Monday, January 26, 2015

A Tempest In A Tight Pants Teapot

I apparently missed the initial outrage but a prominent blogger who happens to also be a woman and a Christian, Veronica Partridge, made the grievous error of posting a very short, very non-judgmental post about why she had made the personal, non-binding on anyone else, decision to stop wearing leggings and yoga pants outside of the house: Why I chose to no longer wear leggings. It drew over 800 comments on her blog and went viral (her prior posts drew single-digit comments). As you can imagine if you pay attention to the culture this post has caused a great deal of outrage.

If you take the time to actually read past the title you will see a prominent disclaimer where she specifically says that she is not intending to tell anyone else what they can or can't wear. On her facebook page she reiterates this and writes:

Whether you agree with me or not, that's okay. Like I said, this is just my personal journey I thought I'd share.

That is what blogging is for most of us that are not making a living from blogging, an outlet for us to write about what we are thinking about and thinking through. To some apparently her personal thoughts on a topic are tantamount to a condemnation of their own behavior. I suspect that a lot of the backlash has to do with a sense of guilt hidden by many that comes to the surface when anyone brings up the topic, which might explain why no one brings it up because who wants that sort of grief? Here is what she wrote that got everyone in a tizzy:

Was it possible my wearing leggings could cause a man, other than my husband, to think lustfully about my body? I asked my husband his thoughts on the matter when he got home. I appreciated his honesty when he told me, “yeah, when I walk into a place and there are women wearing yoga pants everywhere, it’s hard to not look. I try not to, but it’s not easy.”

I instantly felt conviction come over me even stronger. Not that I wasn’t feeling it earlier, or else I wouldn’t have thought twice about the conversation, but after talking to Dale, it hit me a lot harder. If it is difficult for my husband who loves, honors, and respects me to keep his eyes focused ahead, then how much more difficult could it be for a man that may not have the same self-control? Sure, if a man wants to look, they are going to look, but why entice them? Is it possible that the thin, form-fitting yoga pants or leggings could make a married (or single) man look at a woman in a way he should only look at his wife?

That this is even slightly controversial says a lot more about the state of our culture than it does about Victoria Partridge.

I have some thoughts on this topic. Go figure. I am sure that my thoughts will draw the ire of some so I will save you the trouble of shouting the following at me:




There, having that out of the way we can continue. It is odd that we can talk openly and frankly, even to the point of being awkward and creepy, about sex except if we suggest any sort of limitation or self-control. When someone suggests to college women that getting drunk to the point of being severely impaired in your ability to make rational decisions on actions you might regret later or even drinking to the point of passing out might just put you in serious risk, gets you labeled with all of he terms above and an apologist for the "rape culture". As others have pointed out this is like saying that the suggestion that you shouldn't leave your new car running with the doors open in a bad neighborhood is being an apologist for car theft. Saying "you should take reasonable and rational precautions to protect yourself" is not even close to saying "if you get drunk and get raped you had it coming" but you would think it was in our culture.

Back to the pants issue. The trend of wearing leggings and yoga pants has been a goldmine for many dudes like nothing men have seen since the advent of the bikini and the mini-skirt. Being uncharacteristically blunt, leggings leave pretty much nothing to the imagination and that is precisely what they are designed for. Every contour of her skin is on display under an awfully thin layer of fabric. Again, by design. I appreciate Victoria's  use of the word "entice" because I think it is an excellent word to label the impact leggings are designed to have.

I work in a place where the public comes and goes and a huge percentage of women are wearing leggings. I can watch my fellow men and you can see the heads swivel almost involuntarily. It is a cultural trend and it seems that a lot of Christian women are swept along by this tide just as so many Christians are by other cultural waves. Unfortunately we have come to a point where these sorts of conversations either don't happen at all because of a conservative setting where a sister wearing yoga pants in public is unthinkable or in the rest of the church where even the suggestion of common sense self-limitation is met with frothing at the mouth anger.

Before I get to the main issue, here are a couple of the most common responses....

You shouldn't be looking anyway, it is your problem!

Do you know why billboards along the highway have been an effective marketing tool for a long time? Because they work. Even if you aren't meaning to your eyes are drawn to a billboard because they are designed to attract attention. The same is true for neon signs. Also true for flashy jewelry. The same is true for any attention grabbing device. You get my point. Baggy sweat pants would be just as comfortable as leggings but they don't draw much attention. While some women clearly have not looked in the mirror before leaving the house in leggings you can't tell me that most don't check themselves out and wear leggings specifically because it shows off their hind end. Back in the 80's girls used to wear high-waisted (so their butt crack wasn't showing whenever they bent over) jeans that were so tight it had to be a major struggle just to get them on. Were they comfortable? I doubt it. Did they draw attention to their butt? You betcha.  It is absolutely true that I shouldn't be looking at other women. I think that most men struggle with this, that is why it gets special mention in the Bible. Turns out men and women are different and have different struggles and the Bible addresses those issues differently (but they are usually interconnected). It is almost like God is omniscient or something. I also have an obligation to not encourage my brother or sister to stumble. If they sin it is on them but I bear a different responsibility if I encourage it. I don't go to AA meetings and offer people there a beer. I don't leave a flash drive loaded with porn for someone I know is struggling with that issue. I don't leave stacks of money around someone who has a problem with stealing. You get my point. Life is hard enough to navigate in the old flesh with a new heart without intentionally and willfully making it harder for others in the name of "liberty". Paul had a lot to say about this and it is as true today as it was back then.

Well they are just comfortable!

Maybe, but so are lots of other outfits. To be blunt it might be comfy in the summer to wear nothing but my boxers but I don't do that, not around the house and certainly not in public. It might be comfy and convenient to wear your robe in the house after you shower but you don't go out like that (hopefully). It is about a sense of propriety. What you wear in public ought to be different from what you wear around the house and what you wear to bed. I am not advocating for a uniform or a burqa, nor am I a fan of forced formality in clothing, just some common sense and common courtesy.

Get ready, I am about to use the "M" word, the dirtiest word you can use in the church today. Leggings aren't really the issue. The ultimate issue here is about modesty and modesty is much more than not wearing revealing clothing. Or let me rephrase that. Modesty is more than not wearing revealing clothes but it is also not less than that. Paul wrote about modesty in a way that I think is profitable for the church today.

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Tim 2:8-10)

Paul isn't really talking about jewelry or braided hair here, nor is he setting a minimalist standard. My wife and I don't wear our wedding rings anymore partly because of this verse but it is about so much more than that. Why do women wear costly attire and jewelry and spend a ton of time on their hair? Why do men buy sports cars or wear gear from their favorite sports team? In short to draw attention to themselves.  That is what this is really about. Leggings and yoga pants are just the latest fad to draw attention to women by enticing men to look at them lustfully. Whether it is leggings or costly jewelry for women or a new luxury car for men, we like to be noticed even if we don't like the way we are noticed. We ought to expect this from the world but as the church we ought to try something different. We ought to be marked by humility, by our good works in response to the Gospel, for our self-control and sobriety and most of all for our love of one another and of all men, even our enemies. There is a reason that virtually all of the qualities to be demonstrated by an elder are based in our public witness rather than on charisma or public speaking talents. People should notice us for how different we are and how consistent we are, not thrown about by every wind of the culture but standing firm on the ancient teachings of God's revelation.

I don't know much about her other than this one post but thanks to Victoria Partridge for sharing what was on her heart and for standing firm in the face of the slings and arrows of detractors. I wish more brothers and sisters in  the church had the courage of conviction to stand against the cultural tide rather than seeking to accommodate in every sense of the word. 

1 comment:

Aussie John said...


A loud "Amen!"