Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Glamour,Baggy Pants and Feminist Pride

I remember a Priest once giving a sermon in which he described the idea of "glamour" as being harmful to our society. I was rather taken aback by this, having strived (most unsuccessfully) to be glamorous, for most of my art-school days. I was very much influenced by one of my fellow studentesses, a Glasweigian glamour queen named Susan; though, when I looked through the eyes of reality, I could see that two rather dumpy females below the height of 5'2", would never have made the grade! Yet, after mulling over this sermon, I began to realise that the Priest was right, in as much as so many young people waste so much time over vain things such as their looks, or rather someone else's look, and how to achieve it. It was a sad indictment of the Catholic schooling system in the 60's and 70's, that when Susan and I were in the first year of our Fine Art course, and were seated before the wonderful set of Poussin paintings of the Seven Sacraments, in the Art Gallery in Edinburgh, neither of us were able, after having acknowledged to the Art History tutor that we were the only Catholic representatives of the youthful gathering at his feet, to list what all the seven Sacraments were! But we certainly knew how to try and look 'cool' . I was brought up a Catholic, but I didn't really know my faith. I never missed Mass, but I didn't really know why. I distinctly remember loving the sermons of the Dominican priests at the Chaplaincy in Edinburgh, they appealed to my intellect, or maybe to my intellectual pride. I only had a few qualms when one of them decided to make me a "Eucharistic Minister" minutes before the Mass one day (before these things were generally allowed)- letting me know that it was only an accident of history, and our culture, that had stopped women being ordained, but it wouldn't be long now, before the Church changed.... I drank in the feminist gobbledegook that was spouted at the time.... I was able to believe what I wanted, form the opinions I chose to hold, but, I must have a wonderful Guardian Angel, and very prayerful parents, because somehow I never went too far astray. I was always interested in my Faith, and wanted to know what the Truth was, and because of that, I've never liked to rest until I am convinced one way or another about something. It is obvious that different Priests will give different opinions on what is right or wrong, and if we are intelligent, or even just bothered about where the Truth lies, we lay people sometimes have to research beyond what a certain Priest has said, and look to what the Church teaches. By the Grace of God, and the intercession of His Blessed Mother, and my Guardian Angel, I believe I was able to get rid of most of my "feminist" notions - and I have found this incredibly liberating! I eventually realised it was wrong for women to be considering that it was their "right" to stand at the altar alongside the Priest. It is the same with modesty - there are many different opinions out there about what constitutes modest dress.
Those Catholic women who love to show off their bottoms in trousers (or pants, as our American friends would call them) - and there's no denying that trousers show off bottoms, except perhaps for the ones I used to wear in my "arty" days, which my Father described as looking like an "elephant's arse hanging down" - they were otherwise known as 'harem pants' - love also to justify it along the lines of "if the men want to ogle, then it's their problem", and, "I have 24 daughters, so I know a thing or two about modesty, and it's all in their hearts, and God doesn't mind one iota whether they flaunt what they've got, coz He gave it to them". But is this really Catholic teaching, I would like to ask? Or is it just the opinion of some women (or men)? Why, may I ask, is their opinion more true than that of say, Pope Pius XII, where he says,

" With regard to clothing, modesty requires especially two things: first, care that one does not make purity difficult for oneself, or for others, by one's own mode of dress; and, second, a prudent but firm and courageous resistance to the styles and customs, no matter how popular or widespread, or adopted by others, which are a danger to purity ."

I think I would really have appreciated my mother teaching me that when I was a young woman. I might not have gone along with it, but I would definitely have kept coming back to it, because it is so True.
And I do think it so sad that so few of these women actually consider the purity of their sons, husbands, Priests, and fellow Christian men, who could be led to sin by their immodesty - surely their souls are as important to save as those of their glamorous daughters?
I suspect a lot of it is to do with residual feminist pride... Yet as a searcher for the Truth, I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, but not from unauthoritative opinions, please!

10 comments:

Alexa said...

Elizabeth, do you never wear pants? I never really thought about them being immodest - I wear jeans almost all the time - I feel so fat in a skirt. Are jeans considered immodest?

Just curious.

Rita said...

Ouch- me too! I saw Poussin's Seven Sacraments in my Edinburgh Daze and couldn't identify them either. This is no reflection on the artist.

I'd often go along to that gallery on a Sunday afternoon just to look at Vermeer's Christ at the House of Mary and Martha. There is a painting I love and could understand, even back then.

Reluctantly, I'll have to put in a good word for feminists. It was a feminist who gave me a copy of John Berger's Ways of Seeing, and this had a profound impact on how I related to the world of fashion (distanced myself from it) and my own growing sense of the need for modesty. Not that this excuses the feminist clap-trap about equality within the Church...

MaggieClitheroe said...

Alexa, I always wear pants - in England that is the term we use for our undergarments ha ha! As to trousers, I have a pair of jogging "pants" and they are only worn if gardening or working up a ladder, and only with a very long baggy top that covers all that should be covered! As to feeling fat, I think I've always felt fat in jeans! - a skirt can hide some of the contours that should be hidden, that's my personal, and artistic belief, I'm also coming to believe that that is the Church's teaching. I think that very few women look "good" in trousers, especially tight-fitting ones, but they are conditioned by fashion to believe that they do. Most of the women I know who wear trousers (and that's most of the women I know, and I still love them all!)probably do so on the grounds of comfort, and don't think about the modesty issue at all, and are very affronted if any such discusion arises. But the point of my post is really not what one's personal opinion is, but what the truth of the matter is, whether uncomfortable or not. Having read a lot of stuff about modesty, and what Saints and Popes, and people like Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand, etc. have said about it, and having seen the extremes that trouser-wearing fashions in women have led to I think that women, on the whole, are not modestly dressed when wearing trousers. I think also about what Our Blessed Mother said at Fatima about fashions being introduced that would offend Our Lord greatly - what did she mean? There are plenty of immodest fashions in skirts and dresses too, and if loose trousers were worn with a long top that came down to the knees, I don't think that would be immodest. Since few priests nowadays will preach on modesty (oh, and by the way, I think tight fitted jeans on men are immodest too, but the days of the Bee Gees seem to have passed for the time being) we have to look to what has been written on it in the past. And I think those women who say "oh you'd just have us all dressed in a burkha" are talking nonsense, there are lots of lovely dresses and skirts and blouses that women can wear.

MaggieClitheroe said...

Rita, I spent so long answering Alexa's comment I thought I'd do yours separately!
Yes, I think I was in a daze most of my 5 years in Edinburgh! I grew to appreciate the Poussins, they took some studying to understand them, although I think to any Catholic who knew their faith, the actual subject matter was easily identifiable! I love the way they exhibit them now in a little room all of their own.
Yes, I remember we had a talk by John Berger when I was at art school, and I was struck by the fact that he said in the past people were trained and taught how to paint, so given the means to create, but nowadays people go to art school, get given a few brushes and are expected to "create". It was just how I felt, we were taught bog all, and I had gone there to learn! In all my time there I think there was only ever one tutor who actually taught me anything! I was mightily impressed by Berger's "Ways of Seeing" when I read it too. If it took you down a path to modesty, then that just goes to show that God can use anything, even a feminist, to bring about good, ha ha!

Alexa said...

Thanks for the feedback, Elizabeth! I've toyed with the thought of wearing solo skirts for many years - tried going a couple of days in one and I just couldn't do it. I only own two skirts anyhow - and they're winter ones and too nice for daily wear. I have nice dresses too - maybe 3 that I can fit into right now - but, again, they're for dressier days. That being said, my jeans are always loose. I don't wear anything tight at all. I have nothing to show off except rolls of fat anyhow.

*sigh* I will evolve.

Kitchen Madonna said...

Alice von H. rocks doesn't she? I used to see her at her tapings at EWTN and she always had on the most feminine clothes.

I wear skorts not shorts. Skirts or dresses most of the time. And yes, jeans and trousers show the contours of your backside.

It is so hard to buck society. But I'll tell you a secret, every guy I know - before I got married a year ago - used to remark on how much he liked skirts and dresses.

Alexa, sweetie-dahlin, it is just a matter of finding the right skirt for your figure.

MaggieClitheroe said...

Oh, KM thanks Sooo much for visiting, and commenting - we'll have to get Alexa sorted out won't we? ha ha! I bet she'd look gorgeous in dresses, and she can get ordinary everyday cotton, denim, and any other kind of fabric ones - and I BET when she wears one of your aprons, it looks much better over a dress or skirt too! I think you're right about men prefering women in skirts and frocks, it's just that so many of them are too scared off by rampant feminist notions that women should be allowed to look like men to be able to say it!

Kitchen Madonna said...

Let's take Alexa out for lunch, ok? Until then, I might take pictures of my skirts, skorts, and everyday dresses for her. Yes, everyday dresses. I have one on right now.

And thanks for visiting my blog too.

Alexa said...

Like I said, I'm evolving. I've got only two skirts and a couple of dresses - not every day ones either.

I'll be on the look-out for something that looks good on me in future thrift shopping ventures.

I've also thought of looking at patterns.

Then I'll have to find someone who sews! (or try myself - with my weird and ancient second hand sewing machine)

ukok said...

I very rarely wear skirts, and while i do appreciate and to some extent can even accept your argument against skirt-wearing, I wouldn't at this point in time, be so convinced by it that i would be of a mind to ditch my trousers and jeans.

Even at school i got out of wearing school skirts and was the only one in the whole school who wore trousers. I feigned some kind of 'illness' (i did have some aches and pains when me legs got cold, but nothing tremenously debilitating to warrant trouser wearing).

I was, however, good at talking myself out of things in those days.LOL!

I own a couple of skirts now,and funny enough, if i'm on holiday i don't mind wearing one if it's a lovely summers day, but i feel mcuh comfier in jeans and trousers.

Because i'm a big lass, i tend to wear tops that cover my big butt so i shouldn't imagine anyone having wayward thoughts for catching a teensy glimpse at my massive jean clad derriere.

But thanks for challenging me to think more about this, which doubtless, i will do :-)