trad women from the ones “just passing through”. They tend to wear shapeless long skirts, similarly shapeless blouses, and a look of sheer lack of feminine enthusiasm due either to out-of-control piety or the responsibility of having all the children God intends for them to have. (I have long ago stopped considering this heroic.) Of course, many of the families, especially the more “well-off” ones, are much more “worldly” than they let on. But since I don’t hang out with them, I never see it.

I am not a woman, so I can’t vouch for the “vanity” of all this posited in the post cited above. However, such a point hits home with me in that demanding that women dress differently for church has always smacked me as wildly hypocritical. (Let me get this straight: people should dress nicely. But this does not entail a woman ALWAYS having to wear a dress, ALWAYS have to wear something resembling a burkha, etc.) In my family, a woman wasn’t supposed to dress like una cualquiera, but modesty didn’t mean railing against a particular, non-provocative style. Let me get another thing straight: my family is Mexican, therefore they are a bunch of sexist pigs. But I think that, in many ways, they are the furthest away from fundamentalists that one can get. My grandparents could be “good Catholics” go to their charismatic prayer meetings, and pray the rosary, all the while rubbing tomatoes on their feet to cure ailments while watching the somewhat raunchy telenovela on T.V. When I say that they weren’t “fundamentalists”, I don’t mean that they were progressive and believed in nothing. I mean that they weren’t hung up on symbols and causes: you just had to go along to get along.

I was reminded of this when I was in the Ukrainian Catholic cathedral in Buenos Aires. I stood towards the back and tried to follow along, though the whole service was in Ukrainian. Midway through the liturgy, two women came in, one in leather pants, the other in leopard skin tights. They seemed to have just come from the club. They stood as a stark contrast to me in my cassock, but part of me was not surprised by this sight. I think they went up for communion, and no one said a thing.

Many religious groups have a strange approach towards modern life. The Muslim Wahabists, the Old Believers, the Hasidim, snake handlers, traditionalist Catholics, and the Amish all seem to try to fight modernity by creating an order that accentuates selected parts of the past to the point of being grotesque. Female dress is one of these things. A typical woman hundreds of years ago probably did not look like a Hasidic wife or an Old Believer maid wading in the wheat. She certainly did not look like the traditionalist Catholic wife piling out of her white van with eight well-groomed kids in tow. The customary style of dress would not have been an issue. It would not have been an object of serious reflection. That is because being a reactionary is not the same as being traditional, just as being conservative may be just as much about creating an ideal image of the past as saving it.

Ioan Couliano writes in his book, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, that modernity began with a style change in women’s clothing. Before, in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, female dress had become more and more provocative. Necklines plunged and at times half of the breasts were visible. Woman, like nature, began to reveal herself. It was only with the Protestant Reform and the Counter-Reformation that women’s dress was brought into the parameters of bourgeois modesty. This is where the high collars and double skirts became the fashions of the day, and the purpose of female clothing was to hide the breasts, hips, and other body parts deemed provocative.

For Couliano, this was all an allegory for a changing attitude towards nature in general. As Heraclitus’ dictum went: nature likes to hide herself. With Ficino, Bruno, and the other Neoplatonists, nature’s secrets were being uncovered through magic, astrology, and Hermetic occult knowledge. The veiling of woman was merely the closing of the door on nature as seductress: woman, like nature, is the servant of the devil, and she can only be controlled by hiding her charms. Ultimately, it was the bourgeois philosophy and religious thought of Descartes and Luther that turned man decidedly inward, so that he is left staring at his own reflection: a Narcissus trapped in a dead cosmos.

One could thus say, in some sense, that just as modernity is a war against the local, so it is a war against the feminine. I mean this not in a political sense, but rather metaphysically. Perhaps the only reason that the flesh unveils itself now is because we have tamed it, compartmentalized it, and brought it under control. In other words, we have emptied it of meaning. Those who advocate the styles of “modesty” only play into this paradigm in that they continue the early modern fear of woman and nature under the guise of “traditional piety”. They are just as modern as anyone else.


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30 responses

7 06 2010
Anonymous

“All I said is that said woman with nine kids and van is just as modern as a goth gutter punk”
That is an extreme statement that is used for shock value and while I am not offended it seems reasonable that someone could be.
The main reason a woman with nine kids is not as modern is well she has 9 kids which is not a “modern” thing to do and I assume she is not using birth control which is also not a modern thing to do.

I agree with you to an extent on an extreme judgment on clothes and that it is unnecessary to dress as an Amish and there is a hypocricy of “traditional” dress and other modern goods and practices.

It is hard to have a large family. It is hard in this current economic environment. Catholics on the whole (although perhaps the ethnic neighborhood of the not so distant past and communities have this) do not help each other financially like Mormons, Jews, Dutch Reformed, some Chinese etc—although the Catholic Chuch is good at provided social services for the extreme circumstances. I know many a Masters or PhD Traditionalist or Opus Dei Catholic (although the Opus Dei one’s do stress professional side and some networking) who are broke, in desperate financial straights—and many of them are single no kids and quirky.
However, many of the families are heroic. I also know some large Hassidic Jewish families who are also large and heroic—although some of them game the welfare net by getting married religiously and not in the state so the woman could collect benefits.
It is NOT only white upper middle class Catholics with big families (and they are also heroic) but are and have been Irish Immigrants, Mexican Immigrants, Africans here and in Africa I have met, most other “Hispanics” and many working class Catholics that go to the Traditional Latin Mass or are members of Opus Dei.
God has Blessed me with enough money to have a large family but finances are still a stretch and I had difficulty (or at least time) in having children and I was finally Blessed. These upper middle class Catholics with large families (and Mormons and Hassidic Jews) give up going out to dinner, or nightclubs, or vacations, or fancy clothes for them and their families.
I know a Mormon family who added a little more Mayo to the Tuna Salad and a little more water to the frozen Orange Juice and the kids went in the Army and got scholarships and one is a doctor, one is a lawyer, and yes there is one pot smoking hellion and one declared lesbian, but the family is still good—and 2 others that are mothers and one in computers. The father had a good job but not enough for 10 kids (one died early)
I know a Venezuelan family who are members of Opus Dei with a large family and they got scholarships, the father was an engineer but it was still a struggle for the 7 children but they went on to top Universities in professions like Engineering and Medicine.

I also know many non Practicing (or bad practicing) Catholic families in the Mexican community that have large families some of them are bad parents and many of them are heroic and do a lot with a little and while perhaps not perfectly catechized they have a sense of trust in God and ask Our Lady of Guadalupe to not forget about them.

PS: I do like the veil on woman but I am not a woman and do think it is a matter of custom and choice and not essential to be Catholic. Modesty is an essential principle. While the hot Ukrainian girls in Leather and Leopard are welcome at the Liturgy—that is not ideal dress.

1 06 2010
Margaret

Ben,

An abaya is a long, baggy kaftan like garment that covers the entire body. I know this well having worked in Saudi where I had to wear one. ‘Hijab’ can mean modesty in general or it can refer to a headscarf the most common of which in both the middle-east and the west is either a long rectangle or a triangle both of which must cover the hair entirely and the chest. A hijab is not just any headcovering – if it shows the hair or the neck or doesn’t cover the chest it is not a hijab because it fails the modesty test. It is quite interesting to listen to Muslim women discuss this, as bizarre as it sounds to us they think a nun’s veil without a wimple is immodest. Abayas, chadors, burqas, yashmaks, etc, are all garments of one kind or another which cover the wearer entirely. The hijab allows wearing of certain western fashions which is why it is so popular with women who both like clothes and want to be observant. The thing your Ethiopian neighbours are wearing sounds rather like the headcovering of some Orthodox nuns which is essentially a wimple without a veil and in Europe now nuns who wear them are usually given permission to wear necklace crosses (unlike Catholic nuns Orthodox nuns usually don’t) so that they are not mistaken for Muslims. Some of them simply choose to show some hair instead.

And, yes, certainly some women saints and some living nuns are spiritual mothers but on the whole we are called to be each other’s sisters and brothers, not spiritual parents. In the Orthodox church we usually keep the term ‘spiritual father’ or ‘spiritual mother’ for our confessors or spiritual directors and, sadly, we have very few nuns who exercise this ministry. Motherhood is a lovely thing but it is not every woman’s calling in either sense.

1 06 2010
ben

Margaret,

Hijab refers to just about any head covering, and is a very broad category. What you seem to be speaking about is a specific form of hijab called an “Abeya”, which it the name for that covering that looks like a big tablecloth with a hole for the face. My muslim neighbor wears one.

It is notable that even this sort of garment is not exclusively muslim. There are some Ethiopian Christians in our neighborhood who wear the abeya to mass.

As far as women saints, who were not mothers, it is clear that they exercise their motherhood in a spiritual way rather than a physical way.

29 05 2010
Arturo Vasquez

I am a bit surprised by the whole “I’m offended” tone taken by some commenters. Notably, the people who were the target of offense weren’t even the people writing. From what I can tell, no woman has jumped in and told me that I am being offensive. And I know from personal experience that husbands to not speak for their wives, no matter how much we pretend that we do.

All I said is that said woman with nine kids and van is just as modern as a goth gutter punk. That is not as offensive as you think, as we all are modern. All people, especially those who read blogs, make consumer choices about how they “express themselves”, and they can’t opt out of this. The average Catholic can’t have nine kids without living in squalor. The fact that a few upper middle class white Catholics seem to think that they are being heroic because they have the means to create the big traditionalist Catholic cult compound in the country is something that I find offensive, and since I have a blog and the gift of gab, I express this with full rhetorical force. How average Catholics maneuveur around the fact that modern economies discourage large families (shall we bring back child labor laws?) is up to them, their confessors (if any), and God.

The fact is, I would like to go to the local SSPX chapel with my wife more often, but my wife is too “normal”. She doesn’t want to have to wear a special skirt and a mantilla to feel like she fits in, and she dresses “modestly” and well in contemporary terms. But that isn’t good enough, as the sign on the chapel says. Well, that’s their sandbox, and I guess they can have it. But don’t come to me with excuses that they are following God’s law. They are really just following the rules of their own neuroses. Kyrie eleison.

29 05 2010
Margaret

Ben, anything can be a prideful act depending on the attitude with which it is done and the reasons for doing it. Modesty and humility may not be the same thing but one rarely finds one without the other. If a person is humble they will be modest and you may not be able to fathom how veiling can be prideful if it attracts scorn but to the veiled woman with a sense of superiority the scorn of the immodest, of those slatternly women in trousers and short skirts, is a joy, it proves to her she is right. The same goes for every other kind of hypocrite.

I’m sorry I offended you by not offering a paen to Christian housewives but I was writing about styles of clothing and the motivation for them and I don’t see the connection between the two.

Yes, you are right, a hijab is not a burkha but neither is it simply a scarf. A hijab covers the chest not just the head (Muslims are quite strict about this), it requires to cover every bit of hair so a little snood like cap is worn beneath to ensure this, and it is tied and then pinned in one of a few specific ways. I too used to have a few scarves from Morocco which I used for church but the fact that they were made in a Muslim country does not make them hijabs nor the wearers of them wannabe Muslimahs.

The question of modesty is hardly between dresses and trousers – that really is a modern, western concept resulting from the idea that if you can tell a woman has legs at all she must be immodest. Indian, Pakistani and Arab women are modest, i.e., not advertising their figures in salwar kameez whereas many European women wear dresses that seem to have been painted on.

And motherhood may be the natural end of femininity for most women but you’re in a church whose lists of saints seems to include more virgins and ex-prostitutes than wives and mothers so presumably God’s view of feminine virtue is a little more extensive than yours.

Sorry, JoAnn, I didn’t realise this thread was here until someone mentioned it on my blog this morning.

29 05 2010
JoAnn St. Catherine

Gentleman. Speaking as a nice Catholic lady, can we call it a day on this?

Or, you guys can fight it out in private email while we women watch the dust fly. 🙂

28 05 2010
ben

I wouldn’t think that the claim that motherhood is the natural end of femininity was a calim that would need defending.

Modesty as a virtue doesn’t really make any sense at all absent that context.

If you don’t accept that motherhood is the natural end of femininity, then you are some type of feminist and your issue isn’t really clothing, there is something more fundamental to our disagreement.

28 05 2010
sortacatholic

Ben:First, is why anybody would think that shuning pants in favor of skirts and dresses is fleeing from feminity

No inherent dichotomy exists between “secular” dress and “traditional Catholic” dress. Neither inherently expresses “femininity” unless the “femininity” is defined with a certain ideological history, as Arturo has proposed. You or I have no control over the discourse that shapes women’s dress and competing notions of “femininity”. Men can impose a certain dress on women through various means, but women’s dress conformity by itself reveals nothing of the historical and ideological underpinnings of dress choice. All of us, traditional or secular, male or female, propagate ideas concerning dress that originate not with individuals but with entangled historical and theological antecedents.

Ben: second, how the chemically sterilized “femininity” of today’s promiscuous youth culture is more feminine than the culture of these traditionalist women who have scores of children. It seems that on its face one is natural, feminine and fruitful, and the other is artificial, sterile, and very nearly gay

When defending your worldview against another, it’s insufficient to merely equate “femininity” and feminine dress with procreation. Nor is it sufficient to presume that “secular” dress necessarily leads to promiscuity and artificial birth control. One must justify a connection between “feminine dress”, procreation, and Catholic family planning with a uniquely Catholic theological and philosophical rationale that might rebut Arturo’s argument from the Reformation. Otherwise, traditional Catholic dress is a transitory oppositional affectation against unrealistic “secular” expectations. If traditional dress draws Catholics towards greater piety, then its roots within Catholic culture need to be traced and explained. Otherwise, “pious clothing” represents nothing more than a badge of defiance with the potential for abuse and control, not sanctification.

28 05 2010
ben

There are, i think, a few different things being discussed in this thread.

First, I realize that Margaret is speaking of Christian women wearing a hijab outside the church, in regular life. Vinny and others should note that the hijab is not a burka, it only covers the head, not the face. While my wife only covers her head in Church, which is no longer a requirement in the catholic church, she often wears scarves from Morrocco because she thinks they are prettier than the standard lace chappel veil that most of the women in our church wear. Now these colorful scarves are also used by muslim women as hijabs. I can’t see a problem with a woman wearing one to church. Head coverng in Chruch is laudable, and I would expect that most of the women that Och worships with cover their head in church.

I must say that I have not met a Christian woman who has decided to keep her head covered outside of church, just Jews and Muslims. However, I don’t think it would be a problem if a woman made this decision for herself. If she did in for the honor of recieving the scorn of her neighbors for the sake of Chirst, some real good could come of it. I think the primary public statement made by such an action would be one against secularism however, and not one for Christianity; however, I think secularismis a far greater evil than islam in our day and age, and the Pope seems agrees with me on this.

Arturo doesn’t seem to be address veiling as much as he is talking about ” the traditionalist Catholic wife piling out of her white van with eight well-groomed kids in tow.” This description hits pretty close to home. The only difference between this description and my family is that there are 9 kids and the van is red. Arturo seems to be talking about catholics who follow the modesty guidelines that came out of the Vatican in the 30s, when womens’ dress last generated some interest in the Holy See. These guidelines speak to hemlines (to the knee at minimum) and necklines (no more than 2 fingers below the pit of the neck) and sleeves (must bee off the shoulder), and used to be enforced in nearly all catholic schools not too long ago (my wife had to follow them in the early 90s at a diocesan highschool, not one run by the SSPX or independent traditionalists. Arturo also seems to disagree with traditionalists who think women should never wear pants. I will agree that there are large numbers of both priests and laity in traditionalist circles who believe this, including my wife. I’m not sure what I think of women wearing pants, except to say that there seem to be reasonable people on both sides of the question.

There are a couple of things I don’t understand. First, is why anybody would think that shuning pants in favor of skirts and dresses is fleeing from feminity, and second, how the chemically sterilized “femininity” of today’s promiscuous youth culture is more feminine than the culture of these traditionalist women who have scores of children. It seems that on its face one is natural, feminine and fruitful, and the other is artificial, sterile, and very nearly gay.

28 05 2010
sortacatholic

Forgive me for the long pastiche post late in the thread.

Ben: They [wives and mothers] are forced to look to the past for rolemodels, because there are none around them.

Your assertion that only the past contains feminine “rolemodels” contradicts Arturo’s statement that

Those who advocate the styles of “modesty” only play into this paradigm in that they continue the early modern fear of woman and nature under the guise of “traditional piety”. They are just as modern as anyone else.

Ben, “pious dress” is not judged against “modernity”. Rather, the entire phenomenon of “dress” as a communal and ideological marker cannot escape comparison with the complex of historical and theological trends that have brought us to the liturgical and social juncture of our day. Reread Margaret’s last paragraph. Her (very well written) illustration of the perils of ideological dress according to idealized standards reinforces the common observation that “pious dress” cannot explain a woman’s particular actions or the expectations of her familial or social group.

Ochlophobist (great pseudonym):[…] we are talking about an act which is often conducive to pride and immodesty (the desire to draw inordinate attention to one’s self), though I do not assert that is always the case.

I regret my previous comment about “burial shrouds”. My reification of the ancient Roman liturgy as an intellectual exercise independent of current-day experiences displays a mindset not unlike those who idealize a certain period of clothing. The Mass itself is an independent and ideologically unencumbered participant in current discourse. Och’s observation about the “pride and immodesty” of reified dress applies to intellectual abstraction as well. Both are vain and hold liturgy, belief, and faith captive.

28 05 2010
vinny

I would just clarify one thing. My comments focused on our human dignity. This is because Christ took to himself our humanity. When one wears a religious costume it for a reason. It is to say I am a symbol of my religion of my god. Priests do this. Nuns used to do this(some still do). In short this is a role of the clergy at least among Catholics. But for lay people (and clergy ) there is a different role and one that is just as important. It is to say that you and I are created in the image of God. That our humanity is something extraordinary and has about it a dignity that is like nothing else in creation.

28 05 2010
vinny

Alright I read the article and this is what I have to say. Women like men should be seen and I mean seen. When we look at each other we should be able to really see the humanity of the other. Anything that would obscure this is problematic. If I can’t see you because all I see is your breasts as a result of your push up bra and your low cut dress then that is a problem. If I can’t see you because of the cloth pulled over your head from your burka then that is a problem. Your clothes should bring attention to you. Not your body parts. On the other hand your clothes should not obscure your humanity and make you look like a talking hand puppet. Your clothes should add to your dignity not obscure it.

28 05 2010
vinny

I was commenting on what Ben had to say. My assumption was that he was speaking about Catholic women who choose not to wear pants and wear clothing that conceals their outlines. From what I can see now, we are speaking of an actual Burka type dress or covering. Well a thousand pardons and as they say never assume. Personally I can’t imagine why anyone would do such a thing unless they were a religious sister. What would be the point? In fact you are wearing what would be assumed to be a religious uniform with the expressed intent of drawing attention to yourself. This is particularly true in American society. I saw the comments on veiling in your thread but that did not seem to be what Ben was speaking about. This is not just about pride this would be rather a decision to make a visible and radical statement. The problem would be just what statement are you making and to whom? I was having a problem linking to the article itself I will try to do it now.

28 05 2010
ochlophobist

Vinny,

We are not talking about head coverings in church here. We are not criticizing Indian women in saris. Did you bother to read Margaret’s post and the thread?

28 05 2010
vinny

I forgot, old Italian women like to cover themselves up. Its an old European thing I guess. I would imagine you never saw an old Italian Nona all in black with the black scarf around her head. Some of the old Puerto Ricans do the same, at least in church. To be honest I have not seen it in quite some time but it was common when I was young.

28 05 2010
vinny

I am personally no fan of covering up women. To be honest I find it offensive. I have daughters and this has only added to my dislike of the practice. That being said a woman can dress as she feels she should. I have not personally had any real acquaintance with traditionalist Catholics. Around here we are mostly cafeteria and cultural. But I have been around quite a few religious groups throughout the years whose women practice some form of dress code. Orthodox Jews, Hispanic Pentecostals, and as of late many of the Indian women who have moved into the area. For the most part the dress of these women has been a matter of indifference. After you notice that a woman never seems to wear pants you realize it is probably a religious issue and their issue, not yours, and you leave it at that. And that is my point. I am surprised at your own position though. Outside of the Pentecostals the only Christians I see who cover themselves up here are the Russian Orthodox how do you feel about that. I would add that I like the dress of the Indian women. Their sari’s cover them and are yet colorful and graceful. They appear elegant, feminine and modest all at the same time. As for my pride it is accompanied by a number of other faults. I am as they say, a work in progress. Sorry for any offense I have caused.

28 05 2010
ochlophobist

Vinny,

I suppose cute attempts at aphorism on threads could be almost as prideful as blogging, but the post in question was about Christian women adopting Muslim attire in order to, so we are told, be modest. What would your Italian kinfolk and ancestors think of that?

28 05 2010
vinny

Drawing inordinate attention to one’s self and one’s intellectual abilities by blogging on the internet seems to me almost as prideful as wearing a loose fitting dress in public. But that’s just me.

28 05 2010
ochlophobist

Ben,

You spoke of Margaret making a category mistake.

You then stated that you “can’t fathom how veiling can possibly be interpreted as a prideful act when it invites the haterd and scorn of nearly all of ones neighbors.”

Which is to say, you can’t understand how an act can be observed in some instances as prideful when it normally results in hatred and scorn.

Since we were speaking in categorical terms, I supplied an instance of an a religiously motivated act done out of a spirit of piety observed as prideful by nearly everybody, even, I suspected, you. The point is that, categorically speaking, whether or not the act of pious veiling “invites the hatred and scorn of nearly all of ones neighbors” this has nothing to do with whether or not that act is reasonably observed as pridefully done in some instances. That’s all.

I cannot fathom why the piously motivated veiling of Christian mothers with many children would be designated as an act which cannot be done out of pride or self-righteousness or with an inward desire to be noticed for some reason, for instance in order to be scorned in order to deem that one is thus suffering for Christ’s sake.

But obviously, on this matter, I more or less agree with Margaret with regard to modesty. I don’t see why a woman cannot dress in a manner perfectly appropriate for a Christian woman without veiling, and I am inclined to think that when nonmonastic veiling is done for pious reasons (especially when outside of a rigorous communal setting which absolutely demands it, Amish, etc.) we are talking about an act which is often conducive to pride and immodesty (the desire to draw inordinate attention to one’s self), though I do not assert that is always the case.

I spoke nothing of your wife, know nothing of her, and wish her well.

27 05 2010
ben

I think what Och. is saying is that sometimes people are hated for a good reason. What he seems to be suggesting is that a woman with 9 kids who has decided not to wear pants and drives a 15 passenger van is a sower of discord on par with Fred Phelps. Why he feels that he can compre my wife to a man who scream insults at the funerals of fallen US soldiers is really beyond me. We’ve never me before, and he doesn’t really know anything about us.

27 05 2010
vinny

I don’t see the parallel. In fact that was either a bad analogy or just a low blow.

27 05 2010
ochlophobist

Yeah, when I see a picture of those wackos parading about with the “God hates fags” signs, I think to myself “now there are some folks who are humble like Christ, because they are despised and hated by so many as a result of their acts.”

27 05 2010
Louis

Well, my spelling above was attrocious. Apologies!

27 05 2010
ben

Why do you have such contempt for me and my family? You don’t even know me.

Did it ever occur to you that it is modern social norms that are hostile to femminity? It planned parenthood that is working to neuter all of our women and girls. What is it about motherhood that you find unfeminine?

It is no easy thing in this modern life for a woman to make the choice to root her identity in being a wife and mother. They are forced to look to the past for rolemodels, because there are none around them. They invite the scorn and contempt of not only their neighbors, but appearantly also former SSPX seminarians and Ph.D. theologians, and they do it all because they are trying to respond to the Nature that you claim to hold in esteem.

I read that post the Och linked to. I didn’t think it was very enlightening at all. She made a category mistake. She confused modesty and humility, which are not the same things, and then she somehow managed to ingonre the immense scorn that nearly all of society has for christian housewives.

I can’t fathom how veiling can possibly be interpreted as a prideful act when it invites the haterd and scorn of nearly all of ones neighbors.

27 05 2010
Louis

Agreed, except that you should replace “Luther” with “Calvin” in that last sentence of your second to last paragraph. If anything, Lutheranims tends to look outward. As an ex-Calvinist, I can vouch for the inward-looking tendencies of that religion. It is not for nothing that the following quote is attributed to Luther:

‘Wer liebt nicht Wein, Weib und Gesang,
Der bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang!’

Wether he actually said it is somewhat moot, as it fits very well with the ethos associated with the man.

27 05 2010
Leah

The interesting thing about clothing in Hasidic sects is that the male garb is actually a slightly reformulated version of the clothes that their noble Gentile counterparts wore about 100 years ago. Meanwhile, many Hasidic women (depending on the sect) dress in ways that are almost fashionable, albeit in a modest, old-fashioned way. Because an Orthodox married woman must always have her hair covered, it is common for many Hasidic women to wear wigs. Many rabbis have forbidden the wearing of human hair wigs because they actually make many women look better than they would have with their natural hair, thus defeating the point of wearing the wig in the first place. There has been a major problem in some areas of Jerusalem, where women have been physically assaulted for not being modest according the to standards of the ultra-Orthodox.

27 05 2010
Dauvit Balfour

As always, you challenge me to reevaluate the way I think about things. I’ve always been instinctively skeptical of what I consider Mormon/Apostolic/Fundamental Baptist styles of dress (the Amish are a whole nothing thing – at least there is some congruence to their lives, even if it is born of reformation and puritan sensibilities, I somehow respect it more than perhaps I ought).

This may sound a little bit TOB, but if the feminine is really beautiful and of God’s design, then why hide it in shame? Of course there is a difference between hints of hidden charm and leaving nothing open to the imagination, as my grandfather would say.

I’m curious about your attitude toward the bearing of children. Is it possible, do you think, to retain an appreciation of the feminine while still having an attitude of “the more the merrier”?

27 05 2010
sortacatholic

Thank you very much for this post, Arturo. False notions of femininity are destroying traditional and conservative Catholicism.

It’s important to state that not all EF churches exercise a Lefebvist-level of sartorial control. My diocesan trad church in Connecticut is very liberal by EF standards. Many women wear slacks, relatively few women veil (maybe 15%), and very few women dress in “something resembling a burkha” as you put it. A healthy faith permits men and women to dress according to tasteful modern norms rather than artificially imposed standards of modesty.

I am convinced that the “Lefebvrist” fashion seen at many traditional churches represents the whims of husbands or family members. Am I prejudiced about religious clothing? Yes. Perhaps some women willingly and freely choose restrictive religious clothing. However, even non-violent and indirectly coercive pressure can influence women’s choices. Women in fundamentalist situations must often wear garb to avoid implicit or explicit emotional and physical violence.

I became Tridentine out of fascination with poetry in motion and the desire to find the intersection of liturgy and belief. I’m rapidly merging into a hazy agnosticism partly because of Catholic fundamentalism. So many traditional Catholics have little or no desire to grasp hold of the nearly infinite meaning of the liturgy unfolding before their eyes. Where is the thirst for knowledge and enlightenment? “Pious clothes” are burial shrouds for closed minds.

27 05 2010
JoAnn St. Catherine

I agree with this post wholeheartedly, although it took me a long time in my life to understand it. Better late than never.

27 05 2010
Michael Liccione

Arturo, for once we agree. Bravo!

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