An Example Still Applicable 70 years later!

One of the things I love about the book Are Women Human?  is the logic with which she supports her arguments.  She doesn’t rely on emotion or supposition and she doesn’t start with a faulty premise to begin with.  She takes a situation, applies sense and reason, and then shows where we so often grasp at straws rather than see something in its entirety and without ignoring scripture. 


The following passage is one fine example and since it is quoted all over the internet, I decided to share it as well.

Let me give one simple illustration of the difference between the right and the wrong kind of feminism. Let us take this terrible business – so distressing to the minds of bishops – of the women who go about in trousers. We are asked: “Why do you want to go about in trousers? They are extremely unbecoming to most of you. You only do it to copy the men.” To this we may very properly reply: “It is true that they are unbecoming. Even on men they are remarkably unattractive. But, as you men have discovered for yourselves, they are comfortable, they do not get in the way of one’s activities like skirts and they protect the wearer from draughts about the ankles. As a human being, I like comfort and dislike draughts. If the trousers do not attract you, so much the worse; for the moment I do not want to attract you. I want to enjoy myself as a human being, and why not? As for copying you, certainly you thought of trousers first and to that extent we must copy you. But we are not such abandoned copy-cats as to attach these useful garments to our bodies with braces. There we draw the line. These machines of leather and elastic are unnecessary and unsuited to the female form. They are, moreover, hideous beyond description. And as for indecency – of which you sometimes accuse the trousers – we at least can take our coats off without becoming the half-undressed, bedroom spectacle that a man presents in his shirt and braces.”


Yep, seventy years after she wrote these words, we’re still discussing whether pants (trousers… such a nicer sounding word btw) are acceptable attire for godly women.  And, if that wasn’t enough, one of the biggest arguments is still that it is a feministic attempt to “be like men” rather than a reasonable decision based upon the needs of the wearer.  I’ve often used the example of climbing a ladder as a way of demonstrating that sometimes it is definitely more modest to don a pair of jeans than to wear a skirt.  You wouldn’t believe how often the reply was, “If you can’t do it in a skirt, you shouldn’t do it.”  Hmm.  That’s a nice sentiment but aside from not being scripturally mandated, it is also ridiculous in reality.  So, my family should suffer through 115 degree weather because I cannot climb a ladder and reattach some part of our swamp cooler blown off in the wind?”  Trust me, if my husband was home, he’d do it.  If I had a son old enough to do it, he would.  But twice in 20 years I’ve had to climb up there and both times, while I hadn’t put on jeans in years, I put them puppies on in a flash and did the job. 


When my health went south last summer/fall/early winter (what  a nightmare!) I was relegated to a recliner.  I wore my skirts.  I tend to do that.  I happen to be one who prefers to wear them and prefers to see them on my daughters.  However, sitting in this chair, sometimes my feet needed to go up to give my back a break and encourage circulation.  So i’d put mmy feet on the edge of the recliner footstool thing, my knees would go up, and my skirt would cover nothing.  Even long skirts didn’t do the job.  I put on a blanket when I could but eventually, I bought me more pants.  I needed something decent for the chair. 


Anyway, the point Mrs. Sayers is trying to make is that assertions that women are only wearing pants because they want to be like men are just as ridiculous as stating that men only wear neckties because they want to be like women.  “Women have always adorned themselves with bows and things.  Men just adopted the practice and masculinized the look and tying of them.”  How ridiculous that sounds and yet the reverse argument is supposed to be reasonable and solid evidence against women wearing pants. 


This isn’t an argument, by the way, for or against trousers for women.  I’m not making that assertion, and neither is Mrs. Sayers.  I don’t think she cared two whits what you wear and I know I don’t.  The example is used to show that assumptions about motive are not only illogical, but incorrect.  The point of the entire passage is that we focus so quickly on a method that we can assume we’re violating a principle that wasn’t even in question.  When a woman wears pants, the assumption that she does so in order to make a feministic statement about her philosophical opinions is ludicrous.  The same is true of whether or not a woman wears a skirt.  Who assumes that a Scotsman in a Kilt is secretly denouncing his masculinity?  Why then, must the reverse be true?


I think one could sum up Mrs. Sayers point by stating that majoring on a method can find you playing baseball on a basketball court.

3 thoughts on “An Example Still Applicable 70 years later!

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