On pants and other ephemera

14 09 2010

My first temptation was not to comment on this one, but seeing as someone sent it to me to get my goat up, and I have had some biography with this particular issue, I thought I would share this Simcha Fisher post and then jot down a few thoughts. Honestly, I have no issue with women wearing pants whatsoever, and even having to write that felt weird. My mother has always worn pants on a daily basis. My wife wears pants. I see nothing wrong with pants. If you want to do a minor web anthropological study, just google all references to this particular essay and read all of the comments. The Internet makes all of the weirdos come out of the woodwork. Or better yet, don’t do it. I know you have better things to do.

My first exposure to the idea that “pants are immodest” came with my stint at the SSPX, where the good Bishop Williamson wrote that women had no business wearing trousers (or going to college, or giving their man lip, or… well, you get the idea). I didn’t really agree with it then, and certainly don’t now. Honestly, when I was in Argentina, I experienced much glee in seeing that the SSPX women, at least at home, wore pants unapologetically, for many of the same reasons that Mrs. Fisher writes.

While one can admire Mrs. Fisher’s gift of gab, one cannot help but think that she has been hoisted on her own petard. To put it another way, she touts the fact that she is a mother of eight who helps make ends meet by writing on Catholic issues. That should say a lot by itself. With the company she keeps, and the way she sells her schtick, it is no wonder she ends up with people on her blog coming up with all sorts of bizarre arguments as to why women should never have trousers. It is sort of like locking yourself in an insane asylum and complaining about the noise.

One has to wonder about this in another recent short essay where she talks about the daunting task of clothing her eight children. She writes:

I generally take anything that anyone offers, and — let me repeat — I really am really, really grateful. I have no idea how much it costs to outfit eight children, because I almost never have to buy them anything. It’s actually been a long time since anyone has dumped a boatload of junk on us without asking first, and most people are extremely tactful, almost apologetic, when offering me things. To any donor to the Fisher family who’s reading this: I’m not talking about you! If I said “thank you,” I meant it!

The first phrase that comes to mind is: “hobo chic”. I am presuming that because Mrs. Fisher can string a sentence or two together that she is not akin to one of those working class mothers who absolutely, positively has to work (I know many, and was raised by one). Her husband, thanks be to God, probably has a good white collar job, and I presume that her children aren’t starving. For me, that would make it seem that at bottom her lifestyle choice to have eight children and write about it all over the Internet is supplemented by the kindness of strangers who donate clothes that they don’t need. An interesting thought experiment would be to figure out how much clothes sharing would need to take place if all of those “bad Catholics” started doing what the guys in the pointy hats say and cranking out the eight children as well. Would there be enough clothes to go around then? Or food or shelter?

Like I said, reading the right wing Catholic Internet can at times seem like reading the Talmudic disputations of an emerging, Judeo-Christian fertility cult. And questions as to whether one can wear pants or not, or what people should donate to my family and what they should keep to themselves seem to be rather minor disputes in the midst of a bizarre program to crank out more white (let’s face it, they’re all white), culturally conservative, middle class babies. Only, if everyone started doing this, they wouldn’t be so middle class anymore, would they? Call it, “the Catholic slum strikes back!”

So pardon me if I think this is the pot calling the kettle black. Or an inmate in an insane asylum claiming to be Abraham Lincoln accusing another of insanity for pretending to be Napoleon (“You don’t even speak French!”, could be the iron-clad reasoning). Lie down with dogs… and all that jazz.



19 responses

23 09 2010

The problem is when people think that having a lot of children in and of itself makes one more virtuous. Perhaps this has always been the case, but the act of childbearing seems to have become considerably more political in the last 40 years or so. Whether one has lots of kids, a few kids, or no kids is supposed to broadcast to the world one’s views on politics, religion, cultural issues, and probably a few other things that I don’t recall. Sometimes all having a large family means is that you have a lot of kids. It doesn’t mean that you want to raise up soldiers for “God’s Army” or that you want to start the next Jackson 5, or that you are making a conscious effort to follow Humanae Vitae. Likewise, having a few or no kids doesn’t always make one anti-life, anti-children, or selfish. I don’t claim to know what drives this person or that person to have more or less children, and I wouldn’t want to know if I could.

23 09 2010

Why do people think like this now? What is wrong with being a mother of many children? Why have they become your whipping boy?

18 09 2010
Arturo Vasquez

Damn converts! Don’t know how to have any respect for the sacred.

The Fathers say that Our Lord passed through our Lady’s womb, like light through glass.

17 09 2010
Jared B.

I’m right at the beginning of that phase, having been long sympathetic to Traditionalist “causes” (tho I still think they overlap with “neo-Cath” causes more than they differ) and only recently started attending a TLM now and then. There’s an SSPX chapel a half hour away and an FSSP parish about twice as far out. I haven’t been involved long enough to really get into many conversations (if a Catholic gets into an actual conversation in his very first visit to a church, he concludes it is “cultish” and never comes back 😉 ), but in steering my way around the nooks & crannies of the Church one of my motivations is to avoid as much baggage as possible. It isn’t 100% possible either. No matter what Catholic clique you sign up for, there’s weird beliefs, inordinate loves and senseless animosities that are in no way obligatory for the faithful but nonetheless (perhaps all the more so) felt to be prerequisites to belonging. *sigh*

17 09 2010
Jared B.

I second Dominic re. Saint Jerome 🙂

All those Padre Pio arguments get really bizarre. People get canonized for “heroic virtue”; I think people forget or fail to draw the distinction that nothing about that implies perfection in every virtue, much less that every blasted thought that ever passed through the saint’s head was the embodiment of Truth!

17 09 2010
Olivier le Humanzé

They’re arguing over there today about the creepiness of perpetual virginity (the “during” part), of which apparently no one was aware prior. Of course, imagining the BVM in labor is fine, and goes undisputed! I suppose my point is that if overconcern with matters reproductive is distasteful, that should go both ways, right?

16 09 2010

Actually, I think these sorts of stories are heartening. I often think that if a bastard like St. Jerome could make it to the honors of the Altar, maybe even I can too!

15 09 2010

For years I was an armchair traditionaist. I rallied for all the right causes on the sidelines, but it wasn’t long after I finally started attending a TLM that I was driven out by the fanatical standards I encountered there. IMHO, I’d rather drown in a sea of “clown” masses then ever have to put up with the rigors and extreme judgmentalism that was experienced by me at the TLM. Thanks be to God, I did not leave the Church (even though I was tempted to due to my bad experiences). To be Catholic is in my blood, it’s a part of who I am and I couldn’t pry myself away from the Mother Church even if I tried to wqith all my intellectual and stubborn might.

15 09 2010

Most women over the age of 30 look terrible in pants. I don’t see what so immodest about it. Any man who lusts after a backside that looks like it’s either the back end of a truck or a bag of wet oatmeal has some problems himself.

15 09 2010

Did I get that right? Are you saying that because Mrs. Fisher can write intelligently, she couldn’t possibly “have” to work and her husband must have a white-collar job? Are you saying smart people can’t have meager surroundings? Are people who “have” to work not capable of stringing two sentences together? I’m not sure who I should be offended for, but something inside me tells me I should, indeed, be offended.
Could you please clarify what you meant?

15 09 2010
Andrea Elizabeth

Yes, male and female robes. I think it’s presumptuous for people to think that others want to see all of their definitions. But one can get too Church-ladyish about it too.

15 09 2010

Isn’t truly traditional, western clothing for men the toga? Wouldn’t that be considered highly feminine today? My wife refers to my cassock as my ballgown, because in this culture that’s what it is – a dress.

Masculinity and femininity are highly contextualized culturally, and changeable through time. Heck, being a priest these days is considered highly feminine – well, ‘faggy’. Virginity and chastity are pretty ‘feminine’ virtues in our culture. Should we stop ordaining priests? honoring the virgins or virginity and chastity? Reading was pretty unmanly not so long ago in America. Should we stop reading. Same with singing. No more male vocal music in church. Shaving was considered highly effeminate to the Byzantine, but shaven faces were normal in the early Roman Church the Byzantine so reveres.

Feminine and masculine cues have been changing, as they always have. We aren’t turning men into women and women into men – except when there is a conscious choice to crossdress rather to simply wear more practical clothes (pants for women).

All that being said, I’d prefer women wear far more modest, less revealing, less form fitting clothes, in general. It’s a little distracting out there and there are only so many places to avert one’s eyes.

15 09 2010
Arturo Vasquez

Another thing this nonsense reminded me of, was how Padre Pio would kick women in pants out of his confessional.. Very “pastoral” of him. I wonder what would happen to a priest who did that here, these days..

Yeah, I have wondered that myself. Since when did being a saint absolve you of the sin of being a dick?

I think there is a lot in the lives of saints that we just need to throw out, or at the very least not take them seriously. And certainly not try to use them to win an argument.

15 09 2010

Like I said, reading the right wing Catholic Internet can at times seem like reading the Talmudic disputations of an emerging, Judeo-Christian fertility cult.

Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”

The Catholic Devout: “If no one affirms my show of piety, I do not exist. Perseverance of the saints waits on no one, certainly not me.”

The great father of the rabbinical movement understood that affirmation of the self, indeed the existence of identity, rests foremost in the giving of the self to others unceasingly. The Catholic “devout lifestyle” often inverts this ideal: time serves to affirm the election of the individual in the sight of his or her peers. There is no continual emptying of the self if the group is merely a composite of egos fixated on hemlines.

“Pants or skirts” in a very facile way hides the reality that the devout Catholic lifestyle often has very shallow roots in the moral and ethical culture of either Judaism or Christianity.

15 09 2010
Charles Curtis

I say women between the ages of 16 and 30 ought to all wear mini skirts to mass. When I was on my Orthodox kick I noticed that ethnic Orthodox girls (Greek, Russian) sometimes come to liturgy in very short skirts.. Imagine, if you will a 19 year old Armenian chick in a tight minuscule black leather miniskirt.. Standing prayerfully behind her for an hour and a half was no small ascetic feat. Heaven help us. Makes for a very pleasant liturgical experience, all those litanies simply fly by.. In contrast, prot converts to Orthodoxy tend to ankle length dresses and veils.. Contemporary American take on Kulak chic.. it all amused me very much.

Another thing this nonsense reminded me of, was how Padre Pio would kick women in pants out of his confessional.. Very “pastoral” of him. I wonder what would happen to a priest who did that here, these days..

15 09 2010

Having spent some very entertaining moments at stufffundieslike.com, and observing what is said about those very fundamantalist Islamists, I find it amazing how fundamentalist cults, whether they are Baptist, or Catholic, or Taliban, all tend to move in the same direction – men Lording it over women, prescribing their dress in all detail, keeping them pregnant and in the kitchen, making innumerable laws and guidelines for every aspect of life….

Judeo-Christian-Islamist fertility cults indeed.

15 09 2010

If I may speak in favor of the pants-wearing women of the world, in 866 Pope Nicholas I wrote a letter to King Boris I of Bulgaria about this very subject: ‘Whether you or your women wear or do not wear trousers neither impedes your salvation nor leads to any increase of your virtue.’

15 09 2010

I think something lost in this is the pursuit of the authentic feminine. Pants are a token of the fact that in this country at least, the ideal woman is a man. While I don’t think the feminine ideal is to be barefoot and pregnant, I do think that we lack an authentic femininity in this country. Seeing all the Muslim women on my large urban campus helps me see a culture that recognizes a real feminine role, even if it isn’t a role I’d ask my wife or daughter to subscribe to.

As for the making of money in the intellectual pursuits, I have become convinced that intellectual pursuits are properly leisure and should be open to all the classes.

14 09 2010

The Bible says for men not to wear women’s clothes, and for women not to wear men’s clothes. And for men not to cut their beard, and for women not to cut their hair. For men to not cover their head, and for women to cover their head. The same problems are encountered in Orthodoxy and Judaism (if that makes you feel better).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: