“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.”
I am a teaching pastor at a wonderful church. I love my work and the people I serve.
I am also a woman.
This brings with it a multitude of potential land mines, one of which has to do with what I wear when I preach on Sundays.
I go for comfort, to be honest.
Speaking in public is hard, physical work which causes me to sweat a bit. So I wear loose, armpit-stain-hiding shirts and comfy pants that give me room to move.
I wear shoes that make me smile when I slide them on.
I am up front to do God’s work.
I want to look generally attractive, but not too attractive.
I want to look young and hip, but since I am no longer young and never was hip, I don't want to look like I am trying to be young or hip.
I want to look like a female, but not too much like a female, if you get my drift.
I was taught - by the conservative Christian group I was a part of in college - that my female body is a potential distraction for the male gaze and the male mind. (sigh)
That is a topic for another post.
For today, let me just say -- This whole topic is … complicated.
Here is a true story about my life:
One day I was with my in-laws at an lunchtime event honoring their service to the community and I chose to wear a blue, knee-length, sheath style dress.
And small-ish heels.
I felt confident and festive and I was honoring my in-laws by dressing up for this important event.
After the luncheon I was approached by an older man who happened to attend our church.
He said to me, “You should wear a dress when you teach, you know? You have really nice legs!”
I smiled and said, “Well, your reaction is exactly why I don’t wear dresses when I teach.”
He continued to make more comments about my legs, which started to make me uncomfortable.
Another man, who also attended our church, stopped over to chat.
The older man now says to the younger man: “Hey, doesn’t she have great legs? She should wear a dress when she teaches …”
I was no longer smiling.
I found my in-laws and we left.
Case closed. Right?
Not so fast …
The following Sunday I was preaching at church.
The older man from the luncheon approached me and tried to make ANOTHER comment about my legs.
Thankfully, my good friend was aware of this story and stepped in to interrupt the conversation.
I went to do my work -- To open the Bible and share with the congregation what God had been teaching me about life, faith, and the world.
My parents were there that morning.
After the service, the older man who likes my legs chased my parents down to tell them … wait for it ...
“Your daughter has really nice legs. I told her she should wear a dress when she speaks at church!”
I do not know what my dad said to this man who is my dad’s age.
But I doubt it was very sweet.
Friends, we don’t comment about women’s bodies.
We comment on their work.
We comment on their commitment to the community.
We comment on their grit, their kindness, their gifts, talents, skills, resourcefulness, strength and how they make the world a better place.
We ask them interesting questions about their life.
But we do not tell them they have good legs and should wear dresses more often.
Sometimes I wish I could wear a dress or a skirt to teach on Sundays … but I never will.