Dear Pope Francis,
A few weeks ago I posted about why I choose to wear skirts most of the time and how people respond to me differently when I’m wearing them. An aspect which I deliberately stayed away from in that post was the link between the length and style of the skirt and people’s response.
Last winter, Rosea Lake posted this photo (left) to her tumblr demonstrating how people respond to different lengths of skirts on women. The photo really struck a chord with me and got me thinking about my own collection of skirts and whether I buy longer skirts because I genuinely like long skirts or because I don’t like the way I’m treated when I wear shorter skirts.
Which brings me to today’s topic: respect.
In the Catholic Church, we’re really big on teaching people to respect each other’s human dignity. There’s a fair bit written about respect and respecting people who think differently in the catechism. In our Catholic culture, where we fall short at times is in extending that respect to people when they dress differently than we think they ought.
I’ll be 25 in August. When I’m going out and about in my daily life, I favour a business casual style. Most of my skirts fall somewhere between proper and old-fashioned on Lake’s photo. But I also have several in the cheeky-flirty range, including my current favourite dress.
There is an argument to be made for self-respect and dressing modestly as a way of respecting our own bodies. I can honestly say at one point in my life the shorter skirts and dresses I favoured were present because of a lack of self-respect on my part. But that’s not the case now, and my wearing a cheeky skirt doesn’t make it okay for a man at Tim Horton’s to comment on my legs or for a car full of guys to holler at me when my at the time boyfriend is walking me home from foosball on a Tuesday night.
When I show up at church in leopard print leggings and a denim tunic-blouse I shouldn’t hear the older men harrumph and their wives tut. I should be hearing them say hello and making me feel welcome at mass.
Part of growing up and wandering back to the church has been seeing some aspects of my style change. I show less boob than I used to and don’t wear super form-fitting skirts as often. But part of being me is challenging the notion that people who wear short skirts or leggings aren’t interested in God. God loves me whether I’m wearing a habit or stark naked.
When I wear high heels and dresses – whatever their length, I feel good about myself because I feel like I look like the free woman I am. No matter how devout a Christian or a Catholic a man might be, if he respects me more or less based on the length of my skirt or how I dress, he’s not respecting me much at all.