“Anne, does Deuteronomy 22:5 mean that women should not wear pants? I mentioned this to a few friends, and they say that no, it just means we shouldn’t look like a man. My pastor’s wife is a very, very sweet woman that I look up to, and she says the same.
However, the more I read the verse, the more confused I become. At the same time, I am not a skirt or dress person. We have a small farm, and I am always in sneakers, jeans, and a sweatshirt or t-shirt. What is your view on the subject?”
First, let’s look at Deuteronomy 22:5 —
“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for YHWH your God detests anyone who does this.”
Obviously, the argument against pants is that pants are “men’s clothing” and that skirts are “women’s clothing.” The opposing argument is that when these words of Moses were penned, both men and women wore robes. The difference was in the cut, the style, the fabric, and even the accessories.
So by simply reading the passage and using common sense, I think that what God detests is when I try to look like a man, or when a man tries to look like a woman.
Ellen DeGeneres is a known lesbian, and I’ve been casually paying attention to her for the past few years.You can see that she intentionally makes a statement, by her clothing and hair style alone, that she is the same as a man. I think she would be proud of wearing “men’s clothing.”
Now humor me for a moment, and see a picture of Ellen with her “wife,” Portia de Rossi. Do you see how feminine this other woman dresses?
This bothers me! This honestly makes me want to go put a skirt on and never, ever wear pants again!
I told this to my husband, and he said, “Why?”
“Because I want to make a statement with my life, too! I want to make a statement as loud as Ellen’s, that my life belongs to God and that I am a woman, just as He created me to be.”
He pointed out to me that I can make a statement like that even with pants on.
He’s right, but depending on where I live and the culture surrounding me determines how easy that will be. You see, pants aren’t inherently evil, in and of themselves. They can’t be, if for no other reason than the fact that men in Moses’ time wore “skirts” (robes).
Obviously, this is a cultural issue. I don’t mean that God’s Word is only applicable in certain cultures. No, God’s commands are written for us to obey! I simply mean that we are to appear feminine in OUR culture, not in Moses’ culture or in early 1900’s culture. How to appear feminine might even vary from country to country, from city to city, or from church to church.
Am I obviously a woman, in my circumstances and surroundings, to those who are looking at me?
If I had a farm, with barns and muck and mud, I don’t see how it’s wrong to wear pants. If I’m playing with children on a cold, Minnesota basement floor, I don’t see how it’s wrong to wear pants — as long as I look distinctly different from my husband and other men. Just from looking at the pictures of Ellen and her “wife,” I can get ideas of ways I can wear distinctly women’s clothing, even pants, by just being sure that the cut is feminine, the details and colors and jewelry are feminine, my hair style and coverings are feminine, etc.
Sometimes pants are even better than skirts.
- Work sometimes requires that we “gird up our loins,” so sometimes when I’m working, pants are better than skirts.
As you can see from the woman in this photo, she’s got an awful lot to carry. She’s got no hands left to hold all her skirts, so she just tucks her skirts up into her belt and takes off on her way. Here in America, we’d just trade in the skirts for a soft pair of blue jeans, so we could get our work done with nothing in the way.
- Sometimes it’s easier to obey God’s command to cover ourselves when we wear pants. In Exodus 28:42-43, God told Aaron and his sons to wear pants under their priestly robes so that when they ministered at the tabernacle and went up the steps of the altar, they wouldn’t uncover their nakedness and “incur guilt.” Even if we don’t choose to wear pants, it might be wise to slip a pair of pants or leggings under our skirts, so that we are covered.
- We need to be sure that our skirts don’t prevent us from acting in love toward our sisters in Christ. We are not to look down on others over “disputable matters” (Romans 14). Dressing in a way that makes me look masculine, because I don’t want to act like a woman created by God — that is NOT a disputable matter. However, the particular method I use to look feminine — that IS a disputable matter. Getting mistaken by a stranger for a man, or worse, being mistaken as a lesbian, would be a terrible insult to God. However, I sometimes get the feeling that I am being “sized up” by other Christian women, to determine how “spiritual” I am by how I am dressed, no matter how distinctly feminine I may be in my clothing.
“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4).
- Finally, sometimes our husbands have opinions of how we can look most feminine, beautiful, modest, or appropriate. I firmly believe that my husband’s opinion should have first place in my clothing decisions!
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” (Ephesians 5:22-23).
Isn’t this the very attitude that is at the root of wanting to dress like a man? It hurts our pride to “submit” to any man. It hurts our pride to admit that we aren’t as strong as men, that we can’t do anything they can do (and better!), that we shouldn’t be allowed to be pastors or deacons or speak and teach in the church — and on and on and on. We uncover our heads in the church, cut our hair short like men, and wear clothes that show our equality.
And with our rebellious attitudes, we tear up our marriages, our homes, our churches, and our societies. God’s answer? He “detests” this.
My plea to the Christian women reading this is that their clothing, hair, make up, and outward appearance would make it obvious that they serve a Living God.
“Do everything without complaining [about having to dress like a woman] or arguing [with Christian sisters about their clothing choices], so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:14-15).