Who Wears the Pants?

Recently, one of our readers asked me, "What do you think about women wearing pants?" Anxious to write about some other issues surrounding biblical femininity, I originally told this reader that I'd save that for another time, but I've changed my mind and decided to write about it now. In light of all the discussion surrounding headcovering, it would not be fair for me to postpone writing about this topic as well, especially since it also relates to masculinity.

I personally have never been convicted that pants are unfeminine or unbiblical. Perhaps that will change for me one day, but I currently don't see any biblical reason for women to be made to feel that wearing pants is wrong.

From what I gather, the entire issue surrounds a mandate given in Deuteronomy 22:5, which reads in the NASB as follows: "A woman shall not wear man's clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God". Other translations will make reference to a woman's cloak or a man's garment, but the meaning is the same from translation to translation -- men should wear men's clothes, and women should wear women's clothes.

The question is, what are women's clothes? Conversely, what are men's clothes? In my lifetime, most people have answered this by saying, "Skirts are for girls and pants are for boys. End of story." I am not so sure about that. I don't think there is anything in the scripture that makes such a distinction between pants or skirts. It just simply says, "clothes." I don't think God is saying "I want women to wear skirts and I want men to wear pants." Rather, I think God is simply saying, "I want women to look like women and men to look like men."

The real issue is that there is a distinction between male and female. God cares very deeply that we adhere to that distinction, because He created two types of people: men and women. When we try to blur that line, we are polluting His original design for the sexes. Things like cross-dressing, and the androgynous look that was so popular in the 80's are definitely examples of things that God is speaking out against in this passage. For example, God would be against this:

One of the things I will never forget is watching an episode of Beavis and Butt-head back in the 90's in which a Boy George video was featured. Upon hearing the lyric, "I'm a man," one of the characters said, "Uh, you're a man? Huh-huh. Huh-huh. Huh." It struck me that even two godless animated characters recognized that Boy George's appearance was unnatural and even confusing. When Boy George first came on the scene in the early 80's, I can remember countless debates in grade school as to whether or not he was actually male. We honestly did not know for sure!

Because God is a God of order and not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), I think God's intention for mandating how we are to dress is simply about making sure you can actually tell if the person is a "he" or a "she". No "its" or "she-males" allowed! That being said, I believe that women can wear pants, as long as they appear distinctly female while doing so.

There is even more compelling evidence that God wasn't even referring to pants at all, when we consider that pants did not even exist when Deuteronomy 22:5 was penned. In fact, pants are a relatively new fashion, even for men.

Kiltmen.com is a website dedicated to abolishing "Trouser Tyranny." The website does a nice job of advocating for a return to more traditional men's clothing, pointing out that men used to wear tunics all the time. It's true! Picture in your head all the drawings you have ever seen of male biblical characters such as Moses, David, and Paul. Did the artist's rendering ever depict these fellows in a pair of pants?

When I used to work at the Holy Land Experience, the men all wore tunics, even the actor playing Jesus. None of the park guests ever pointed to Deuteronomy 22:5 and cried "foul!" Not once did I ever hear a child ask, "Mommy, why is Jesus wearing a dress?" That's because it is understood by everyone that a tunic was the standard garment once worn by men. In similar fashion, women were also dressed in tunics, but theirs were distinctly feminine. The color, texture, and style of the tunic made it clear that it was a women's garment and not a man's garment.

(Sidenote: Although it is not a Christian site, Kiltmen.com does an amazing job addressing Deuteronomy 22:5 in its proper context. Not only does Kiltmen.com present its point from a historical/cultural perspective quite nicely, but it makes a killer argument from a biological perspective: kilts and tunics are actually better suited for men because they "do not confine the male genitals the way trousers do." Tight jeans have been known to significantly lower a man's sperm count because they create an uncomfortable and unhealthy environment for the testicles. The Bible states that children are a gift from the Lord and that we are to "be fruitful and multiply". The idea of men wearing tunics and kilts becomes even more sensible in light of the fact such garments promote a healthy sperm count and thus increase a man's chances of being a father. In this sense, the kilt is seen as a strong symbol of maleness and masculinity.)

Today, we have numerous examples of clothing being recognized as either men's or women's clothing by the color, texture, or style of those garments. Both men and women wear sneakers. Both men and women wear sandals. Both men and women wear jackets, button-down shirts, watches, sunglasses, hats, coats, and gloves. There is no distinction that says "Men wear sneakers and women wear sandals." The item is appropriate to be worn by either a man or a woman, provided that the man or woman is not wearing an article of clothing designed for the opposite gender. For example, I used to own a pair of pants in high school that were light grey with pink flowers all over them. Nobody asked me why I was wearing men's clothes. It was obvious by the color, texture, and style of my pants that I was wearing clothing designed for a female.

Finally, I will leave you with a cute little anecdote a Baptist preacher once shared with his congregation. It goes like this:

There was a certain pastor who decided once and for all he needed to enforce a strict dress code upon his congregation. He decreed that all women in his congregation immediately go through their closets and get rid of all their pants, because pants are "men's clothes." So all the ladies of the church got together and collected all of the pants and brought them to the church to decide what to do with them. One woman, who happened to be organizing the effort, noticed several pairs of pants that looked as though they were just the perfect size for the pastor. "It would be a shame to throw these away," she thought, so she took them to the pastor's home.

When the pastor opened the door, the woman offered him the pants. He asked her, "What am I supposed to do with these?" The woman explained that she thought the pants might fit him, and wondered if he might get some use out of them. The pastor looked at the woman in disbelief and said, "Surely you can't be serious! I can't wear these! These are women's clothes!"

This little story demonstrates that clothing can be recognized as either male or female, not for what type of garment it is, but for the way the garment looks. The Bible says God created them male and female. Unless your appearance is causing major confusion over your gender, I do not think God is displeased with your choice as a woman to wear pants if you so choose.


Anonymous said…
I really enjoyed your article on 'who wears the pants?' I found your argument to be straight and to the point. I totally agree with you that women should look like women and men should look like men, pants or no pants!(not literally of course!)
Wretched said…
I agree with you. But to play the other side, why is there a zipper on womens pants? Isn't the zipper there for men to urinate easier?
One reason could be that the zipper makes getting pants on easier for women. My contention would be, women are wearing their pants too tight and if they need the help, maybe they should rethink the size.
Y'all have no idea how filthy the minds of men are and tight clothing doesn't help those of us who are trying to keep our minds pure.
The other reason I could think of is cost. It's cheaper to use one machine to create pants that are mostly identical with only minor stitching and design variations.
Sammybunny said…
I think it would be a hugely blanket statement to say all mens' minds are filthy. I am not trying to be confrontational, but, I feel that men have a responsibility to guard their thoughts and though, I understand that men are visually stimulated (and women DO have a responsibility to honor their brothers and not tempt them) men can also be creatures of integrity and honor--bouncing their thoughts away from those things that are sinful. I think that pants (if women wear them) should NOT be too tight--especially in the "Seat" region, however, if they are wearing a super long tunic-like shirt over them (covering the seat) then I see nothing wrong with it.
I'm going to have to lean a little with the note above. While I agree with you that there are indeed "women style pants" - women must be careful how some of these women's styles appear on our shapely bodies. When I wear pants, I like to use loose pants or "slacks" as my Mom called them, especially dressed up with very feminine, and maybe even long (tunic style) tops. I agree that the teens and young girls look like girls in their tank tops and jeans, but, um, we just gotta be careful with this pants thing. :) I really do appreciate this article though, especially the focus on the menfolk.
Jennifer said…
I wholeheartedly agree that we should not be wearing tight or revealing clothing. I just assumed that was a given. The basic question being addressed is whether or not women should wear pants at all. Nobody ever asks, "Should women be allowed to wear shirts?" Meaning, "Shirts are for men; a woman should be dressed in a blouse." I think it is okay for a woman to wear a shirt, but it shouldn't be tight or revealing.

The same goes for tight or revealing pants. If the pants are loose and/or covered with a long top, I don't see anything wrong with it.

Sammybunny, you are once again FEEDING into my inspiration. I have been pressed to write about something you mentioned, and once again I'm feeling like you've just confirmed I need to address what's on my heart. I guess I'll never have to worry about having writer's block with you around!
Wretched said…
The reason I brought it up still hasn't been answered. Why do women's pants have zippers? *IF* the zipper is to make it easier for men to urinate, then women's pants shouldn't need them.
Some (what I was taught in school. Jen, you know that background) believe that women's pants having zippers is part of the "gender bending" of clothing. So I wanted the input of women.
Sammy, yes it is a hugely blanket statement and one that I doubt any honest man would disagree with. We men absolutely have a responsibility to keep our minds pure, but I don't believe any man will conquer the temptation to lust fully. Until glorification that is :)
Perhaps I need to clarify. I'm not saying every man gives in to the the temptation. I'm saying no matter how godly, the sinful nature of men in this area, I believe, will never be conquered until the glorious return of our Savior.
Many sins can be conquered by the strength of the Spirit. This is one that I don't believe will fully be won until glorification.
I know the minds of men. I know how they think/talk when women aren't around. I stand behind my blanket statement. And I didn't take your comment as confrontational so no worries. Disagree till your hearts content and I'll love you just the same.
Jennifer said…
Brother I don't know the real reason why women's pants have zippers. I will say that women do have curves that require a pair of pants to be slimmer at the waist if they are to fit properly. In order to get the waistband past the larger hip area, I would assume the zipper is there to widen the waistband so that it will fit over the hips while putting them on or taking them off. Also, you should know that I am really quite good at Malarky.
Geraldine said…
Great article, as always Jen and as Zoe says 'Straight and to the point'. I agree with your point above that the zipper is there to widen the waistband.
These articles are very interesting, relevant and thought provoking.
Great to see you here btw Zoe!
Wretched said…
Ooooh I've never played but that sounds like fun! I enjoy board games.

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