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Essays, Justice, Quick Takes

What to Wear — Marci Auld Glass

Like many of you, I watched the Super Bowl Sunday night. Even though my team had been eliminated in the play offs. Even though I’m a little horrified by the violent injuries in the game which lead to brain injury and trauma for these gladiators we call athletes.

But I dutifully tuned in Sunday night to watch the show, for an excuse to eat nachos, to see the commercials.

And ended up receiving the gift of Beyonce’s halftime show. I confess, her style of music is not really “my thing”, so I don’t know her entire oeuvre. I’ve seen her on SNL. I’ve seen her in pop culture. She has always seemed to have a shrewd business mind, and understanding of how to “brand” herself and her image. She can dance. She married Jay Z. That was the extent of my Beyonce knowledge.

Beyonce in an outfit designed by Rubin Singer. He had a Valkyrie in mind.
Beyonce in an outfit designed by Rubin Singer. He had a Valkyrie in mind.

But you can call me her NUMBER ONE FAN after the Super Bowl. She was in control of that crowd from the minute the lights caught her silhouette.  She was beautiful. Strong. In control. Putting on a SHOW. She was generous on the stage—sharing it with musicians, with her former Destiny’s Child partners, and with all of the other dancers. There was room enough for them because there was abundance in her performance. There was more than enough awesome to go around.

As I watched the show with my teenaged sons, I was glad they were seeing a strong woman, in control of her own image, doing what she wanted to do.

And then Facebook and Twitter lit up with people who hated the show. I wondered, “What show were they watching?”

They blamed her for using too much electricity and causing the power outage in the stadium. They blamed her for being too sexy. For exposing too much flesh.  For being “un-Christian”. (What? Is the Super Bowl supposed to be Christian???)

One person said, “if she had just worn more clothing, then people could have appreciated her performance.”

What was wrong with her outfit? It was very similar to something Tina Turner wore in the 70s. It covered more of her “bits” than many figure skating and gymnastic outfits the Olympic athletes wear. It covered far more than the Olympic Beach Volleyball players “uniform” does, for sure.

And as I’ve been thinking about those different reactions, often by people I love, admire, and respect, I wonder just how many clothes she needed to have on in order to not offend people.

If she’d been wearing a turtleneck, a sweater vest, and mom jeans, would that have been acceptable?

How about one of Hilary Clinton’s pantsuits?

Is a skirt okay, or should her legs have been completely hidden?

What about form fitting? Would a blousy top have been better?

I’m guessing cleavage is right out.

My take away from the “outrage” over her outfit is that the female form should, by definition, be covered up. My take away is that there is something “un-Christian” about the female body, leading men to lustful thoughts they can’t control. My take away is that if women expose flesh, they obviouslywant to have sex with you.

But here’s the thing. You could have covered that woman up in a burqa and she still would have owned the night. Because what Beyonce displayed on that stage, in addition to her beautiful body, was power, strength, and comfort in her own skin. And that is dangerous

People accuse a woman of causing a power outage at a football stadium, and we think they are talking about her lack of clothing? Come on, folks.

What to wear. What to wear.

I’m no Beyonce, alas, but I face a similar dilemma—what to wear when I go to church. When I preach, I wear a robe so my clothing choice is erased from the equation. I love the anonymity of the robe, actually. But I can’t always wear the robe. I would look odd if I were to show up at the hospital for a pastoral care visit while robed.

Today, for example, I am in a sartorial quandary. I am on a panel at the State Capitol today at lunch, speaking in favor of legislation that would add gay, lesbian, and transgender as protected categories in the Human Rights Act in Idaho. Honored to be a part of it. No idea what to wear.

I have a suit. I could disappear into that outfit and become anonymous, genderless, and invisible in the halls of the capitol building.

Or I could wear the clothes in which I am comfortable—a dress and black leather boots. I would not be anonymous, genderless, or invisible in the halls of the capitol building in my usual wardrobe.

Whatever choice I make will be wrong, of course. The people who don’t think women should be preachers in the first place will decry my immodesty, whether it is there or not. The people who don’t think the church should be supporting human rights for people who are gay and lesbian Idahoans will use my outfit to complain about my politics and my theology.

If I wear a suit? “She’s too mannish. How pathetic to see a woman trying to work in a man’s world”.

If I wear the pretty green dress? “That’s not how a preacher should look. Ministers aren’t supposed to be sexy.”

Lest you think I am paranoid and making up those comments, I am not. I have heard all of those comments directed at me.

What to wear…

If only my black-leather-and-lace-Beyonce-Tina-Turner-get-up weren’t at the dry cleaners…

Marci at the hearing.
After writing this post, Marci chose to wear the green dress to the hearing.

Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. When she’s not herding cats or driving soccer carpools, Marci plays the cello, runs (albeit slowly) on trails near her home, and tries to leave room in her life for grace to break through. She blogs at Glass Overflowing.

9 thoughts on “What to Wear — Marci Auld Glass

  1. Hi Marci! I appreciate your blog and your perspective. I am a Pastor’s wife (ELCA) from Illinois and I too watched the Superbowl on Sunday with my husband and our son who is 5. I LOVED that Beyonce’s stage was filled with strong and talented women. I noticed right away that every performer from the drummer to the dancers were all women. It was very empowering as a woman to watch. What I have to disagree with you on is the emphasis you place on Beyonce’s outfit alone. I personally didn’t have a problem with her outfit. What made me tell my son to close his eyes was when she was seductively stripping off her clothes while dancing and running her hands up and down her body (in the direction of her crotch). I wonder if you were watching it with your teenage sons when they were 5 if you would have seen the performance differently? Either way she did a great job and is very talented. I just don’t think it was a PG performance.

  2. Is the Super Bowl halftime show ever acceptable for a 5-year-old? I would say not. Even if it’s supposed to be PG (is that a standard they publish?), that means Parental Guidance, not “safe for all ages.”

  3. Thanks for the comment Angie. I’m not sure I would let a 5 yr old watch either the halftime show any year or the commercials. I felt much more uncomfortable during the commercials–the godaddy atrocity with the slurping kiss, the Audi boy who kisses a girl without her permission, the guy slinking away after a one night stand–all of those were far worse than Beyonce’s dance.

  4. Agreed! I for sure wouldn’t and didn’t let my 5 year old watch the commercials. It is unfortunate that the whole family can’t watch the half-time show. I know it is presented as a family watching event. Either way, any thoughts on my point about Beyonce’s outfit being fine while her sexually provocative dancing being the real issue (for some)? Curious on your take on my comment about that.

    1. There is an interesting discussion happening about that at my blog, under the comments there. http://www.marciglass.com
      Ultimately, I didn’t find her dance to be any more provocative than anything else in the amped up, steroid driven show that was the Super Bowl.
      Additionally, I don’t think she has to answer to anyone for her performance. If people don’t like to watch a strong woman dance, they don’t have to watch it. I thought it was great.
      And, I also think there is a gender double standard at work. Mick Jagger does the same kind of hip grinding moves at a previous super bowl and he is being a rocker, a man. Beyonce does it and she’s inciting loose morals. Complete double standard.

      1. All I am saying is that as a young, liberal, christian woman, I don’t find Beyonce’s talent, beauty or outfit obscene. I find over stimulated sexual behavior on a stage meant to be seen by millions of Americans (young and old), whether and man or a women, to be unacceptable. That’s all I am saying. We have a right to be strong and beautiful and in control or our bodies and appearances as women and men, but that doesn’t mean we should exploit our bodies in a sexual way.

  5. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. Keep representing for all of the strong, powerful women out there, and even for those who haven’t yet found their voice.

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