Yesterday morning, having just left mass with my Mom, we were surprised to see that the priest for our church had placed an inset in the weekly church bulletin containing information regarding what to wear, and what not to wear to church.
His actions were understandable in the sense that a church is a place of worship, meaning appropriate attire is expected. Often times, I see individuals in church wearing clothing that is better suited for a beach volleyball game or even a club, but there fails to be anything in my power I can do to change their clothing preference.
What bothers me about the situation, however, is that the clothing outlined in the insert was blatantly directed towards women. The clothing options categorized as inappropriate for church were mainly all women’s clothing, with some examples being sleeveless shirts, tight pants, open-back dresses and shorts. There were very few clothing suggestions aimed at men that the church recognizes as inappropriate, and after pointing this out to my mom, we conversed about it greatly.
An insert that focuses on mainly women’s clothing that has been deemed inappropriate for church is a perfect example of how women’s bodies in today’s society are hyper sexualized, regardless of the circumstance. I fail to comprehend why any and all parts of the female body have become symbolic of sexuality. What exactly is sexual about a woman’s shoulders in a sleeveless shirt? Or her back, when she is wearing a dress in which a portion of her back is exposed? Regarding the insert’s warning about ‘tight’ pants, why should pants be an issue if a woman’s legs are entirely covered? To go even further, if a woman fails to wear well-fitted pants, is she not acknowledged as a slob? Or as lazy? If woman is instructed to refrain from wearing tight-fitted pants in church, but she is also instructed to refrain from wearing shorts, what is she supposed to wear? A skirt? But not a skirt that shows too much leg, or a dress for that matter? There is no way for women to overcome the excessive sexualization of their bodies at the rate society is progressing, and I believe it is become more and more difficult to determine a solution to this issue.
I believe it is quite sexist and unfortunate that regardless of any skin a woman reveals through means of her clothing preference, such exposed skin is recognized as something sexual. Perhaps we should all parade around in head-to-toe unitards to please society’s expectations.