questions concerning boys clothes: gender specific clothes
I really enjoyed your site on boys' clothing. It has been extremely helpful to me. First of all, let me enlighten you somewhat on my situation and explain why I am researching the subject of clothing. The church that I am a part of believes that women should only wear
dresses and skirts because pants are strictly for men. This comes from a
portion of scripture in deuronomy that says that "...it is an abomination for a
woman to put on that which pertaineth to a man". I totally agree with this.
My question is who sets the standards for what is womens attire and what is
mans? The bible is not clear on this. From my understanding mostly long
robes were worn by both sexes in biblical days. The reason I am questioning
or closely examining this issue is because I am having difficulty wearing a
skirt in my profession and will probably have to wear pants. I would
appreciate any information or input that you have regarding women and men's
clothing. Thank You. Kerrie
I'm afraid that we do not deal much with ancient history. However you need to refine your question somewhat. "Biblical days" refer to a wide time range. The New and Old Testmaent refers to different times. Also dress varies greatly from culture to culture. Roman dress was different than Jewish dress. Also the Jews were held in captivity by both the Babalonians and Egyptians. Their fashions must have been affected by the fashions of these larger, more powerful societies. For example the hair lock worn by Orthodox Jewish boys probably is derived by the fashions for Egyptian boys' clothes. Pants were not worn by Jewish men, they are a very recent development, Men of any standing did not begin to commonly wear pants/trousers until the early 19th century. In fact the modern word comes from the pantalettes worn by women--the first pants-like garments. Fashions changes sometimes radically. Men in the 16th century wore garments that exposed almost all of their legs while women's legs were well covered. The designation of garments that are mens' and women's changes over time. Pants and trousers are no longer a uniquely male garment, although slirts and dress are still (with a few ethnic/folk costuming exceptions) still considered to be women's clothes.
Also remember that dresses and skirted garments have not always been considerd strictly women's clothes. Roman Legionaires wore knee-length skirted garments. Both men and women in medieval Europe wore dress-like robes. Young boys for several centuries, as recently as the early 20th century, wore dresses. In addition, kilts were worn by the Scotts, Irish, and other Gaelic peoples.
A question of basic logic is at play here. Either biblical styles were set for men's and
women's clothes or the biblical passage refers to whatever is deemed
appropriate by cointemprary society. Clearly biblical styles were not established as
neither men or women at the time wore pants. Thus the passage meant what was
deemed appropriate for contemporay society. And our contemporary society sees
pants as appropriate for both men and women. The best evidence of this is to
simply make a study on any street corner or shopping mall or indeed assess the
garments offered in major department or clothing store.
HBC readeers are incouraged to provide their own comments.
One of our readers provided this detailed respmse.
The questions raised on the HISTCLO page concerning "gender specific
clothes" are widely discussed on the Web. There are very many
crossdressers, transvestites, transexuals and other "gender-variant" people
who were raised in the Christian or Jewish religious traditions, and for
them Deuteronomy 22:5 is a serious spiritual and moral problem.
The verse SEEMS to mean in the most straightforward way that God considers
crossdressing in itself to be an abomination - i.e. a horrible sin. It is a
sin for a male, for instance, to wear high heels. It is a sin for a woman
to wear pants. That's all there is to it.
Fortunately, that's not all there is to it. Correcly
understanding/interpreting Deut 22:5 is not at all simple. Deut. 22:5 does
not mean that crossdressing (in our modern sense) is an abomination. It
does not mean that crossdressers are sinful. Crossdressing is not a sin or
crime or pollution like theft or murder or adultery. It is not "unclean"
It is very hard for us to go back in time and understand exactly what Deut
22:5 meant in its own context when it was written. It is important to know
this, because if the Bible is inerrant (and it is in the view of many of
us), what it meant when it was written down is exactly what it means now.
Since at that time both men and women wore very similar skirted garments (as
the writer of the HISTCLO page pointed out), and nobody wore pants, the
verse cannot mean somthing like "men can't wear high heels and women can't
wear pants" - because nobody wore them back then.
Even saying that Deut. 22:5 prohibits crossdressing according to the
cultural and contemporary standard of any given time and place (so that
Scottish men can wear skirts, for example, without being abominable) is no
good. Fashion is always and everywhere in flux, and what is considered male
or female garb changes all the time. God's inerrant Word ends up enforcing
an ever-changing and essentially unstable (and therefore unenforceable)
norm. So, for example, a young man with pierced ears and earrings, and a
ponytail is reviled as abominable and sinful-before-God in 1985 in Peoria,
say, but when he travels to New York City it's perfectly fine and God
doesn't mind a bit - everybody does it in NYC.. Then, by 1987 the style has
spread to Peoria, but has become passe in the Big Apple. Talk about a
shifting morality! God's Word cannot be bound to the enforcement of such
trivialities, can it? Clothing, considered strictly by itself, is not
The verse becomes intelligible when we recall that Deuteronomy is often
concerned with religious/ritual observance. It is particularly forceful in
preventing pagan rituals current in its own day from creeping into Israelite
worship. What the Canaanites did in their Pagan idol-worship is almost
always looked on as abominable. Many pagan rituals involved sexual
activities, which were naturally prohibited to the Israelites. In some of
their cults (to addres the current topic specifically), men and women
exchanged clothing and adornments and sexual behaviors. Thus, some scholars
think that Deut. 22:5 is really simply prohibiting these sorts of pagan
sexual practices in Jewish worship. It follows that modern theatrical
cross-dressing is not under consideration and is not being prohibited as
such (and so RuPaul is in the clear), nor is it prohibited for a woman, say,
to dress in men's garb to work in a male profession (e.g. Joan of Arc, Dr.
Mary Walker, and Billy Tipton). Thus also, a man is not a Bible-abomination
in our year 2000 if he walks down Main Street USA, or the English High
Street, dressed to the nines in conventionally female style. We may think
he's a pervert, or poofter, or jerk, or one hell of an ugly broad - but God
doesn't abominate him on the basis of his dress.
Other scholars think that mere clothing is not what is meant here anyway,
but rather very specific religious appurtenances: for example, phylacteries
are specifically (Jewish) male religious items, and may not be worn by
Scripture as a whole moreover supports family solidarity - i.e. the family
is an inviolable and sacred social unit. This is also a special concern in
the book of Deuteronomy. So, for instance, adultery is sinful because it
threatens family life. Some scholars, rabbis especially, think the force of
Deut. 22:5 is therefore to prohibit disguising oneself as a member of the
opposite sex as a way of furthering an illicit (anti-family) sexual goal.
For instance, it prohibits a man from disguising himself as a woman to sneak
into the woman's quarters of another man's home for an assignation with a
wife. Note what is being prohibited in this view: not wearing the clothing
of the opposite sex as such, but deceiving others (by means of disguise) for
Perhaps I'm getting too long-winded here. Anyway, look at
http://www.uscj.org/ctvalley/beki/crossdress.html for some rabbinical
considerations on Deut. 22:5. See
http://lisbeth.freeserver.com/deut225.html for some Christian
Bible-believing remarks in a similar vein. Many crossdresser and
transvestite support groups and forums on the Internet have lengthy
"threads" on this specific issue. "Alternative" fashion forums for men,
espousing the freedom for men to wear (as men, without crossdressing per se)
such erstwhile female garb as skirts have also addressed theis topic.
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