Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.
If you are so unfortunate as to be a combatant in the weird and unseemly world of Catholic Skirt Wars, perhaps you have seen the story about the high school girls’ track team that performed better when they ditched their skin-tight uniforms for skorts.
[Athlete Destiny] Phillips used to have to break concentration to fix a uniform that may have shifted unexpectedly, but those days are over. Since the Crimson Tide started competing in skorts in February — the black compression shorts with a miniskirt over top were designed to eliminate embarrassing moments — the Dunbar girls have spent more time focusing on their events and less time feeling self-conscious because of what they’re wearing.
“That skort is a miracle worker,” Dunbar star Destiny Phillips, one of the team’s co-captains, told the Post. “You look good, you run good. “
After an excellent regular season, Dunbar won the girls team title at the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association outdoor championships by an astounding 133 points.
Speaking as someone who, to my sorrow, has probably thought more about pants, skirts, and modesty than any other person in the western world, ever, I would like to clarify a few things.
Here is what this story tells us:
1. Boys will ogle at girls who expose their bodies.
2. Girls feel uncomfortable when they are ogled.
3. Girls get nervous when they feel uncomfortable, and can’t function well when nervous.
4. There is something wrong with dressing immodestly, so let’s stop pretending it’s normal.
5. Yay, Dunbar! And yay for their coach—sounds like a sensible, compassionate guy who cares for his athletes.
Here is what this story does not tell us:
Skirts are inherently more modest than bifurcated garments.
The reason I feel the need to clarify this is because the story has been passed around among the Sola Skirtura (oh how I wish I had invented that phrase!) crowd as definitive proof that any clothing that tends skirtward is demonstrably, indisputably, morally superior to anything that tends pantward, where females are concerned.
“You see!” they would crow, if crowing weren’t so damnably unfeminine. “We’ve been trying to tell you that women belong in skirts—women are more beautiful in skirts—women have a duty to wear skirts, for their own sake and for the sake of their brothers in Christ—the world is a better place when women wear skirts. And now this story shows that women feel better when they wear skirts, and even run faster!” And then, if Sola Skirtura types weren’t such ladies, they’d go, “IN YOUR FACE, pants-wearers!”
Well, first let’s take a look at the garment in question, the putatively modest, dignity-saving, femininity-preserving, civilization-gentrifying skirt. But before you look at it, I want you to pretend that you’re a healthy, heterosexual man standing up on the subway, and this is what the teenaged girl standing in front of you is wearing:
Okay, now say to yourself, “How wonderful to see young women learning to be modest!”
Or even: “A skirt! Just like our Blessed Mother would wear!”
My point, other than to annoy, is to remind us all that there is no such thing as an inherently virtuous piece of clothing. Modesty is 99% about context and attitude—and, in the case of the runners, it’s 100% about how the wearer feels while wearing it.
In other words, it’s not about the skirt. By any standards other than those of a track team, this is an immodest, revealing piece of clothing. The runners didn’t get better times because there is anything magically transformative about a flap of Lycra. They got better times because they were more covered up than the rest of the girls—because they were more covered up than they were used to being. It was partly about how they were perceived (more modest than the other girls, who were wearing skin-tight shorts) and how they felt (not exposed). They were covered, they didn’t draw attention to themselves, and they could relax and focus on the task at hand.
They were covered, they didn’t draw attention to themselves, and they could relax and focus on the task at hand . . . and this is exactly how I feel when I’m wearing a pair of modest pants. The only thing that this article proves is that women tend to be more relaxed when they are not nearly naked—something that virtuous, pants-tolerant women have been saying all along.