Table of Contents
Why write a book response to The Problem with Pants? Why not just accept that some Christians choose to wear skirts? Isn’t that their prerogative? Of course it is, and we have nothing against that. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to only wearing skirts. Our issue lies with the fact that books like The Problem with Pants were not merely written to say, “Here’s why I prefer skirts.” Instead, they claim that women wearing women’s pants is morally wrong, an abomination, even anti-Christian. This not only causes confusion, it causes division. We have seen the Body of Christ tear and break as Christians who believe women’s pants are inherently evil continually disfellowship and even shun those who disagree. (In contrast, we have never heard of a case where Christians are disfellowshipped or shunned for wearing only skirts). This behavior results in church hurt and conflict that is completely needless; it distracts from the gospel and hinders the work of Christ. This must end. In an endeavor to see positive change, we have decided to respond to some of the arguments at the root of the tension.
We want to be abundantly clear that the following book response is in no way intended as a personal attack upon the book’s author. We respect Rev. Carter and his family. We view him as a brother in Christ, we appreciate the work He does to spread the gospel, and we agree with him on all the essentials of Christianity as well as many secondary issues. The author of our article (Nathan Mayo) has never met Rev. Carter, and addresses him with the same courtesy and bluntness with which he would engage any other stranger. It is not the author we take issue with but rather his arguments. We ask that this is where you, our readers, would focus your attention as well.
Without further ado, here is Nathan’s response to The Problem with Pants.
Rev. Jamie Carter’s book The Problem with Pants is the most comprehensive argument we are aware of from a Pentecostal Holiness perspective. When polled, the majority vote of Berean Holiness readers asked us to respond to it. Even though it is not widely read, its mere existence has provided some reassurance to those who believe women’s pants to be sinful. For my part, I would encourage you to read Rev. Carter’s book for yourself if you’re interested in the topic, and read my article on pants as well.
Note that this is not my logical and comprehensive case as to why I believe a godly woman can wear pants. That exists here and I will not attempt to recreate it. This is a deconstruction of the most cited anti-pants document. We would also welcome Rev. Carter if he wished to write a rebuttal to my article – we would gladly publish it on our site.
The summary of my previous argument is as follows:
1) The passage in Deuteronomy 22:5 may actually be referring to women wearing armor.
2) The Old Testament law would have permitted women to wear pants if that was the custom of men at the time – men and women wore slightly different garments, not fundamentally different ones.
3) The New Testament references that men and women are different and that they must embrace their respective roles, but says nothing about a particular distinction being required in their clothing.
4) There is no effective link that can resurrect the verse in Deuteronomy without also resurrecting dozens of other Old Testament laws which address principles repeated in the New Testament (such as stoning your children).
5) The origin of pants for men was a matter of practicality, not rebellion. The origin of pants for women was fundamentally a matter of practicality, not rebellion.
6) Rebellion from some individuals that wore women’s pants does not taint pants any more than it taints any other clothing we wear (such as the “pagan” skirt and the prodigal suit inventor).
7) If pants are inappropriate for women for reasons related to their original, biblical, or current use by men, this would rule out socks, stockings, hose, t-shirts, boots, hoodies, belts, skirts, button down shirts, many styles of hats, and much more.
8) If some pants are modest enough for men, then there are some modest enough for women.
9) Restricting women from wearing pants precludes them from participation in many wholesome activities and from many forms of exercise which would help live longer, healthier lives.
Although I cannot respond to every line in this book, I will layout a response to the core arguments made in each section – all of which will sound familiar to those acquainted with the issue.
Argument 1: Some Bad Women Pioneered the Wearing of Pants
Rev. Carter opens his arguments by working through a list of sixteen individual women and associations who wore and/or allowed women’s pants in their early days. His lists ranges from Amelia Earhart to the Oneida community—a perfectionism cult. One by one, he points out their flaws and erred beliefs, not regarding pants per se, but things remotely related as well. For instance, he highlights the fact that some women who wore pants did not use the word “obey” in their wedding vows. Why mention this? The explanation is found on the first page, “Most of the women who popularized pants and promoted dress reform were women who had questionable character, and were not God-fearing people.” (pg. 1)
The only argument Rev. Carter gives us to explain how the actions of bad people make a thing bad is
“the principle of first mention.” (pg. 1) This is the belief that when a subject is first mentioned in Scripture, it generally carries with it the same theme throughout the rest of Scripture. The problem with this hermeneutic is that almost no one uses it because it is completely unworkable. The exceptions to this principle are so wide and numerous that it provides no insights on Scripture. Additionally, the English order of the Old Testament is different from the one used in Jesus’ time – so which first mention do we go off?
Regardless of the validity of this principle in Scripture, there is no logical link between it and history. If we were to apply it, then democracy would need to be rejected, because it was first mentioned by the Greeks (a godless society). Algebra would need to be rejected because it was pioneered by Muslims. Plumbing would need to be rejected because it was pioneered by Romans. In fact – almost everything we do has its “first mention” in the pagan past.
I don’t dispute that some bad women wore pants. In fact, some bad people been involved in the pioneering of most new things, because people who deviate from social norms are most interested in trying new things. The inventor of the suit and the popularizer of the clean-shaven look was a dreadful womanizer – Holiness preachers now demand the clean-shaven look and encourage suits. A common and grotesque practice by many early supporters of the American Revolution was covering British sympathizers in boiling pitch and feathers. Does this barbarism mean that the American Revolution was without merit, and its resulting country should be rejected as the work of Satan? Paul spoke to Corinthians and did not forbid the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Clearly, if anything could taint the meat, it would be actively using it in pagan rituals. This general “guilt by association” or even “guilt by first mention” principle is both unbiblical and logically untenable.
If Rev. Carter wishes to maintain his logic regarding why pants are bad due to their promotion by bad people, he will have a much longer list of things to get rid of. For instance, his first reference to pants comes from the failed utopian experiment of Robert Owen in New Harmony, Indiana. Carter points out that the architect of this proto-Marxist town encouraged practical clothing that promoted equality among classes and sexes, such as women’s pants. I would agree that New Harmony is not a great model for a society, but does that mean every new thing they tried was wrong? Other things popularized by Robert Owen was the eight-hour working day and the idea of universal education for children.
The next protagonist of pants Rev. Carter cites is Fanny Wright, whom he summarizes as “a very wicked woman.” While he does fairly point out that she opposed religion and advocated for sexual freedom, Rev. Carter also shares with us that she promoted many other causes which were novel and outrageous in the early 1800’s. She spoke publicly from a podium, freed slaves, and attempted to build a community of them – failing that, she sent them to another country where they could retain their freedom. She promoted abolition, birth control, women’s suffrage, and legal rights for married women.
If we are to follow Rev. Carter’s logic, then we should view with deep suspicion every countercultural stance that Owen and Wright took. Thus, we should decry the eight-hour work day, universal education for children, birth control, abolition, women addressing crowds of any sort, women’s voting, and legal rights for married women. But surprisingly, Carter doesn’t take this stance. He picks a single thing out of the long list of “firsts” that these trailblazers initiated, and only says one – women’s pants – is the thing we should cast out.
This doesn’t seem like an intellectually honest study of history. It seems like finding what you are looking for. I could do this analysis with all the subsequent lineup of “bad women who wore pants” that Rev. Carter trots out before us – essentially all of whom promoted the freedoms that his own family enjoys. I would love to see his pamphlet on why women should not have the right to own property, divorce under any circumstance, vote, work among men, or any of the other “outlandish” ideas these women pioneered. It would be a better position to say that each of these women promoted some ideas that were good, some that were bad, and the ideas will have to be distinguished on their merits. It is also worth noting that a lot of the harsh criticism of these women came from contemporaries who had an axe to grind with these women over their views that we all now share. Consequently, the critics that Rev. Carter cites were very biased at the time and inclined to exaggerate the transgressions and negative perception of these women in order to discredit their “shocking” ideas, like the notion that women should be allowed to vote.
Argument 2: The Real Reason Women Started Wearing Pants
In this historical exploration, he also stumbles upon the real reason why mainstream women eventually adopted pants: practicality. He quotes Susan B. Anthony, “I can see no business avocation, in which women, in her present dress, can possibly earn equal wages with a man – and feel that it is folly for us to make the demand until we adapt our dress to our work.” (pg. 8)
He also quotes a segment from Elizabeth Stanton (pg. 6), which I will expand. “In the spring of 1851, while spending many hours at work in the garden, I became so thoroughly disgusted with the long skirt, that the dissatisfaction – the growth of years – suddenly ripened into the decision that this shackle should no longer be endured. The resolution was at once put into practice. Turkish trousers to the ankle with a skirt reaching some four inches below the knee, were substituted for the heavy, untidy and exasperating old garment…
“I wore the short dress and trousers for many years, my husband, being at all times and in all places, my staunch supporter. My father, also gave the dress his full approval, and I was also blessed by the tonic of Mrs. Stanton’s inspiring words: ‘The question is no longer, how do you look, but woman, how do you feel?’”
She goes on to express the advantages of the outfit in “its lightness and cleanliness on the streets, its allowing me to carry my babies up and down stairs with perfect ease and safety, and its beautiful harmony with sanitary laws… All hail to the day when we shall have a reasonable and beautiful dress that shall encourage exercises on the road and in the field – that shall leave us the free use of our limbs – that shall help and not hinder, our perfect development.” (See the original quote here)
Even this list of women, women of “questionable character” whom Carter brings forth to make pants abhorrent to us, are giving only practical reasons for adopting pants. The ability to work in occupations that require manual activity, exercise, bicycling, and to avoid carrying dung around on the hem of a long skirt were all cited as primary reasons. Elizabeth Stanton in particular did this with the full support of the men in her life, in part so she could easily carry her babies down stairs more safely. This hardly seems like radical rejection of femininity to me. This seems more like sensible improvement of women’s condition in keeping with biblical values.
It is an interesting historical footnote to ask why pants, if they are so practical, were not adopted thousands of years prior by both sexes? While pants were occasionally worn by men and women in the pre-modern era, they were never common. The reason for this is quite simple. Prior to the industrial era, the most labor consuming part of making clothing was spinning the thread. According to Virginia Postrel, author of The Fabric of Civilization, a pair of jeans has about six miles of thread in it and required 13-15 eight-hour days to make. A bandana would take about three working days to create. Because textiles were so precious, popular fashion always favored clothes that required the minimum amount of thread. This meant clothing that allowed a rectangular piece of cloth to be stitched together with minimal cutting. The robe, tunic, sari, and kimono all accommodate this well, but pants require a lot of tailoring and discarding of cloth, which would entail snipping off literal days of work. Because of this, they were more labor intensive, expensive, and generally impractical for all but the rich until the industrial revolution made fabric cheap and readily available. Once pants became a feasible part of a wardrobe, men adopted them first and it was only a matter of time before women would follow suit.
Argument 3: Pants as a Slippery Slope
“As with anything, you have to look at the end result.”, Rev. Carter stated (pg. 16), and he then goes on to announce that the end result of women’s pants is “short shorts, barely covering anything at all.” This is essentially a “slippery slope” argument – an argument that once we start down the road of reforming 19th century women’s dress, we may slide farther than we wish.
Slippery slope arguments are not illogical per se, but they are often framed as a unique harm on one side of an issue, when in fact they exist for both sides. So why restrict the argument to pants, when it is present in so many other aspects of life and fashion? Holiness women do not wear the same clothes as the women in the 1800’s. The modern skirt or dress can also slide down the slope into indecency. I’ve no doubt that I could present images of skirts and dresses that “barely cover anything at all.” Does this mean it was wrong to abandon the corset and hoop skirt for the maxi skirt and denim jacket? And don’t men’s pants live on the same slippery slope? Surely, if some shorts are too short for women, then some are too short for men – not to mention Speedos. Does this mean that Rev. Carter would like men to go back to the robe and tunic, in an effort to stay out of this danger zone? Modesty is not a problem that is unique in any way to pants, and if some pants are modest enough for men, then some pants must be modest enough for women.
The good news is that God doesn’t leave his children slipping down a thousand slides into destruction. As I have lain out in “Where Do We Draw the Lines?” – God gives us plenty of tools to navigate a world full of pitfalls and the capricious dictates of church leaders isn’t one of them. We cannot opt out of slippery slopes in our life. For even if we make a thousand hard and fast rules about life, then we have slidden down the slope of legalism.
Argument 4: Women’s Pants as a Central Factor in Moral Breakdown
There are many allusions throughout the book to the pitiful situation we find ourselves in because of pants. Divorce rates, gay marriage, and moral decline are all attributed to pants. Rev. Carter says, “As pants have progressed where they are today, we find that the morals of ladies have also taken a downward spiral to where many talk and behave in a manner much worse than men.” (pg. 22)
A few problems with this statement. First, he assumes that the morals of women have uniformly degraded, without providing any evidence. People tend to view the past through rose colored glasses, which is not justifiable. Slavery, eugenics, racism, warmongering, Indian displacement, and many other ills are in our not-too-distant past, all supported by some or most of the women in dresses. Second, he assumes that women are inherently more moral than men and by extension infers that men have more excuse for debauchery and vulgarity than women, since they are not equal moral agents. Most importantly, he arbitrarily identifies pants as the culprit, from a lineup with many more likely suspects.
But why pick pants? Why not choose another modern trend and say: “as women have started having fewer children, we find that the morals of ladies have also taken a downward spiral to where many talk and behave in a manner much worse than men.”
You could attribute moral decline to rising prosperity, the sexual revolution, the decline of church attendance, the expansion of the welfare state undermining the family, the church’s turn from outreach to being more inwardly focused, conservatives abandoning the entertainment industry, media, and arts, the rise of state-run education systems. There are thousands of possible explanations for moral decline, ranging from the obvious to the absurd. Pants are not on the obvious end of that spectrum. Yet, Carter addresses no other possible reasons for moral decline, which he doesn’t even bother to prove exists.
Argument 5: New Testament Evidence for a Difference between Men’s and Women’s Clothing
The author offers a handful of passages from the New Testament to make his case.
First, he references the Corinthian teaching on hair (pg. 23). This is certainly inadequate alone because it literally doesn’t address the topic at issue.
The second passage is from 1 Cor. 6:9, in which Paul denounces the “effeminate.” The Greek word here is referring to a specific homosexual act, that has nothing to do with clothing. Nearly every other translation makes this clear, but the King James translators tended to be a little more squeamish about referring to homosexuality in direct language. Regardless, the Strong’s concordance backs up this meaning to the Greek. It is true that the word has an alternate meaning – a literal meaning of “soft to the touch.” This literal sense of the word is clearly the wrong translation in the context of a list of sexual sins. But it is to this interpretation that Rev. Carter refers, to say that the point of this verse is to denounce (at least to some degree), men in feminine clothing. The problem is that this is not what soft clothing refers to. The term is used in one other context in Scripture (Matt 11:8 and Luke 7:25). In both places, Jesus is talking about John the Baptist and the fact that he did not wear soft clothing, because the people that wear soft clothing live in kings’ courts. Soft clothing refers to luxury, not femininity. This passage is useless to his argument.
Subsequently, Carter makes a classic KJV early modern English error in his interpretation of 1 Peter 2:9 (pg. 25). He uses the KJV word in the phrase “a peculiar people.” The problem here is that Carter uses a modern definition for peculiar (e.g. special). He should be reading Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, in which he would find that peculiar means “Exclusive property; that which belongs to a person in exclusion of others.” I provide more evidence for this in my article on respecting the original language. But the point of the verse is that Christians are the possession of God, as every other translation shows. The King James agrees with the other translations on this point, but modern readers do not understand the 18th century vocabulary and thus misinterpret verses. This verse has nothing to do with the appearance of God’s people to outsiders.
Finally, Carter also cites the directive to women to wear modest “apparel” in 1 Timothy 2:9 (pg. 34). He then shows through the etymology of the word, which appears only once in the New Testament, that apparel referred to a flowing garment – which could not include pants. He also references that this word appears in an early Greek translation of Isaiah 61:3. This verse refers to God metaphorically clothing his people with a “garment” of praise. As this usage refers to both men and women being clothed in such a garment, any claim Carter makes that the usage of this solitary word in 1 Timothy 2:9 is revealing some unique dress code for women disintegrates.
Even more telling is how Carter introduces his appeal to 1 Timothy 2:9. He writes, “Does the Bible give any hints as to what women’s attire is?” (pg. 34) He neglects to address the obvious question this raises. Why should we need to go searching the Bible for “hints” as to what God wants all people throughout all of time to do? If this is a universal moral imperative, why didn’t God think to state it plainly in the exhaustive tome of the New Testament cannon? It can’t be because He didn’t know it would ever be an issue.
All the specific argumentation that Carter makes throughout this section on how appearance can be used as a witness would make far more sense if he were advising us to display t-shirts, tattoos, and bumper stickers with biblical messages. Surely, that is a more direct way to share the gospel through appearance than the creation of a denominational dress code, which I can assure you communicates nothing but an unattractive dogmatism to most people.
Argument 6: The Old Testament Argument
The Old Testament argumentation feels a bit stale. We have the classic address of Deuteronomy 22:5 (pg. 23), with no analysis of the scholarly evidence that this passage may be forbidding women from wearing armor (Carter’s own Hebrew definition hints at this interpretation). He also makes no argument as to why the differences between men’s and women’s pants today would not have been acceptable in Old Testament times, given the only slight distinctions between the men’s and women’s robes of the day.
He makes no argument about why Christians are still bound by elements of Mosaic law unsupported in the New Testament – he merely asserts it. It is true that his view of the partial fulfillment of Old Testament law is common in many circles, but it is a view that inevitably leads to people presenting arbitrary and unbiblical standards for which elements to pluck from the law. The verse Carter then cites in Colossians 2:14, to explain why “ceremonial laws” are no longer applicable makes no such distinction. It merely says that Christ’s death “blott[ed] out the handwriting of ordinances that [were] against us.” This passage refers to the law as a monolithic unit – not to some subsection of the code. I have previously provided a far more biblically consistent standard for applying Old Testament commands to modern life.
As to why this particular verse should be one of the cherry-picked laws we preserve, he pronounces this based on his typical commentary on the word “abomination.” I have addressed this claim at length elsewhere. Rev. Carter adds the new twist that “abomination to God” is a special category of unchangeable ills. In his words, this phrase signifies “a gross moral sin, something inherently and obviously wrong, and equally condemned in the New Testament.” (pg. 28)
The obvious question is, how do we know that it is this special phrase that identifies a “keeper” law, and not some other phrase or code word? Carter goes painstakingly through each law in the chapter of Deuteronomy 22 and neatly labels for us which laws are ceremonial and which are moral. But when he labels the law to have a safety fence around the roof of your house a moral one (pg. 30), what are we to do with that? I understand the rationale of building codes, but does Carter really preach on this every time he sees a Christian that owns a potentially dangerous horizontal surface?
Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 25, a long list of things is given which are proclaimed to all be “abomination unto the Lord thy God.” These are things listed in that category – a man who refuses to marry the wife of his deceased brother (unclear what he is supposed to do if already married) and a wife who intervenes in a fight on the side of her husband by grabbing the testicles of the other man (for which the recommended solution is to cut off her hand). Another practice decried as an “abomination before the Lord” is a man remarrying his own ex-wife (Deuteronomy 24:4). Or maybe we are supposed to infer a different meaning from “before” rather than “to” the Lord. It seems to me that Carter has not found a secret key to Old Testament interpretation – rather he is resorting to creating arbitrary rules of interpretation that support his pre-existing conclusions.
Carter frames two contradictory opinions on Old Testament clothing. First, he states that there was clear difference based on the silhouette of men’s and women’s clothing in the Old Testament – how, he does not make clear (pg. 30). Second, he cites a biblical commentary that says, “a few articles of feminine clothing carried somewhat the same and basic pattern; yet there was always sufficient differences in embroidery, and needlework so that in appearance the line of demarcation between men and women should be readily detected” (pg. 31). So, he simultaneously presents evidence to prove that there was often no difference between the basic form of men’s and women’s clothing and at the same time asserts that there was. As evidence, he cites Rebekah’s identification of Isaac as a man from across a field in Genesis 24:64. He doesn’t address the numerous possible ways Rebekah could have Identified Isaac as male besides his clothing silhouette – including the fact that he almost certainly had a bushy black beard.
Carter raises the valid point that long-distance identification of gender is more difficult than it was when women only wore dresses. I will concede that this is true, and as a former Army scout, I know how important long-distance identification is. However, the main reason I needed to be able to identify someone at a long distance, was so I could determine whether we needed to kill them. This is not something that comes up in my daily life as much. When did long-distance identification become a crucial factor in clothing? If it is, why not just have women wear neon orange? That significantly improve our ability to identify them. And why not with LED lights for easy identification after dark? I don’t think this is a particularly important point.
Carter refers to the KJV “breeches” as though they are one and the same as pants. However, we can tell from the biblical description that they are not. Exodus 28:42 describes, “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:” The Hebrew word “miknac” is a derivation of a word for hiding (as in, to hide the private parts) because these were not “pants,” they were underwear. The Bible makes it clear that they were worn under robes, by priests, for the purpose of hiding “nakedness.”
They went from the waist to the thighs (they did not necessarily cover the thigh completely), which makes them equivalent in length and usage to modern boxer shorts. Carter asserts that they went to the knees, but this is not what the passage says. They went to the thighs. As a side note – he also imagines the “girding of loins” never exposed above the knees, but since the distance from the knee to the top of the waist is longer than the distance from the knee to the ground, his theory would require that men wear garments which drag along the ground in regular use (because tucking the bottom of the garment into the top necessitates its length being divided in half). This is certainly not what they did, as we know from the depictions of Jewish dress engraved by the Assyrians.
Additionally, the Bible puts no restrictions on who else could wear such attire. In fact, other than a few pieces like the ephod, all of the priestly garments were of the same basic style worn by all men and women at the time. There is no reason to believe that the wearing of miknac was banned to men or women any more than it was banned to wear the robes, sashes, coats, and belts all described in Exodus 28 as the garments of priests. Yes, they probably couldn’t have worn the exact colors and styles as the priests, but the basic garments were all the same. There are other garments which only men are recorded wearing in Scripture, such as the “girdle” or belt – and it is mentioned far more times than breeches (38 times). If the author’s logic is true, he should be quick to decry women’s wearing of belts of any kind – the biblical case is much stronger. Proving that mosaic priests wore boxers is a far cry from proving that pants are a universally and irrevocably masculine garment.
The author concludes his work with a series of softball questions and answers, followed by a smattering of quotations from people who agree with him, as well as a set of anecdotes about prostitutes and lesbians, and even a poem. Though most of this section just repeats previous arguments with less analysis, there are a few notable additions.
In response to how women are to ski, climb, swim, ride horses, etc. in skirts, Carter’s position is that women simply ought not do anything that cannot be done in a dress. “If a woman is participating in an activity that she cannot be modest in a dress than it is not a feminine activity; it is a masculine job or activity.” (pg. 37)
In response to the charge of legalism, Carter cites that legalism means adding to the plan of salvation – since he isn’t saying women must wear a skirt/dress in order to gain salvation (but rather to keep it), he believes he is exempt from this charge (pg. 40). By this logic, one can add literally any rule for Christians to follow, as long as you don’t claim that the rule is required to gain salvation.
He says that a women’s silhouette is indecent, but a man’s is not (pg. 35-36). This is completely an arbitrary appeal to his own authority. He cannot possibly infer that from Scripture, because no men in Scripture wore anything resembling pants, except as an undergarment.
What Carter doesn’t do in this section is take on the tough questions, such as “what of the numerous articles of clothing originally designed for and worn by men, such as T-shirts (originally invented for men’s military use), boots, tennis shoes, baseball style hats, belts, socks, sweaters, stockings, and hoodies?“
A Woman’s Perspective
Natalie also has some thoughts to share on this section. Here is her perspective:
On page 37, Rev. Carter shares an article about giving up women’s pants written by Bethany Vaughn. It was originally published on the Beautiful Womanhood website (formerly called Ladies Against Feminism). When I visited the site today, I found it interesting that her article has since been taken down. Instead, I found the following paragraph on their Start Here page:
“There is no uniform for women in Scripture, and there is a lot of room for creativity and freedom within the commands to be modest, pure, and feminine. We cannot hold others to a man-made standard of dress. If we have personal convictions about clothing, they must be grounded in God’s Word, and we must treat others with charity and grace. Not everyone has reached the same conclusions that we have, and we don’t shun women based upon outward appearances.”
On pages 41-42, Rev. Carter addresses the fact that the great majority of Christian woman have no conviction against women’s pants. In response, he quotes a man by the name of Bro. Potter who dismissively replies, “Big deal. Does that give you permission to rebel against the Word of God?” (pg. 41) Rev. Carter then elaborates in his own words, “The reason many claim to not be convicted is because they never study it or seriously pray about it.” (pg. 42) As a woman who did seriously pray and study Scripture and history regarding women’s pants, not for a few days but rather several years, it’s hard not take this assertion personally. Because Rev. Carter believes his interpretation of “hints” (pg. 31) in the Bible is correct, he simply assumes women like myself are lying regarding our own careful study. This is somewhat frustrating because how can I prove I genuinely came to a different conclusion when I am dismissed as dishonest? Far from half-heartedly looking over Scripture with the intent of “justifying” women’s pants, I studied the topic because I wanted to prove to Nathan that Scripture teaches women must only wear skirts. The more I studied, the more I realized I was the one in the wrong. After many years, I’m finally willing to admit that.
Another quote Rev. Carter shared to support his position was this one by a Mrs. Cathy Corle,
“So what do your pants say about you? ‘I’m my own boss. I’m taking the reins and my husband or my parents have no right to tell me what to do. I refuse to obey my God-given authority.’ Rebellion: plain and simple.” (pg. 45)
Really? And who ascribed this meaning? In my experience, the only people who believe pants say “rebellion” are the handful of people who claim women must wear skirts because pants say “rebellion.” And what about women like myself who have husbands that prefer us to wear pants in certain circumstances? In those situations, wouldn’t wearing a skirt be rebellion? Ironically, the same people who claim I’m a bad, rebellious wife for wearing pants would also tell me to continue wearing skirts even when my husband asks me not to. In other words, they don’t actually care about whether or not I’m a godly spouse. Their accusations of “rebellious wife” are all about pressuring me into fitting their dresscode, not improving my marriage.
The next quote that caught my attention was this one by Walter Isenhour (pg. 36),
“…It certainly doesn’t look womanly and ladylike to see a girl, or woman, wearing slacks. She looks ‘slack’ all right. She looks slack in her dress, slack in her walk, slack in her manners, slack in her womanhood, girlhood and motherhood. Many who wear men’s breeches and slacks are slack in their conduct, slack in their morals, slack in their character, slack in their spirituality.”
There’s no argument to this quote, it’s entirely insults based on assumption. Can you imagine if a man preached that women who wear jean skirts are “slack in their conduct, slack in their morals, slack in their character, slack in their spirituality?” It would never be tolerated. So why are these insults not only tolerated in regard to pants, but published in defense of “holiness living?”
Further into the miscellaneous argument section, Jack Hyles is quoted saying the following,
“If many of you were to tear up all your ‘britches,’ you would have to wear a barrel to the store to get something else to wear. The way you look in them, a barrel would fit you perfectly too! There’s not a man in this room tonight who wonders why it’s wrong for a woman to wear slacks, unless he thinks it’s okay to examine you like he would a pig at a county fair. You know it’s true!… This pant-wearing crowd is sapping the femininity out of our girls. That’s why they show their thighs when they put on a skirt; they don’t know how to sit because they wear pants most of the time. I’m saying, ‘Go home and burn your britches!'” (pg. 49)
In case you think we’re taking these quotes out of context, here are Rev. Carter’s exact words following the section written by Jack Hyles, “I really like this article. I believe the author summed up this whole study rather precisely and concisely.” (pg. 49) How someone cannot see that Jack Hyles, Walter Isenhour, and Cathy Corle’s words are little more than demeaning accusations, I have no idea. All I know is that I’m so grateful to be in a healthy Christian environment surrounded by godly men who honor me, value me, and treat me with respect and dignity. They don’t assume I’m a rebellious wife because I clean my house in capris, they don’t accuse me of having no morals because I show up in flowy palazzo pants, they don’t call into question my womanhood, femininity, or prayer-life over taking a run in joggers, and they never would tell me to wear a barrel or compare me to a pig. To all my sisters in Christ surviving in churches where such insults are dished out without qualms, please know that that’s not holiness. I pray you will find a church community where you will be cherished as the daughter of God you are, and never again beaten down or manipulated with careless, rash accusations.
Back to Nathan.
I am not averse to conceding when my intellectual opponents make valid arguments. In fact, I prefer it, as it generally leads to the discovery of more truth. Unfortunately, I find no compelling arguments in the 60 pages I read in The Problem with Pants, which begin to undermine my understanding of the issue.
While my response to this work is not intended as a comprehensive argument for women’s pants (that is here), it is worth noting that this issue does not stand alone. In contrast to reoccurring theological arguments (such as the extent of eternal security) upon which many people disagree across a variety of denominations, believing women’s pants are an abomination is part of a package. People like Rev. Carter are not bringing us an isolated argument, they are bringing us a worldview. It’s a worldview against evangelism, outreach, and fellowship with anyone who doesn’t wear their preferred garments. They offer a method of biblical interpretation that assumes that the 1950s in America were the high point of morality and then seeks to justify every standard that the American church held at that time (as well as many standards they didn’t hold). It is a worldview that strains at gnats and swallows camels. It is a worldview that it is high time to move on from.
Book Responded to:
Carter, Rev. Jayme D. The Problem with Pants. 2nd edition. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2015.
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